note book with text chaos planner in the cover

Executive Diary – first employee

When the business started in 2018, my business partner and I did everything on our own. From meeting with clients to actually do the development, while working on our full-time job. As Digital Envision grows, we found the need to employ people to accommodate with the new projects coming in.

Tl; dr;

Hiring the first employee is always one of the hardest decision you ever make in the early time of the business. The interview is instinctive as you don’t know what you’re doing. The best way is just to hire one and see how it goes. If you spend time reading on interview techniques and questions, don’t spend too much on it. I encourage people to read for a little while and jump into hiring. Taking too long will cost you opportunities.

Where to find talents?

We tried several ways to find our first employee. Since we did not have funding to hire someone in Australia, we decided to look elsewhere. There were a few places that we were seeking like facebook groups, job boards, etc. We needed a general admin at that time to handle our paperworks, so Philippines seemed to be a great place to look for one. We posted on various VA facebook groups, and received tons of applications. That is great, and we only needed to pick one from the pile.

It turned out to be one of the hardest thing to do. We did not know what to look for, every applications look great, and I remember that I felt guilty if I rejected an application without a rational reason to do so. That process took us over a week or two to select a handful of applications to interview. We did 10 interviews in 2 days and now the selection got even harder. After seeing their faces, I found it hard to reject any of them.

At the end, we selected one who has experience working as an admin for an Australian company before. And she was very good. We believed that we made the right choice.

Working with the first employee.

It was weird when I had someone else in the company beside the business partner. Suddenly we had someone to give tasks that we didn’t want to do. And we had a lot of them. However, I got used to it very quickly, and in a short time, she became a crucial gear in our machine. She also helped us to recruit more employees, and we started to employ more and more people since.

There was only one problem, we have an office in Indonesia, and she was the only one who lives in Philippines. And there are a lot of storms and typhoons in her area, resulting in power outage and internet connection issues. Over time, we lean more to our Indonesian staff, as the internet and power in the office is more reliable. We ended up leasing her out as a VA to another client of ours. After a while, the client wished to take her in full time, but wanted to sign the contract with her directly.

We decided to let her go.

Lessons learned.

Although our first employee was doing really well, and we still consider lucky to have her when we started up, there were a lot of things that I learned and put processes to prevent them from happening again.

First thing is, power outage and internet connection problem. Working from home is not reliable, especially in South-east Asian countries. We start working at 9am Australian time, which means it is 5-6am in Indonesia. What happens if the power is out at that time? One of the reason why we wanted to keep people in the office is to prevent this from happening, and minimize the disruptions in services.

Second thing is, we learned that sometimes giving people too much freedom is counter-productive. We gave our first employee a lot of flexibility, she could work when she was available, and just need to fulfil 8 hours a day. However, sometimes we can see the performance dropped off significantly. We avoid that by implementing KPI measures, this still allows certain freedom, but at the end of the day, results are what we look for in our employees.

Thirdly, as she was our first employee, we felt uneasy to let her go. Looking back, we should have let her go 6 months before we actually did. Now, we implement a warnings system, in which if someone has 3 warnings, or “strikes”, they are out of the company. “Hire slow, fire fast” is a motto that we adopt into the company. Luckily, we only needed to let 1 person go since she left the company.

Summary

Having employees often feel uneasy at first, since you let someone that you don’t know have access into your business. But it is a necessary step to grow your business. It is crucial to select the right person for the job. However, if it turns out to be unsuitable, you need to be very decisive and let them go quickly. Keeping a bad employee not only has negative effects to the company, it also affects other employees as well. We cannot help everyone.

“It’s not the people you fire who make your life miserable. It’s the people you don’t.” ― Dick Grote

By Tuan Nguyen

chess board with pieces

Finance – How I approach interest rate rising?

The topic of interest rising has been in the news lately. RBA increased 50 basis points, FED increased 75 basis points. I just want to note down some thoughts on what I’m doing to deal with it, and some wild predictions in the near future.

Tl; dr;

  • Opportunities for purchasing more assets are coming.
  • Increasing income from rental properties, and pricing will be lowered.
  • Increasing needs for offshore resources.

What are affected from central bank raising interest rate?

I’m no economist, but I would like to share what I understand about this. Feel free to correct me if you have a better view.

