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How I started my company in Japan

Posted by Danny Choo On Thu 2015/04/02 21:58 JST In Desk Diary
 427  2916726 ja zh

Finally managed to get this out - the 4 month overdue look at our new office in Gotanda Tokyo.
I've longed for this office for soooo many years ><

But before we take a look at the new office, I wanted to cover what my workspace looked like over the years and the history of how it became what it is today.

This photo is taken at home on the 3rd floor back in 2006 - a home which I bought on my Amazon salary and affiliate earnings. I had left Amazon and was working for Microsoft at the time.

This room is where I did a lot of coding for the build up to starting my company.

While working for Amazon and Microsoft, comrades would introduce folks who wanted me to build websites for them. Even though I was working with the web, I didn't think there was money to be made from making websites for others. I was also content with my current job which kept me busy so wasn't interested in the requests. So I threw back a "OK if you really want a website then its going to cost you blah million yen."

To my surprise, the first company who requested a website said "yes please." I was not about to say no to a few million yen (1 million = roughly 10,000 USD at the time) so programming until the early hours of the morning was the norm for the next few months where I was also able to beef up the PHP programming skills - thank you Google Sensei.
I banked a few million yen in the bank for a single website which was just shy of my annual salary of my first job in Japan. More requests started to come in which was proving to be a bit more for me to handle without it affecting my full time job.

With the help of Google Sensei again, I then started to seek developers in overseas countries and ended up with development teams in India, Romania and the US.
I would work remotely with them over phone, email and IM. I required half of the payment from my clients to be paid upfront which I used to pay my developers. I would then meet clients after work to understand their business needs which I then fed back to my developers.
It was my first experience managing my own remote staff where I had memorable moments like the developer who just dropped everything and disappeared ^^;

With all the extra income, I would have been crazy to declare just my earnings with the annual tax return - I needed to declare my expenses too as I was effectively running a company on the side so I founded my first business entity which was a sole proprietorship.

A sole proprietorship enables one to declare not only their earnings but also their expenses too. For example, If I use 25% of my home as an office, I can declare 25% of my rent/mortgage. I use my Internet connection for 90% of my work so I declare 90% of the cost as an expense.
By declaring your expenses, the amount of tax you pay is reduced as you only pay tax on the profits.

If you make 1000 USD a year and don't declare your expenses then you will pay tax on that 1000 USD. If you declare your expenses as being 800 USD and assume that your total income was 1000 USD, then you only pay tax on the difference which is 200 USD.

Anyway, by this time I knew that I wanted to have my own company later in life and gave myself a goal of setting up a company by the age of 35. The sole proprietorship was the beginning of everything and it was to be our future. I called it "Mirai" [未来] which means "Future."

I wrote up something simple about starting a sole proprietorship in Japan in the Japan Proprietorship post. Most countries have the same system and anybody should be able to start one - costs nothing to register and anybody making money on the side would be crazy not to have one - unless you like being taxed.
It is important to understand that this is not a form of tax evasion but a legitimate way to declare your expenses which you need to generate earnings. As far as I know there is no age limit to setting up a sole proprietorship.

Photo taken in 2007 which was the year that I created a mascot for my website who I named Mirai Suenaga - you can see her in the header on the Macbook on the table. I bought the Wacom tablet so that I could work on her design together with Azami Yuko-sensei.

Mirai is a 17 year old high school girl whose name means "Eternal Future." Back then she had no story let alone a character setting. Up until 2011, Mirai didn't do much apart from make the site look pretty but in 2011, Good Smile Company released a figma of her which sold way more than anybody would have imagined for a website mascot and made me realize that I should be taking care of her properly.

I started to focus on collaborations with my clients to gain her as much exposure as possible. Mirai ended up with cameo appearances in various anime titles, games and made it to being a Nendoroid and Weiss Schwartz.

