The Business of Business

A topic that I find most appropriate these days is the topic of business and especially my background in business. I have never started a business, although I have done freelance work as a website designer in the past. My parents are mutual fund and real estate investors and I myself invest in the stock market. As for academic background, I have had a few economics courses and no prior experience in high school. I’ve been continuously working since I was 15 (11 if you count delivering papers), I’ve had a wide range of experience ranging from customer service to supervisory. I’ve never been unemployed for more than 6 months.

So it’s fair to say that I have no management experience, yet it’s something that I desire. Improving my business credentials is quite paramount as one of my life’s goals is to make my first million before I venture into middle age. However, that first million is the trickiest. In a capitalist society, the rich get richer and you need money to make money. If I had the money, I would purchase several homes in the United States right now and sell them off once the mortgage crisis recovers. I would invest more heavily in the market until the recession ends. I would start an online business that would cater to all consumers, chinese, american, european, etc.

So what’s stopping me? The most important factor is risk. I could take out a loan, sell some of my assets and try to do those things, but it takes a certain amount of determination and confidence to make it succeed. The fact of the matter is that everyone has good ideas – they lack the hard work ethic and capital to make it succeed. In order to achieve success, one must be a risk-taker. Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to pursue what he thought would be a profitable venture. Facebook would probably not be the way it is if he had continued it as a part time hobby while an undergraduate, much like how Bill Gates had dropped out to pursue his software venture before. The founders of Yahoo and Google both had to had faith in their website services before committing full time to them. In short, in this day and age – online businesses are the result of their founder’s faith in their ability to succeed.

Thus I realize how the business of commerce and management closely resembles that of design and computer science. From my CSC318 course (Design of computational media), I learned to identify the target stakeholder group, create personas to fit that group, conduct observations, create prototypes and evaluation plans and deploy to market. Business is much the same – with more emphasis on quality, price and time to market. Not only must a business be successful – it has to be profitable as well.

A prime example is the principles upon which eBay Inc and Amazon Inc, now both publicly traded companies, were founded:

Where’s the opportunity?: Consumers needed a convenient way to purchase products online.
What’s the goal?: Become a middleman from the sellers and buyers. Make it affordable and undercut the competition.
How can we make it profitable?: Charge fees to sellers and to wholesale distributors. Advertisements. Sponserships. Mark up shipping costs and offer bundling discounts.
How can we make it successful and well known?: Devote lots of effort. Obtain investments from people who are already wealthy. Show proof-of-concepts and field study summaries to convince investors. Market it well. Have an excellent customer service reputation. Hire people who can extend your vision.
How can we continue being successful?: Purchase smaller companies that can help your business (Paypal, Skype). Extend your services (Kijiji). Create a product that ties with your services (Kindle).

All in all, the basic foundations of designing are also the basic foundations of establishing a successful business.

My course on management starts tomorrow. I am interested in applying my skills already learned as a compute scientist to the business of business. Although my experience in this field is lacking, it is something that I feel that with enough faith, could become a profitable use of my time and resources.