» At 28, I had a great business then it all fell apart.

Hi guys, I’ve liked reading everyone’s stories on here and I thought to share my own.

I started a call centre outsourcing business and was charging clients to have their own call centre facilities based in the Philippines. This service is different from hiring VA’s or Elance workers as it provides a team-based environment for growing businesses.

With $650 I had saved, I took the risk to employ my first agent to see if there was a market. Testing this on freelancer sites like Elance, I got a response and got my first client.

At first I was working in a call centre as a manager myself whilst developing my own on the side. Eventually it came to a point where I had to leave my job and go forward full-time into the business.

Things were looking great, I had up to 7 full time staff in the Philippines and our teams culture was the envy of other outsourcing businesses. Our agents understood Western culture and could actually speak very good English (telco’s, are you listening?).

I broke even in the first business year, then got up to $4000/month revenue which may not sound amazing but it was better than my call centre management job.
Issues started to arise when I had clients coming and going with only a very few who were staying for long periods of time. Unfortunately I was marketing myself out to ‘small/start-up businesses’ that couldn’t afford the service or had unrealistic expectations about the service. This was cheap marketing as I was offering it through Elance/Freelancer.

A lot of these small clients had delusions of grandeur about their product, thinking cold calling will make them instant millionaires despite my cautious advice.
Whilst its my job to educate the client and keep them happy, I was starting to get fed up with the unrealistic expectations/amateur businesses these clients were running. To save face and not lose all these clients, I had to eat into my own costs and try and save the relationship instead of firing them on the spot.

I had this backwards. I was offering a premium service to the wrong market. Trying to scramble to take control of things, I re-marketed myself and I tried to look at established corporations who wanted to build a base in the Philippines. Unfortunately when I approached these businesses, I was basically trying to sell the service instead of letting the service sell the customer and I found it difficult to break into this market.

Frustrated and without success, I kept going, trying different approaches whilst still agreeing to take on small businesses (for the point of retaining revenue).
Then things started to get worse. Earthquakes hit, floods hit and sickness spread. In 3rd world countries, power grids often take a beating by maxed out supply and the backup power never worked as ‘advertised’.

The management team in the office there were great to deal with initially. We developed a trusting relationship because of their enthusiasm and going to the extra effort for me to ensure things were right over there.

The straw that broke the camels back came when staff contacted me to say there was a revolt in the office. It turns out management were embezzling a majority of our staffs wages and keeping a strict dictatorship to keep me out of the loop.
The management fled the city with multiple arrest warrants. I lost USD $6000.00 in the ordeal. The call centre closed down due to their failure to pay rent.

Without letting the clients know of this disaster, we were lucky enough to be close to the weekend. In 2 days, I re-established a whole new centre elsewhere and had things working by the Monday without anyone noticing.

Due to the lack of time and preparation, the new call centre had considerable flaws which created a lot of heartache and further distress. Computers went missing and management generally didn’t care about the place.

I’m usually a positive person who looks at the light at the end of the tunnel. But by this time, I lost all motivation and drive. I closed up shop and let the staff go.

The experience left me out of touch with myself, I gained significant amount of weight from the constant stress, put my partner through hell and I was contributing to a heart attack at a young age.

It’s not all pain and misery though, I learned a hell of a lot. Would I do it again? Yeah definitely, but completely different.

Things I take away from this experience-
* Optimism is great but know when reality needs to take over
* Test your idea with your target market, not just with anybody
* When dealing in business with non-western countries, they do not hold the same Western business principles and values that we take for granted
* Never undervalue yourself or your service, it is never respected
* If your hearts not in it, get out

So where to from here? I’m back into exercising regularly, studying, reading and learning to enjoy life again that was once taken from me.

In the background, I just ‘toy’ with new business ideas that surpass my previous faults. I don’t see myself a failure but as a work in progress. Many people (including successful people) fail for whatever reason. If you fall over, dust yourself off and continue walking your journey. There’s only so many times you can be knocked down before you make it.

It may seem hard right now, but it’ll make a great story one day. Peace.

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