By the end of 2013, through worldwide support from her fans, Mirai became an official mascot for Japan Tourism and in Summer 2014 became an official mascot for Malaysia Tourism. You can read more about Mirai here.

By 2007 I had saved up enough moolah to incorporate a company. A foreigner in Japan needs to invest 5,000,000 yen in capital to be able to sponsor their own Business Investor visa. I had to make sure that I also saved enough to pay for the mortgage and support both wifey and myself for a while as I said goodbye to the comfort zone, corporate life and a steady paycheck.

I didn't necessarily have a load of clients lined up and didn't have a concrete vision at the time but knew I should start off doing web consulting.
Work eventually came from the network of contacts which I had been building up over the years through attending tech meetups and connecting to other web folks in Japan through social media. I ended up consulting for companies like Disney and Columbia Japan.

This photo was taken in 2008 when I finally had enough cash flow (only barely though) to hire another pair of helping hands - needed more space for that person so it was the first time that the office was to move to somewhere bigger...

...and that bigger space was to be the first floor of our house with an extra 1 x 3 meter space to play with ^^

This photo was taken back in 2008 where we launched our first client on our proprietary CMS that I created called Mirai Gaia. That client was Good Smile Company who still use Mirai Gaia today.
Over the years more of my clients started using Mirai Gaia including Konami, Kadokawa, SEGA, Bushiroad, Yuzusoft and more.

This photo taken in April 2009. The 2 tables were clumped together in the middle which didn't leave much room for anything else. We did have a few servers in the cabinet though and remember them being a nightmare to manage.

Photo taken towards the end of 2009. Sitting next to me is Chris - a fellow Brit who came to Japan on a working holiday visa. I saw some of his work online and we finally hooked up at a Culture Japan Night.

Demonstrating that you have the ability to do something is key to a successful career.
Working examples or visible past achievements is important when getting a business or career deal. Without seeing examples of his work online, I'm not sure I would have invested the time to talk to Chris as there are so many folks out there who want a job but don't even try to demonstrate what they can do - but that could be because they can't to anything...

I'm always hunting for talent by following links to websites of folks who interact with me on this website and twitter in particular. Regardless of whether you are looking for a job with us or another employer - you should always have an online profile that outlines your skills and examples to back up what you say you can do.

Chris was great with technology who also migrated Mirai Gaia from PHP to Ruby which is still used by many of our clients.
5 years after he joined, Chris has moved on and has returned to the UK - he brings with him his wife and two new kids ^o^
Without Chris, Mirai would not have been able to get to this stage and I thank him.

This photo taken in Feb 2011. I approached a Japanese TV station called Tokyo MX TV with the idea of a TV show that I was to direct and present on that would cover pop culture but also feature many aspects of Japanese traditional culture too.

Tokyo MX was interested but I had to look for the sponsors to pay for production and air time. I approached my clients Good Smile Company and Bushiroad with the idea and they agreed - that was how we started TV production of Culture Japan.

We would often have production folks come in for filming and editing. The tables that were clumped together in the middle of the room were moved to the sides and another table was added so that more folks could work in here.

Towards the end of 2011, I met a chap called Linus at Anime Festival Asia. He was following me around with a laptop with some of his work on it and was interested in an internship with us.
The graphical work he showed me did look nice but not incredible - but I was impressed with his persistence as he followed me around all the time!
We exchanged business cards. He then sent me an illustration of Mirai-chan that he done in Illustrator. I was impressed with the quality of his vector artwork and proceeded to speak with him over Skype.

Linus could speak quite a fair bit of Japanese which he picked up himself. But he didn't have enough skills that I required. Linus looked like a clever chap so I decided to invest time to train him - well it was more like getting him to train himself - I only gave him guidance.

I gave him test after test which he not only passed but went above and beyond.

The first test was to learn HTML and CSS3 which he ended up doing in 3 days - I gave him a mockup of a website (as a flat image) and a link to W3 Schools and told him of Google Sensei who lived on the planet Dagobah.
Google Sensei taught me all my Internet and graphical skills and I'm sure that Google Sensei would teach Linus the same - all Linus had to do was to ask Sensei.

