The Intellectual Businessman

Businessmen, or businesspeople, are generally not considered the intellectual kind. You don’t have to go far to find a person who holds the belief that “to succeed in business, you don’t have to be really smart”.

I had never really thought about this until recently, when it was mentioned during one of the training sessions for my job, working as a solicitor of donations from alumni for the UWA Business School’s fund-raising campaign.

“Many businesspeople,” the trainer said, “find that though they lack not in money, they often feel they’re not given as much intellectual respect as they’d like.”

“Many alumni who are business people who return as mentors or guest lecturers find it a very rewarding experience.”

“Finally, they are able to feel respected for what they know; finally, they are able to feel respected for their intellect.”

I thought that it was a fantastic insight.

I like being intellectual

Personally, I like being considered intellectual. As much as I admire “plucky” businessmen and those who succeed due to their work ethic, it’s always nice to be thought of as smart — as intellectual.

But how does one combine the two?

Money and Happiness

Money brings to me its own intrinsic reward. For as far as I can remember, I’ve always liked accumulating money. I hated spending it, most of the time. I liked money for its own sake, and would often ask myself before major purposes: would I rather have the money, or would I have whatever it was that I was intending to purchase? In most cases, I kept the money.

Now, that brings me to question of how money can’t buy happiness. I was, as usual, counting my chickens before the eggs have hatched: how much money was I going to earn today by going to work?

I thought about it, and wrote down the number which potentially reflected what I was going to earn. It didn’t look like much, but neither was it insignificant (let me quality this by mentioning I’m a student). It donned — sorry, dawned — on me that this amount of money wasn’t its own reward. I didn’t feel excited thinking about it.

So I thought about the stuff that it could buy. After thinking through various alternatives, I figured that I didn’t want to buy anything. I had, essentially, all that I wanted or needed. Then I thought about how not wanting to buy anything actually, in a weirdly philosophical way, meant that I was saving my money, thus, in a more weirdly philosophical way, I was getting twice my salary:

Total earnings
= Salary – Things I want to buy with salary
= Salary – (- Things I don’t want to buy with salary)
= Salary + (Things I don’t want to buy with salary)
= 2 x Salary

Having my potential earnings multiplied by two left a smile on my face. Perhaps money doesn’t buy all kinds of happiness, but it sure does bring some form of happiness to me.

The 80/20 Principle

The 80/20 principle says that 80% of our profits come from 20% of our customers.

In customer-relationship management or CRM, that leads us to believe that we should therefore concentrate our resources on those 20%.

But what happens in the long run if you dedicate more and more resources to the top 20%?

  • You get fewer customers overall, as budgets for recruitment of new customers decrease
  • You become extremely dependent on those top 20% — which is all and well if that’s your strategy, but a highly risky one
  • You get fewer new customers who are likely to be part of that 20%
  • Some in the 80%, whom if you had continued allocating adequate resources to (i.e. maintaining a level of service/support before shifting the focus to the 20%) might have become some of your biggest customers, thus you lose opportunities

This is not an extensive list of what may happen after the focus shifts from the overall good service/support of the company to a more hierarchal method of resource-allocation, but it provides some insights into what might happen.

On Making Resolutions

I’ve never been much of a “new year resolutions” kind of guy.

As much as I’ve always believed in goal-setting, which is what new year resolutions really are, it has never occurred to me that they actually work.

I was looking back on the new year resolutions I had written about last year — both explicitly and implicitly stated, through my old written journals — and I realised that I had actually accomplished many of them without the need for any conscious thinking about them throughout the rest of the year.

Subconscious Push

It was as if I had set the tone for the rest of the year simply by stating what I had wanted early on, creating a kind of “subconscious” push toward it.

The Business Plan

This concept reminds me of the creation of a business plan.

It has been said in various business publications that a business plan is important to the success of a business not because it is followed strictly throughout the year.

It has been even said that many successful businesses do a business plan in the beginning of a new year only to forget about it for the rest of the year!

