Having worked for years in an economic agency, one does sometimes get the itch to go and try something and take the plunge into entrepreneurship. After all, it is easy to catch the bug from inspirational entrepreneurs who have braved the winds and seven seas and taken all kinds of risks to be where they are today. You get to learn about what makes them tick, the problems and issues that they face, as well as the way in which they solve problems. Often, these bosses amaze me with their sheer grit, tenacity, and “never-say-die” spirit.
Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, I haven’t quite got the nerve to venture out although I have been trading ideas with friends for the longest time. The reason is that I love what I am currently doing, and do not see the need to go out there and fly my own flag so to speak.
Public service has changed significantly, and it now encourages us to be social entrepreneurs within the government sector. Innovation, daring-to-do, and thinking out-of-the-box are now values that public servants should embrace. Of course, these are subject to certain limits to safeguard public funds and prevent abuse. After all, we are accountable to the public at large. Taking foolhardy “bet-the-house” risks isn’t quite the same as experimenting with new approaches in a calculated fashion.
While I am pretty happy where I am, my wife is currently exploring doing something with a friend who has been based in Vietnam for more than 15 years. The idea is to bring in low-cost but finely crafted Vietnamese handicrafts and products like lacquer ware, vases, handbags, accessories, and customised corporate gifts. While we are aware that this isn’t something entirely new, we sense that there may be some hidden opportunities and niches out there.
As we did our market research, surfed the web, and asked around, we realise that starting out isn’t as hunky dory as what its made out to be. There are many issues to contend with. For example, collecting payment from customers, doing quality checks on suppliers, confirming shipping dates and modes, creating catalogues, watching cash flow, and so on. We also need to be mindful of the current business and trading laws of the land, export and import regulations, security and insurance.
Of course, treading too much on the ground of caution may mean that a business venture is doomed for failure from day one. Being too “kiasu” also stifles the spirit of risk taking and results in “analysis paralysis” – an affliction that many arm chair theorists (like myself) occasionally suffer from. However, I believe that if you want to succeed in anything, you have to at least do some homework and ensure that the odds are weighted in your favour.