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

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

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

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

Digital Envision Logo

What I learned after 3 years doing business – part 2

Continuing from Part 1, in this post I will discuss on another 2 massive lessons that I learned, managing people and work-life balance.

Tl; dr;

  • Managing people is getting more and more complicated as the team grows.
  • There is no such thing as work-life balance for the owners (or at least myself).

Managing people

When there were only 2 of us, life was simple.

Then we added an admin, and a developer. It was something that we needed to get used to.

And then, everything changed, now we have 18 in Indonesia, and 3 in Australia. Now things like company values, company cultures, etc. are something that we need to create and effectively communicate to our employees.

I read a lot about these topics, trying to figure out how other companies do it and grow to over 100 employees. I like Simon Sinek’s way of thinking, I adopted some of that principles into the company. We put employee benefit first before our clients, believing that they will deliver better results and in turn, the clients benefit from it. A lot more was spent into creating an enjoyable working environment than we spend on marketing, which is basically just our time at this point. We have not seen a persuasive way to spend our budget on marketing effectively (yet). So far we managed to keep our staff happy and productive. But that does not mean we don’t have people resign or get fired from the company.

So far we had about 6-7 people who left DE. Most of them resigned because of various reasons. I only had to fire one person due to his performance. And it was a devastating experience. Before the day, I had to find a friend and had a drink with her, which I don’t normally do, to prepare for that. Firing people is not easy, the first time you do it, it was hard.

We can’t get to over 20 staff without doing A LOT of interviews. I started to be able to feel what other people don’t talk about. Sometimes I see the desperations in their eyes, the lack of food, the distress in trying to find another job, etc.. And it was hard to turn them down because their skills are not good enough for us. We have to put our company before all else, otherwise it is a crime against our current employees. And that means we have to be cruel sometimes. The other day I interviewed someone who is in my dad’s age, and it is hard to put him into the declined status, his skills are not what we looked for, but still, his eyes showed me the misery of life.

interview count
As of today we have completed nearly 600 interviews

Looking back, my business partner and I have sacrificed quite a lot for the company. Over 3 years, it was and still is our top priority from morning till night. We do everything to nurture it. In a way, I understand more about being a parent, and I am ready to sacrifice a lot more to see it grows.

Work-life balance

As an employee, all we want is having 8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest and 8 hours of entertainment. And that’s how the whole revolution started and now we have Labor’s day to memorize that.

I am here to tell you that once you become a business owner, you can forget about that. Maybe later on, once you have someone run it for you, but I’m not there yet, so this is what I noted down for myself in the future.

Over 3 years, my schedule has been 16 hours of work and (maybe) 8 hours of rest. And it is necessary, we had to plan the next catch ups, who to meet next, creating processes for staff to follow, etc. There are a lot of work that come with having employees as well as keeping the leads coming in. Mental breakdowns are expected. And I sometimes feel overwhelmed with all of these. I am scared, but I can still push on. Most people will not understand this, and I don’t bother telling them.

Lockdowns have been really good for me. I don’t need any excuse to go out on weekends, no planned dinners and other social conventions. Over 18 months, I have been able to focus on growing Digital Envision, and it will be better next month, next year and beyond. While most people complain, I kept my mouth shut, and keep pushing through all barriers.

Summary

2 words to summarize the above lessons: empathy and sacrifice.

I learned how to read people when they need something from me, and it is not pleasant most of the time. I get used to it, but still it stings everytime.

When you’re working to provide for your kids, you would do anything to keep them happy. I have the same feeling when it comes to Digital Envision. There is no compromise to that, and it makes me happy.

In the Final part I will talk about how I interact with other business people and the opportunities that I captured.

“Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it.” ― Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

By Tuan Nguyen

Digital Envision Logo

What I learned after 3 years doing business – part 1

People say that over 50% businesses fail after 2 years, and over 90% fails after 5 years. Given that Digital Envision Pty. Ltd. has been running for over 3 years, it’s time to look back and reflect on the lessons learned.

Tl; dr;

  • Start from scratch is a lot heavier than purchase existing businesses.
  • Building contacts and networks takes time, A LOT of time.

How did we start?