First thing’s first, what is a basis point? It is basically a number, representing 0.01%. So when you hear 50 basis points increment, it just means that there is a 0.5% increment from the current interest rate. At the time of writing, the current interest rate is 0.85%, an increment of 0.5% from 0.35% in May 2022.

Secondly, how does banks make profit? For simplicity, we will ignore the Fractional Reserve banking system, anh just focus on the simplest way. Let’s say you know a lender (A) who is willing to lend you money for 1% interest rate per annum. Then you go to someone (C) who needs money to purchase something, say a property. If you can lend them money and charge them 3% in interest per annum, essentially you can pocket the 2% difference. Now replacing A with the central bank, C with the consumer, and you are the bank.

With the above picture in mind, what if A raises the interest rate to 2%? To preserve the profit of 2%, you will need to raise the interest that you charge C to 4%. This explains why the banks are quick to pass the raised amount to the consumer. It is also worth noting that not just mortgage rates are increasing, all other interest rates are also soaring, e.g. business loans, consumer loans, etc.

Opportunities are appearing.

Over the last 2 years, when the interest rate was so low, a lot of people borrowed money to purchase various assets, e.g. properties, shares, private equities, etc. The prices of these financial assets went off the roof, and most people argue that they went beyond their intrinsic values. Naturally, when the interest rate goes up, some unfortunate investors will not be able to hold on to their assets and are forced to sell, and sell fast. At that time, opportunities present itself, what I need to do is to recognize those moments and seize them at a bargaining price.

I am lucky to meet many people who open my eyes on investment assets. Properties and shares are not the only thing that people can invest in. If you know the right people, you can do things like private lending, private equity. And if you spend time researching on niches, you can purchase collectible items, e.g. stamps, coins and notes, trading cards, watches, etc. These items will be sold first if their owners need money, and at that point, they can be sold for a fraction of how much they are bought, and that’s how you make money.

What about properties?

I intend to hold mine through this hard time as I can afford the rising interest rate. What’s good about it is that after a few more years, my portfolio will still be positive. And when the boom time comes, I will have a sick positive cashflow portfolio still and can refinance to get more cash out of the banks.

Moreover, as the interest rates increase, mortgages will be harder to get, and there will be less buyers in the market. The bargaining power will be transferred to buyers instead and we will be able to take advantage of that. Who knows, the purchase of my life is still lying ahead.

Employment market changes.

When there are less money invested into companies, management will start asking the questions like, who can we fire to save cost? Are we overpaying our employees now?

I believe there are people who are overpaid at the moment, purely due to the overflow cash supply. And when the money tide is out, they will be the first ones to go. Moreover, management in Australia are used to their employees working remotely. Suddenly, having offshore employees is not something that is impossible. I am in that space and it is a golden opportunity for us to grow our business.

Summary

Some people said we are heading to a recession, others said depression. I think there will be hard times ahead. And with preparation, we will be able to come out of it triumphantly. I just hope that when it happens, I will be able to help improving other people’s lives.

“He that can have patience can have what he will.” – Benjamin Franklin

By Tuan Nguyen

note book with text chaos planner in the cover

Executive Diary – part time to full time

Picture this, you are an ordinary employee, working a 9-5 job. Then one day, you and a friend meet up and discover the idea that both of you have been having all along. You both decide to open a business together to execute that idea. There is one problem: both of you are enjoying a full time job, and mortgages to pay.

Tl; dr;

I was blessed to keep my full time job a little while longer, while my business parter had to jump to full time position in our company early.

The transition was smooth in my case since we established a good foundation for me to go into the business officially. Before that I was working part time with no pay for nearly 2 years.

Starting up

We started the company in September 2018. Back then, we had 1-2 clients, not enough for any full time position just yet. Fast forward to a few months later and we managed to get our first big client, Stockdale & Leggo. Although it was a small project, but it gave us the confidence that we can sustain the company.

Then everything went sideways.

My business partner – Rod, got laid off from his company.

We faced our first big obstacle, would he find another full-time job, or take the leap of faith and become the first full-time employee in our company? We discussed and decided to take the latter option, as we believed deals should be made within the working hours, not after hours. And having someone fully dedicated to the company is better than two half minded ones.

Struggling through hard times

We just assumed that networking is the key to getting new businesses. So I introduced him to BNI, and went to a couple of them to see which one is suitable for our business. Eventually we found a chapter for Rod to join and start building our networks. The first few months after we joined were quiet, and he spent a lot of time meeting new people. I couldn’t do it because I was still in my full-time job. Therefore I can only supported him after hour, doing things like quoting for projects, and even development works.

