Thailand Part 2: A Distinctly Different Approach
When I first lived in Thailand, many years ago, the first job I had was selling offshore financial services to Japanese expatriates living in Bangkok. My time was mainly spent mingling with the Japanese community, which happens to be an especially cliquey one. Expats are sent by their companies to work in Thailand, generally stationed for 2-4 year terms at a time, and usually bring with them their wives and children. Said wives are not allowed to work and typically don’t, which is defined by company policy, and the men primarily work out in the factories a couple hours from the city.
I spent all my days searching for and pitching to the above demographic of people, eventually growing my list of potential clients to a database of 6,000+ names. I rummaged through almost every office tower in every corner of the city looking for new Japanese companies and personnel. Incidentally, what I realized in the end was that despite living in Thailand for a few years, my Thai language skills hardly increased, as most of my focus was solely on the Japanese market. My network in Japan, however, did grow, although I don’t think that network will likely ever be of value to me going forward.
As most people know, the Japanese culture is one that is very well-defined, begins cultivating at a young age, and affects the minute details of everyday life. Entrepreneur-ism is generally discouraged, as it entails taking risks and being different. Through my travels and business, I have befriended many wildly successful Japanese entrepreneurs and businessmen, and what I can say about them is that 100% of them are not your ‘typical’ humble and polite Japanese character. They are the rebels of their society – ruthless, straight-forward, cocky, aggressive, decisive, and open-minded – evidently traits that are required to be successful in their business culture, and IZM is a prime example of that. If you want to build a strong business network in Japan, hunt for guys like that, as one of those guys can produce the value of 1,000 factory-working expat managers in terms of opportunity.
This time round, my life in Thailand is completely different. Although it has been but a month, I spend much more time working with local businessmen, who are surprisingly very international, and my understanding of the Thai language and business culture has increased 10 fold. Yesterday I even found myself somewhere in the off-reach parts of the city partaking in some local sports tournament – a remarkable experience, if I might say so.
This approach to life is a complete change to how I once lived in this city before. My days are typically filled with meetings of exploring new opportunities, leaving me with plenty of ideas and no shortage of optimism for the future. The relationships I cultivate now are invaluable to me, and hitting a successful venture is simply a matter of trial and error with the right partners.
I can recall the days, not too long ago, where I was living a very worried lifestyle, reserved, and hardly spoke to others outside my usual group. Times back then were good – I would make $100,000/month, almost effortlessly, buying and selling stocks out of my home office at the Skywalk Condominium, but I somehow wasn’t happy, and in the back of my mind knew someday the good times would end. I had the foresight back then to know rough times were ahead, and made an effort to diversify into other businesses while I had money. Where I went wrong was who I chose to invest in, both ill-advised and amateurish in hindsight. That would ultimately cost me most of what I had, but more importantly, years worth of time as well. Sure as I am standing here, I will never make that mistake again.