The journey begins in September, 2019. A friend of mine worked for a clinic and the IT company who supported the clinic went out of business. She asked me whether I knew another IT company. Coincidentally, I was planning to participate in an event called Startup Insider, which was a Shark Tank – like event. “Right now I don’t know, but give me a week and I’ll send you the details of an IT company.” – I told my friend.

In 1 week, my business partner and I created everything from nothing. We registered the business name, created the profile website, created a brochure representing our services, basically everything needed to present to the clinic. And we got that contract the week after. It was simply just maintaining and further developing a few WordPress websites, nothing too special. However, part of me was surprised of how fast one can build up a company just like that. All we needed was the will to do.

So we got our first client, how did we get our second one? This was difficult for both of us, but we managed to get 2 more small projects from the first client as well as the employer of my business partner. However, both of us were just working on this company part time, there was no commitment and therefore the sales became rarer and rarer. And because of a misunderstanding from within the company, my business partner got fired and we faced the first opportunity of having him doing full time for DE.

Everything changed.

He started doing full time for DE. I introduced him to BNI and we decided to join under web development category. We started the most difficult time of our company, survival. BNI has been really important for our growth, my business partner spent a lot of time making connections and joined meetings with business owners in BNI. I did a lot less networking than him due to working full time for Adslot still. I was in charge of all technical aspects and around this time we had our first staff, a general admin and a developer.

That was a lot of work for 2 amateurs trying to start a small business. Looking back on that, it was good that we started from scratch. We now understand what needs to be done to build the business from ground up. However, next time, we will look around first and try to buy an established business instead of growing from scratch.

Growing business networks

Like I said before, BNI has been a key factor for our growth. However, it took us a year and a half to finally see the fruits. Through the first and second lockdown in Melbourne, everything froze and we managed to get most of the grants, which were tremendously helpful. We had barely enough to pay our employees, while continuing to conduct meetings with more and more people within BNI networks.

After a while, we made some people think of us whenever their clients said they needed a website or a mobile application. And it all started to explode, especially in the first half of 2021. Before that, we had doubts on whether this actually works. We had a hard time discussing on whether we needed to extend BNI membership because we didn’t see anything fruitful at that time. But we persevered on that chosen path. Since then, we joined 2 more business networks, one being Victorian Chamber of Commerce, where we had the opportunity to meet with the politicians and listen to their plans ahead; another one is Club of United Business, which we found extremely helpful on our path of building a better business.

Zoom networking meeting
Me at the top left corner in a meeting from Victorian Chamber of Commerce

After talking to people who referred us business, I realized that it is crucial to keep in touch with the key referral partners, as they need to remember us first thing when they hear anyone talking about needing our services. If they don’t remember us at that time, most likely other company took our place in their mind. This aligns well with one of BNI’s principle: be visible. And we will continue to be visible in all of our networking events, by participating in the conversations, people will remember you and your services.

Summary

If someone asks me to sum up my experience on the above lessons, I have 2 words only: decisive and persevere. We saw an opportunity, we took the leap of faith. Business partner and I all agree that I have a lot of patience when it comes to business matters. And so far, it worked out for us.

In Part 2 I will discuss 2 more lessons about people management and work-life balance.

“Be decisive. A wrong decision is generally less disastrous than indecision.” – Bernhard Langer

By Tuan Nguyen

New normal – are we fked? – Part 3

Last 2 blogs are about my observations, and this one will be about my assumptions and actions to deal with this “new normal”

Tl; dr;

Assumptions

  • The pandemic is here to stay, maybe downgrade to a seasonal flu.
  • People will be working remotely more.
  • There will be financial/economic consequences after we get out of the pandemic status.

Actions

  • (Try to) ignore the news that is not related to my goal(s).
  • Keep a consistent daily schedule.
  • Research and prepare for future real estate investments.
  • Improve Digital Envision and VA For Everyone businesses.

Assumption – COVID-19 is here to stay

cat with cute eyes

Since September 2020, when we just got out of the longest lockdown in Melbourne, I started to expect that the pandemic will not be gone any time soon. We have made great progress on vaccinations, but as long as there are still a significant population who are not immune, we still face the chance of mutation and therefore, outbreaks. Not to mention people are irrational and there is always a thirst for physical connections. Which is why I was not surprised when there were other lockdowns and outbreaks afterwards, as they are all expected in my mind.