Then COVID-19 hit.

I remember there were times that we only had less than $5,000 in our bank account, and BAS time was approaching. We were that close to being insolvent. However, we pushed through with some timely contracts. And everything started to pick up about 6 months into COVID.

Since COVID forced us to all working from home. I had the luxury of networking with new people via teleconferences, while ensuring my productivity of the full-time work after hour. We met more people than ever before, and business owners started to realize they didn’t need a local development team to work on the projects. We were given many chances and gained our clients’ trust from there.

Decision to take the leap of faith

Since the beginning of 2021, Rod and I had decided that the time for me to go full-time is mid 2021. No matter what happened, I would go full-time at that point. A deadline is needed when you do something important, so it doesn’t get pushed back again and again.

And I did. I went officially full-time on the first of August, 2021. After I sent my resignation in July, the last month was relatively easy for me in Adslot (which was the previous company that I worked for). This period prepared me to adapt to the new environment. The first few months were busy as we took in new projects. We had more projects than we could handle. However, we didn’t price them correctly, so we still suffered from cashflow perspective, and it still lingers until today.

What did I gain?

I met a lot of people in the business world. They taught me a lot of things, either from their experience, or from their readings and meeting with other people. It is a whole new world and I look at money and wealth very differently now, comparing to the time before Digital Envision.

Everyday is a new day for me. I have no idea how it is going to turn out. Every day poses new problems that I need to solve, or delegate. In my opinion, life is the most exciting when I cannot predict what is going to happen next, and therefore having new experience every single day.

What was sacrificed?

Obviously, being a full-stack developer in the last 2 years is like being a rabbit which has to choose between a big pile of carrots, and a bigger pile of carrots. Australia still ridiculously lacks of experienced developers, and it is no longer weird when I see a $200,000 package for a senior developer. Jumping out to my company, I accepted a minimum-wage salary, which affected the lifestyle greatly. To this day, I can’t really go out with friends without thinking about the budget that I have for the month.

Another thing that I can think of, is the serviceability to take loans. I could have purchased another property at the end of 2020 before the bull market started. However, I decided to keep the cash to prepare for the leap. I had the contract of the property that fit all the criteria on the table, waiting for signature. And now it goes up about 30%. But I have no regret, as this was the plan.

Summary

Moving from your safe full-time job to your own business certainly is a risky move. But I would say it was worth it. I have absolutely no regret since the day I handed in the resignation email. At least later on, I can tell my kids about the risk that I took to give life a better meaning, to give it a chance to influent more people than ever before.

“If you’re not sure about a certain decision, you should try a leap of faith; for you know not how deep you would fall, when you jump.” ― Mr One ZED

By Tuan Nguyen

note book with text chaos planner in the cover

Executive Diary – create an elevator pitch

Elevator pitch is a quick overview of what a company does. It has to be simple, easy to understand, and short. As the elevator ride is almost 30 seconds, the pitch is encouraged to be said within that duration.

Tl; dr;

Preparing an elevator pitch and memorize it is necessary when you are a business owner. It prevents you from getting caught off guard when people ask what do you do. A good elevator pitch consists of 3 parts:

  • “Do you know…”: state the problem that you’re solving.
  • “What we do…”: state your service or product.
  • “So that…”: state what happens if the problem is resolved.

Why do we need an elevator pitch?

Do you know, when I started working full time for my company, Digital Envision, people often asked what I do. And I did not have an answer that I feel comfortable with. I felt like if I said I was a director of Digital Envision, I would be bragging. If I said I was working for Digital Envision as a developer, I would be downplaying my position. And I believe that I’m not the only one.

In an effort to tackle the problem, I started to look for a solution, and someone suggested to write and memorize an elevator pitch. At first, I was skeptical because it sounded so salesy. I mean, there’s literally the word “pitch” in the name. But after looking at the examples, and the methods people use to create them, I now see elevator pitch no different than an introduction between people. And it is exactly that.

The “Formula”

What I did, was reading a lot of articles about how to create an elevator pitch. And one of them sticks to me as the most logical and easy to remember. It only has 3 steps:

  • Establish the problem, starting with “Do you know …”. Just 1-2 short sentences stating exactly what is the problem that you are solving.
  • Present what does your service/product do. You can start with “What we do is …”. Again, 1-2 short sentences give a summary of what your services or products do.
  • Suggest the result if the problem is resolved. You can start with “So that …”, talk about how the clients be better off with the problems no longer available.

