All advice is wrong

I get asked for advice by a lot of people. These range from startups, tech companies, people interested in mobile, business people etc…I also have been the recipient of a lot of advice.

I’ve started prefacing a “disclaimer” when I speak to people who ask me for advice. What worked for me may not work for your situation. If you receive advice from an adviser, its based on what worked for them. It is what worked in a particular circumstance, in a particular industry, in a specific point in time. Every industry, every situation has its own dynamics. Advice that worked for one particular circumstance may not work in another. Even if you have seen similar pattern in different industries or in similar companies, it doesn’t mean its going to automatically apply to your situation.

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Sydney Startup Ecosystem Needs Money And Knowledge To Thrive

Today I attended the Tech Startup Action Plan Roundtable organised by the City of Sydney and with representatives from the Labor party at Sydney Town Hall. I was invited to attend and took the opportunity because I believed it could help influence public policy towards startups. I do not have a particular preference towards any political party. As a founder, I am biased towards entrepreneurs – lets make that clear 🙂

I started my company in Sydney and I reside in Sydney. So I want to see the best for the city & country that I grew up in to prosper and be successful.

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This Mobile Life, Episode 3 – Chhai Thach from Go Reception

In the third episode of “This Mobile Life”, we chat to Chhai Thach, Co-Founder at Go Reception. GoReception is a visitor management system available on iPad and on the web.

We discuss how Chhai came up with the idea of Go Reception, customer success, and the impact of software as a service on enterprises. We also chat about how Chhai thinks about product and the challenge of focus. Go Reception is a product that has global sales with customers including MacDonalds, Coca-Cola, Rackspace, and Sydney Airport. It is a mobile/web app, available on the iTunes store.

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What A Malaysian Restaurant Owner Taught Me About Focus

A few weeks ago, I was heading to Strathfield to eat Korean food. Strathfield is a Korea town in Sydney with a lots of Korean restaurants. Specifically I was craving KFC, also known as Korean Fried Chicken.

It was getting late, about 9pm on a Friday evening. It was impossible to find parking on the surrounding streets. After driving around for a while, I parked at Strathfield Plaza shopping centre. On the main strip, there’s a couple of Korean restaurants that do this dish so I knew where I was going to head.

In the back of my mind, I knew it was late in the evening. Based on my prior experience, I knew it would take some time for the food to arrive and I dreaded the wait. As we walked through the shopping centre, I walked past this restaurant. Something about it caught my eye.

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Taking weekends off

This weekend I did something unusual. I decided not to work on the weekend. Over the past two months, I’ve gradually been working less and less on the weekend. I use to work on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoon. In fact, for the past few weekends, I rarely worked with only a few minor tasks or urgent things to do.

On Friday afternoon, I got a call from my co-founder saying that he was tied up and could speak to me on Friday night. But I stated that it was the weekend and we could discuss it on Monday. It could wait. In addition, there was a project for a client I could have worked on and promised delivery first thing on Monday morning. Instead I communicated to them that we would deliver it on Monday. This gave us more time to regroup, recharge over the weekend and complete it.

I also received a new client enquiry at 6.46pm on Friday as I was leaving the office. Normally, I’d jump on it straight away. But in all these cases, there is a reasonable expectation from a customer that a business is closed on the weekend and will re-open on Monday.

With all these things, I realised that this was pressure that I was putting on myself.

When you are running your own business, its very tempting to work all the time. However its important to take a break and recharge. I asked a staff member if they could work on Sunday. I thought about it after I asked them. If I wasn’t going to work on the weekend then I shouldn’t get them to do it either. I would be taking their weekends away as well.

A decision not to work on the weekends

My co-founder and I had decided earlier this year that we would get our weekends back. By working on the week days, you can be more productive. This is because you know that you are limited to only those days and hours. If you know you can catchup or do more on the weekend, you can waste more time procrastinating or stretching something out. You can also start out the week feeling really tired. In the past, if I worked all weekend, then sometimes I would take Monday off, either whole day or half day to make up for it. I have that flexibility as I run my own business. But that flexibility is a double edged sword.

This weekend since I didn’t have to work, I decided not to check my emails. Ok, I admit that I took a brief glance! But then I decided that these were not that important that I had to answer them right now. In fact, if I looked at it any more, I would have probably gone ahead, created work for myself and answered them. Also, if you answer emails on the weekend, you build an expectation from the customer that you will be available on the weekend and out of hours.

Instead my weekend looked like this

With the free time, I decided to start a new blog on Saturday morning. I created a food blog called “Where’s My Sauce“. It took me about 1.5 hours to setup and publish my first post on visiting Mary’s City, which is a new burger takeaway store. I wrote about visiting there on Friday night because I wasn’t working. I was able to start a passion project. Something that I had been thinking about for weeks. I’ve always been interested in food, predominatly eating & trying new restaurants. It is a website & writing content, which are things that I get involved with normally during the week but I was doing this for fun.

I was also able to take a break and see my girlfriend, friends and family. I had dinner with my family. I went to karaoke with friends. I went to Bible Study & attended Church. I went to a Quentin Tarantino t-shirt exhibition. I had time to enjoy life. In addition, I came back on Monday refreshed and ready to work. It gave me enthusiasm to talk to people about my new food blog and the other interests I have. It gave me another perspective and dimension to my life because of the weekend activities.

Creating an optimal business environment

As an entrepreneur, you can create the kind of business you want to work in. You don’t have to work 24/7. You can choose to but thats a lifestyle choice in my opinion. If you have raised significant amounts of investment and you have a lot of external pressure, then maybe you feel obligated to work more hours to meet the expectations of a huge exit. But thats not the kind of business I want to run.

When I took time off over the weekend, I started considering how I could make money without being as involved. How I could make money in my sleep and have time to enjoy the things that I want to do. How could I make more money in less hours of the week. How I could work smarter, not harder.

For my business, Tapmint which is a consulting business, there are several paths to do so. These can include the following options:

  1. Increasing our rates
  2. Charging based on value as opposed to hourly
  3. Productized consulting
  4. Have products with recurring income, typically SAAS (software as a service business)

These options can move you off the hamster wheel of consulting. But this is a discussion for another day.

For now, I’m just looking forward to the next weekend when I’m going to a really big water slide with some friends, going to Cirque Du Soleil and to a friend’s bday 🙂

I’m out like the week day,

Matt Ho.