Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
To start on my inquiry project, I needed to choose a topic and have a basic understanding of it, which is exactly what I did in Phase 0. I selected a topic from the list of topics that interested me and the topic that I chose was Economics Case Study. I chose this topic mainly because I believe that I have a use of the knowledge I will learn on this trip in the future. Studying Economics now may help me in dealing with finances in the future.
Unfortunately, I do not know a lot about finances and economics. I understand some of the basics of financing and whether you are having a profit or not. I realized that the most important factor when you are trying to sell something to someone, the relationship to the customer is of utmost importance. Even if the things that you are trying to sell are extremely cheap, if the customer does not like your attitude, he/she will not buy what you are trying to sell. Secondly comes the price of what you are trying to sell. Do not think that you can sell something worth two or three times more then what it is really worth. Customers will not buy what you are trying to sell if you put the price extremely high. To manage to support a family is difficult, it requires skill in financing and the ability to be flexible when difficult times come. Many families have been through this type of experience before, and only some have survived.
I have been to stores and malls several times and have been the customer of many different people. I have, on many occasions, experienced the hostility of the owner and realized that not many go to that store because of the unfriendliness of the owner. The quality of the objects you are trying to sell also can reflect whether or not the customer buys what you are trying to sell. I also decide which restaurants to go to depending on the friendliness and quality of food in the restaurant and I have also noticed, repetitively, that the restaurants that offer better service and food have significantly more customers then the other restaurants. Whether or not this reflects in the popularity of other restaurants I have not visited, I do not know, but service, prices, and quality definitely plays a role in the restaurant's reputation.
While researching on this topic, I would like to find out about numerous things that help in financing. I would like to know precisely how difficult or simple it is to support and raise a family in Xizhou since raising a family in Xizhou is very different then raising a family in Shanghai. I would also like to gather advice from a store owner on what I can do in the future to help me be successful. If possible, I want to know what is their daily or monthly income and how it compares with a medium class person's income in Shanghai. On this matter, I would like to expand and ask what the best job and worse job is in Xizhou and what is their incomes. Finally, I would like to learn about financing in general, as in the basic terms and how it can help me in the future.
I have done some research in my Phase 3 Microcampus workspace.
Below, I have a list of ten questions that I came up with prior to going to Xizhou. The background research in Phase 3 gave me the information so that I can write my ten questions. These ten questions will guide me in my research about Economics Case Study. As my Inquiry Project develops in Xizhou, these questions may change into completely different questions. The words that are written in Italic are possible answers that I have written down prior to the trip as an educated guess based on my current knowledge. The first 4 questions are related to questions about financing and time management at home and when people are working in their shops. Question 5 and 6 are related to questions about how a person can build and stabilize his/her own business so that he/she can be successful. Lifestyle (stress management, happiness, etc) is mentioned and inquired upon in question 7 and 8. The last two questions, (9,10) are about the shop keeper himself/herself and it's about their own opinions.
1) Does the income depend solely on the customers, or is their some other way to gain money? A shop keeper's lifeline is customers. They are the only way he/she is able to gain money and to support his/her own family. Unless he/she has another business, then the only way to gain money is from the customers that come to the shop.
1) How much money is spent on the materials required to make a casket?
Casket making is a difficult process that is extremely physically demanding. The maker also needs to buy paint, brush, tools, and other supplies to be able to start the process. To me, a reasonable amount of money that should be spent on supplies per month should be at around 500 RMB. This way, the casket maker does not need to go outside every time he runs out of supplies in the middle of the month but can continue making caskets.
2) How much money is required to support a person's family? How much do average citizens in Xizhou spend on each part of living?
To support a family takes a lot of work and effort. The parents have to enroll their children into school and spend money on the basic needs for living like food, shelter, water, etc. I believe that around 10,000 RMB is spent on one family every month which means that each family's members need to work at their best to achieve that.
3) What is the average income (monthly, daily, yearly) for shop keepers?