Let me give you some examples. I am blessed with managing 2 different business models. So I have prepared 2 elevator pitches and depending on the situation, I will bring one out or the other. I am still working on combining them together though.

Elevator pitch for Digital Envision

Do you know that there are so many innovations being created in Australia? Lots of those innovations require developments of websites and mobile applications. What we do is using our digital development skills and expertise to realize these novel ideas. So that our clients can realize their ideas and dominate the market in a timely manner.

Elevator pitch for VA For Everyone

Do you know that companies are having a bad time finding talents inside Australia? There is a massive shortage of labour in this environment. What we do is give our clients access to the enormous talent pools overseas, while keeping the headache of managing offshore staff away. So that our clients can meet their progress development goal and bring products to the market in a timely manner.

How does it help me?

I did it so that I don’t need to think about the answer anymore. It becomes a very smooth talk once I memorize the “script” and put more tone into it. Being prepared gives you confidence when going into networking events, and avoid rambling on about your business. Also I want to systemize things and this fits perfectly into my system.

One thing to note is that this pitch is alive and constantly changing as the business develops. I would suggest to revisit the pitch every 6 months to make updates as needed.

Summary

Elevator pitch frees us as business owners from getting nervous about conversing with other people. It also helps us listen to other people better as we don’t have to think as much. And I believe conversation is all about listening and understanding what our counterpart is passionate about.

“Good luck is a residue of preparation.” ― Jack Youngblood

By Tuan Nguyen

note book with text chaos planner in the cover

Executive Diary – do you need business partners?

In the Executive Diary series, my audience will be severely limited. This is because I’m talking to you, to the business owners, to the directors of your own company. Why is it called Executive Diary? Because I live it everyday. And I think it would be great for you to have a point of reference when it comes to problems that you are having.

Today we will discuss on whether you should go starting a business by yourself, or having someone(s) with you from the beginning.

Tl; dr;

I strongly suggest to have at least one business partner. They provide invaluable resources that most business owners take it for granted. Some examples of them are:

  • Keeping you accountable.
  • Bringing skills and expertise that you don’t have to the business.
  • Having a second set of eyes and perspectives to every problems in the business.
  • Workload is shared, and you have less chance to burn out.

Why do we need a business partner?

Building a business from scratch is going out of our comfort zone in a massive manner. What it felt like to me is moving from a 38 degree hot spring pond into a cold shower. It challenged everything I thought I knew about running a business. Some people may start the business as a side hustle, and over time they add more and more time into the business. That is actually fine and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, once you are serious about the business, it’s time to jump into a full time role and there is a whole new world out there. That world can be monumentally terrifying, and sometimes you need a hand to keep yourself sane, to keep you accountable, and to bounce ideas off of. This is when a business partner comes into the picture.

Benefits of having a business partner

Apart from what we discussed above, a business partner also brings contacts, skills and expertise into the business. They can help you in fields that you are inexperienced in, for example, I know about accounting and finance, then I can partner with someone who has skills in operations. And together we can make the business whole. It is nigh impossible to have someone who knows everything. And while some people may argue that you can hire mentors and business coaches to help you with missing skills, the third parties will never have the commitment that your business partners have.

Another advantage is that you have extra sets of eyes when it comes to problems in the business. And believe me, there are a lot of them. You wouldn’t believe the things that a business owner may encounter daily, things that you wouldn’t think they exist, such as massive consequences when dealing with both Russia and Ukraine companies under the effect of recent events… Back to the topic, having another eyes on the problems provide another perspective, and it is great to see the problem in different angles and we can find better solutions.

Moreover, having someone with you in the business reduces the workload working on the business. There are a LOT of tasks that you need to do once it comes to managing a business, especially when you have employees. In my case, we have over 40 employees in our company and even with the help from HR staff, we still have tons of work to do.

Limitation of having business partners

It’s not all fun and roses when having business partners. Like a coin, everything has two faces. I can only think of one thing when it comes to the other side of the coin. Decision making speed.

Sometimes, having too many options and over analysing can lead you to analysis paralysis. Therefore it can slow down the decision making process, especially if you only have 1 business partner as there is no deciding vote. It is recommended to have at least 3 people in the business with equal shares, so you can always put things into votes and resolve matters that way.

