“The 20 year old investor”

“Fifty thousand, don’t say less than fifty thousand.”

That was the thought going through my head as I entered the building.

I was on time. The lobby was large, smelled nice with a big LCD on one side and sofas on the other.

The lady at the reception took one look at me and with a big, trained smile asked, “yes sir, how can I help you?”

“I am here for Mr Ashraf,” I said. He was the CEO of this large enterprise.

“Do you have an appointment with him,” she asked. Still smiling.

“Yes, tell him it’s Mohammad Khan.”

She made a quick call and whispered into the phone. Then turned to me and said,

“Sure sir, please have a seat, sir is in a meeting but he said to send you in after 5 minutes”.

I walked to the sofa set. The cool air from the giant floor AC hit me on my face – I liked that.

“Will you like tea, coffee?” She asked

“No thanks, I will have that with Mr Ashraf”.

And as I sat down and took out my blackberry phone, I again whispered to myself, “not less than fifty thousand”.

The 20 Year Old Investor

I was twenty years old at the time.

Only two weeks ago, I could not imagine this. Now, this college boy would be meeting CEOs to discuss their “business”.

I was excited to meet a CEO of this big company. But I was – truth be told – more excited about TESTING out a new theory I had learnt.

You see, it was only two weeks ago that I finally was able to get my hands on this course. It was called The Website Design Business Kit. This was developed by Brendon Sinclair, a businessman in Australia. The course was only available in the form of two thick binders. This was 1999, remember!?

I had promised myself that I would buy that course the moment I make my first deal. And I had done that by God’s Grace.

I got my first client for 12,500 rupees. The course by Mr Sinclair was – at that time’s dollar rate – was for almost 11,000 rupees. But the course was in Australia. I was in Pakistan.

The delivery charges were almost as much as the course! Then I had gotten lucky – Alhumdulillah – and I found out that a relative was coming from Australia. I got the binders delivered to his house, and begged for the favor of brining this along.

It was a very expensive investment for me. But it was part of a challenge and I had to do it.

The challenge was that I would keep investing in my education.

“Never let your schooling interfere with your education”. This quote I had taken to heart.

And after all that effort and negotiations, the course finally arrived. I devoured it!

One of the most useful things I learnt in that course were:

  1. Do not dress as a college student because you will then be treated as a college student. Dress as a business man to be treated like one.
  2. Whatever you are charging right now, multiply that by 5 and see if people are still buying.

I had an old suit that I had started wearing.

That was difficult for me at the time. It was not my “style” to be wearing “old people” clothes. In college, I was all about the latest and the “fashiony” stuff you know!? But I knew that I had to try it out.

So I got the suit. It was dressing as a businessman and reaching out to people that I felt enabled this meeting, by the Grace of God.

And now was the time for testing out the other theory: charging 5 times more!

The Mindset Wars

This was MUCH more difficult than wearing a suit.

It’s all psychological. And it’s powerful.

You’re with the client, you have talked about the weather, you have managed to present the proposal. Now the tea cup is empty, the project has been finalized, the client looks excited, you are excited. You’re thinking, “he is going to buy!”.

Then the client asks, “so how much are you going to charge for this?”

You blurt out the figure you think the client will say OK to. The fear of rejection becomes real.

No one trained you for this. You did not anticipate this lump in your throat. So what do you do?

When the secretary said, “Mr Khan, sir will see you now,” I got up and was repeating in my head, “not less than fifty thousand, not less than fifty thousand”!

One of the best decisions you can make, is to invest in your own education.

Ask yourself, “am I investing in myself right now?”

“what am I doing in the coming week that will improve me?”

Can you list out a few projects or tasks?

If not, you need to make sure you do.

I remember that when the CEO asked for the price of the website, I was more than ready.

“Fifty two thousand rupees sir, and you can pay —”

“Do you accept a cheque,” he said, opening his drawer and waving his checkbook at me.

The deal was won. Alhumdulillah. At a fair market rate, not at the “student/freelancer rate”.

God in His Mercy, enabled me to learn from the right teachers.

I learnt another rule from another teacher: aim for ten times more value than you charge for.

So when I finished the website for the client, I didn’t stop there. I had trained some of their staff and gave them more pages than they paid for. The client was ecstatic. He got a great deal.

I also presented a “Business Growth Study” with him to grow his business. That relationship helped me later as well. The CEO would hire me a sales consultant for this government project he was bidding for.

I was more than happy – I got paid better rates. Alhumdulillah.

Are you reading the wrong books?

I did not learn these things from college text books. But this does not make books bad, does it?

I heard people complain, “you don’t learn anything from reading books. When you go in the market, you realize the books are all wrong!”

The books are not wrong. You are reading the wrong books.

Yes, the education system has failed us. I just found out that universities like LSE are teaching Dreamweaver to their students. This was the website development tool that I used back in the day. It does not even exist anymore. It has been shut down for 10+ years. Yet, in 2023, top universities, charging lacs of rupees, are teaching this to their students.

So yes, the tool being taught is wrong. Doesn’t mean all tools are wrong.

You are learning the wrong tool.

It is the student’s responsibility to learn. The teacher is teaching wrong things? Find better teachers!

The student decides that he or she will learn. It is only after that decision of the student that a teacher becomes useful.

Never ever stop investing in your own self.

As Rumi said, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”.

So I pray that we continue to learn, to grow. And I pray that we find the right teachers who helps us achieve success in both worlds, aameen.

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