Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Build a profitable business- the baby steps part 34

Travel. There are few things that we enjoy as much as travelling. It is truly a blessing to be able to go on a trip to a place you haven´t experienced before and soak it all in. The smells, the views, the adventures, the culture and most importantly the people. Besides being a great experience we find that travelling is one of teh best “schools” that life has to offer. We have learned immensely preparing for our travels and during the time of the trip. Not only do you aquire loads of general knowledge, you also learn surprisingly much about yourself and what you´re about. But there are so many other things that you can pick up on your travels.

Your peoples skills will improve. And we do not just mean the ability to get along with people. We mean a whole lot of different skills. Your ability to understand where people are coming from, what they are about and what makes them tick will improve. You can learn a lot of other things that will come in handy as an entrepreneur. Take negotiation for instance. You think you are a really good negotiator? Have you tried bidding on a horse in a live market in Kazahstan? Have you ever quarreled about prices in an italian leather market? Have you ever tried to negotiate over a  mat in a North-african bazaar or a Turkish pazar? No? That´s ok.  We have done three out of the four things we´ve mentioned and we feel we have learned immensely from them. In fact, we still use a gimmick we learned at a turkish pazar some 12 years ago. We figure that gimmick alone is worth a multiple of what that trip cost us. We figure we got that vacation for “free”. But that´s just the thing with international travel. You can´t really tell what you will learn or how much you will benefit from it in your professional life. All we can promise you is this: if you are interested and open to meet new people, if you have a desire to learn new things and understand another culture, if you are curious and open-minded you are going to grow as a person each time you travel. We know we have. And each time we go on a new trip we learn something new. It´s simply amazing. We hold the fancy degrees from the prestigous schools. And yet we have received the better part of our education as everyday entrepreneurs, and as globetrotters. It is a real-life business school that is more exiting than any other we can imagine, and in the end we wouldn´t have it any other way.

Most of us speak more than one language. In fact most of us speak several languages.  The ability to speak several different languages will differ greatly and will be dependant of where in the world you live. A north european kid or a resident of Switzerland is more than likely to know several lanuages. In northern Europe they are taught several foreign languages in school, and in Switzerland most residents learn more than one of the several languages that are spoken in that country. If you examine other regions in the world like poor rural areas in Asia or even big parts of the United States you will find that knowldedge of other languages is fairly limited. In the case of rural Asia it has to do with the fact that they can´t really afford a good education. In the US it has to do with the fact that the US is such a big country that most americans don´t feel the need to travel in another country, learn about another culture or learn another language. The number of americans that have a passport is 30 %. That´s about as low as is possible for a developed country. The number of residents that have passports in European countries are typically in the range 70 % to 90 %. In fact, we don´t know anybody that doesn´t have a passport. Except for some of our american friends. Most americans do it the same way they have always been doing it. They go to high school and apply themselves, go to a nice college, get a load of debt to their name and then find a job in order to be able to work off some of that debt. In other parts of the world this cycle might look different. take Europe for instance. A European is much more likely to throw in periods of travel or even living abroad in between major life phases.  It has to change. Although we love the US and all that it has to offer we would urge more americans to take that plunge and travel more in other countries. You would grow immensely from it. And by the way a trip to Mexico or Canada won´t do the trick. Go to Europe or Asia. America is the only remaining superpower, but the rest of the world is catching up. If americans want to be able to stay ahead they need to become more culturally savvy and learn more languages. The world belongs to those who understand it best.

Another aspect of international travel that we value is that it will instill humility and a humble demeanor into you. We are making the assumption that you are living a arther comfortable life with acess to most of the facilities that make life easier. You have acess to fresh water, food when you are hungry, some kind of shelter and a general feeling of safety. Consider being in an environment where all those things you take for granted are either considered a luxury or are simply unavailable. Would that affect your way of thinking? Would that change your attitude towards life in general, and your life in particular? We have seen some though-provoking things on our travels. Stuff that makes you pause and reflect. Stuff that makes you sad. We have seen people with no access to clean water in Africa. We have seen how families in brazilian shanti towns (favelas) struggle to get by. We have seen the poverty in rural Asia and the hopelessness for the urban street beggars of India. And all of these experiences have left us sad, very humble and infinitely grateful for the privileged lifestyle we enjoy on a daily basis. It has changed our view of the world around us and we have seen how hard some people need to struggle just to be able to afford basic things that we take for granted. That always makes us think about how lucky we are and how precious life is. It has enabled us to truly seize each day and live our best possible life. And it has made us work even harder and being even more determined. If a twelve-year old kid from Calcutta can work 14-hour days just to be able to bring home some food for himself and his brother (the only family he knows), how can we complain about having to work on a Saturday? If a favela kid from Rio de Janeiro only eats every second day and yet always appears to have a smile on his face and be genuinely happy, how can we complain about our hardships?