In 3 days, not only did Linus manage to make the mockup from pure CSS (no table tags) but he also took the opportunity to learn JQuery and put in a rotating slideshow which I didn't request.

The second test was to edit a video for me using Final Cut Pro X - I sent him a few clips and told him to consult with Google Sensei again.
Despite having no previous knowledge of Final Cut Pro, just like myself, he picked up all the information that he needed - it cant get more easier than typing "Final Cut Pro X Tutorial."

The final test was to set up a server on his Mac and open up a port so that I could access it from Japan. Linus had no prior server knowledge but managed to do this task in a single night just by asking Google Sensei.

I hired Linus who became our Creative Director and COO. Linus worked with us for 3 years before deciding to focus on his studies full time at Waseda University. Linus is one of the smartest people I know and could probably even outsmart a bullet.

Linus lay down the foundations for our branding strategy which not only enabled us to reach out to a wider consumer base but also work more efficiently and smarter with such a small team. He will be sorely missed ><

This photo was taken in March 2012 when we moved the office again - but now to the 2nd floor of our house ^^; The 1st floor was so cold and dark where sunlight only came in during the morning as our house is surrounded by other houses which are less than a meter away on each side ;-;

One month after this photo was taken, we launched a Japanese learning product that I created (and designed by Linus) called Moekana - it was a pack of hiragana learning cards which sold so many that we came out with a second edition and was followed by the release of the kanji learning cards Moekanji. Sales generated from these products generated more cash flow which enabled me to work on a prototype of what was to become our flagship product.

This photo taken in December 2012 on the 2nd floor. Here I am assembling the 3D printed parts of a prototype that changed everything for us.

In 2010, I started to get the idea of making my own line of fashion dolls. After 2 years of research and failing to find anybody interested in partnering with me, I decided to create the body for a 60cm tall doll using my own resources together with 3D rapid prototyping technologies. The product was to be named Smart Doll. You can read about the whole production process (injection molding, electromolding etc) and the type of work that I do with my vendors at smartdoll.jp - if you are interested in making your own products then its probably a good read.

Photo taken in April 2014 on the second floor with noticeably more hands on deck.
At this moment in time, I've pretty much invested all our savings on the Smart Doll project. I knew the product was going to do well but at the time had no idea just how well.

At the time my work involved both hands on production and product development which meant the workspace would get rather cramped and messy. The white box on my table is a heat box which we use for Smart Doll assembly and cutting.

The first floor was transformed into a doll studio - this is where production started. I kept the cardboard wrapping on the Ikea tables because we needed them for display at an event.

That event name was called Wonder Festival and was our first time exhibiting at a major event in Japan.

Folks are required to book booth space for the Wonfes about 6 months in advance. Back then I thought that Smart Doll would be ready to sell so paying for the space (5.5 meters x 4.5 meters which cost about 250,000 yen) was worth investing in.

As it is my first time producing hobby products, I was learning as I went along and some things look longer than anticipated which subsequently delayed the launch by a few months. This meant that the dolls were not ready for the Wonfes this time round.

The 250,000 yen is for the land only and does not include construction - the quote we got for a simple layout turned out to be 1,000,000 yen which was an amount that I could not invest in just for a show that lasts a few hours (from 11AM to 5PM).

I decided to see if we could make a booth made entirely from only IKEA furniture + some of what we had in our office. We managed to bring costs down from 1,000,000 yen down to just over 100,000 yen with a difference - we were still able to use the furniture after the event unlike many other companies who forked out millions of yen for a few hours and then have their booth torn down for good - most of them sold stuff though so they probably recuperated costs.

I do understand that having a booth at an event is not just about recuperating costs and should also be seen as a marketing opportunity so spending what we did was just about worth it.

