Thursday, 23 October 2014

Financial Review Corliss Group Online Magazine - Q&A: Foreign correspondence in China and Asia


Tracy Dahlby, former Tokyo bureau chief, National Geographic contributor and author of the new memoir Into the Field: A Foreign Correspondent’s Notebook, looks back on a life of reporting on Asia

You got your start as a reporter for a financial newswire in Japan during the 70s, back when it was still big on heavy industry, but had begun shifting toward a consumer economy. China stories often echo that narrative these days, but was Tokyo ever so polluted?

I’d say “not as” but it could be pretty grim. I remember being profoundly disappointed when, in 1976, I climbed Mount Fuji for the first time only to stumble upon slopes strewn with trash. I wondered how the Japanese, who had a reputation, in poetry and prose, as world-champion lovers of nature could let their iconic mountain go to hell like that. So Fuji was my reigning metaphor. And it’s true that Tokyo often choked under a blanket of industrial smog. I don’t think it ever reached what China is coping with today. But it pays to remember that Japan got its pollution problems under control and, with the right policies, China has a shot at doing so too. How China does that while maintaining economic growth and meeting rising popular expectations is, of course, the compelling mystery.

Much is still made of the apparent economic similarities between China now and Japan during the boom years. You write in your book about covering both during your career -- what comparisons hold up, and which strike you as misguided?

During my brief time at the financial news wire in Tokyo, I took the stock market closings in my shaky Japanese and wasn’t always sure I’d got the decimal point in the right place. Frankly, I’m still a little amazed that the global economy survived. In writing about those times today, however, I very much feel China looking over my shoulder because there are the obvious similarities between Japan then and China now—the active, pointed pioneering of overseas markets and the gobbling up of vast sources of raw materials, the frenetic building of roads, dams, bridges and airports and, above all, the psychological transformation that comes to a country with rapidly rising consumer expectations. The big difference, of course, is a matter of scale and scope. What China has undertaken dwarfs other models and that’s what makes it such a wonderful, wrenching, gripping story to behold.

When and why did you first come to China as a journalist?

I made my first trip to China in January of 1978, about 14 months after the death of Mao Zedong. Beijing was a city of bicycles, Mao suits and, for foreigners, a Friendship Store that was not exactly consumer-friendly. It wasn’t easy for an American to get a visa back then. But a friend of a friend in Hong Kong, a wonderful local businesswoman, insisted that I apply and that I turn over my passport to her. It turns out she had been at school with a man who worked the other side of the fence for China travel and presided over the tourist visa stamp. So I found myself headed over the border by train to Guangzhou and then Beijing with a group of Japanese, American and Australian tourists. I somehow managed to report a story for The New York Times travel section on that jaunt at a time when China had become an alluring ticket for American travelers. So I guess you could say I started my China watching as half tourist, half hustling hack, and that’s pretty much the way I proceeded in my career, as a friend recently put it, letting myself “wander and wonder.”

There were earlier motivations, too. I was a typically restless undergrad in Seattle, Washington, living at home and eager to trade a ho-hum life for the excitement and adventure of the wider world. I’d heard reports of the Cultural Revolution on a radio in my bedroom that was ridiculously large—the size of a shoebox. Today, we can dial up tons of information about China on our smart phones or e-tablets. In those days, China was a black box, information was scarce, and what there was required strenuous decoding. That of course meant that China was a tremendous mystery that fired your imagination. You really wanted to get out to Asia and take a crack at trying to figure it out.

It's rare to go a week lately without a dust-up between China and any of the countries that ring the South China Sea. Did the region always seem destined for conflict, or did most seem to buy into China's "peaceful rise" sales pitch?

It’s remarkable to me how little has changed in the fundamental terms of that dispute over the last two decades, despite today’s frenetic foreign press coverage of China’s new harder line. I open “Into the Field” by recounting a nearly three-month reporting swing I took through the South China Sea immediately after Handover in Hong Kong in 1997. With the help of friends in Manila, I managed to talk my way out to the Spratlys with a transport plane full of rifle-toting Filipino military men. It was starkly beautiful out there but blessedly little was going on, at least on the surface. Then as now, the billion- or maybe trillion-dollar question was the extent of resources that might rest on the sea floor. Such visions, part analysis, part ambitious national dreaming, will, I’d wager, continue to ratchet up tensions as China continues to rise, peacefully or not.

China is the clear center of attention for the financial press in Asia, but reporting long-term can create something like tunnel vision. Where in the region, if anywhere, do you see untapped economic potential on the level of a China or Japan?