The income for a shop keeper depends on the amount of customers that come to their shop. Whether it's a good day or a bad day for the shop keeper is based on luck. A reasonable income that I believe should be earned by Xizhou shop keepers is 4000 RMB per month. The reason I think that is because they have to support not only themselves, but also their family.
4) What is the average work span for people in Xizhou (When people wake up, when people go to sleep, holidays/vacations, routine, etc)?
I think that Xizhou is a place where shop keepers have to remain at their shop everyday for at-least 12 or so hours to gain a profit. Some national holidays like Chinese New Year may be celebrated for one day at Xizhou but I believe that they resume work after one day. At Xizhou, I wake up at around 6, so I think that the shop keepers get up at around 6 or 7 and remain in their shop until 8-9 P.M..
5) How does a person start a business?
There are specific steps that a person has to follow to build a successful business. I believe that you will have to make a good business plan, invest in your business, and then slowly put your plan into action. That is what a person does if he/she is trying to build up a big business, and I am not sure if it's the same as a small business.
6) How does a person maintain a business?
After the person creates a business that is able to support itself for a while, he/she has to overcome huge obstacles in order to make his/her business successful and long-lasting. To be able to maintain a business, he/she needs to have a profit everyday and to be able to obtain that, that person needs a lot luck.
7) What are the pros and cons of starting a business? Starting a business has its own pros, but also its own cons. As the leader of a business, you have to pay for everything that goes wrong inside the business so there is a huge risk that you might go bankrupt. On the other hand, if your business is gaining a profit, then you get most of the money and you can very soon become successful.
7) As a casket maker, what are your usual stress levels? If it's too high, how can you lower it?
I think casket making gives the maker a lot of stress. If one mistsake is made along the process of the making of the casket, it could jeopardize the whole process and the maker would have to restart. That little situation can also can be combined with the fact that the fumes and dust during the process makes it difficult for the maker to think straight, therefore increasing the chance of a mistake.
8) What are the differences with big businesses and small businesses? Big businesses and small businesses are different in almost every way and they each have their own pros and cons. Contacting a big business takes time and they may not get back to you even after a few days. With a small business, it's the exact opposite. They can be contacted almost every day and they can almost immediately get back to you. Small businesses are also easier to manage because they do not need as much care as big businesses.
8) On average, how much down-time (free time) do you have everyday? Would you like more or less free time? Why?
As a student, after I finish my homework in school, the rest of the day is free time for me. I have never been working at a company or working at a shop before so I have had no experience with this. I predict that, if he is awake for 12 hours, that he would have to spend at least 10 hours casket making.
9) In Xizhou, when shopkeepers sell their products, is their a lot of competition between each store?
In my perspective, if another store is selling the exact same products as this store is, one store would have to figure out a way make their products better than the other store's products. Whether it is by lowering the price, making the quality better, etc, one store would probably have to have a more beneficial product that another store. Therefore, the customers would walk past whichever store and buy from the store that they decide is better.
10) Is there a reason behind why one might want to start a store in Xizhou? If yes, what is the reason?
I believe that most of the shop keepers that own stores in Xizhou were probably born in Xizhou and they could not move to somewhere else. One might even say, they were forced to start a business here because of the environment and the place they were raised. Aside from that, I believe that Xizhou is a great place to set up a shop because, unlike, Shanghai, the people here are always nice and they greet you even though you are a stranger.
After researching and coming up with the questions above, I am self conscious that my knowledge of Economics and financing has vastly expanded. One of the most important words in the world of Economics is "Entrepreneur," yet I did not know what that was until I started looking at information on Economics. After all this has been said, I still have not been able to grasp one concept, "How can I build and maintain a business?" In Xizhou, I plan on discovering the answer to that concept among many others that I have been curious about and to further expand my knowledge of Economics.
After developing a list of long questions, I am finally ready to move on to Phase 2 of Microcampus. In Phase 2, I will be gathering many reliable sources of information that will aid me in my pursuit of knowledge.
For your information, the questions that are crossed out in the list above are questions that are not relevant to my topic once I came to Xizhou. I replaced the old questions with now queries that will aid in my research for information. See Phase 3 for details.