Anyway, you can read more about the challenges we faced moving half of the office to the event hall during some of the worst snow that Tokyo has ever had in this entry.

Photo taken in March 2014. The production studio starting to burst at the seams. By this time nearly all of the production lines are complete for each of the parts and accessories needed for Smart Doll. During this phase we do thorough testing of the product and learn how to optimize the production flow through the actual assembly.

It was extremely challenging working with limited space but I learned a lot about "working with what one has" and optimization of space and storage.
Here I'm in the middle of trying to squeeze out more space from the doll production studio.

Originally the tables were organized like a "T" shape which I thought made sense as a production line but it just took up space and didn't really work. The layout went back to where tables are against the wall which freed up space in the middle of the room but due to the sheer amount of parts stock that we had, it always became cramped like this ><

What used to be our bathroom became a stock room for Smart Doll parts and accessories.

Our entrance was used as storage too.

What used to be our bedroom was used as storage and packaging.

This is where we assembled all the boxes. As time passed and we approached Summer, I became concerned about stock being affected by the heat as Japanese Summers are just the worst ever.

Our house only had domestic air conditioners which meant that they stopped being effective after a certain amount of humans are in the room ><

After about a year and a half of development, we released the first Smart Doll 001 which was modeled after our mascot Mirai Suenaga. The demand for her was way more than I anticipated.

We were still stuck in my house without much room to grow but I needed to scale the production line as soon as possible while demand was high. The steady cash flow that came into the company meant that we could soon secure a new office but had to continue working with the space that we had until we had the cash.

Renting an office is a bit different than renting a residential apartment where the office landlord can require up to 6 months rent and we were looking at about 800,000 yen per month for the space that we would need to expand the business for the next year or so.

July 2014. With working conditions becoming more cramped and the temperature getting warmer, production became more challenging. I've always believed in working with what one has but by this time we had pretty much optimized all the space that we could and were unable to hire more staff as there simply wasn't enough space.

Back then it was not possible to ship large batches as there just wasn't any space to hold stock - we had to repeatedly take batches of small orders and ship them out.

When we first launched Smart Doll, Mirai was shipped fully clothed in the clear box - ideally this is great as it's inline with my vision to create a product for the masses and not just for doll consumers.
Being fully clothed in the box means that folks who see the product for the first time on the shelves will see what is inside and how smart Mirai looks ^^

In practice however this wasn't such a good idea - Smart Dolls that were shipped domestically in Japan arrived in good condition. Folks overseas however got a shock as Mirai became restless on the journey over the seas and arrived looking like a zombie ><

But it was a great learning that we would never have gained unless we tried - the tall clear case was the first generation packaging and now we are on the second generation.

In October 2013, my wife and I moved out of our 3 story house so that it could be used solely as an office - we did this so that the business could grow as much as possible. It was not only challenging to continuously have staff in our house, but also started to affect my mood being cooped up in the same house day and night.

We rented a makeshift apartment nearby which allowed wifey and I to have privacy and also meant that I could get away from work for a bit. While we did manage to get away from work and have a life outside the office, the apartment was small and cramped just like the office - I hated it.

I do understand that there are many folks who don't even have a roof over their head and feel selfish for complaining. I guess the apartment did serve as even more motivation to get out of that place.

The apartment never felt like a home at all which is why I didn't even bother trying to decorate the place. The walls were so thin that we had to wear headphones when watching TV so as not to be a nuisance to folks living next door.

The kitchen area was especially cramped ToT.
I promised my wife that the Smart Doll project would do well after launch and that we would eventually have enough cash flow to be able to get a bigger office and move back home.
On the day we moved into the makeshift apartment, I promised her that we would be out of there within a year.

By July 2014, that time had come and we had sold enough dolls to be able to pay upfront 6 months worth of rent (deposit) + 2 months in advance.

