Everyone remembers the day they made their first million. I was sitting in my car after getting the latest bank statement. I remember opening the envelope and seeing seven figures on the final balance.
Then time seemed to stand still. I did not know what to do; if I was to celebrate or go out and buy something luxurious. I decided to take my family out to a fancy restaurant.
I also remembered the day I fell from the Millionaire’s Club.
I just got home and received a call from the bank saying my check for 1,815 Pesos was insufficiently funded. I had issued so many check payments to fund my new BPO venture, Benchmark Global. With all the stress I was under, I did not regularly keep track of my financial position.
That final check of 1,815 Pesos zeroed out my millions. In fact, I was flat broke. This was just one year from closing down my first company in BPO.
I remember driving like a maniac to have the check funded while calling the payee to re-deposit the following day.
That night Jollibee was our fancy restaurant.
But I never lost hope.
Yes, I lost everything I had earned, but I was richer in terms of experience. In hindsight, everything that happened was an accumulation of poor decision-making, unfit business associations, and factors that were beyond my control.
Right after I finished my Chicken Joy and Rice meal, I went straight back to the office and started working. The definition of “clean slate” meant more than just building up my bank account. It was the beginning of a new journey.
That was three years ago.
Today, I can honestly say we are better off financially. We were able to sign up multiple clients over 30 clients in the course of 3 years. Some are onboard full time, but some are on and off engagements.
Best of all, our clients are happy with the way we serviced their accounts. Truth be told, I cut down on networking because the clients kept giving us referrals!
I am not quite back to where I was years ago, but I can breathe easier now. Maybe I need two more years!
All the advice I included in this article is everything I learned throughout my career as an entrepreneur. I left no stone unturned. Even the ones that appear trivial have value. Those who work as regular employees can learn, thrive and hopefully, be motivated by my experiences as well.
1. Learn How to Take Risks
Entrepreneurs are known as risk-takers. We take on new ventures, start from scratch and risk everything we have to succeed.
But entrepreneurs make the mistake of associating risk taking with gambling. You should never take on a new venture without having an idea of what you are in for.
For entrepreneurs, taking a risk means making an educated guess. This is why I phrased it as learn to take risks.
In business, many variables could change the profitability equation. It is not realistic to uncover all of these variables but you should do your best to anticipate them.
Even if you are passionate about your idea; if it’s a hobby you’ve been doing the past 20 years of your life, you still need a plan.
There’s a big difference between cooking for family and cooking for customers. If you think you can launch a successful restaurant just because your family loves your cooking, you could be in for a rude awakening.
Approach your business idea with an open mind. You may easily be swayed by your personal bias that you become selective with the information you come across. This type of attitude will render your project feasibility studies useless.
2. Embrace Failure
Do you know of any millionaire who never experienced failure? I do not know nor have I read of anyone who went through the journey of entrepreneurial success unscathed.
Failure is a necessary component for success. There are many benefits to failure:
- Identifies your weaknesses.
- Identifies the flaws in your business plan.
- Keeps you grounded in reality.
- Strengthens your focus.
- Builds character.
- Makes you appreciate even the smallest victories.
Thus, you should not be afraid of failure. Instead, you should embrace it!
If you remember the military uprisings that defined President Cory Aquino’s administration, all the political and social uncertainty drove the equities markets to rock bottom prices. Volume was thin; not many people wanted to invest.
Those who did bought blue chip shares such as PLDT, Meralco, Ayala Land and San Miguel at widely discounted prices and became millionaires within a few years!
When you give in to your fear of failure; you open doors of opportunity to others.
One of my biggest signups came at a time I was about to throw in the towel.
It was past 12 midnight, and I had been rejected a 17th time. I was worn out, tired, mentally and emotionally destroyed. I’ve heard the phrase “Thank you for your interest. If we have need of your services, we’ll get back to you” 17 times more than I needed to.
That bottle of rum looked enticing. It seemed like the only one who would see value in my company.
But as I placed ice in my glass, I had an epiphany. Would this shot of rum solve my problems and land me a client?
I went back to the office, started responding to offers and networking.
A few hours later after I had woken up, I received an e-mail from a company interested in my services. He requested for a Skype call that evening.
The rest is history. We were signed up, and the company remains one of our top clients.
Had I succumbed to failure and given in to the bottle of rum, I would not have found the client.
Failure is painful, but it is a necessary experience. It will test your will and determination to become successful.
Related: Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Happy When You Fail
3. Develop a Competitive Mentality
Not attitude; but a competitive mentality. You can’t win the competition without thought, strategy and purpose.
Globalization has created many opportunities but has likewise increased the level of competition. You are no longer just competing against locals but even foreign brands.
In the face of rising competition, you have two choices: pack up or fight on. I believe in the saying competition brings out the best in people. That’s why we have the likes of Injap Sia succeeding in fast food despite the existence of Jollibee and McDonald’s.