Summary

There are advantages and limitations when it comes to having business partners. However I believe that the pros outweigh the cons, and having at least one is recommended if anyone asks me.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

By Tuan Nguyen

chess board with pieces

Lean FIRE – how to get there?

Financial Independence, Retire Early, or FIRE, has been a rising trend of our generations for quite a while. And it is an ocean of information out there for you to research and study. In this blog, we will talk only about lean FIRE and how can we get to that stage.

Tl; dr;

There are only a few repetitive steps required to achieve lean FIRE.

  • Pay yourself first.
  • Spend less than you earn.
  • Invest.

Most people will fail in the first 2 steps, one simple explanation is that, they lack conviction. The system works, you just need to keep going and do not derail from the plan.

Invest simply into a handful of ETFs and keep putting money in regularly, otherwise known as Dollar Cost Averaging strategy.

What is FIRE?

Basically it is a lifestyle where, your investments generate enough income to replace your daily jobs (hence the term Financial Independence). You can finally quit the 9-5 job that you may resent and do what you want to do, never to have another job again (hence the term Retirement Early).

There are multiple different types of FIRE, in which there are 2 main types that are often discussed:

  • Lean FIRE: your investments generate barely enough income to support your most basic needs. You can quit your job but you can only live in the simplest lifestyle. Clearly we don’t want that, but it is a good milestone to know that you are now working for more than just to meet your needs.
  • Fat FIRE: your investments generate a lot of income that it can sustain the wildest lifestyle of your dream. To know your dream spending, ask yourself this, if you had a million to spend in a year, and you couldn’t buy investment assets, what would you do with it?

Calculate lean FIRE goal

If you know your monthly spending, that is good. But if you don’t, it is a good idea to start recording your income and your expense per month. After about a year, you should have a good idea on how much you spend, and that can be the figure that you need to determine when to reach lean FIRE.

For example, living in Melbourne, Australia, my monthly expense falls around $2,000 – $2,500 per month. So my goal for lean FIRE is $2,500 x 12 = $30,000 income per annum. That means if my investment portfolio can generate $30,000 per annum, I have achieved lean FIRE. We will use this figure in future calculations.

Above is a super simplified method, there are obviously contingencies that we need to account for, but the goal of this exercise is to come up with a number that we can aim and shoot for. Achieving lean FIRE is an important milestone in the journey, since it signifies that we are no longer working because we have to, we are now working because we want to.

How to get there?

Going back to The Richest Man in Babylon; which is, as far as I know, is the first book on personal finance written. It lists 3 simple rules for financial independence:

  • Pay yourself first: when we receive your salary/wage, move at least 10% of that amount into a separate account. We will discuss on what do we need to do with that later.
  • Spend less than you earn: With the remaining amount, you can only spend at much that amount and do not borrow money to spend more.
  • Invest in what you know: this is where the 10% comes in. Over time we will build up a considerable amount of money and now we will attempt to invest for a good return.

Most people fail on the first 2 steps. Why? Because that’s how life is, there will always be another party, another emergency, another splurge item. And only someone who can say no to non-essential items when it is necessary can succeed to get past these 2 steps.

So, how do we generate the required income to cover our expenses? The most popular way is to invest in ETF shares. This has several benefits:

  • Less capital required, we can invest with as little as $100.
  • High liquidation, easy to convert back to cash if anything happens.
  • Proven track records, we can see performance dates back 30-40 years.
  • Income can be received through dividend.

Let’s say we invest in ETFs, and the portfolio generates around 4% income per annum (this is actually the main number that FIRE practitioner uses for calculation). So, to have $30,000 per annum income, we need to have a portfolio of $30,000 / 4% = $750,000.

That’s not even a million!!! You can achieve lean FIRE with just $750,000 net worth!!!

And the road to get there is even more magical. Let’s say you invest all your money in a simple ETF, for calculation sake.

 

Since inception (2009), VTS has been enjoying a phenomenal return of 15.62% per annum. Plugging that into moneysmart website, we have the following calculation result.

graph for compound interest

Clearly if we follow the system, it will take us 19 years to reach our target. But it is still doable. And we can fast track this by taking in more income in our early years and put more into the regular contributions. I have seen people only take 5 years to reach their goals, mainly by minimizing their expenses and maximizing their income, invest all they can spare into the ETFs.