That’s a good, tough question and journalists have a lousy track record when it comes to accurate prognostication, at least this one. I’d venture to say, however, that once investment and infrastructure gain even more traction in a place like India, China’s neighborhood becomes an even more competitive place. Add to that improvements in intra-regional trade and marketing ties between and among the countries of Southeast Asia and, barring the unfortunate and unforeseen, you have a recipe for sustained growth that will include China, perhaps be dominated by China, but will by no means rely on China alone.

In the mid-80's you were brought in from Tokyo to eventually serve as managing editor for Newsweek International. How did the view of Asia from NYC differ from your own when you returned?

It reminds you just how much times have changed. Back then America was focused on what was generally perceived as a Japanese economic juggernaut and the challenges posed by Japan’s ballooning trade advantages vis-à-vis the United States. Japan’s economic advance had energized a group of formidable “Japan-bashers” in business, government and the media that made the Japanese seem ten feet tall. The economic challenge was real enough but there was something else at work, too. By the end of the decade, the Soviet Union was into its final fizzle, and imploding, and America needed a new focus for its ambitions and anxieties, and Japan was “it.”

As time went on, of course, Japan proved a disappointing bogeyman. Its economy had bottomed out by the early 90s and lapsed into a marathon, years-long recession. China began to emerge as a new focus of concern. The 9/11 attacks and the aftermath shifted America’s central preoccupation to the war on terror, which may have deflected an even more intense focus on China as America’s new rival for superpower status. Today, of course,  bilateral relations with China have today become an intensely observed gauge of how and to what extent America will be able to maintain its pride of place in world leadership.

What we tried to do at Newsweek, back in the day, was to help provide readers with the context they could use to develop a clearer understanding of complications of U.S.-Japan relations—the historical, political and, I dare say, some of the psychological factors that not infrequently contributed to one of the two sides not really hearing what the other side was trying to say. Fast-forward 30 years, and the U.S. media faces a similar challenge in preparing Americans for China’s rise and how it will affect the way we live our lives and do business in this country.     

Freelance, especially in China, is the name of the game for many aspiring foreign correspondents these days. How did you make the jump from part-time to full-time reporting, and to what extent is the path you took still open to would-be journalists here?

My advice on that score never varies. As I say in my book, “Pick a part of the world you can fall in love with and plant yourself there for at least two years. Try your hand at freelancing. Teach English, tend bar, or give body modification classes—whatever it takes to ward off starvation. Meanwhile suck the place into your bones. Absorb its language and politics, its loves, hates, and idiosyncrasies, the alarming as well as the charming…. The place doesn’t have to love you back, at least not right away. But if doing journalism is your goal, make sure it’s somewhere the rest of the world wants to know about too.”

I think China admirably fills that bill. It’s both a place of endless fascination, big and small, and somewhere people who aren’t in China want and need to know about. In my case, in Japan, I used my freelance assignments to try to hone basic skills (and I had precisely none to start with), while I worked at the art of becoming pleasantly annoying until sources would agree to talk to me and somebody finally gave me a regular job.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Financial Review Corliss Group Online Magazine: Japan's Amazing 25-Year Post-Bubble Drama

It's been quite a while since my last look at secular Japanese market and bond data. We're now just a few months from the 25th anniversary of the Nikkei 225's bubble top in 1989. The latest cyclical rally in the index hit an interim high at the end of December 2013, up 99.6% from its interim low in November of 2011, and a more recent interim high in late September was up 100.5% from that 2011 low. The steroid effect of massive monetary intervention has evolved into an ongoing drama of volatility.

What about Japanese government bonds? The closing yield of the 10-Year bond on the day the Nikkei hit its 2011 interim low was 1.53%. It was cut in half to 0.75% a year later when the Nikkei hit its November 2012 low shortly before the central-bank-driven rally. The yield fell to its 2013 low of 0.44% on April 4, the day that the Bank of Japan disclosed its radical redo of monetary policy. It rebounded to 0.94% on May 29, but it has since been nearly halved to 0.50%. Compare that with the US 10-Year note, which closed Friday at 2.31%.

The Nikkei in Historical Perspective

Here's a quick review of the Nikkei 225, the 10-year bond and inflation over the past three decades.


The table below documents the advances and declines and the elapsed time for the major cycles in the Nikkei.