Sia knew the challenges that lay ahead in fast-food: declining profit margins, finding suitable locations while maintaining the quality of food and service. But he stayed the course and focused on building the brand by providing consistently great value for customers.
Eventually, Jollibee had to tap out versus Mang Inasal’s 99 Pesos chicken value meal. The fast food giant bought out the competition, and it made Injap Sia a multi-millionaire before he turned 40!
4. Appreciate Numbers
The number one reason businesses shut down within five years is poor money management. And this is attributable to overlooking the value of numbers.
To make an educated guess, you must have a basis for your decision. Numbers provide an empirical basis that gives clarity and direction to your strategies.
As a business owner, you surely would want operations to become more efficient. Numbers will identify the equilibrium point whereby additional input would lead to diminishing output.
If you want to run a profitable restaurant business, you would want to know the pricing points so you can maintain attractive margins without compromising quality. The estimated retail price will then guide your marketing strategy.
Profitability involves revenues and expenses. Keep track of both. In business, strategy follows numbers not the other way around.
5. Avoid the Credit Trap
One of the primary reasons I lost millions was because I got mired in so much debt.
From 2010 to 2012 we continued to support a campaign that was losing money. It drained me financially that even my personal savings were affected.
I used credit to keep us going. In addition to cards, I had a housing loan to attend to. More money was coming out that there was coming in. Eventually, it caught up, and I was bankrupt.
Here are some tips I can give you regarding the use of credit:
- Do not borrow if the cost of amortization is more than 25% of your monthly income.
- Don’t use credit if you can cash it out.
- Pay off your credit right away; the interest will kill you.
- Don’t use credit to fund your business. Instead get into payment terms based on conservative cash flow projections or barter if the supplier is willing.
- Get partners or investors onboard.
Having credit history is good because it shows your ability to pay off debt. But it can be your worst nightmare if you allow it to spiral out of control.
6. Forget Get-Rich-Quick Schemes
The adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” applies in business.
The world is not an evil place, but there are those who plan to capitalize on your misfortunes. These are the scammers who unscrupulously cheat people of their hard-earned money.
You see them on the news; promising millions of pesos in returns for a small investment. Some sell their homes, their farms, their tuition and everything else; blinded by the lure of easy money.
In the end, they become another statistic; victims of scammers.
I’ve been offered multi-million peso contracts supposedly for BPO services. But when I dig deeper into their business plan, all I saw were potential red flags.
There was an offer from a foreign company to manage their back office operations. But when I did a Google check, the principal had many cases of fraud to his name!
Without hesitation, I declined the offer. Perhaps sensing that I had uncovered the principal’s dark secret, the representative tried to explain the issues were already resolved. They even offered to provide certification.
Why were they insistent on getting my company as the service provider? It was obvious they were desperate and could not get other centers to bite their offer.
No amount of money; even if it’s in the eight figures should be worth your integrity and honor! I would rather be a pauper than become a wealthy man who made his riches to the detriment of others.
While I’m at it, forget about playing lotto or sweepstakes tickets! Those are games of chance; nothing but gambling. The only good reason for playing lotto is that it helps fund charity programs.
Forget get-rich schemes. You don’t become a millionaire without working for it.
7. Keep Networking
A big mistake entrepreneurs make is that they stop networking when they have signed up clients or built up a sizeable customer base.
You should never stop networking because today’s business environment is as unpredictable as the weather. Your clients and customers could be here today and gone tomorrow.
I learned that the hard way when I lost a major client we had been servicing for almost four years. I allowed myself to get lulled into complacency believing the client would stay longer.
But business turned bad, and they had to close shop. That was a painful and expensive lesson to learn.
Keep pushing your business. Market and promote it online. Here are a few ideas:
- Create a website that is:
- Fast to download
- Accessible to multi-browsers
- Fully functioning with shareable features
- Blog frequently; at least three times a week and distribute your content through social media and related community sites
- Engage in social media; post frequently:
- Facebook – twice a day
- Twitter – 3 to 4 times a day
- LinkedIn – once a day
- Google Plus – twice a day
- Expand your connections; use LinkedIn or join focus groups
- Post your services on online job sites, community job market platforms, and search directories.
- Attend networking events, trade shows, and business forums.
Remember that opportunities exist every day. You could be at the right place at the right time.
8. Make Decisions Based on Right-Fit
“Right Fit” means having aligned values, purpose, and vision. It is sometimes referred to as “cultural fit”; having the qualities that fit into the company culture.
The most successful companies in the world such as Zappos, Amazon, and Virgin are focusing more on finding right-fit employees and clients to sustain growth and profitability.
If you are looking for people to help you run your business, do not focus solely on the technical and fundamental proficiencies. Remember people regardless of the level of education can be trained and developed under the right programs and with proper execution.