What does it mean for me?

When I looked at the number, it is so obvious to me that anyone can reach lean FIRE and have a better mindset on why they work at the job that they don’t even see a future in.

Therefore, when I reach that figure, I left the company that I worked for and started working for myself. Let me tell you, there is no greater joy than working not for money but for a higher purpose. As a chess grandmaster once said, when you see a good move, look for a better one. I saw lean FIRE as a good move, and now I am looking for a great move.

Summary

Anyone can achieve lean FIRE, it is not even out of reach for an average income person in Australia. The main thing that stops us from that is only ourselves. We need to learn how and when to say no to things, and then apply the principles, trust the numbers and the system and it will work.

“When you see a good move, look for a better one” – Emanuel Lasker, World Chess Champion

By Tuan Nguyen

woman with laptop

How to Overcome the Fear of Starting a New Business

Before you can succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to overcome your fears. The fear of starting a new business is one of the most common fears that hold back individuals from becoming successful entrepreneurs. The fear of starting a new business is so common that there is even a name for it: the fear of failure.

The fear of failure is a central challenge to anyone who aspires to start their own business. After all, if you’re afraid of failure, how can you take the risk and go out on your own?

And yet, overcoming the fear of failure is necessary in order to become an entrepreneur. If you want to start your own business, read on for some helpful tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, brought to you by Tuan Nguyen’s Blog.

Build a Business Plan

The fear of failure is a lot easier to overcome if you know what you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to take the time to plan out your business idea and decide exactly what you want to do.

Start by obtaining your own white paper on your chosen industry and looking at the competitive landscape. Where are your competitors located? What is their business model? What problems do they solve for customers? What value do you bring to the table?

Once you’ve identified what your competitive edge is, you can begin to outline your business plan. What are your financial goals? What is your timeline? What actions will you take each month to achieve your goals?

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that it’s not just a set of promises you’re making to yourself. It’s a legally binding document that should be submitted to the appropriate government agencies if you plan to operate your business as a corporation or partnership.

This in itself can be an intimidating task. That’s why you may want to hire an online business formation service. They can handle the challenging aspects of forming a business and help you choose the best one for your needs.

With the right business structure, you can enjoy less paperwork, more flexibility, and even tax advantages.

Network and Build Relationships

As an entrepreneur, you are likely to spend a significant portion of your day networking with other like-minded individuals. You may organize social gatherings for your friends and business associates, or join business networks on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.

While networking can be a helpful way to meet potential customers and partners, it’s also important to maintain healthy relationships with your current clients and customers.

Clients and customers are the lifeblood of any business. A healthy relationship with either can last for years and can even become a lifelong relationship. Maintain good relationships with your current clients and customers, and you’ll stay top of mind when they need your services again.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Advice

Asking for advice is a great way to overcome the fear of failure. This can apply to many aspects of starting your own business, such as hiring employees, finding investors, or securing funding for your business idea.

People are usually willing to give advice to those they know, and if you ask for it, people are also likely to give it to you. There are a number of online forums, communities, and blogs where entrepreneurs can seek advice from each other.

You might even want to work with a mentor to assist you. They can teach you how to improve on your weaknesses, grow as a business leader, and much more.

By Carleen Moore

My goals for 2022

Just like everyone, New Year Resolution is something that I have done every year. Unlike most people, I want to write it down and therefore have something to look back by the end of the year. This post will do just that, looking back  to 2021 and plan the next moves in 2022.

Tl; dr;

  • In 2021, I have done:
    • Purchased a property.
    • Left my position in Adslot Ltd. and work full time for myself.
    • Purchased the first watch by myself.
  • In 2022, I plan to:
    • Able to run 10km in 50 minutes (military standard);
    • Able to meditate for an hour;
    • Purchase a watch from James Bond movie; and
    • Travel to a new place.

Looking into the past

January, the name originated from Janus, the god of doors in Roman Mythology. He has 2 faces, one looking into the past, another into the future. And now is the best time to look back on what did I do in 2021.

At the beginning of the year, I found a good opportunity to add a small property into my portfolio, and I took the chance. It is supposed to be a positive cashflow position for me, which is much needed when I decided to quit my highly paid full time position. Overall, it was a great experience and taught me many things about legal and financial matters as I bought it under a family trust, and everything is different in there.

