[From The CEO 497] Some companies sell over $40 million worth of business cards alone

Adapted from the original Korean written by Tqoon CEO, Chongpark Kim.




Thursday, November 25, 2021.

 

Sungwon Adpia’s annual turnover for 2020 broke $60 million.

 

Sungwon Adpia, one of Korea’s largest printing companies, boasted annual turnover of $65.5 million in 2019 and $64.2 million in 2020. Dongbang Plastic, which sells a wide variety of plastic containers, brought in $19.6 million in 2019 and $28.2 million in 2020. DHOLIC Commerce, a company that sells discount Korean fashion to Japan, sells more than $84 million worth of clothing a year. ACCOMMATE does the same with Korean fashion to China, selling an outstanding $125 million per year.

 

Japan’s top ecommerce printing site PrintPac sold $285 million in 2019, and those sales increased to $296 in 2020. The second highest selling site Graphic brought in $225 million and $211 million respectively the same years.

 

Before Tqoon shifted our focus to our platform in 2012, we had an annual turnover of $4.2 million on our business cards, stickers, and large format printing. We did remarkably well for a company that started out with just $50,000 and no experience in the printing industry.

 

2007

.194

2008

5.01

2009

1.21

2010

1.98

2011

2.97

2012

4.99

(Currency: USD, millions)

 

Even if you think about cafes, someone runs the same hole in the wall neighborhood cafe for a decade, while in the same time someone manages to build Starbucks’s global empire. Otherwise, one person may run the same small tteokbokki restaurant for their whole life while another expands to run a nationwide chain.

 

These examples show an inherent difference in the owners’ abilities. Those abilities include the leaders’ determination and the scale of their dreams. Leaders who dream big create global corporations, leaders who dream small simply work to fill mouths at the table.

 

People who have been involved in the Korean printing industry for years reflect on the past, reminiscing how they used to play baduk with Sungwon Adpia’s CEO back when the company was a single office on the second floor of Chungmuro, Seoul’s printing alley. Some comment on how the CEO’s wife used to personally deliver finished orders. That was back then – Sungwon is on an entirely different level now. It is hard to even meet the CEO. People say that any time a building goes on sale in the Chungmuro area that Sungwon’s CEO is first in line to purchase it. It’s only natural – they boast yearly profits nearing $10 million USD.

 

The main difference is that Sungwon’s CEO dreamt big. The company’s business strategies reflected that. Despite starting the same place as those around him, he was playing on a different playing field. He built his company’s system planning for a day they’d have annual turnover of hundreds of millions of dollars, while his peers were simply hoping for $3 million.

 

You can say the same for the Korean ecommerce market. Not too long ago Gmarket, Auction, and 11th Street were the top online marketplaces, but Coupang burst in and is now unquestionably leading the pack. Gmarket and Auction are left in the dust, searching for ways to sell rights to their companies. This is all because Coupang was dreaming big.

 

Tqoon’s grandiose dreams of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Amazon is what made it possible for us to establish offices in ten countries worldwide. It also led to us purchasing our own office building in Seoul. If I had simply hoped to build a small company that would let me pay the bills and put food on the table, Tqoon would not have made it this far.

 

Just as goldfish grow to fit their tank and environment, businesses also grow according to the size their leaders’ dreams. Someone who dreams big is also a person who will strive to make those dreams a reality. Dreams that are not backed by a certain level of decisiveness and determination to put plans into action are nothing more than empty fantasy.

 

When you dream of owning a company that brings in $10 million a month you will search for a way to make that happen. If you sell yourself short and aim for $1 million that is all you will get. It is all a matter of scale – when you are on a different playing field, you will see things differently. Naturally you’ll be looking to see if you can purchase a production facility, or figuring out how to attract early investors. Otherwise you’ll be finding ways to double or even triple your product lines, or how to outsource to China to cut production costs. Depending on the type of products you sell, you might search for ways to automate the process.

 

It is not a matter of working an hour longer or working that little bit harder than the next guy – you must change and revolutionize your production, logistics, and sales processes. Making big dreams come true takes the effort to change your entire way of thinking. You must find new, more efficient or more effective ways to do things.

 

If your sales are stagnant for a decade they will either stay there or your company will go under. We don’t accept work like that at Tqoon.

 

If you can sell $50,000 in a month, you have the potential to multiply that to $500,000 or even $5 million. It is one thing if there is no demand at all, but $50,000 in a month is no small number. It’s more than possible to build off of that for even more sales. You must aggressively advertise your products and strive to revolutionize your business. That takes changing your entire thought process – big dreams lead to big results.

 

Tqoon has continuously evolved and revolutionized our business.

 

2007:

Established in Seoul, South Korea.
Japanese office (AdPrint) established in Osaka.
Launched AdPrint, a site selling printed goods from Korea to Japan.

2010:

Launched MakuMaku, a site selling large format printed items (banners/flags) to Japan.

 

2011:

Second Japanese office established in Tokyo.

 

2012:

Awarded the $3 Million Export Tower by the South Korean government.

