A training article for new associates of 
Written in October 1, 2001
Last updated: 24 Jul 2004

Three complaints from three associates were: 

1.  "Nobody knows about "Asia USA Realty" (therefore I get no cases).   I get a handful of referrals from you and they were all  duds.

2.  "Nowadays, I don't get many referrals from the company."  At least one hundred referrals had been given for the past year but success rate was dismally low for reasons. 

3.   "I expect you to complain to the IEA (Institute of Estate Agents) about the unethical behaviour of the other agent who was selling condos to the same client I was serving."  This associate lost out to the competitor due to lack of personalised service or lack of properties wanted by the foreign investor.   Complaining to the IEA would not solve the problem of being out-gunned.   

What has fishes to do with this training article for's new associates? 

Discus breeding in a HDB 2-bedroom apartment Know what you can do to be self employed and focus on your niche.

This home breeder has been very successful in breeding discus in a 2- bedroom apartment for the past 20 years.

The picture above shows two parent discus keeping the eggs aerated and guarding them against small predators. These eggs are laid on a moveable plastic filter pipe which can be removed if the parents cannot feed the young is much cheaper than using cones. 

It is best to cover all eggs with wire mesh 5 mm squares and one cm away from the spawning substrate to prevent one or both parents eating the eggs which is a rare occurrence. 

Wire mesh prevents egg eating by parent discus

Keep the mesh till the fry become free swimming. It can be used to educate  egg eating discus too.

It takes Singapore female discus 1.5 years to mature
Egg eating is an old problem. Nobody knows the cause. It could be the parents quarrelling or the stress of wrong water condition.  Egg laying intervals vary.  Earlier batch of fries not visible in picture, being very small.

Singapore Discus. 2 months old.

Very soft water is necessary for the successful spawning of discus.  The wrong pH of water in the tank can render the eggs sterile. It is common to have over 100 young discus survive a single spawning.

The fry must be able to get out to the parent's side to eat the discus mucus (milk), about 60 hours after hatching. 

Stop the filtering system during the spawning process to get the most number of eggs to be fertilized by the male.  Discus eggs need 65 hours at 28deg C, 55 hours at 31deg C and 72 hours at 25deg C. More fungus affect eggs if the temperature is above 29 degrees C. Fungicides added immediately after spawning should be removed after 12 -18 hours or the parent's skin get damaged.
Too much salt in water can lead to sterile eggs. Details at the book "Degen Discus Book" by Bernd Degen.  
0813Home_discus_white.jpg (16609 bytes)

Give what the customer wants

Know the trend. In this picture, the white discus was popular in 2000 but not wanted in 2001.

Colour, eye colour, fins and shape of the body are important in the selection for breeding.  One year to become adult. The female discus may have more rounded tips of fins. They pair naturally by themselves if kept together. It is not possible to force a spawning by mixing adults or new mates as you may have problems of fighting.

Frequent partial changes of water, good filters and high quality non contaminated water are secrets of success in breeding discus.  There is no cost involved in heating the tank water as the temperature is ideal for discus breeding. 

Note: Discus fishes, originated from the Amazon River of Brazil, Peru and Colombia. They are classified in the genus Symphysodon. Symphysodon aequifasciata and S. discus are recognized.

Good body colour, shape, fin lengths, eye colour attract buyers

Peaceful to look at, easy to breed, magnificent colour variations.

Singapore Pet shops buy discus and this may be a source for older Singaporeans who are retrenched. It takes time to be a good breeder.

Black and white discus. Not a typcial circular body shape.

The above pictures encapsulate the success of any self-employed person.  You reap what you sow (or spawn in the case of fishes in image on the left).  You alone are responsible for your own fame and fortune. 

The first image shows parental discus fishes warming the eggs with their breath.   Hard work and focus on the business of survival of the eggs.   The second image shows the results.  Of course, the discus breeder needs to invest money, time and efforts to be successful.  He is a Singaporean success story but no national newspaper will bother writing about a home-based success story in a Housing and Development Board (HDB) 2-bedroom apartment.