Here I am at the office that we eventually chose in Gotanda which my absolutely most most awesome wife found for us ^o^

Although I was smiling in the photo, it wasn't all roses looking for an office. Unfortunately, there is still a thing about landlords not wanting to rent out their property to foreigners - regardless whether or not you can pay all the required cash upfront.

Through past experience, I would always ask the estate agent to ask the landlord whether they rent to gaijin (foreigners) to avoid dissapointment after falling in love with a property. Despise this, we went round to a few places and still were told "no gaijin" *after* we looked at the properties.

There wasn't just the gaijin issue though - even though Mirai Inc is my company, I get paid a salary just like everybody else and my wages were the lowest in the company - no point paying myself lavishly while watching my own company suffer.

When applying for an office where the monthly rent is more than my salary, I was told that I could not possibly pay the rent despite that I could show that my company was making money.

I would then be asked to show last years earnings report but all I could show was that we were in the red because we used so much cash on the molds and development of Smart Doll.

After having the door slammed in my face time after time, I got rather depressed and broke down. But its OK to break down once in a while - keeping those depressing feelings all cooped up inside is probably not good for oneself.

5 mins later after wiping my grubby smeary face I was up on my two feet again even more determined to pull through.

2014 was the year of milestones for us - releasing Smart Doll and now moving to proper offices and not the 1st, 2nd or 3rd floor of my house!

This is what it was like when packing up for the move. Those Ikea containers has to be the best thing that they ever made which we use for everything.

6th August 2014 was the day we moved to the new office. A standard moving company charges about 200,000 yen for a truck and 2 helpers which was quite a bit of cash. After doing some googling I came across FukuTora - a company which rents out just the 3 ton truck and a driver at only 30,000 yen. The reason why its cheap is because we do all the lifting of the furniture and boxes to the truck - all the driver does is to arrange the stuff inside the truck and drive it to the destination.

We needed to make the trip twice as we had quite a bit of stock.

I didn't think too much about placement of furniture - I figured that we would not know what the optimum layout is until we actually started to work and identify areas of improvement in our daily workflow.

Taking a breather after most of the stuff has been moved to the new office. The chap in the green shorts is Thomas who hails from the US. He volunteered to help with the office move after I called out on Twitter.

Thomas turned out to be a ninja programmer at Ruby on Rails amongst other things who has now joined us full time as our new CTO.

Meanwhile back at our house - we get to move back in after waiting just under a year.

It made sense to cleanup and polish down before we moved back in from the makeshift apartment.

The apartment that we lived in for the past year was in walking distance just around the corner so we managed to bring everything back on the trolley. Its so good to be back home ><

Even after moving everything from the old office to the new one, there is still a ton of space.

Within a day we were up n running working on Smart Doll production.

This was where I put my desk when we first arrived.

This is the lounge area which I want to keep clear of workstations so that staff can just chill out.

August 2014. By this time we had 6 employees.

Headed back to Ikea a few times to get more tables and containers.

Finally we are a real company in a real office with a real nameplate! We are in startup mode again and its day one. My main priority now is to make sure that there is not only a steady flow of orders for Smart Doll to cover the costs of running the new office - but also make sure that we can scale the production line so that we can supply more.

The new office is great. Now we can have proper meetings without asking clients or vendors to sit on the floor.

And we now also got enough space to hold Mini CJ Night's which I announce on Twitter.
The office came with boring tiled gray carpet so I bought some orange tiles to spice it up a bit.

Beginning of October. Staff count has increased to 10 in the office (inc wifey and myself) + 1 remote.

By this time, we figured out what needed to go where and what wasn't working with the current layout. The first layout had tables facing inwards but space was running out quick - time for a layout change.

In the middle of the layout change. We moved the tables against the walls which freed up an incredible amount of space and made more room for expansion.

The new layout back at the beginning of October and has pretty much been the same since.

And here is my workspace - the desk on the left corner is my production station and the one on the right is my computing one.