 

2013:

Chinese office established in Shanghai.

Begin our ecommerce platform services.

 

2014:

Launch Ad Sign, selling advertising inflatables from Korea to Japan.

Awarded the $5 Million Export Tower by the South Korean government.

 

2015:

Launch AdBest, selling reusable bags from China to Japan.

Launch AdFlag, selling large format printing (banners/flags) from China to Japan.

 

2016:

Launch Yoki, selling plastic containers and more from Korea to Japan.

 

2017:

Awarded the $10 Million Export Tower by the South Korean government.

Launch Tqoon JP, our first joint marketplace featuring all Partner sites’ products.

 

2018:

Sold rights to our directly-managed business card, sticker, and banner/flag sites. (Korea>Japan)
Shifted focus fully to our ecommerce platform.

 

2019:

Sold rights to our directly-managed banner/flag and reusable bag sites. (China>Japan)

 

2020:

Changed Japanese business registration to “Tqoon”.

Launched Tqoon Cafe 1.0 online community service.
Malaysian office established in Kuala Lumpur.

US office established in the Los Angeles area.
UK office established in central London.

Established partnership with company based in Chile.

 

2021:

Purchased office building in Seoul, South Korea.

Mexican office established in Queretaro.

Brazilian office established in Sao Paulo.

Australian office established in Sydney.

Launched the international Tqoon Cafe online community service.

 

We established a second Japanese office in Tokyo in 2011, despite not knowing if the company was going to make it. We moved on to establish a Chinese office in 2013. You could even say it was crazy. But Tqoon made it this far because we were willing to keep striving to further our reach and revolutionize our business.

 

If you look at how things have gone thus far, Tqoon has already found huge success. Of course, Tqoon could still lose its footing and go under due to my own business tendencies. But that’s something that can’t be helped – it all comes down to luck.

 

I dreamed of launching a cross border ecommerce platform since before I even started Tqoon. I held on to that dream and worked to make it possible. I was able to do what other people were afraid or not willing to because I had that dream behind me.

 

If I had not had that grandiose dream, Tqoon would have been nothing more than some average company selling printed goods from Korea to Japan. But we established offices in ten countries worldwide and run a global online community service. I doubt you’d find a company of our size with our kind of network anywhere in Korea, Japan, China, or even the world. My dreams are what brought Tqoon to this level.

 

Every department at Tqoon, and all of our Partners and businesses using our services, should strive to dream big as we have as a company. For big business, forging new methods and taking on new challenges are a part of the job. If you can’t keep up with the race it will be hard to succeed. Business is not like it used to be – there’s no time for you to get settled or take it easy.

 

 

Pass clear judgements on your real chances.

 

Elevating a company with $50,000 in monthly sales to a corporation that rakes in $500 million a month takes a clear head and even clearer judgement.

 

You must first pass judgement on whether you really have that much demand in your target market. When your products have a demand and a competitive edge sales are practically guaranteed with the right type and amount of marketing. As such, the second step is to assess your competitive edge.

 

It’s not too hard to find the answers to these questions. All you need is access to the internet. If you can’t manage even that, you are not built for business and quit while you are ahead.

 

Running a business is hard, extremely hard. You have to assess demand and if your product is competitive in a target market. You must go into things assuming you do not have enough funding – because that is nearly always the case. As such you have to procure the funding to run your business. When your business is small you’re not likely to draw in any good employees. It’s only natural you draw your friends and acquaintances into it. It’s hard enough to get along with your family, your flesh and blood, so of course there’s bound to be clashes among. You must mediate these issues and find solutions. Sometimes you must cut ties. You must train your employees without truly knowing what you’re doing yourself. You have to market your business and your products – but you don’t have enough money for that. You face customer complaints. You have to deal with faulty products. Production costs keep rising. You make mistakes in shipping, deal with claims, and so on – there’s no time to step back and take a break.

 

Business owners are responsible for handling all of the above – if you can’t even assess demand or competitiveness, you won’t be able to keep up.

 

Sometimes potential Partners come to Tqoon, or to me directly, and ask where their products might sell. They should not be in business, because they do not even have the basics down to make it possible.

 

People who have to go out of their way to ask how to market their products should not be in business. What they’re doing is no different than a child that doesn’t have the multiplication table down trying to learn calculus. It just won’t work out.

 

It is possible to assess if a product or service is in demand and a competitive edge with just a natural business sense. In some cases, you do not even have to set aside time to do market research. Most people who are left asking the questions above do not even have their own products to sell. True businesspeople will already start out thinking about what they can do with their products – if you don’t even have that lined up, you don’t have the head for business.

 

Diving headfirst into business without even passing a clear judgement on if your planned business has any potential is no different than throwing yourself into shark infested waters.

 

You must be able to pass clear judgements on demand and competitiveness – ideally with just your business sense.

 

Once you’ve assured your business has a demand and a competitive edge, marketing, logistics, and customer service will generally sort themselves out. It is like how when you buy electronics they come with their own chargers.

 

 

Be decisive.

