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Freeman Cebu Business

The power of strangers

TRADE FORUM - Chris Malazarte - The Freeman

The most disheartening part of being a start-up entrepreneur is when the very people you expect to support you, are the very ones who give you that cold shoulder. It happened to me many times when I used to do door-to-door selling to my relatives and friends. I was also turned down many times whenever I proposed a new opportunity to them.

 Maybe because I had no money. I had no car. No jewels nor a suit or looks to persuade them to try what I had in mind. All I had was the belief that my idea would fly.

 At one point I thought to myself that Rev Tevye was right. Tevye, by the way, is the main character of the movie musical, The Fiddler on the Roof, and this is what he says in one of his songs, “When you’re rich they think you really know.”

One of the most unfortunate things that poor people like you and me have to deal with in this life is when your ideas are judged based on your economic standing. No matter how good those ideas may be, people will always have a way to doubt them or out-and-out reject them altogether because you are poor and that you have not proven yourself. In fact, it is also fresh in my memory how they laughed at the idea seeing me selling real estate as if it was the only thing next to joblessness.

Some eight years ago, I made a bold decision to give up my job as an executive of an IT firm to try real estate instead as a business because it was the only business I can get into with no capital but had more products to offer. The first two years was pretty bad. I was practically starving. I had no sales. And when I started to make some sales, the developer did not pay me. It was terrible and the people around me all the more proved themselves that they were right and that I was imprudent, stupid and stubborn to give up a secure job for a selling profession. I was almost convinced by them to return to my desk. But I couldn’t just give up what I started. I partnered with a friend in college and created a marketing platform to make real estate selling more organized and customer-centric.  

 My partner Anthony “Tonton” Leuterio, was probably the only person who believed in me and the ideas we started. Tonton and I share the same past. We both grew up in the "ghettos" and are no strangers to poverty. Amid the unbelieving friends, we only had each other and a few other underprivileged strangers like us who believed in “the tiny bubble of a dream” that could either get big or burst into thin air. We were not afraid to lose. Besides, what have we got to lose when we have nothing to begin with? All we had was the spirit to give it try. And the rest was history. I am now a part of the biggest and the most awarded realty firm in the Philippines and in Asia.  Today, we did not only prove our relatives and friends wrong, we had helped many people who only had their potential and determination as capital.

 And yes when you start out in real estate or any business for that matter, expect your close friends or even your very own family members to disparage or discourage you in your new pursuit. Never be afraid if they don’t care or buy the cheapest second-hand underwear from you. Go find the “many others” you do not know who will become your customers. Come to think of it, this newspaper did not reach more than a hundred years because our friends or relatives are the only ones reading this. The beverage you drink, the clothes you wear, the toothpick, the shoes, and the things you see in your house got to you not because their manufacturers are your friends or relatives. They all got to you because once upon a time the people who started them and made them did not think of their brothers or sisters or their friends to grow their business. They believed that somewhere out there, there would be people who are more willing to hear their stories about their products. The people you do not know may be your best supporters in business. They are nameless and faceless at first but can turn out to be your good partners later. They are strangers.   

 In other words, you have only yourself you can count on to pull it off! Trust your abilities. Go out and find your place in the market and show them what you got. And always strive to become the most helpful person when strangers come to you to ask about what you are offering. I believe in the kindness in each one of us. People never forget kindness and they will return the kindness you give -- it may not be now but they will in the future. Your kindness can translate strangers into a loyal customer who will even give you more customers, who will do the talking for you, and even defend you of your competitors.  Kindness has its own value and power in itself.

 Therefore, believe, do what you are suppose to. Be kind and write your own wonderful story.   

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