What I Learned From My Bosses (and other sources) Part 1

When you run your own biz, you hang on to the core reasons why you decided to go off on your own as well as remember every little thing you learned from your superiors. I dunno if I’ll get it all down on this post, but today I decided to try. Here goes.

My Scottish Boss: “Never stop asking (your proposal’s status) until you hear a ‘no’“, is something I still tell myself today. Until I hear a flat – out NO, then the game’s still on, and you work like a dog to get it approved. Makes beautiful sense.

Another was when he’d either catch me losing focus when chasing a deal or concentrate too much on a non – profit goal, he’d sarcastically (but jokingly, mind you), say “Oh it’s ok we have more than enough money!“. Applicable almost to all things I do. Whenever I remember that, it puts my thinking right straight and center almost immediately.

And finally, the most compelling thing I learned from him was to observe the concept of “Fair Market Value”, in action. This is a guy who I know completely lived in the concept of offering the exact value he feels a service or product should cost, no more no less. He hated, and was absolutely livid with anger at the concept of ‘tawaran’. As far as he was concerned, if he offered something at a certain price, that includes a fair amount of profit on his side, and a fair amount of cost on the buyer’s side, and he was absolutely transparent about it as well.

The high points with working with him involve actually seeing him GET UP AND WALK OUT of meetings when customers starts asking for a ‘discount’. Not only does he feel these are unwarranted, but I believe he actually saw them as an insult to his character. From what I understood, he felt he was running an honest business and making honest margins, and so when someone asks if a ‘discount’ was available, he felt they were insinuating that he was overpricing them.

I tried to argue with him our Pinoys’ point of view (which is compelling in its own, quaint way), but I fully understood where he was coming from as well, and came to experience this first hand later when I was pricing my own services. The concept of tawaran maybe a popular street hawker’s technique, but it really doesn’t belong in business.

I realized that in order for business to properly evolve, TRUST must prevail. A buyer MUST trust the seller that his prices are fair. On the other hand, a seller MUST trust the buyer in the sense that they will understand and appreciate the fair price offered them, and reward them with continuing business.

If there is trust, a buyer will continually seek out a seller, and the seller’s business will grow and provide more value to the buyer, and overall the economy will succeed. It really is as simple as that.

As an aside, I look upon the current Meralco issues as essentially, a breakdown of that trust. Someone, either the seller, the buyer, or BOTH, is lying. Meralco with its layer upon layer of inexplicable charges and taxes, and the gov’t, c/o GSIS, with its strange timing and attack from all corners approach. Either way you can’t be sure they’re working to provide a fair price for electricity inspite of the headlines because of the lack of transparency and general underhandedness with which negotiations are held. In other words you can write as many contracts and proceed to as many courtrooms as you like, but if there is no trust, all these will fail.

At any rate, back to my topic: It may seem insignificant when you’re talking about P10 – P100 value street hawker items, but in the long run even small items costs are compounded over time. Even more so when we were dealing with six to seven figure contracts. My ex boss didn’t discriminate from either. He’d walk out whether we were talking about a P5,000 deal of a P500,000 deal, if someone started to ‘tawad’. It made for some pretty dramatic meetings.

Looking back, I understood he was a graduate from the school of hard knocks. I remember him for genuinely caring for us, his employees, and being the most hard working salesman I’ve ever met. You either liked him instantly or hated him at first, then grudgingly start liking him. You either understood him or not.

He believed in what he believed, but I think he runs himself ragged doing so, as I assume its very tiring to be him. I dunno if I’d like to be like him exactly, so I’ll just take what I learn from him instead.

I was a newbie then and little did I know I was getting a great education. It was important for me to have met and worked with men like him. At the time however I was wondering what the hell did I get myself into.

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