So one of the things I truly love about working with my wife is that we can have lunch together. Not too long ago, we went for Kimchi Jiggae. The place we usually go to is called “Baik Chae” (백채). I really like this franchise because they give a lot of meat. And we usually get the size that is for two people, which comes in one bowl. The bowl is filled with meat, broth, tofu, kimchi, and some other vegetables. Oh, and we add some noodles for 1000won, which is well worth it.
For the longest time, I noticed my wife only eating half the tofu in the bowl. The tofu is her favorite part of the kimchi jiggae, but why was she only eating half? Well the answer is very simple, she didn’t want to be selfish and wanted to share the best part of the soup. And whenever we ate Kimchi Jiggae, I would try to eat as much tofu as possible right at the start. This was not because I loved it like my wife does, but because I liked saving the best part for the end, which is the meat of course. What do you think my least favorite part of Kimchi Jiggae is? Well, tofu is.
So my wife ate her favorite part first and I ate my least favorite part first. In this case we both ate the tofu first for very different reasons. I was eating something I didn’t have to eat and she could have eaten more. It wasn’t until I asked her what her favorite part of the Kimchi Jiggae was that we found a really effective way of eating Kimchi Jiggae. I now feel no obligation to eat tofu, which is my least favorite part and my wife gets to eat more of her favorite part of the Jiggae.
But what if I had never asked, or never noticed this fact and never brought it up? Well, we would both lose out on eating more of the better parts of the Kimchi Jiggae.
So what does this have to do with entrepreneurship in Korea?
Well, there are some things that I realized through this experience of knowing what I want and what my wife wants:
First of all, my story illustrates that everyone is different from you. They think differently and want different things. When I first started my flower business and received my first few orders for Korean celebrities, I didn’t know what to do. I was really worried because I didn’t think the celebrities would accept the flowers and gifts. And my very first celebrity delivery was for Big Bang Member, G-Dragon. And if you don’t know who he is, think of Michael Jackson amount of popularity, well that’s debatable, but arguably not even one artist in Korea comes close to how popular G-Dragon is. He pretty much has God Like status in the Kpop world. In short, it was so hard getting the gifts to him or a representative of his. I was so nervous and was afraid that the gifts would be rejected, but I wanted to take a chance because my business was just starting up and delivering gifts to celebrities was a marketing angle I didn’t even realize existed up until I received this order. Luckily, the front desk of his apartment accepted the gift. I was so surprised! So I was like, sending to celebrities wasn’t so bad. But then we got another order for G-Dragon and his apartment would not receive the gifts. They even kicked me off their property, which wasn’t a nice experience. So I went to his agency to drop off the gifts, but the agency wasn’t accepting the gift either. I had to talk the guy at the front into letting me leave the gift. I basically asked him, “do you know who Alexa Pinkonio is?” (Name has been changed). I knew that it was a fan that sent the gifts, but I kept asking him if the guy at the door knew who Alexa Pinkonio was, acting as if my customer was someone really important. He didn’t know and finally agreed to let me leave the gifts in the shipment area of the building. From that time on we stopped delivering to YG Entertainment artists. But more importantly, the fan was so thankful that the agency accepted the gift, even though there was no way for me to prove that the celebrity actually received the gifts.
So long story short, I was worried that my customers would not be happy with our service to Korean celebrities. What I found out was that, if I was able to get a photo infront of the agency of their gifts, most customers would be very thankful. Of course I received some really unreasonable requests, like some customers expecting for the gifts to get into the hands of the celebrities, but the majority of the customers had enough sense to know that it was near impossible to do so. And as time passed, some celebrities actually posted our products they received from fans (actually our delivery men) on their social media accounts! And that was awesome for marketing! And I even made a separate page on my Flower Gift Korea website that lists the celebrities in Korea we have made deliveries to. And I have even given gifts directly to some of the Korean celebrities. I was pretty excited to be honest, but I played it off really cool and kept it very professional as a delivery man.
Secondly, this shows that it is very important to communicate with your partner and customers. You really need to find out what each other prefers, what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are, and what each other’s limits are. And you must find a way to receive honest feedback from your customers. But most importantly, you really need to know what YOU like and want first. If YOU do not know what you want or need, then it would be crazy to expect your partner to be able to read your mind, since YOU do not even know what you want. This is very important as an entrepreneur in Korea, and as someone in a serious relationship, whether it be a marriage or a business partnership.
So it’s so important to realize that you are not other people and other people are not you. So sleeping with the light on may be bothersome to you, while others may prefer to sleep with the light on. You may prefer taking off your coffee lid when drinking coffee, while others may prefer to keep the lid on and drink through the small opening. There is no way to know what people prefer without observing and asking. It’s a lot easier to find out this information about your partner than it is to find this about your potential or current customers. But if you are able to gather enough data and engage your customers in conversation, you may be able to get some hints. But at the very least, you should be communicating honestly with your business partner and finding ways to compromise when needed and to make sacrifices when needed.
But the funny thing is that my wife always asks me if I am sure that I don’t want the tofu. And it is so funny every time she asks me this because I don’t like tofu. It’s as though she can’t believe that I do not want to eat the tofu, even though I have told her many times. And I always ask my wife if it’s okay to turn on the light while she is sleeping to do some work, and she is totally fine with it. And it’s hard for me to get over that because I can’t sleep with the light on, if there is a little sound, etc. Yeah, I’m really sensitive and can be a cranky sleeper. So even though you communicate with your partner or your customer directly tells you something they like or don’t like, it can be hard for us to believe them since we kind of see everything from our own perspective. But if you can find a way to ignore what you think is right about what others think of things and really listen to your partner and customers, it will really help your relationships and you will be able to provide better products and services for your customers.