In August 2021, I decided to leave my position as a senior fullstack developer and joined Digital Envision full time. It was a hard but well-planned decision. We had it planned out since the beginning of the year and get it done. I went from a 6-figure salary down to minimum wage salary and it was not easy to do.

Lastly, I purchased the first watch for myself. I haven’t bought any watches before, and it felt ecstatic. And the watch holds a purposeful significance to me, it reminds me about that every time I wear it.

Envision the future

Physical exercise is what I am lacking in the past years. In 2021, I started to go and have myself checked out physically, but there is still a lot to be improved. I have always want to be in the military, and in a way, if I can train like them, I will feel like I achieved that goal. Getting fit is a good thing to have. I believe that it will prepare me for future scenarios. It’s always good to be ready, for what to come.

And of course mental exercise is also important. Given my current position, that is more crucial than ever. I am constantly under pressure and guarding my mind against the negatives is mandatory. I have started to meditate since last year, and can be in a session of about 20 minutes. I think with frequent practice, I can increase the time and feel better each day.

Gotta have more watches

As a novice watch enthusiast, I decided to collect the watches that are on the wrist of James Bond. It will be a hard collection to complete, but there is no rush in it. I like purchasing watches with stories behind it, unlike some other people who wear watches to show how rich they are.

I am looking for a Gruen Precision cal 510 17J Starburst. It is quite rare to find something that still comes with the original paperwork. But I will keep looking and, who knows, maybe one of my readers will help me with it.

Gruen Precision cal 510
Source: ebay.com

Travel to a new place

It is always a good idea to travel and see different things. I believe that epiphanies are often come when we travel. In the business world, a single light bulb moment could make me millions. And also discovering different scenes, cuisines and cultures are great too. I myself have not been to a lot of provinces in Vietnam. And I would like to do so in 2022.

What about career goals?

Since I am working for myself now, the career goals are now with the company goals. We have already planned out what needs to be done and KPIs for the company. Therefore I do not need to include them in my personal goals. I think personal growth is pertinent to this blog post.

Summary

Well it’s a short post, but a lot to be done. By the end of 2022 I will look back and see what have I accomplished. I have high hopes that I can do all the things listed above, and will update my blog on each milestone achieved.

“You should set goals beyond your reach so you always have something to live for.” — Ted Turner

By Tuan Nguyen

What does chess teach me?

For most people, chess is associated with old dudes sitting and looking at a wooden board for hours on end. It is a very time and brain consuming activity, and unfortunately not a lot of people can sit and think for a long time. Chess is my favourite boardgame by nature, and I’d like to keep a note on a few things that I learned from it.

Tl; dr;

Chess teaches me a lot about principles of life and also, death.

  • Every pieces have their own role.
  • If you get to the end, you can be whatever you want to be.
  • It helps me practice thinking about multiple scenarios at once.
  • Sometimes sacrifices are required for the greater good.

Every chess pieces are important.

All chess pieces play their own role in the game. Not a single pawn or piece is useless. The player is the one who put them into useless situations. You can win games with just a pawn, and can lose games with queen advantage.

The thing I get out from is, we cannot do everything, be everywhere, and satisfy everyone. We can only do what we want to do, be where we want to be, and make only the people we care about happy. I guess it is kind of similar to not giving a f**k about matters that I don’t really care about. Flipping the thought, would that mean criminals, cancer patients, homeless people, etc. are actually playing a valid role in the game of life? There is no good without bad, no happiness without sadness, no yin without yang. Should we just need to accept that bad things are bound to happen, how we respond to them defines how we can win the game?

The end is always good.

pawn looking into the mirror with queen reflection
Source: chess.com

There’s an old saying, “Everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.” As you know, when a pawn go to first rank or eighth rank, it can be promoted into a more important piece. Therefore it transforms from a seemingly useless chess piece to a more powerful and more important piece.

There are a lot of threats on the way for a pawn to reach its final destination. Promotion is a reward for that journey. And the best thing about it is, when the opportunity for a pawn to head towards the end, every other pieces will support that pawn, and every other pieces from the other side will try to stop it. We just need to recognize and take the opportunity with a strong determination, other people will help us get to where we want to go.

Thinking in multiple scenarios.