The Nominal versus Real Nikkei 225

For most major indexes, we expect to see a significant difference between the nominal and real price over a multi-decade timeframe. But Japan's chronic bouts of deflation have kept the two metrics rather tight. Note that I've used a log vertical axis for the index price to better illustrate the relative price changes over time.



Friday, 17 October 2014

Financial Tips Corliss Group online magazine: Put Yourself in Potential Investors' Shoes with These 4 Tips

When it comes to securing investment, the overwhelming challenge for most entrepreneurs comes from trying to determine how to make a convincing pitch. Fortunately, it does not have to be that difficult.

As an entrepreneur and MBA who was schooled in traditional investment raising, I have always been told that to find investment capital for your business, you needed a comprehensive business plan, detailing (among other things) S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), operations and marketing plans, and financial models showing projections, cash flow, return on investment, risk analysis, etc.

These days, I am working on a new startup idea with Startup.SC, a South Carolina startup business incubator that focuses on scalable technology companies. What I have learned over the past few weeks is that although there is no exact formula for successfully developing a pitch, start by asking yourself this simple question:

If you were an investor, what would you want to see in a pitch?

Quite simply, put yourself in the shoes of the investors you are pitching and focus on these things:

1. Customer acquisition, not revenue.

More than revenue projections, investors want to know how you are going to capture and retain customers. In a roundabout way, it is essentially the same thing (both deal with revenue), but while revenue projections can be formulaic and are for the most part completely pulled from the air, what speaks to investors is a clear, effective and executable plan for capturing customers and keeping them.

2. The jockey, not the horse.
Investors bet on jockeys, not horses. What investors want to see is that you are committed and able to fulfill the task of implementing your plan through challenges as well as successes, and that you are the type of person who is going to see it through to the end. Ultimately, a great idea is worthless without great execution. Prove that you are the person to carry out the vision.

3. Flexibility, not recipes.
You may have an idea of how you want to structure your company and your investments, but understand that every investor has different expectations, as do their partners and stakeholders.


4. Remember: Nobody wants to see you fail.
When negotiating with investors, entrepreneurs often get stuck in the wicked mind game of trying to determine who is making out the best. In reality, success depends mutually on two things: your passion and capabilities and your investors' money.


In the end, everyone loses if you fail, so it is in nobody’s best interest to create a situation that erodes any chance of success.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Financial Tips Corliss Group Online Magazine on 4 Essential Money Mistakes Entrepreneurs Overlook

As I get rolling on a new startup with my partners at Startup.SC, a startup incubator in South Carolina, I am reminded of a few painful mistakes many entrepreneurs, myself included, make when starting a business.

Now, if you are starting a business, you probably have not put too much thought into how you are going to exit. There are, after all, countless considerations to make as you get started, from applying for business licenses, developing working prototypes to setting up your website. If you ever plan to sell your business or bring on investors to grow, how you run your business from the start is just as important.

Fortunately, it is not difficult to get started properly. Simply consider these four tips, often overlooked by most startup entrepreneurs.

1. Prepare your general ledger.

Setting up your accounting books may seem bland and tedious, especially for entrepreneurs without experience. Many rely on off-the-shelf accounting software, which provides general guidelines and templates to get you started. These are fine and completely acceptable for most startups, but to fully understand the financials of your company and, in the future, provide the evidence of the value you have built, you should give your set up careful consideration. Although a little pricey, it would benefit you to hire a professional when getting started.

2. Keep business business.

It is completely acceptable for entrepreneurs to pay for a variety of expenses with company funds, so long as those expenses meet the generally acceptable accounting standards (GAAP) for business expenses. Too many entrepreneurs, however, use company funds for personal use, trying to justify it with very liberal interpretations of GAAP or simply improperly reporting.

Not only could this get you in hot water with the IRS and open you up to a great deal of liability, it will be difficult in the future to separate these expenses when valuing your company. From the onset, it is best to just keep all personal expenses out of the business.

3. Report all revenues.

It is not difficult, and definitely enticing, to skim money from the business at the start, especially if you do most of your business in cash. Again, not only could this ultimately get you in trouble with the IRS, but it undervalues your business in the long run. It is going to be difficult to prove value and growth if you are not reporting real numbers from your business.

4. Keep careful records and receipts.

OK, excluding personal expenses and reporting all of your revenue just means giving more of your hard-earned money to Uncle Sam in terms of taxes. Not necessarily true. If you understand the extent of what you can expense and, more importantly, you keep copious records of your activity (both for audits and due diligence of potential buyers and investors), you can ultimately work down your taxable income without hurting the value of your company.