Clean and non polluted waters produce great discus.

The water is very clean and this is a big secret of success in discus breeding.  Good filtration, aeration of water and soft unpolluted cool water promote spawning.   Spawning cones for the discus to lay their eggs on are shown on the  extreme right are meant for spawning of eggs.

Diamond blue discus said to be in demand in 2001
0811Home_discus_tank.jpg (16841 bytes)
Know what the customer wants if you want to be a successful breeder or realtor. 

Uniform round size and shape discus indicates that the breeder has mastered his craft. The eye white should be red in colour as the demand in Europe is for red eyes.

Singapore Discus Oct 5 2001
Red colours are said to be due to hormones or the feeding of carotene.

Everyone dreams of being associated with a famous big real estate company or be one.   Do you think that you will get brand name recognition and therefore more cases falling into our laps.  Real estate is more personalised than brand names.

But do the big boys want you or me?  Do you really think they give you cases most of the time?   Spoon-feeding you to success?  Being self employed means that you will need to have the energy, the focus and money to build up your business.   

You may think that the other realtor in the above case, selling condos to your client is unethical.  Well, that was the Buyer's choice and you don't have exclusive contract to source properties for him. 

Another success story. 

A self-employed dog and cat groomer reckoned he had sufficient expertise after 3 years.   He had read the relevant books.  He believed that the success to being a dog and cat groomer was being associated with a small animal veterinarian.  The clients of the vet would have dogs and cats for him to groom.  There was no other way to convince him that Singapore has many pet groomers who don't need affiliations to any veterinary practice.

Does this mean that groomers not connected to a veterinary practice will not be successful?  This is a similar question to realtors.  Do it mean that realtors without the feeding of referrals or clients from the real estate company will not be successful?  

"We do around 10 grooming cases a day from morning to evening.  How many do you do?" asked the groomer who had dog championship trophies and photos lined up in his shop and many puppies and pet products for sale.  There was no veterinary practice within walking distance.  There was a competitor nearby but he was 3 years ahead and had been well established.  He had invested in good kennels and his premises had been used by the film makers of dog films in Singapore. 

I had introduced this self-employed dog and cat groomer to this groomer, hoping to show him what makes a groomer successful. 

"Around 10 in a month. I shave the dogs bald mostly." 

"That's barbering, not grooming," was the reply.

"Do you need to tranquilise the dog to groom?" I asked the more successful groomer.  "No, as you can't do a job with the dog lying down."

To excel to groom 300 dogs and cats a month may be difficult for most of us.  But if we do 10 dogs in a month, it is hard to survive as each case is around $45.00. Total income from grooming will be $450.

How does this successful groomer do it? 

1.  Hard work means long hours devoted to your business.  There is no escaping the fact that you have to work the hours to be successful. 

2.  Networking.  He is still delivering dog food to clients himself to establish the rapport and attends dog shows.

3.  Focus.  He does specialise in one breed of puppy for dog show and sale but he has other breeds too.

I am sure there are more reasons for his success.  But hard work, networking and focus do apply to all self-employed realtors who want to be successful.  At least you don't encounter fierce dogs and be bitten or clawed by ferocious cats to earn a livelihood.

Many self-employed realtors are over thirty years old.  Many of them don't want to learn new things.  Great difficulty is encountered to get many older folks to learn how to use email, let alone surf the internet to get property listings or to set up their own webpage.  It entails the need to learn new knowledge and to spend money. 

Time better spent watching television, playing golf and smelling the roses?  Learning how to use FrontPage is an "opportunity cost" as time spent is better used in farming for new cases or looking after the children.  But can you afford a good webmaster when you are starting up?

Much depends on your income expectations and how much efforts you put in your work. 

The question for's over 40-year-old realtors in the year 2001 and beyond is:  Can you teach old dogs new tricks?    

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