Business English. Learn Business English with a Business English Reading Prompt: An Interview With a Canadian Businessman in Korea.
Interview with Mr. Scott Taylor.
First, could you give us a quick background on yourself, where you are from, where you are now, your business experience, and what you are presently involved with?
Thank you, I am originally from Nova Scotia, Canada and I now reside in Pusan, South Korea. Having grown up around a family run business I acquired the 'bug' from an early age I suspect. I have never thought much about working for someone else (although I have), probably because of the freedom I witnessed throughout my childhood. By that I mean my mother was free to do what she wanted. She worked hard of course but if she needed time off she took it; the business moved with her desires and abilities not held by the dogma of an upper management.
Growing up on the east coast, like many we take jobs as we have to. My SOHO (Single Office Home Office) began three years ago. Up to that time I worked independently for two companies...they must have sensed my self-minded work ethic.
My background is in project support. Whichever company I worked for I usually ran a tight schedule ensuring a project was on track. I spent a few years with an internet start-up providing logistical support for the infrastructure as well as hands on development of an online shopping site. (Also running the shopping site in conjunction with a retail store front.)
I opened my first business in 1999; it was a martial arts training studio. Coming to Asia in 2001 I have never looked back. While my business has since changed, my focus on private business has never been stronger.
Currently my wife and I run a small English school; I freelance as a columnist, HP/mySQL programmer, and I run www.hogwan.com - a resource site for teachers (currently being revamped).
Do you feel that an internet business is more difficult than an offline business? And/or how important is it to have a web presence?
Interesting, yes and no...Is it more difficult? No not really. To me it is exactly the same as an offline business. You have to sit and put the hours in front of the computer to promote and work your business the same as you would if you were running a retail store. There is no difference. With that being said there are countless ads promoting.
"make millions online while you sleep," or some nonsense like that. While many are silly money schemes some are legit; If you buy into these programs you will see the most important feature. They sell something and you have to advertise the bejesus out of it to make it work. That's no different than "Mabel's Crafts" putting flyers in the community paper, is it?
In truth for a small business person a web presence is very important. An internet presence allows (for a fraction of the cost), a business to become global overnight. Depending on the business of course it allows anyone with a sharp web design and rich content to advertise/sell their service or product to the world.
Now this also depends on your business. Take a community based business, say a dog groomer, do they need a website to market globally? No of course not; BUT If they did have a website it would be their own glossy flyer or magazine showcasing their talent, press releases, coupons, specials, etc. Placing an ad in a newspaper/ community weekly with your website address would be a relatively inexpensive way to draw traffic and attention to EVERYTHING you wanted to say to the public. Can you imagine the costs if you tried placing all the web site features in the press? The cost would be staggering!!
So the reasons for having a site and the ways to use it may be different yet I feel every business needs to have a site; be it to sell worldwide, or to market cost effectively with in the local community.
We all have heard people talk about the benefits of having more than one business at a time (multiple streams of income), do you think that this is a good idea? Or do you think that people should focus on just one idea and venture?
I have two views on that, one is not to focus on one thing alone financially in case it fails. You should always have a back door or a fall back plan. With that, spreading your time and talent too thin can be just as devastating. You could get worn out or neglect aspects of your work due to poor time management, forgetfulness, etc.
My view is to find that balance and work with it. I work in ESL (English as a Second Language)...I have several areas I go with but I do not stray too far from the industry. This keeps me focused. Recently I was in pre-launch of another business venture. I put that on hold as I was concerned that my retail (school) and online (www.hogwan.com) businesses would suffer. So instead I am planning to modify the website to incorporate several new ideas into the fold.
Being from a smaller town in Canada, do you think that other people from small towns too can get in to business easily in places where the local economy is quite small and limited?
Well with a small community its certainly easier to get a feel for the needs and desires of the locals (being one helps). The downside: a) You don't have the day to day traffic to make huge profits. (Say you went retail with a computer gaming store....how many repeat customers in the run of a month in a small town?) Volume is very important.
b) Some businesses are limited and the population cannot support multiple stores. (Ever see two pizza shops in a community of 1000, and if you did...how are they doing?)
c) To compete locally against the big guns (ma and pa's hardware vs. going to Home Depot in town) you need to have GOOD inventory. This can be a huge problem for start ups with limited capital.
Some suggestions for small town start ups; Anything relying on retails (video, DVD, gaming), regular sales (carpet cleaning) or small retail consumables. When I went home to visit family in Nova Scotia, I took a section of the family store front back up and stocked it with candy, gum and soda pop. The summer months brought the hordes of children in! With my wife being pregnant at the time we were keeping close to home and not traveling anyhow. Know your market and don't try to go too big too fast.
How important do you feel business training (ie university) is to going into business?
You want books, go and get them...read and do a little research on your own. I have never met anyone who is better at business because they went to University, sorry professor!.University will help you organize yourself a bit better....that will help but its not required.
Sure you can go and get a business degree, learn how to make business plans, and simple accounting. That has little to do with business savvy though. Speaking of books there are countless ones centered on successes of those with no formal training! Ever see a book titled "I have a PhD and I'm now a millionaire"? While there may be one its probably of little interest to the average person. We want to read about the everyday Joe who found a niche, got rich, and see if we can copy it!
I think business is all about people skills, you have to talk to everyone, your image is your business card (which you should always have in hand!). Go to university and sit in a class of 198 people....does that teach you to stand out and be successful? No.
What advice could you give to a novice or beginner who is thinking about going into business but does not have experience or training?
Before you spend a dime on product or materials....
a) Do your research...look for start up costs (worst case), customer base,
b) Do you know your product inside and out? c) Is there enough business to
d) Will you be able to compete with the competition?
e) I suggest you ease into it. Maybe start with a home office to drum up
business. Many individual businesses don't even need an office.
f) Have fun. If you work it and it goes well for you-Fantastic. If it
doesn't well chalk it up as experience and move on to something else.
g) Never resist change. If your customers demand new products and ideas that are outside your original plan...look into it. Adapt to survive and prosper!
What do you think were the factors that helped you out the most in becoming a successful businessperson?
My mistakes. And boy there are a lot of them! By seeing what didn't work I am able to plan ahead to make sure things don't go that way again. Determination; So many of us have the desire but not the will. Each one of us can be successful if we approach it the right way. Its not magic, its business plain and simple. I provide a product or service, I try to get you and everyone else to buy it.
You're in the ESL business and these days there is a huge influx of teachers from the west, how easy would it be for one of them to go in to business in Korea?
You are right, there is a huge influx of English workers here and coming to Korea. As for business I think that many miss the opportunities that lie in wait here. There is a problem however; retail or any type of registered company/ business here in Korea is VERY expensive for foreigners to set up.
We are talking thousands of dollars. However the importance/ value of internet business can not be overlooked. The ESL industry in Korea has exploded in recent years, there is a tremendous opportunity to build in the industry using the online platform. Remember that Korea is a world leader in internet use, and I believe currently ranked number two for internet shopping. Another added bonus is that huge population somewhere around 46-48 million in a country comparable in size to Nova Scotia! It would be very easy to set up an online product here. There is no law preventing you from advertising in Korea while based somewhere else (your server). An obvious draw back though is the language barrier; easily overcome with so many Koreans desiring to speak English with you. Finding a translator shouldn't be difficult.
Choosing a product to market and sell would have to adhere to social norms, as well be of interest to the local population. Common market research should help you along there. I do feel that the market here with anything relating to the ESL industry is largely untapped for original ideas, yet at the same time I am not sure how many teachers see the real potential in this region of the world.
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