Grab yourself a good book or, better yet, find yourself a trusted professional advisor to learn how to best run your business this way.

I was part of a business team that looked at investing in businesses a number of years ago. It was not uncommon to meet an entrepreneur of a small business whose only proof of success and value was a shoebox full of cash. A few would emphasize that the company was paying for personal utilities, auto expenses and even groceries and that we should consider these expenses as part of the value.

The problem was that they often could not prove these claims satisfactorily because they had not accounted for them properly. In the end, it hurt the valuation of their company and gave us tremendous leverage during the negotiations.

Most entrepreneurs are not thinking about an exit when they are in the startup stages of a business. If you ever have a goal to divest or grow through investment, how you run your business before you start is just as important as after.

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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Financial Tips Corliss Group Online Magazine: 10 Things Liberals Believe the Government Does Well

Is there anything that big government does well? I mean sure, our military is really pretty practiced at breaking things and shooting people; which (I guess) explains why they are being sent to fight Ebola. (If that logic escapes you, don’t worry… I think a lot of us feel that way.) And yeah, the IRS is pretty good at separating me from my hard-earned money; but, then again, so is Banana Republic. At least Banana Republic has the good taste to compete for my cash.

This basic question (“What does big government do well”) seems to confound liberals. We on the right have been asking it for decades… And we still haven’t been able to solicit a single honest answer from defenders of of the state. In fact, satire, sarcasm, and a little incredulity, is the general response from our esteemed colleagues on the other side of the ideological divide. I did, however, receive a list of “ten things government does well” from someone over the weekend. Of course, I couldn’t help but share it (and a few observations of my own) with the rest of the world:

Things that Government does well

(According to someone who I assume is a card-carrying member of Obama & Company):

1. Protecting our freedom
So that little dust-up in the 1770s was because government was just protecting our freedoms too vigorously?

2. Giving away land to common people
Um… What property are we talking about here? Because as far as I know, the government isn’t actually a “producer” of land – which tells me that the land it gives away to “common people” was first confiscated from someone else… Sure, government has turned “redistribution” into an art form, but I don’t think the forcible confiscation and redistribution of land coexists real well with “number one” on this list.

3. Educating everyone
The national graduation rate is a mere 75 percent; and only half of U.S. adults can name all three branches of government… Watch a few “fan interviews” of the Jersey Shore, and then keep a straight face while telling me that government has done a great job educating our youth.

4. Helping us retiring with dignity
Because nothing is more dignified than depending on a paternalistic government Ponzi-scheme for financial security in your golden years, right?

5. Improving public health
Ebola. (And on the off-chance that you’re still not skeptical, here’s another one-word answer: Healthcare.gov.)

6. Building our transportation network
Federal data shows there are roughly 63,000 “structurally deficient” bridges in the US. Of course, this doesn’t even skim the surface of roadways that are deteriorating on a daily basis. Heck, on my way to the convenience store, I routinely have to dodge a pothole that has the capability of swallowing my Jeep Rubicon. And all of this deterioration is despite the massive amount of time and energy our state, local, and federal governments have dedicated to “stimulating” the economy with a little rush-hour timed construction work. (I actually have a running theory that my home state has no storage unit for traffic cones… After all, that’s the only logical reason for blocking off a four mile stretch of a major interstate so crews can repaint 25 foot of the HOV merging lane.)

7. Investing in communications
Sure, the government owns the radio frequencies… Too bad they haven’t been able to develop a dependable way to alert President Obama to impending scandals before the media breaks a story.

8. Building our energy supply
Because nothing says “efficient use of taxpayer funds” quite like a bankrupt green-energy company in California.

9. Inventing the future (NASA)
Wait… “Inventing” or “investing”? Because last time I checked, “Muslim outreach” wouldn’t necessarily fall under either one of those categories. (Well… Unless our defense against ISIS is far worse than even conservatives fear.)

10. Defeating totalitarianism

Right. So government is super effective at killing the effects of overbearing government. This makes total sense.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Financial Tips Corliss Group Online Magazine: Trust Facebook for investing advice? Not Yet

Social media and financial advice aren’t such an easy match after all.

Sure, the initial attraction is obvious. With one stroke, advisers can woo clients with regular investment tips on Facebook and Twitter, building an audience and drumming up business. Then, after establishing a rapport with their followers, they can follow up with one-on-one video conferencing to clients on Skype or FaceTime without leaving their screens.

But back up a minute.

