martin-scorseseMore than 90% of directing the picture is the right casting

– Martin Scorsese

For the last three years I’ve been pouring money onto my business gardens.  But for most projects the seeds failed to sprout, the surviving seedlings got fungal infections and died, or produced stunted and spindly growths that refused to flower.

I’ve invested more money in three years than most Indonesians earn in three generations.

My problems have always been that I have not been able to find qualified staff.  At first I tried advertising in the local newspapers.  Very few responses, and those that responded were unqualified.  Later we tried posting ads online, and at local universities.  Same problem.  I’ve posted advertisements at least 40 times.

psychotic-self-beliefI’m a stubborn mule, and am not capable of visualizing failure.  You have to be somewhat psychotic to be an entrepreneur.  You have to be incapable of believing that your real chances of business success are only 10%.  You need delusional levels of self belief.  It’s a wonder that there are any entrepreneurs at all, the risk levels are so high.

But I’ve been a self employed serial entrepreneur for thirty years, so I know that one in ten odds are not a problem.  That one successful business is enough to fund 10 more start up ventures, which means it can create a 2nd successful business.  That’s a repeatable process, and by now I do have multiple profitable businesses.

finding-treasureLast year I finally got my first big business break here in Indonesia.  I finally found my first qualified engineer.  Since then I’ve learned more imaginative ways to find talent, and have hired two more qualified engineers to join the team.  I now have a full time Human Resources assistant, and I expect to be able to draw in four more qualified Engineers over the next few months.

cant-understand-youI’ve always approached my employees the same way most men approach women.  I assumed that they were essentially similar to me.  That they had similar thought processes and drives.  I did not have an accurate theory of mind for what makes them tick, and so could not properly motivate them or structure my organization.  I always assumed that if someone had some raw talent that he could learn on the job and do just about anything.

As I don’t naturally enjoy managing other people, I have not been hands on enough with overseeing my staff, and have been stupidly slow to learn how wrong I was.  I expected people to be like all entrepreneurs have no choice but to be; self starting and self educating and self motivating.

hindsightBut people are simply not like that.


It’s obvious in hindsight, but that took me many years to learn.

People prefer to specialize, and they prefer to avoid risks.  They like to limit their focus to one specialty and get very good at it, and use that focus to work in a successful organization that can compensate them at market rates with low risk.  They like to have a defined job description, and follow a career track that will have the focus that the next employer wants to see.


It turns out that this works even better than people being autodidacts with generalized talents.  Specialized education and a career track and working in teams is actually much more productive than on the job training as if all people were a blank slate who can do any task set before them.  I can’t expect the web designer to be talented at both graphic arts and php back end coding.  I can’t expect the 3D modeler to become proficient at industrial engineering.  And I can’t expect anyone to be able to work with minimal supervision, especially if not working in a team.


I’ve had Western interns out here in the past, and I’ve made the same mistakes that I did with the locals.  I assumed that they would act as all entrepreneurs have no choice but to act, and work with minimal oversight to creatively problem solve with drive and dedication until concrete progress brings in maximized profit.  This without any background training in the tasks I gave them.

At the time it didn’t seem foolish at all.  After all, that’s how I’ve been earning my daily bread for 30 years.  If I can do it, surely I can simply transfer my inspiration and skills onto others.  What could go wrong?

But now I’m finally getting the point that reality has been hinting at all this time.

Ninety percent of business success is about hiring the best specialists you can attract, and organizing them into the most efficient hierarchies of command and collaboration.

The other 10 percent has to do with securing a good work environment in a location where the talent wants to work, financing, and finally having a good business idea.

I had thought that 90% was having the good idea, and that with a little direction most any smart person could implement the idea.

3d-video-productionI have recently placed an advertisement to hire a full time top quality video producer with 3D graphics experience.  It’s difficult to find programmers in Indonesia, but I can find people with artistic talents trained in 3D animation and the video arts.  People can’t make software here, but they can use it.

All that is left is to build the marketing team.  I’ll use locals for what I can, but the copywriters will need to be imported, or work by online collaboration.  I prefer to have people physically here, as face to face collaboration provides more bandwidth; more sparks fly.

For the marketing team I will seek out trained specialists.  We will also do in house training, but will only accept those with the innate talent and drive for the specific specialized task.  We’ll need a sales and marketing staff, and especially copywriters.

I have plans for how to attract such specialists.  Within months I will have a script and copy writing staff and video production staff, and my initial prototypes will become professionally mass marketed.

The money pit is going to grow it’s first crop of bamboo.  The bamboo will be used to build the next structures.

There will be a major turnaround here in Xsplat land, and I am seeing it all come together.

And it all comes down to HR.