 

When you are sure there’s a demand all you need to do is increase the competitiveness of your product. The key to a competitive edge is lowering your production costs. Affordable goods sell.

 

Tqoon is already doing a great job. We source plastic containers and soccer uniforms among other things for our Japanese sites from China and Indonesia. Tqoon has already learned from experience that if you source products from China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, or even from Australia, Mexico, Brazil, and the USA, you’re set for that special edge. If needed, you can buy in bulk, cut out the middle man and produce items yourself, or secure stock for drop shipping.

 

This is where good leaders are set apart from the rest. They must find any means possible to cut down on production costs. They must make the decisions needed for that to happen. You cannot revolutionize a business by doing things the same way you always have.

 

Expanding your product line another option. Redesigning your site to make it easier for customers to find what they need is, too. It is important to monitor and work to optimize your methods and tools. Work smart before you work hard.

 

I have said this already, but your policy should be to provide affordable, high-quality products in a quick and convenient way. You must always strive to find ways to increase your competitiveness in your target market.

 

 

Put plans into action.

 

I pushed Tqoon to establish an office in Tokyo in 2011. The company was not stable, so it took tremendous determination to make that decision at that time. Establishing a new office does not take as much money as you’d think. All you need is the money to rent office space and to pay the employees. But having the gall to make such a big decision and put it into action is rare.

 

In 2013 we established an office in Shanghai, China. This was also not an easy decision for the company when you consider our size at the time. However, I made the decision and put it into action as well.

 

In 2018, I made the decision to sell management and rights to our highly successful business card, sticker, and large format printing sites, which all together were worth $15 million. Whether that was a good decision is yet to be seen, but it took much determination to make such a big change in our business.

 

Over the course of 2020 and 2021, Tqoon established offices in seven new countries worldwide. Very few would have been able to do this.

 

During the same period, we developed our own online community service, the Tqoon Cafe. It would not be an easy decision for any ecommerce platform provider to forge into social media and online communities.

 

In 2021, we purchased an office building in Seoul.

 

These are the kinds of decisions that lead to revolutionizing your business. It does not come from sitting and staring blankly at a wall or computer screen.

 

This applies for all of our business-related departments. You must strive to revolutionize. You must be willing to think differently or outside of the box. That is what will make it possible to boost sales from $50,000 to $5 million a month. Waiting for change to come to you without changing yourself is foolish, it’s no different from waiting for pigs to fly.

 

Being the main decision maker in a business is always hard. That is why so few people succeed. People struggle to pass judgement on key situations, and even if they do they struggle to make and apply the decisions needed to handle them. This lack of decisiveness is what lets businesses stagnate. They lose their chance to make meaningful change while hesitating.

 

If you struggle to be decisive you should never aim to be a CEO. Department heads are, in their own right, the functional CEOs of their own small companies. CEOs must constantly make decisions. It is near impossible to change your own nature and disposition, so if you can’t be decisive now you likely never will be. Trying to change your very nature takes the willingness to shed your old skin and handle the pain and struggles that come with it. That, in itself, is a big decision to make. Life is hard, but making the changes to change that is harder, so most people spend their lives stuck suffering in the middle. Or they spend their whole lives just doing what they’re told instead of making their own decisions. Once you’re used to just being bossed around it becomes a habit and is not that hard – you just submit to whoever has the biggest voice. That’s no better than being dead. You must strive to revolutionize your work and your life.

 

Thankfully, Tqoon is different. To be frank, even if the business goes under it won’t affect our department heads all that much. When a business owner loses their business they may end up poor and in the streets. In a worst case scenario, they might even end up in prison. They’re the ones truly in danger. Leaders within the company aren’t faced with that burden.

 

It all comes down to your natural tendencies. The great majority of people do not have the guts to handle that sort of danger. If they did, they’d all be starting their own businesses instead of getting stuck working for someone else. Some may manage to take positions of leadership, but even there they struggle because they are forced to make decisions worthy of an entrepreneur.

 

This is where you must make another big decision. You must break away from your natural tendencies and change yourself, or you must give up on being a leader. Businesses demand bold decisions. They will not settle for someone willing to just sit on the sidelines.

 

 

Dream of establishing the largest online marketplace and bringing in billions.

 

Each of our international offices should dream of creating the largest online marketplace in their respective countries. Each of our business departments should not settle for annual turnover in the millions – we should aim for billions. If you do not think your department can get there, we should sell the rights to the business. It isn’t worth it.

 

Tqoon has all the foundations laid to make the biggest and best marketplaces in each country – if we don’t manage to do so it is just sad. It is also sad for a business of our caliber to settle for annual sales just over $1 million in our sales departments.

 

Tqoon started with just $50,000 and has managed to establish offices in ten countries worldwide. We did it because we held on to our dreams and worked hard to make them a reality.

 

Now, we dream of standing shoulder to shoulder with industry giants like Amazon. As long as we keep striving for that dream, even if we do not eventually catch up to Amazon we will manage to create the biggest online marketplaces in our network countries.


Do not settle for less.

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