Old-fashioned, face-to-face communication is still key, advisers say, even for those who use social media extensively. In-person meetings are a must to glean nuances about risk tolerance and financial needs that clients may not even realize about themselves, let alone be able to communicate. Worse, pat advice on Facebook and Twitter can run the risk of looking like a hot tip and other worthless advice littering some investment websites.

So, how best to proceed on social media? Here are some things to consider:

1. Set the right tone

Being on social media is about “being where the people are. It’s about being engaged, sincere, genuine and contributing something of value. And over time, you build relationships,” said Will Britton, a financial adviser in Kingston.

For him, social media is a place to begin a conversation. For instance, he hopes to open dialogues with his regular roundup of stories from financial media, acting as a mini news service for people following him on Twitter. By linking to these stories and affixing his Twitter tag, he’s effectively handing out electronic business cards to the world.

“My presence [on social media] is enough for people to know what I do professionally. There’s certainly some professional content, whether it’s sharing links to worthwhile articles or videos or stuff that I come across.”

It’s a faux pas, though, to look like someone selling something, he said.

“I try to stay away from overt marketing, A) because we get into compliance issues from an industry point of view, and B) I just don’t think that that’s what the people on those platforms want anyway. They’re looking for connections and conversations and engagement. They’re not looking for spam and ads and ‘Come buy this from me,’” he said.


2. Differentiate between public and private

Investment professionals need to draw a clear line between public and private, a line that’s not always clear in social media, nor in real life.

Take this easy scenario: a conversation at a children’s hockey game. In the stands, parents inevitably get to talking. Often the topic will turn to money and, sooner or later, an investment pro such as Mr. Britton will have to mention that he’s a financial adviser.

That’s when another parent may get serious and ask a direct question about the family’s finances. That’s when the informal conversation needs to stop and continue in private. It’s best to think of social media as a giant referral service for investment advisers, he said.

“I think a lot of the time, people definitely aren’t going to the Yellow Pages [to find advisers], and I don’t even know if they’re going to Google any more,” he said. “They are crowdsourcing that information. They’re going to their community, wherever it is, whether it’s online or off, and saying, ‘Hey, does anyone know a good financial planner?’”


3. Social media still isn’t seen as a replacement for traditional financial news sources

There’s skepticism surrounding social media as an information source in the investment community.

Institutional investors remain particularly wary, according to a global poll by communications network AMO conducted in January this year. Their survey of 105 institutional investors in 12 countries found that 85 per cent feel that social media sites are generally not reliable for financial news.

Yet, at the same time, they also indicate a future for it, with 82 per cent saying that social media is growing in importance in financial communications. Thirty-nine per cent of these are prone to looking at investment forums for work regularly or occasionally, and 28 per cent consult them under exceptional circumstances. LinkedIn was the most popular of the social media sites, with 59 per cent consulting it at some point, although a large 41-per-cent segment reported never using it professionally. About 46 per cent reported ever consulting Twitter professionally.

Similarly for retail investors, an online survey in August of 2013 for BMO InvestorLine found that social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, were still slow to be seen as reliable investment-news vehicles. Only a third of the 1,020 Canadian investors surveyed said they use social media for investment insights.

In comparison, 69 per cent of those investors surveyed said they found TV current events and business news trustworthy, and 55 per cent said the same for newspapers and magazines. So linking to more traditional news sources may still be a good habit for advisers online, rather than linking to blogs, forums or other social media.

All of this suggests that social media continues to make inroads, but it still has a way to go.


4. Organize online advising more effectively

Victor Godinho, a financial planner in Toronto and still in his early twenties, sees social media as perfectly suited to the 20- to 40-year-old crowd he caters to. Every Friday, he posts a financial tip on his social media sites, from Instagram and Facebook to Twitter and Pinterest. He has a client in Ottawa with whom he conferences on Skype.

Yet he adds that Skype and social media require a more effective use of time, rather than just chatting for an hour in his office. “You need to keep their attention [online], or you need to make sure they’re on the same page as you, considering you’re in two different locations.”

It’s a supplement to in-person meetings. “Every year when we do our annual review, we’ll meet in person,” he said, and “when you’re in-person, you’re inclined to talk more than just business.”

But for a video conference, advisers need to send clients documents ahead of time. Time onscreen needs to be managed more efficiently, and the meeting needs to move along at a faster speed. More pre-planning is required to make the meeting more effective. It requires a different communication skill, with a focus on not wasting time.

“If you can make that easier on your client, that’s the best thing you can do,” Mr. Godinho said.