The ceiling lights are usually on during working hours but I love it when they are off like this. Sometimes I want the ceiling lights off around my table but are controlled by switches that turn on all the lights. I need to find a way to disconnect my florescent lights easily or cover them up.

And this is what the work area looks like with all the ceiling lights on. Notice the time which is 6.30 in the evening. Unlike most Japanese companies who create an atmosphere which makes it difficult to leave anytime before the last train, I fully understand the importance of making sure that employees have their own personal time to wind down or develop their life skills. For this reason, unless there is an emergency, I ask that everybody start packing up to leave at 6PM.

I also find that we are all more focused to finish and complete goals knowing that we have to leave at 6. I personally do stay on a bit though.

I'm aware that folks only have a limited amount of hours at work so this also helps me prioritize what's important for the company.
I find that many companies just think of pointless stuff for their staff to do just because warm bodies are still in the office.

On a related note, prime minister Abe was thinking of introducing a system where trains would run all night instead of stopping service at around midnight.
There were concerns that this didn't give rail companies time to give the trains or tracks maintenance - but the main concern was that employees no longer had an excuse to say to their boss - "I'm going home before the last train leaves" meaning that even more people would die from overworking in Japan...

Photos of the lounge taken on a sunny morning.

The corner with the blue clock is the kitchen area where beverages and snacks live.

Finally have enough space for a detolf after wanting one for so many years ^o^
I use it for the Mirai shrine.

I really want to keep the lounge area free of workstations but we are growing fast and not sure how much longer it will be before this area starts to slowly fill up.

The Ikea Kallax shelf is used for all our reading material and display of a few Smart Dolls.
One of the nice things about the office is that it comes with a load of security sensors, night vision cameras, pressure pads and wot not and guarded by the folks at ALSOK - this should help ward off the folks who keep turning up on my doorstep asking for a job & accommodation...

I plan to start filming the long overdue Culture Japan Season 3 and this lounge area will be used for studio segments.

These rows of desks are mainly used for computing tasks such as administrative, programming and design.

And this is where Smart Doll is assembled. Doll body parts arrive here from the factories in Yamagata Shinjo and Katsushika Tokyo. We then do extensive QA and assemble the bodies. We also ship from here too.

This is the view from behind my desk.

This is a view from the corner that contains our stock. I will give you a closer look at the office and stuff inside it in a later entry but today I just wanted to give you an overview.

Meanwhile back at home on the 3rd floor where I started the company - its now my home workspace where I'm accompanied by Mirai and Kizuna.

Over the years ever since I started my company, I would be so envious whenever I visited my clients offices - seeing a load of warm bodies in large offices all working together towards a common goal. I got particularly envious when I visited the Comic Fiesta Offices in KL which are so stylish!

For so many years my company only made enough to make ends meet and without cashflow it was difficult to grow fast. I didnt want to take investment from anybody because I didn't create this company to be a machine to churn out money just so that I could buy fast cars and expensive apartments.

In most cases, folks invest in your company upon understanding what your exit strategy is which is either to sell the company or go IPO. Neither of these two options interested me - I'm already pushing 40 now and am not about to sell my life away.

Another reason I started this company is to be honest why a lot of other bosses start their company - so that they don't have to listen to others ^^

Amazon hired me to run the technology side of website development - they paid my salary so its only natural that I listen to and execute tasks that are given to me and I was perfectly fine with that.
Its not that I don't like listening to others - its just that I had my own vision of creating something that was not possible while working for others.

I feel that taking investment means that I would effectively go back to being a salaryman listening to investors with the pressure of money on my shoulders and that is not how I want to live the rest of my life. It is rare that you would find an investor who gives you money to splurge without their say. Oh wait there is KickStarter and Indiegogo for that ^^

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with working for others and in fact I think that it is essential that you go out and get work experience. I learned so much during my corporate years especially at Amazon where I discovered a lot about my skill set and what I wanted to do in life.

