Monday, August 07, 2006

Be Your Own Boss

Think about it

How do you find the right business to put up? You may copy, innovate or create your own, but it's important to find something you like.

By Millet M. Enriquez

Finding the business that matches your capabilities is like courtship, says Felisberto Bombase, a lecturer at the Philippine Trade Training Center. "You keep looking till you find the right one."

Irene Martel Francisco, senior vice president of Irmar Food Systems, and owner of the Ten Noodles restaurant, says it's important to find something you can relate to. It's all about intuition. "There's a match for everybody; it really depends on what you want," she says. "If you want the easy way, go for the franchise. But if you happen to hit on something that's good, then on your own you can pursue it. It depends on how far you want to take it." Francisco started her first venture, a snack bar selling hamburgers, at 19. Since then she has been in various businesses. She became Max's Restaurant's first franchisee in 1998. Later, she also bought into the Cabalen and Greenwich franchises before partnering with the Tokyo Tokyo Japanese fast food chain and putting up her Ten Noodles restaurant in 2001. Her family owns the Harrison Plaza Shopping Center, where she is senior vice president and in charge of HP Village Square, a lifestyle center beside the mall. She is also managing director of the magazine Philippine Tattler.

So how do you find your business idea? Bombase says you can copy, innovate or create your own. You may copy something that's tried and flourishing, needing only to find a gap or niche you can serve. The advantage is that there's no need to validate the acceptability of the idea: your predecessors have gone through the pitfalls that you don't have to suffer.

On the other hand, improving an idea means continuous product development. "Even if it's the same product, some people are good at creating new perceptions through branding, presentation, product design and features," says Bombase. You can add a twist to an old product and attract attention.

You may also present a new concept or idea, but that will take time to test especially if it involves changing consumer behavior. "Until you fully convince the market segment that yours is a better alternative, you must be prepared to wait," says Bombase

Your options

The ways of finding your business idea include brainstorming and focusing on a particular market segment, and then thinking of the ideas or services that would interest that segment. You may also look for unglamorous products or services-from house cleaning to plumbing and window washing-that people don't like to use or do, but can't live without. Or you may ride trends to take advantage of market booms.

You must look into yourself, at your hobbies and skills, and the things you enjoy doing before deciding on the type of business that would suit your personality. Francisco says her love of reading and writing encouraged her to get into publishing. With Ten Noodles, she wanted a business she could put up for less than P3 million, and that she could later expand through franchising. (It now has two branches and is open for franchising this year.) "Filipinos like noodles, but nobody was [setting up] a noodle store that catered to all types of Asian noodles," says Francisco. "It was either Chinese or Japanese, so we did Ten Noodles."

Evaluating the idea

Divino says good business ideas stem from basic needs. "You need to analyze the market and find out if there's a demand for [your] product or service." If you think you have a good business idea, a feasibility study lets you refine it through a series of questions on your target market, financial requirements, sales and revenue forecast, cash flow, production and distribution channels. "A feasibility study will determine if [your idea] will make sense in the market," says Divino.

You may rely on gut feel, but Francisco says you still need to validate it through research. "Theory will only provide you the background," says Divino. "The specifics can only be achieved during the day-to-day existence of your business, so my suggestion is, don't jump into the market until you're sure your idea is viable."

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