One of the things we find most educational on our trips is all the inspiration, motivation and knowledge we aquire from a business point of view. We learn tons of new stuff wherever we go, and we write it all down to examine it further when we return home. Sometimes we get so excited about a business idea or a product or service that we come across that we don´t even wait until we are back home. Instead we end up  using part of our vacation learning more about it and trying to guess how it would all work in another market? Going to major urban centers is especially exciting in this respect. Why? Because they are fantastic melting pots of cultures, people and ideas. And we know that some of the most interesting and creative business ideas we have come across comes from metropolitan areas. If it can be done, chances are somebody has already done it on the avenues of New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Moscow, Seoul, Moscow or Dubai. In fact some of the stuff we have seen are so whacky, we must admit we would probably shoot the ideas down long before they were realized. But we are glad that there are a lot crazier people than us out there. After all it is businessmen like these that make the world a more exciting and interesting place to be in.

In general there are two types of inspirational business ideas that we take home with us. The first one is business ideas from countries that are generally rich in innovation and culture. America is such a country. Almost every trip we make to the US we find a couple of business ideas that we are really impressed by and that we haven´t seen in Europe yet. Of course we have noticed over the years that we are not the only ones that are being observant when we travel. In most cases when we see a US business idea that we feel is interesting and innovative we tend to see some form of european copycat within a year or two. Still that doen´t mean that pursuing such an idea should always be discarded. After all Europe is a large continent, and there are room for plenty of players. The other type of business ideas we get from travels usually has to do with pricing. If we see a technical gadget in China or a new kind of fabric from Africa and the prices are really rock-bottom on those items, we naturally start to wonder if there is a market for those products at home. We become excited because at those incredibly low prices we suspect that we can move serious volume, and besides from high margins, exceptional volumes is one of the things that will get our full attention. Such low prices are a real dream for the business strategist. There are simply so many possible ways to play out your hand. And what´s even more sweet is that however you play out your hand you are likely to make a bucket of money doing it. When you find a product that´s truly cost-effective you don´t really need to sell it. It will sell itself. Everybody know a good deal when they see one, and the possibiliy of getting their hands on something at a bargain price is an opportunity that won´t be lost on your retail business contacts.

It´s great to travel a lot for your personal growth. But it´s even better living abroad. If you are still young we would strongly suggest that you look into your alternatives. If there is any possibility for you to live abroad for even a short period of time you should jump at the chance. And that goes regardless of whether you want to be an entrepreneur or not. You will grow so much and learn so many things by living abroad that we can think of little else that can be a better investment of your time. And we are not talking about the extra language you are likely to pick up (provided you work at it and try to learn it). Rather we are talking about what you will learn about yourself as you scramble to make your stay a pleasant one. It seems that finding oneself in a foreign country, with a foreign language and a different culture will work wonders when it comes to developing your street smarts. Your ability to handle yourself will simply skyrocket. You want a better apartment? Fight for it and find one. You want to meet interesting new friends. Learn the language, and better do it quickly. You want to be able to afford going to some parties? Get an extra job and scramble for some extra cash. That´s what it´s all about. It is what it was about for us. Somebody drops you “behind enemy lines” and your job is to prove that you have got what it takes to survive and that you wilö return someday in one piece. If you do well you have not only succeeded in your mission, you have sent a massive statement to yourself; “I can do this. And if I can do this, what´s going to stop me from achieving all my other goals as well?”. There is a tremendous power in such a question. And it is that power that you will get to take home with you from your adventurous stay abroad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>