Playing chess, or any games that require strategic and tactical thinking, will train the players to think about multiple possible scenarios. This translates well in life and in business. Whenever I deal with a client, I can think of a few different ways that they can react to my proposals, and prepare the response in advance. I tend to do the same in life, and it is quite hard for me to be surprised by something, since I have already thought about the scenarios before hand, either during drift off, dreams, or day dreaming.

It’s a good thing in business. But in life, sometimes I have to fake being surprised. And to me that just feels weird. Maybe I’ll get better at that in the future.

Sacrifices are required sometimes.

thanos meme with text
Source: me.me

It’s hard to talk about chess without mentioning sacrifices. If you sacrificed and won, it’s the best feeling ever. If it doesn’t work out, you will be blaming yourself for the stupidity. The thing about sacrifice is, you can’t take back what you have given up. Therefore we need to be very careful when deciding to remove an important piece of our lives, whether it is an asset, or a person. However, in real life, at least you have a chance to get back what you surrendered before.

For example, I give up my free time, my high figure salary, to build up the company that I own. I accept the low salary amount, barely enough for me to live, with the expectation that my company will grow bigger and bigger. And so far it has been growing exponentially. I feel happy and grateful for that, and ready to forgo more things as needed to see it grow.

Summary

Above are just 4 of the lessons that I learned while playing chess. There are a lot more that I realized when playing but I’d like to keep them to myself for now, as some of them are quite controversial. Maybe in the future I will note it down, when I deem appropriate.

“There are tough players and nice guys, and I’m a tough player.” ― Bobby Fischer

By Tuan Nguyen

Digital Envision Logo

What I learned after 3 years doing business – part 3

Continue from Part 2, let’s talk about the last 2 lessons that I learned over 3 years of managing a business; talk less, listen more; and a new world of opportunities.

Tl; dr;

  • Talk less and listen more.
  • Access to a whole new world of possibilities.

Interactions with other people

I have always been a quiet person, which I find it a lot easier when I realized this approach actually works. People tend to complain about their issues, brag about their achievements, and talk about their plans. All of these can be converted into opportunities. All I need to do is to ask the right questions to keep them talking. Looking back, most of my meetings will consist of about 80% of other people talking about their businesses and their issues. At the end of the conversations, I know more about them than they do about me, but that 20% of me talking is embedded in their mind, and I make sure that they remember me and my services through talking about how my services can help them.

Credentials are often overrated. I find that when dealing with a person, they care a lot less about what achievement you have, and more about how you can help them solving their problems. So I don’t even bother telling them about my companies size, how much clients have we served, etc. I listen to their issues first, and if I can help them with Digital Envision‘s services, I will align the discussion that way. If they query about the credentials, then I briefly talk about that, but it never is the start of my conversation.

Negotiation skills are something that I have been working on in the last few months. I practice methods in Never Split the Difference book, which is suitable to my style of interactions. So far it has been helping me securing a few contracts, so I will continue on practicing the methods. There is one sentence in the book that I like the most: “Negotiation is an art to make other people have your way.” I guess once you really understand this quote, then you will be an effective negotiator.

Opportunities

There are things that will never be available to non-business owners, simply because we don’t even know about it. One example, everyone uses American Express cards. Some even use multiple credit cards, which we call them card churning, which is a method to rack up bonus points, often flight points, to be able to claim for free flight travels. The major down side of credit cards is they cannot be used to pay invoices with bank transfer payment method.

Well, not really. Amex allows business owners to access something called Access Line, which allows us to pay our employee salary, our invoices, and even our tax returns with Amex account. And we can rack up the points with these payments. Through card churning, you need to apply to multiple credit cards, damage your credit scores to get a few hundred thousands points. For us as business owners, we just need to pay everything with our credit account and the points are quickly stacking up. (We’re not there yet) Imagine we spend like 100k each month as employee salary, and with 1 Qantas point per dollar spent, it’s already 100k Qantas points per month. That’s like a free ticket back to Vietnam every single month.

Apart from exclusive services, I also have access to certain conversations that contain information before it was reveal to the public. I know about how Federal government rolled out their COVID-normal plans probably 2-3 months before it took place. And that privilege really helped us realign our business to fit the direction from the government.

Summary

2 words to sum up the lessons: Quiet and Opportunity.

It has been a life-changing experience for me over the past 3 years. Lots of lesson learned, and there are still numerous things out there waiting for me to know about them. Life has never been more exciting for me.

“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” – Ram Dass

By Tuan Nguyen