By John Wu
When I first knew that my targeted business was a fish vendor, I was actually very happy. In school, I was taught that the fish vendor is a part of a perfectly competitive market. They do not have a chance to improve the in a theoretical world as price takers and no opportunity for abnormal profits. The question I often asked myself when encountering our owner, Luz, was: what can I do to make a difference?
A lot of times, I do get a feeling of helplessness. It already took a lot of time just trying to understand what fish vendors actually do. After understanding how Luz’s business model worked, there are so many things that I cannot control, like how the weather affects the prices of the supply of fish. The fish market felt like a very restrictive place, a place where you are just there to sell things and not aspire for more.
But I still believe that there is always a way to improve Luz’s business: a way to beat the game. This naïve confidence might have come from Professor Beau, saying that many huge companies have came out of these small businesses like the fish vendor. He is a wise man, and I believe in him. I also know relatives and fathers of friends who started from nothing and now own many middle-sized businesses. They started off poor, and are now able to let their future generations live very well. I should have listened to their stories on running businesses more carefully. They might have helped me here in the Philippines.
Although there are still so many barriers for our business to grow, there are still some signs of small hope. From our marketing research, there are still ways to differentiate your products through the fish type and freshness. On top of that, the business owner, Luz, has been running her business for twenty years. She knows the prices more than anyone, probably has a relationship with all the customers she has made, and has a small reputation for selling fresh fish. From my intuition, Luz does actually have an advantage but she doesn’t push them hard enough. Other than an accounting system, I think that any small advantage that is shown over her competitors can easily elevate her business into a dominant position in the fish market.
I thought of some ways to improve her business, like making a sign for her store and trying to lower her costs, but at first she refused and was not very willing. It was a little frustrating, since these small changes would not hugely affect her business, but she gave in after some time. I learned more about myself from that experience. I realized I am an idealist that does not really think about the big picture. The things I personally think are so easy to do, such as just making a sign, are still difficult for her because she needs the capital. And my plan to bulk-buy everything to save costs does not work because she doesn’t have the storage.
The business is a combination of practicality and ideology. My business partner, Josie, and I learn from luz about the real things of running a business, and I realize that even running a small fish vendor takes a lot of effort and time. Every small move takes costly risks, and not everyone may take the same risks like me. We should put into consideration our decisions to help her business may also affect her personal life.
I hope that what I have done with the business can bring a positive impact to Luz. Though, I have done only a few things to change the business, I think it is the reasonable thing to do by improving step-by-step. I should be thanking Luz. The experience I gained from working with her will probably help me much more in the future.