There are simply too many unknown variables (both external and internal) that are impossible to take into account during the formulation of the business plan.

So why, and how, do business plans work?

Thinking of the Future

The formulation of a business plan is important because of the thinking through the year ahead.

The thinking alone allows the business to orientate itself toward its goals. It sets the general direction in which the business will take.

It is not at all necessary to follow everything found inside a business plan.


So, much like the business plan, setting resolutions and making broad plans toward the resolution of these resolutions, is important toward the relative “success” of your year.

Why MyMall.Sg Will Not Work has been making its rounds on Singapore TV lately, and this entry is just to say: it doesn’t work.

What is

It is a new marketing platform based on a combination of two mediums: television (TV) and the web.

A splash screen showing a “keyword” will appear at the end of a TV advertisement affiliated with A voice-over will announce to you to “go to now” and “type in the keyword”, so that you can “find the best bargains”.

Sounds simple enough. Now, how could this not work? Let us count the ways…

The Keyword Problem

First of all, there’s a problem inherent in having their site usable only if a visitor has a “keyword”. People who don’t have this keyword will not be able to use the site at all.

They’re expecting people to (a) write down the keyword; (b) memorise the keyword; or (c) have a computer at hand so they can immediately type in the keyword.

Most consumers, especially those who watch TV, are lazy. Lazy people generally don’t do (a) or (b), they won’t write down or memorise the keyword. They’re most likely do (c), use the computer and watch TV at the same time. Here’s a rhetorical question for you: how many adults do you know simultaneously use the computer and watch TV?

The adults I know who watch TV are just hoping for a way to just tune out of the work day; they don’t want to think at all about anything, they just want to sit down, relax: to stone in front of the TV. And you expect them to memorise or write down a “keyword” that is not guaranteed to be useful?

So, if we stick with (c), we’re looking at the younger people, who are the most likely to simultaneously use the computer and watch TV (despite protests from parents for them to “do one thing at a time.”)

Small Market

That’s a pretty small market to conquer if you ask me.

Add to that that advertisements happen only every once in a while, and we’re looking at a few hundred people, probably tens, out of tens of thousands of viewers, tops. In other words, a potential response-rate of say, 0.1 – 1%.

Target demographic found, let’s see what they’re selling

Now that we have found that there are tens to hundreds of teenagers and young adults who might visit and actually type in a keyword, let’s see what deals these people have.

I have seen only one advertisement so far, that of OG.

OG is a departmental store, selling generally clothes and household items. It appeals to women in their late twenties, early thirties, up to, say, early fifties. This was probably not OG’s best choice of marketing channels. Thumbs down

I asked my 14-year-old brother, who watches way more TV than me. He told me he has seen a few more: Harvey Norman, Sony Walkman, and Royal Umbrella Rice.

Harvey Norman is an electronic store. From personal experience their main customers are young adults, twenties to thirties, buying electronics like TVs, computers, washing machines and the like. Again, like OG, these people are too old for this marketing channel. It must be said, though, that they do appeal to the younger crowd in their carrying of smaller and cheaper gadgets like shavers, MP3 players and mobile phones. Thumbs undecided.

Sony Walkman needs no introduction. They probably hit the sweet spot with this marketing channel. Target demographic: tech-savvy, multi-tasking students and young adults with some cash and a high propensity to spend it. Thumbs up.

Royal Umbrella is a brand of white rice. All I can say is, “WTF?” I mean… WTF? This is so totally wrong that I don’t know where to begin. Wrong demographic, wrong product. “Wow! Who would have thought? The greatest, wildest bargains on white rice, now online!” Thumbs down, down, DOWN.

And that is why, ladies and gentlemen, will not work.

Update: 11th July 2007

Much as I had predicted at the start of the year, MyMall.Sg has disappeared. This concept was doomed for failure from the start. There just wasn’t enough motivation for people to use it. How was the concept sold to its target consumers? Who were its target consumers?