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Entrepreneurship @ Sufehmi.com » 2006 » August

Archive for August, 2006

PayPal “Buy Now” problems

Monday, August 7th, 2006

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Just setup PayPal “Buy Now” buttons in an eCommerce website. In short, with this facility, people can pay even without becoming a PayPal member. Very convenient indeed.

First I created one “Buy Now” button, and tested it. It worked very well.
So I created several more.

Then the problems started.

I got all sort of errors, including “Message 3104″. Basically, all the error messages asked me to login with existing PayPal account. Which pretty much defeats the purpose.

Googling around, all suggestions are about lowering security settings, allow cookies, and so on. Tried them, and still the same problem occured.

After hours of messing around, finally I found the culprit - instead of one <form> tag for EACH button, there was only one of it for ALL buttons.
No wonder PayPal got so confused with it.

I put one <form> tag for each button, and tried again - voila, I can pay for the goods just with my credit card now.

Hope it helps someone out there.

Mission (almost) Impossible

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

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On December 2005 I was asked to help manage a shop which is in brink of closure due to mismanagement. By May 2006, the shop is ranked #2 best performer.
Work is still ongoing to make it to become the number #1, but suffice to say that everyone’s already happy with that result.

On May 2006 I was asked to help manage another shop, located near to Pondok Indah. This shop is about to be closed down too, since it’s been plagued by multitude of problems. Worse, the revenue is only about 25% of the previous shop.
Seemed like an impossible case to me, but I accepted it nonetheless.

Summary :

The problems:

1. Very low staff morale
2. Very low sales, most likely due to market saturation (about 6 competitors in the same area)
3. Low profit margin
4. Losing money every month / not profitable.

Actions:

1. Working together with the staff. Developing team work. Increasing staff morale.
2. Diversifying into stationery business
3. Process optimizations
4. Profit margin increase, by various stock optimization methods
5. Creative promotion strategies
6. etc

Results so far :

1. Since May 2006, revenue has been climbing steadily. Average revenue nowadays are about 33% more than before.

2. Profit margin is becoming better

3. The shop is no longer losing money.

Not too bad for 3 months job I think.

The owner is very happy with the result. He’s extended the shop’s lifeline until December 2006 - the shop will have to start performing (target: increase revenue by at least 33% more), or it will be closed down then.

So it’s clear that my work is not yet done here, because of these:

1. Again, this is a management problem. I may have to fire the second-in-command. I’ll give him chance to change until end of this month, otherwise he’s gone.
Problem: lack of initiative, lazyness, failure to keep promises, lack of discipline.

2. Staff morale is still rather low. It’s a bit better, but it’s now clear that the human resources in this shop is not of good quality. Some of them are lazy, lacking in initiative, avoid tasks that they don’t like, etc.

Some of them are plain idiots too. Example; we have a profit-sharing policy in this shop.
Any profit will be shared with the employee. I don’t think Indomart, Alfamart, or others has such generous policy.
However, some of these employees are keep asking for their share - to which I replied, rather sarcastically, “from which profit ?”

When there’s no profit (the shop is not losing money, but it’s not making money too at the moment), what’s there to share ?
I wonder if some people actually have brain inside their head.

I may have to fire some of them, but again I will first give them chance to change. If they still refuse to change, then it’s their own fault.

Note that your employees are your most important asset. We value them highly - we treat them as colleagues, we try to understand their problems and help them resolve it, we even share our profits with them. We believe in fairness and wealth distribution.

Usually, this works wonders. However, some people are not able to appreciate this.
It may seem cruel of me to fire these kind of people (of course, after giving them chance to change first). But :

1. They may just not belong here. They may be happier working somewhere else.

2. A non-performer not only cost the shop money, but most importantly, they’re a burden to their colleagues.

I’ve worked with some non-performers before, and I have had to work twice or thrice as hard to cover their inabilities / laziness. And, to say it politely, I don’t like that. So I can empathize with my employees in such similar position.

3. There are people out there that can use a good job like these

Note that this is not the only thing that I’m doing. I’m also handling about 3 IT projects, and some personal businesses too. And of course, most importantly, my family.
I’ve went over my (previously thought) limits many times, and although it’s very tiring, it’s definitely is very rewarding to my own personal developments.
I felt like dying at times, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

So we’ll see this shop again in Dec 2006, and see how it fare then.
Wish me luck. I’ll need it, and a lot of Paracetamol :)