About Corliss Online Financial Mag

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag is a stock-market education website designed to teach beginners how to trade shares. Corliss Group Online Financial Mag does this in a manner easy to understand and uses only relevant and essential information required to trade shares on the stock market.

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag was formed because of the lack of stock-market-related websites that impart the steps required to begin trading safely; thus, our step-by-step guide to buying shares.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Corliss Online Financial Mag Investing in small business ventures

What can an individual who lives on a small salary do to invest and augment his income somehow? Here are some tips to follow:

1. Invest in something close to your heart

Whether it is in music or cooking, investing in a small venture will have a greater chance of surviving and even achieving reasonable success if it involves doing something close to your heart or within your experience as a person or as a worker. If you work as a waiter, why not learn as much as you can about some way of improving a recipe or a drink and come up with your own sideline you, or with a partner, can run during weekends or after work?

We hear this advice often and yet not many take it to heart or are brave enough to actually do it. Many feel it takes too much effort and money to start a business. This is not true, in general. Making a single unique jacket or fashion accessory and selling it can be the one step you need to encourage yourself to make more. Even a used item such as a broken sofa, if repaired and furbished to look attractive might bring you some income you never thought you could have from what you already have.

Oftentimes, all it takes is a lot of imagination and a dose of courage to jump right ahead on a new venture you never tried before.

2. Learn the basic math

Any business, small or big, will depend largely on good and proper basic accounting. Learning the fundamental methods of bookkeeping will go a long way to controlling the flow of resources and understanding the nature of your business finance. We all knew about the Chinese who, for many centuries, used the abacus to make sure they got the entire math figured out. With the calculator or the PC today, the job has become even easier and more efficient as we can keep records as well of our transactions.

Still, there are other tricks we can avail of to make the task easy and more enjoyable. Finger-Math can be a tool one can learn and use during those hectic moments when technology Is not around to your aid. Mental math is a trick we can also develop to enhance our acuity in this area. Whatever suits your personality and style, make sure the math is a primary focus in your business. Remember, math is but a tool to make your work easier; but loving the work can make a lot of difference in how you conduct the business.

3. Know you product

Knowing your product is as important as how much you price it eventually. You may have a good round figure for your product’s price; but if you have not truly known your product (what it directly provides, what value it adds to its user, how it can be enhanced beyond its basic use), you will not fathom its true worth for you and for your customer.

Knowing your product goes beyond appreciating its innate value. Peanut butter is not just for making bread taste better or eating by itself. It can also be used for adding flavour to other recipes or with other food (try it with banana). And unless you tell people it can be used as so, they will never discover its other uses. Advertising or showing it in your packaging can be the step you need to do to enhance your product’s value and appeal as well as its price.

4. Know your customers

Not all people will want to buy your product or service. How to change their mind is the challenge you must never give up on. Changing your approach may allow you to capture certain customers you know patronize other brands. Price reduction, although it is not always the best thing to do or other come-ons, such as giveaways or freebies, may help promote your product in certain market locations you wish to capture.

Talking to people and being sensitive to their needs will help you get a clearer picture of your prospective customers.

5. Know your competitors

Knowing your customers will teach you how to appreciate and know your competitors indirectly as well. If you feel your product is better than your competitors and yet you cannot break into the bigger share of the market , then there must be something wrong with your product or your marketing approach.

Companies who have been in the business for many years have a lot to teach you how to go about your own venture. Get as much information from them directly through visiting their stores and factories or indirectly through reading books, magazines and websites.

6. No matter how many competitors you have, you can still join in if you are unique

Unless every corner in your area has a small variety store, you can still put up your own as long as you provide a unique feature in your business. Delivering your product while others wait for buyers can be your advantage in these busy times. Or, you can have orders picked up at certain times to encourage people to buy fresh vegetables, fruits or meat, for instance. The trick is to make your customers feel special and given a personal touch. Adding something nobody else provides may be the advantage you need to keep the competitors behind.

7. Find out what works for you and your product

Eventually, you will have to experiment and make a lot of mistakes as to how you can improve your product, your price and your style of operation. But things will change as economic and social realities also change ad adapting creatively will allow you to stay afloat. Being prepared for such eventualities ahead of others will help you reduce risks and manage your business well.

In the end, running a business may take more and more of your time and may lead you to give up your day-job. If you feel the time is right, then go ahead. Most business-people started that way. Make up your mind at the very start that the option is always present. It is just a matter of time when you will take the brave jump.