But you can never change a person for what he or she is. If the candidate exhibits destructive behavior, terminate the employment before it infects the entire culture.
The same goes for finding clients, business partners or customers. Even if the client is a big name in the industry but the conditions are onerous, drop the project right away.
I pursued one of the biggest companies in the Philippines for two years. When it came to the final meeting before contract signing their conditions were:
“Set up the office in 2 weeks, have your people ready but keep in mind we will only pay you every nine months. Six months if you’re great to work with.”
Would you want to handle a client like this? Makes over a billion pesos a year and yet treats service providers like slaves?
I dropped the project right away. I didn’t care that the company is blue chip; that’s not the right way to do business. If you want to succeed, you must consider everyone in the value chain. They are your partners, not your slaves.
Don’t focus on short term gains. Focus on building strong relationships with your clients, employees and customers to achieve long-term gains.
9. Manage Your Money Wisely
If you are keeping your money in a savings account, you will never become a millionaire in 5 years. The savings account is nothing but secured cabinet space.
Forget about the interest you earn. It’s not even enough to cope with inflation. The only beneficiary is the bank which lends out your money at higher interest rates.
A good rule to follow is to save 20% of your income every month. The 80% should be used to cover your business or for improvements and other investments.
Look for higher yielding placements to park your money. Here are a few investments to consider:
- Corporate bonds
- Treasury bills
- Mutual funds
Stocks and currencies are volatile and high risks but also high reward. The rule here is to invest just 2% to 6% of your income and make sure your placement has safeguards in case the market runs contrary to your positions.
If you have money for long term placements, consider real estate. Land appreciates over time. Even an area which looks rundown may undergo gentrification. Real estate requires a large investment, but the returns are also high.
You could also consider venture capitalism. Invest in other startups that have the potential to grow. You could help an entrepreneur realize his or her dream.
10. Bite the Bullet When You Have To
If your business has never turned in a profitable month and your numbers support the contention that it is no longer viable, swallow your pride and close up shop.
When you start a business, you are not just invested financially but also emotionally. It’s hard to accept the harsh truth that the dream will never be a reality.
But by cutting losses while they are manageable, it may leave you with enough resources to start another one. For sure, the experience has made you a richer person in terms of experience.
The campaign I alluded to in “Avoid the Debt Trap” is a prime example. It did not generate a single profitable month, yet we continued to fund it.
My partners and I were emotional; we did not want our agents to lose their jobs. Even though all signs pointed to a larger disaster, we believed we could turn things around.
We decided to cut costs by migrating the campaign from a leased facility to a private facility. This meant investing millions in a new center because there would be less recurring expenses.
Within three months, the client e-mailed us that the campaign was shutting down because the FTC did not approve of inbound calls outside the US. My partners and I lost millions over the course of 1 quarter.
Remember #4 “Appreciate Numbers”; if the business is no longer financially viable, bite the bullet and shut it down. There will be more opportunities down the road.
11. Manage Your Time Wisely
Entrepreneurs need to understand they are not superheroes. They also need help.
Micro-managing is one of the biggest time wasters. If you are tied down by non-essential tasks such as e-mail filtering, phone handling or calendar management, you are wasting productive time.
The same goes for more specialized tasks such as social media marketing and accounting. Leave these tasks to the experts. You only have 16 to 18 working hours in a day. Manage your time wisely.
Related: Top 10 Qualities of Successful People Who Use Their Time Wisely
Hire a Virtual Assistant to manage your non-essential and highly specialized tasks. By delegating these responsibilities to a VA, you can have more time to attend to the core functions of your business.
Not convinced of how a VA can help you become a millionaire?
Entrepreneurs like Tim Ferris, Pat Flynn, David Risley, Tyrone Shum and Michael Hyatt became millionaires within a short period of time, and they all hired virtual assistants.
Ferris credits the VA for turning not just his business around but his life. He wrote about it in his New York Times bestseller, “The Four Hour Work Week.”
12. Develop a Voracious Appetite for Learning
By definition, a business in any form is a living breathing entity. It has a conscience, intelligence and its durability depends on its overall health. In other words, your business is you.
If you want your business to grow, you have to undergo personal growth as well. You do not know everything; even in your specialized field, you do not have a monopoly on knowledge.
There is always something new to learn or discover because business is dynamic. It continues to change and adapt to the demands of its environment.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses and work on them both. Fortify your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. Read books, take up advanced courses, find a mentor; whatever it is, always aspire to become better today than yesterday.
Why do you think self-made billionaires like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey take the time to read at least one book a day?
The number one reason people don’t exercise? “I don’t have the time.” Well, you should unless you want your millions to go into health care.