As for the staff at my company - I'm under no illusion that everybody will stay forever and realize that folks will want to move on (just like I did) but while staff are working for me, I want to make sure that I provide the platform and environment that will enable them to grow, learn and do cool things at influence millions of consumers at the same time.

There was a sacrifice that I had to make to attain the freedom that I have right now which was to cut off my life support systems. Giving up a steady paycheck is not something folks like to do willy nilly as money pays for our basic human needs of food and shelter.

However, if there was one piece of advice I would give to folks who are interested in building a career - that would be to make sure you could start all over again if you lost your job or everything.
This not only involves making sure you got off site backups of your data but also making sure you equip yourself with skills from Google Sensei and a network of people who need your skills.

While the future was uncertain, starting my own company was like setting sail on an exciting adventure. I expected to encounter rough stormy seas but even if I became shipwrecked I would be able to build a new boat assuming that I land on a deserted island that at least had a few trees - I call that island Google ^^;

I shared some of this in the Smart Doll post but I thought I would share it here again as I really want to share learnings through building this company and the Smart Doll project.

Worrying

Many of us worry as it makes us feel like we are doing something about a problem when in fact we are wasting time being anxious about nothing. Making a judgement call on an aspect of design (could be the frame, outer shell etc) that has an unknown outcome is a decision that affects time and money and we humans naturally don't want to waste either of these precious resources and worry whether we are making the correct decision or not.
But if you start to think about any decision you make as being essential to progress, then its easier to make quicker decisions even though the outcome turns out not as expected.
The reason is that now you have that unexpected outcome, you have something to work on to make a judgement call so that you can at least progress towards your goal instead of standing still.

If you find yourself worrying about a decision to make then just make any decision as it will at least set you off towards your goal instead of leaving yourself standing still worrying about nothing.

Another thing about worrying is that 95% of the things we worry about don't happen anyway which goes to show how we waste time worrying over nothing.
To prove this - think about 10 things which you remember worrying about in the past - you will find that most of it didn't happen and that you was worrying to see if you could come up with a scenario to remedy the outcome of a worry.
But there are things which you have absolutely no control over (weather, London busses etc) in which case just go with the flow! If you already new the flow from the beginning the life would be boring without any surprise or learning.

There is only one form of worry that is productive - the worry which leads to an action that fixes or improve something. "I'm worried and concerned about the boxes we are using for the shipping of Smart Doll - so lets change the boxes to a double corrugated type."

A better way

Whatever you do - you must always question the workflows you put in place - you must always tell yourself "there just *has* to be a better way to do this."
Without this mentality, you will end up working with old clumsy workflows that will eventually start to tie you down and prevent you from reaching your goals.

Don't leave stuff as it is just because everything just works - always strive to make it better.

Timing

Many of us wait for "the right timing" because we think it will be "easier" - disappointed you may be when I tell you there is no right timing. There is no right timing especially when it comes to things like moving house, changing a job, having a baby, getting married or starting your life project.

If you have something you really want to do in life then that time is now - not next week, not next month and definitely not in the new year when you make that "new years resolution." A new years resolution is an excuse to put something off for another year - if you convinced yourself to wait until the new year to make that resolution then your goal is either not important or you will convince yourself to put it off again.

A life goal has to mean everything to you otherwise it means nothing to you and you will never ever reach it.

Revenge

The bigger your life project becomes, the more likely you are to come across people who get involved in your project and eventually stab your back.

I've had a few jabs to my back throughout the years but the important thing was to move forward instead of spending time and resources to take a jab back - while very tempting, if you devote time to stabbing somebody back, it means that taking revenge has become more important and you will loose focus on your goal. It also means that the person who stabbed you has won because they got to stab you and also got you to give up on your goal.

Instead, use your anger and channel that into wanting to do everything to complete your goal sooner because the likelihood is that the person who you once worked with who stabbed your back will be watching your progress all the way and when you reach your goal then you have delivered the fatal blow - the humiliation of your backstabber watching you succeed.

