Catching Up with Friends After 10 Years

I have been making an effort to catch up with some people I haven’t seen for the last 10 years and I’m glad I did!

These catch-ups tend to start the same way (“so…. what have you been up to for the last 10 years?” lol) but after a while (read: beer or two) you’re just joking and bantering like you’d never been apart.

Extremely interesting to see how people’s lives are coming along, especially since often they’re so different to my own. In particular: kids. Everyone here has got ’em, and so there is a lot of opportunity for me to get in and ask questions. Although I had to laugh when one friend pointed out that when I opened the floor with a broad question on raising kids the wives were quick to say “no-one can tell you exactly how to raise your kids,…” followed by about half an hour of kid-raising tips lol.

Not every story was a happy one mind you but interesting nonetheless. Looking forward to the next meetup (hopefully it won’t take another 10 years!)

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Three Weeks In

After a quick chat with my brother this morning I may be a little closer to having an idea.

All my ideas get categorised into one of the following categories:

  • Freelancing (aka selling my time in exchange for money)
  • Business – Selling Something Physical (Online)
  • Business – B2B SaaS
  • Business – B2C “Unicorn” SaaS (has to be a unicorn idea or not worth doing for money)
  • Business – Other Service
  • Investing

This idea comes under “Business – Other Service.” What I like about it is that I will have to work closely with my father, but also I like that it starts as borderline-freelancing but has the potential to be built out into an entire business. It also has a fairly high barrier to entry, so once I do the initial hard work it’s done and should give me a moat from competitors.

Next step for this is to speak with my father about the plan, and start looking into what SaaS/COTS solutions are available. Also to see whether there are any existing companies doing what I plan to do.

I’ve done a few jobs that fall under “Freelancing” already. Mainly labouring, but good to get a little money in the kitty and have my wife see me working.

Another point that came from the conversation with my brother this morning is that I really need to have a word with my sister. She is knee-deep working with the kind of businesses I will either become or interface with every day. The thing is, I can’t just turn up unprepared and say “Give me all your knowledge!!”

But that’s ok. A lot hinges on me gathering, filtering and sorting all the ideas and so forth that I have put together over the last two years since we first made the decision to come to Australia. This is a mammoth task and one I need to tackle soon anyway. It will also help me organise my thoughts and allow me to have a similar conversation with my

I have been spending a lot of time reading about investing. Currently I’m in a few different camps. I started with a modified version of Permanent Portfolio because I was scared of the market crashing the day after I dumped it all in a global index ETF. I planned for my re-entrance meticulously but there are a couple of things I could have done better, although it shouldn’t matter too much if I fix them or not. Then I decided to take the Aussie Stocks component and going forward pick individual stocks. So I’ve been spending a disproportionate amount of time reading up on fundamental investing, and I need to stop. I already know what my strategy will be, but I don’t think I’ll be making any changes before October anyway. “Sir, step away from the book.”

A highlight of my day today was my wife answering the phone in English! While this is well within her ability I think it is a big step because I was in the house at the time, and it would have been easier for her to leave the phone for me to answer. Very proud of my girl today*.

In other news I reached out to a couple of friends, and will probably meet one of them tomorrow after another labouring gig.

Summing up my goals for the next few days:

  • Write a reference for a friend to use as evidence that his marriage is accepted socially (his Japanese wife is applying for a visa)
  • Reach out to my other friend and organise a catch-up
  • Find a gym that has everything I need and reasonable casual rates. I think one mega-workout every 1-2 weeks will be enough for me
  • Organise my ideas!

If I can get through this I’ll reward myself with one or two chapters on investing.

* It ended up being a sales call so she just hung up. But I’m still proud of her haha (and I have since registered the number on the Do Not Call registry)

GUD Holdings (GUD)

GUD Holdings, BAD Customer Support

Reply to an online query regarding a Sunbeam product took 10 days (technically six business days. Was promised just three days but who in the 21st Century takes three days to reply to a customer enquiry?)

Furthermore, reply was unnecessarily snarky, insinuating I hadn’t read the manual. This is despite the fact that I had, including the quoted part, and had precisely worded my question to make sure I’d get a reply that wasn’t just a quote from the manual. Question was not addressed.

Other Points

Market cap 700m or so

Conglomerate of about eight unrelated businesses

First Job

Today I scored my first paying gig.

At a simple level it’s a Japanese-English translation job. But looking beyond the minimum viable translation skill the job also has a training aspect, and my strong technical background will come in handy.

The client is a really nice guy and he even commented what I was thinking, that we have good aisho/compatibility. I told him that I’m not sure what to charge but he has my word that it will be a very fair price.