I’ve seen my share of friends who worked tirelessly throughout their lives only to succumb to heart attack, cancer, diabetes and other deadly diseases and conditions. Many passed on in their mid-40’s; their children still in school.
It’s a tragedy that I do not want to befall my family which is why I devote time for exercise; at least three days a week.
Exercise has many benefits all of which will help you succeed in business:
- Releases mood enhancing endorphins which help manage stress.
- Improves blood circulation which ensures proper functioning of all vital organs.
- Improves cognition, mental alertness, and focus.
- Builds confidence and self-belief.
If you spend a lot of time sitting down behind the computer, doing weight training for the legs and back stabilizes and strengthens the trunk and hips. This helps distribute compression forces away from your lower back.
If you think you don’t have time for exercise, then why do you think these successful people do?
- Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group
- Jeff Bezos of Amazon
- Tim Cook of Apple
- US President Barack Obama
- Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
Prioritize time in the day for your health. Your business and your family will thank you for it.
14. Eat Healthy
What do you think will happen to your gasoline powered car if you give it diesel fuel? In the same context, what you feed your body will affect how you function.
Limit or better still, eliminate processed foods from your diet. Processed foods have been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions.
It’s hard. I know it for a fact because I love bacon, donuts, chips and ice cream. But if you want to stay on the course of your goal to hit 7-figures you must take care of your health.
I have these foods once a month and have taken a conscious effort to eat cleaner and healthier. Lately, I’ve been feasting on exotic fruits like rambutan, guyabano, langka and my favorite, much to my family’s dismay, durian!
Overall health needs three components: exercise, healthy eating and the third component coming up next.
15. Get Enough Sleep
Working hard is good, but productivity should not be equated from the quantity of hours worked.
Doctors recommend getting at least 7 hours of sleep. If you are not well rested, your mind will not function well. It will be difficult to arrive at the best possible decisions if your ability to focus is compromised.
Lack of sleep can also increase blood pressure, create irregular heart rate and lead to strokes.
With proper time management, assistance, and planning, you should be able to find time to get enough sleep.
16. Sacrifice Willingly
Launching a business is difficult enough; navigating it toward success presents different and entirely challenges. Like it or not, what you do will encroach on other facets of your life.
There are times you may miss family gatherings or time with friends. You will have to live with those decisions without regret. Not many will understand why you do the things you do.
Some will say you could have done this or that. But the truth is no one knows what you need to do except you. And this conflict will cause relationships to end or suffer at the very least.
There are casualties toward the path of entrepreneurial success. I’ve had to cancel the annual family vacation the past four years to focus on my business. It was hard for my son who always looked forward to our annual getaways.
As a parent, it is painful because I’m sacrificing memories for the sake of building a business. I can never get those years back. I tell myself, “I’m doing this for them” but there are days when I question if the sacrifices were worth it.
Think of sacrifices as the currency you pay to achieve success. In 5 years, you will be paid out in full and in the seven figures!
17. Remove Toxic People from Your Life
On censorship, allow me to present my analogy between opinions and toxic people:
Toxic people are like opinions; everybody has them.
I wouldn’t go as far as referring to toxic people as a 7-letter word as in the original version but they can be overbearing and will certainly weigh down on your success in life and business.
I define toxic people as angry people. They hate life and want you to hate life with them. They can appear chummy, pleasant and often present a positive disposition. But give them time. Everything they spew will be filled with vitriol and venom.
Related: 10 Toxic Types of People You Should Keep Out of Your Life
Unfortunately, we all have them. We have toxic people in our families and within our circles of friends.
If you want to succeed, get rid of toxic people in your life. They will not want you to achieve your life goals because they are perennial under-achievers. They will doubt you at every turn and discourage you whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Talking to toxic people drains me of energy. There is only so much negativity I can take. They can’t seem to get over the past and continually bring back past transgressions. I call them “Lazarus” because they keep bringing back issues from the dead.
Facebook itself is a festering cesspool of toxicity. In the two years, I have been on Facebook I have only amassed 135 friends. Meanwhile, others have made thousands of friends. I just wonder if they get thousands of birthday greetings and Christmas wishes every year.
I have unfollowed many in my contacts list because of inappropriate posts. My network in LinkedIn is five times larger than my connections in FB. I find that LinkedIn encourages more intelligent discourse than FB.
Become a millionaire
It may take you less than five years or more than five years to become a millionaire but never lose sight of where you came from. You will fall and fail more times than you will succeed. Every time you get up and move forward will serve as a reminder of how far you have gone.
You cannot write out a script with the perfect Hollywood ending. Life will always find a way to play itself out; the end will be influenced by every nuanced decision you make.
That is why you should cherish the journey! All the losses, sufferings, and failures you endure will help you appreciate the financial rewards that you will ultimately reap in the future.
If my advice has helped you accomplish your financial goals, let me know! I would love to hear from you. Let’s go on this journey together!