This also applies to trolls on and offline. These days, I get trolled for anything and everything - does not really matter until the trolls start to tell malicious lies to gather recognition from their peers.

One of the reasons why trolls do what they do is because they do not have the ability to accomplish much in real life but gaining your attention gives them a sense of achievement.

Never ever react against a troll - instead of using your anger to counterattack with small clumsy uncalculated blows that will leave you feeling embarrassed afterwards, use your energy to aggressively continue to achieve your goals and live well.

I want my trolls to know that whenever I achieve my goals - this is what my face looks like when thinking of you. Please keep up the trolling - it really does me wonders.

Whining

Folks spend time whining about this and that and is something I used to do too - a complete waste of time that takes time and energy away from your project. Absolutely nothing that you whine about is worth even thinking about when compared to the problems that some folks face in the third world.

Sacrifice

Goals involve sacrifices. The bigger your goal, the bigger the sacrifice you are going to have to make. Its one or the other - not both.
There is a myth that working for yourself means that you have the freedom to work on what you want whenever you want and that you will have more time to do your own stuff - how wrong the myth could be.

Once you start to work for yourself you don't have a steady paycheck anymore meaning you need to constantly think about income and then doing the work that involves bringing that income. This means you have less time for yourself and find yourself choosing between:-

#Running and growing the business
#Spending time with family
#Spending time on health

If you are not willing or finding it difficult to sacrifice something in order to reach your goal then you are going to take a long time or never reach your destination.

Google sensei is your friend (and deserted island)

I just can't stress the importance of taking time out to learn and build your inventory of skills. Back when I was growing up in the UK, there were no Internets - if I wanted to learn something I needed to go to a library, rent a VHS tape, ask somebody or hope it just turns up on TV. Now that we have Google Sensei there is absolutely no excuse not to learn.

Google sensei taught me how to program PHP, MYSQL, CSS and use graphics packages like 3D Max, Photoshop, Fireworks and more. Google Sensei also taught me how to make soft vinyl parts and everything else that I needed to know for Smart Doll production.

Another reason why I was able to build up the business with limited resources is because I was able to do much of the stuff myself. My programming and graphics package knowledge enabled me to make websites and do consulting for my clients when I started the company.

The comfort zone

The definition of "hard work" varies from person to person but my definition would be something like:-

Something that requires a level of effort that exceeds what the human body is designed for. Humans by nature are designed to save energy and by default do not carry out tasks that are difficult and requires effort and energy.

Energy can be physical or mental. Mental hard work is things like dealing with difficult people or trolls, working under pressure of dealing with bosses or deadlines, working with ambiguity and making decisions that put the security of our basic human needs at risk - food and shelter. All of these things listed is not normally something one would want to do due to the effort involved.

Then there is physical energy which are things like working long hours (with illness) without rest, sleep or food or doing something which puts a strain on the body - could be something like strenuous physical tasks, doing monotonous work or constantly traveling through time zones.

However, humans avoid hard work not through a conscious decision but because they are biologically programmed to be efficient - in the eyes of these humans, hard work uses way too much energy and is thus not efficient. A humans efficiency is enhanced by us unconsciously working ourselves into a comfort zone. Our comfort zone could be a comfortable job that we may not necessarily like but it enables us to pay for our basic human needs and keeps our bodies efficient by not having the need to do anything that puts a strain on our body.

There is however a silver lining - once we start to doubt our programming then we can make a decision to change and believe that hard work pays off - the first thing to do is take the leap out of that comfort zone.

Smart Doll 001 Mirai Suenaga and 002 Kizuna Yumeno in the office. I'm really proud of these two girls who have changed everything for us and look forward to developing Smart Doll into a global hobby and fashion brand. Folks interested in reading more about them (or getting hold of one) can do so at smartdoll.jp

 career, smd