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More lessons from Bobbi Roberto

/ 12:48 AM December 11, 2015

IN MY Nov. 27 column, Prof. Bobbi Roberto (my brother) shared the first side (or the ‘heart and soul’ side) of his experience as a successful teacher-entrepreneur.

Here are the equally great lessons from the second side or “the mind and body” of a successful teacher-entrepreneur.

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How does a teacher become an entrepreneur? I learned that there are two sides to becoming an entrepreneur.

The Nov. 27 column dealt with the entrepreneur’s soft side or his “heart and soul.”

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The other side is about the entrepreneur’s “mind and body.”

It is the technical side comprised of many triads creating a dynamic union that pushes components of the enterprise together for completeness and enterprise progress.

The triads require skills that must be learned and relearned. It took me more than a decade to learn the basics. Let me talk about the more important of these basic triads.

Quality assurance

I was a brash, bullheaded Philippine Science High School iskolar ng bayan when I started to dabble in business. I thought that it was just common sense. If the customer hesitated, a sad face, a sad story and the just-try line were clinchers. Hey, those are a triad of triads.

And I saw these when delivering goods to the outlets for our family’s packaged food items. So I sold to friends, relatives of friends and friends’ friends. When their interests waned, I went for another product. Then another. Then another. Until I was pushing many products that customers started to say, “Next time na lang.”

I took so much time selling that I forgot to keep a keen eye on the materials. Sourcing from many suppliers to serve more markets proved hard to assure quality. Different materials undergoing the same process yielded different products.

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I also did not notice that there were others copying me and supplying “better” products to my “friends.” I lost my capital but made sure I paid my debts. So I worked at nights to earn other incomes. Yet two next times came and I stubbornly did the same thing. Different markets, same outcome.

Those were the times that I had to learn the first two triads. I had to be continually preparing for successful and defensible businesses. I had to have not just good gimmicks. There has to be an interaction of self-development and business development.

The self-development triad consisted of developing capabilities and traits, accessing resources and markets prudently, and networking for relations. Like a teacher, I did not start out knowing all I needed to know to teach and also to be an entrepreneur. I researched from my mother and aunts what are the good recipes. I asked friends running computer schools what they used. I observed boutiques to see what sold and what did not.

So I first sold inputs to learn from cooks and computer assemblers why intermediaries did what they did and consumers buy.

From friends, when I ask like I knew nothing, they explained. I experimented to look for better presentations and pricing. When I could not find a solution to a block in my experiments, I consulted with my teachers. This triad of research, experiment and consulting is to access resources and markets linked with developing capabilities, and proved so easy.

So should it also be for teachers.

But becoming an entrepreneur goes beyond being a business person. It is not just learning what, how, when and where to sell. As I learned it, the difference is in the “why.”

It is not just in maximizing profits by exploiting customers but also in serving customers.

As an entrepreneur, I did not only persevere for growth but also committed to the progress of my community of customers. I not only sold as much as I could but cared for, even reeducate customers and personnel to make better choices. I learned to prudently not over-borrow or over-pay. Just enough.

Networking

As I built my traits, I began to give more value to networking for relations. I fell back on this network when things got tougher. I networked no longer to just use but to share. I learned to practice Filipino family values that teachers like us promote every day.

The business development triad consisted of developing a product platform, starting a business process, and working on a growth engine. I learned that a good product was not enough for sustained success. Once the product with any innovation finds initial success, it is copied with improvements. So if you wish to be a successful teacher-entrepreneur, look ahead to succeeding improvements and new versions of the product to keep ahead of copycats. It is like our lesson plan, giving a little every day to achieve the objective of the whole course.

After a while, making the business grow was no longer based just on my perseverance to look for new customers. I learned to maintain the existing and ask them to help search for new customers. When I was growing, I thought growth would continue like a chart. Reality showed me that what I earned I had to invest in developing and marketing new product improvements and in a different product for the future. A product had a life from birth to death. Even as I tried to improve and extend a successful product, it is replaced by a shift of the market. Decadent food was replaced by fresh then healthy to be replaced by natural. Desktops were replaced by laptops to be replaced by androids.

When I stayed the same as the copycats, I lost. They had deeper pockets. When I refused to change my ways, I lost to new comers. They had more energy. When I approach users and customers in the same manner, they went for others. They were more exciting. I learned that growth was propelled by being continually different and valued by customers. I learned to look better than others and were difficult to imitate. For the market, attributes of faster, cheaper and friendlier work. To be these, we needed most trained personnel. Hey no other sector can be better at training than teachers.

Then ways to be more efficient should lead to the next round of improvements. But as a teacher, I knew that my personnel should learn how to learn the processes so that those farther away from me geographically could make improvements themselves. That led to the service attribute of responsiveness, a priority Filipino family value that we as teachers practice as part of work and life.

Best friends

To end this confession, let me say that all the hard triads and learnings probably would not have been applied well if not for my most valued triad of best friends who shared with me their own treasures of knowledge and compassion. Ed is my superior and teacher. Bobby is my mentor and coach. Jing is my counsel and recourse. You should find such friends among your expanding networks. Get them into your venture as partners or advisers. On the one hand, be careful about what you expect they will bring with them into the venture. On the other, learn to collaborate as part of your trait development. Following common sense and Filipino family values, you will get over the initial clash of personalities and arrive at wonderful adventures as I did.

Keep your questions coming. Send them to me at [email protected]

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