UPDATE: Job done and paid!

I ended up quoting what I thought was a fair price for a three hour package which the client felt was good value for money. We had a second session of about an hour (the client generously included the first meeting of 45 minutes towards the three hours) which was very productive. At that stage there were a lot of unknowns so I was thinking the gig might be up to eight hours.

Researching the unknowns on the web that evening I stumbled across a translation of a similar system! Most importantly it clearly identified the sections which would not work outside of Japan, which I was anticipating would take a fair amount of time.

However it did put me in a bit of a situation, and my friend commented that I should pretend I hadn’t found it but use it as a base to put together a similar manual.

In the end I forwarded the manual to the client, who was ecstatic. We had one final session where we went through some stuff together (my training skill!) and I pointed out a couple of things in the Japanese manual which I thought the client may find interesting. At the end of the session the client happily paid and I left the door open for future work and asked him to let me know if anyone was looking for someone to do something similar. Also I’ve got my first friend in the area, which can’t hurt!

Definitive List of Places to get Japanese Groceries Around the Manning Valley

A work in progress, I’m going to build this page up to be the one-stop resource for all things Japanese-grocery-related for the Wingham/Taree/Forster/Tuncurry/Diamond Beach/etc regions.

Prices tend to be about 2-5x what you’d pay in Japan.

Coles Wingham – very basic ingredients (mirin, sake, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, nori, kewpie mayonnaise, Golden Curry rue, hakusai. Sometimes daikon).

Coles Taree – similar to Coles Wingham. Firm silken (kinugoshi) tofu in the fridge.

Woolworths Taree – more of the same.

Car Park Deli – A few extra items like pink ginger, katsuobushi packets, shiokosho, dashi. They can get anything in if you ask them.

Gourmet ingredients store in Centerpoint Arcade – I seem to have lost the business card for this place. They had a few things from Tetsuya’s (truffle salt, etc), plus a couple of different soy sauces and whatnot. They can also order in anything you want.

Townhead Wholesale Fruit & Vegetables – these guys said I might be able to call and speak to the wholesale department and order in a daikon. Yet to try. (02) 6552 2199

Rice

Try Medium grain, $24 for a 10kg bag (Coles, Woolworths, etc)

 

Plant Your Own

We’re going to plant some daikon, mizuna and shiso in our vegetable patch. Ordered them online from http://www.cornucopiaseeds.com.au

Losing the Ability to Write Well

I’m not sure whether my writing ability has actually become worse over the last 10 years in Japan, or whether my standard for writing has just increased to the point that what I write no longer satisfies me.

Regardless, the best way to become a better writing is to do more writing. That started 18 months ago as I eased myself into the shallow end of the world of social media, and will continue throughout the next 1-2 years. Being a fantastic writer is a skill that pays dividends over and over.

REX: Initial Analysis

At $100m they’re a little larger and more well-covered by analysts than I’d prefer. When I initially booked I thought they might be worth investigating a little more, and flying with them the other day cemented in my mind that there is no reason from a service point of view that someone would ever decide to not fly with them.

The initial glance over the financial statements left me with a mixed feeling. Passengers and therefore revenues have been shrinking, which is bad. They forewent paying a dividend last year, instead choosing to take that money and some additional debt and purchase some more capital, which I’d consider a push.

But one thing they currently have going for them is that they are somewhat a monopoly for the regional routes they run, so revenue from these routes should be somewhat guaranteed, and has a fair amount of potential upside if the market picks up again, with minimal potential downside (REX themselves push this angle, but the market picking up again soon is not a certainty).

Will continue to investigate but at the moment the story isn’t compelling enough to put down any money.

29/6/2015 Update: Looks like Qantas is doing low-cost regional in New Zealand under the Jetstar brand. This is a big threat for REX, because if Qantas can pull this off in New Zealand I guarantee you the next place they try it will be Australia. Maybe it’s worth speaking to REX investor centre to find out what would stop Qantas from doing this. The other option of course would be Qantas purchases REX outright. $100m would be pocket change for them. But I tend to think that they’d go it themselves, essentially forcing other low cost providers (Virgin etc) to buy REX if they wanted to compete this space.

Joshua Kennon outright refuses to consider airline stocks, and makes a fair argument against investing in them. And the Simply Wall Street screener sums them up as “Solid financial position but with no other noteworthy features.”

The other thing I need to find out is what does a used plane go for, and does their fleet and cash minus liabilities cover their entire market cap of the company. Simply Wall Street is giving them a Price to Book of 0.6, but I need to find out what exactly is behind these numbers.

Finally I want to check my gut feeling that the CEO is quite devoted to the firm and its return to greater profitability.