With that being said, we are living in the best time in history. All previous pandemic experienced a lot more cases and a lot more death. Black Death plague in the 1300s, it killed over 30% of Europe’s populations. Spanish Flu in the 1900s, which infected 500 millions people and 100 millions people died. We should be grateful that we are in a much better place now.

Assumption – Working remote will be more common

work from home meme

With social distancing rules applied, offices cannot put as many people like they could before. There is a chance that some of the workforce will be working remotely as a norm. This will change a lot in the professional services industries. I am still unsure if blue-collar industries will be affected or not.

I have been working from home since March 2020 and my personal experience is that sometimes I get distracted of certain issues in the house, therefore reducing my performance. Moreover, the line between work and life fades when I work from home. Long term it may lead to work-life unbalance, which is not what anyone wants.

Therefore my thought is that we will come back to the office part-time instead of full-time. How many days? I don’t know. People are still trying to figure out the balance.

Assumption – There will be an economy consequences

frog meme

Since the government has to publish a lot of fiscal as well as monetary policies to support businesses as well as citizens during this time. There will be a time when we need to pay back what we spend today. Will it come any time soon? I don’t know. For now everyone is happy because their asset values are climbing up day by day, week by week. Who cares about the downturn, right?

I am no economist, and surely everyone has their own judgement about the future. I only want to ensure that my future is somewhat predictable in financial term.

Action – focus on what matters

yoda on focus teachings

We have too much distractions today. Our attention has become a currency that every business out there try to buy. This is why advertising businesses are so successful. They broker those deals.

We all know that to be good at something, we need to spend a lot of attention to it. Therefore, I decided to block out all news and information that are not relevant to my goals and my interests. This started when we started going into lockdown last year (March 2020).

I realized that if there was something really, really bad, I would know it from my friend and business circle. So I don’t need to read the news to know about it first hand. People have the need to share disastrous news anyway. We had a tiny earthquake a few days ago for like 20 seconds and the whole social media is already flooded with it for a few days. As a result, I unfollowed all news site, drop my email subscriptions to minimum, and only check social media during my breaks throughout the day.

This frees up time for me to do things that I deem more important to me. I started to spend more time cooking, do some exercising (not much but I keep it consistent), improving important relationships and working on my business. I also started to research the spirituality topic and find it very useful to keep me stay in my track. Through my spiritual journey, I feel at peace with Death, when the time comes, I will welcome it and walk along side with Death like an old friend. But I know that I can still contribute to Life, so I have a strong faith that until I cease to prove my usefulness, I’m not going anywhere. This helps me stay calm during life and death situations.

Action – research

During this time, I read a lot of books related to real estate investments and do researches on them. All to prepare for the case when there is an economy down turn. My patience is somewhat higher than average, so I believe that I will be able to wait for a good deal to strike.

Researching is not an easy thing to do. I need to keep an open mind, as well as managing my risk level to figure out which assets can be comfortable for me to hold long term. To me, anything that is less than 5 years is considered short term, 5-15 years are medium term, and longer than 15 years are long term holding. Obviously I would like most of my assets in the 15+ years. Therefore a thorough research is required before I jump into a new investment deal.

Action – work on my business

Lately I decided to quit a high paying job to fully work on my business, which is a big decision because now I only get paid for half of what I used to get. However I get to work for myself, and it is really a different world to me. I worked 2 jobs for the last 2 years and it was time to eliminate one thing in life and fully focus on the other one.

The businesses are flourishing, in both Digital Envision and VA For Everyone. I believe as a business we can hit 20 staff by the end of the year, probably more. We are still small but our growth has been great in the last Financial year. And there is a different world when it comes to business finance. I am looking forward to taking advantage of it. This financial way will help me purchase more and more real estate assets in the future. And who knows, I may dabble in other investment assets as well.

Summary

I believe that everyone must have a plan for the future. Sadly most of us walking around with no idea about tomorrow. Is it the lack of education? Is it just human nature? I don’t know. But the fact is that we are irrational creatures, and logical thinking is basically unnatural to us. It takes a lot of courage to actually follow the plan we set out for a better future.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” ― Albert Einstein

By Tuan Nguyen