by Kenny Tan (Singapore)
When I was very much younger, my Mum used to say that I will be the only one in the family who is not cut out to start his own business. Those words stuck to me from a tender age and I always believed that I was destined to work for someone else.
When I entered SMU and engaged in various community projects, including a four-year stint as a volunteer and trainer with AIESEC Singapore, I became inspired to want to start a consultancy helping non-profits in Singapore, seeing how dismal the non-profit sector in Singapore is. However, I was also highly discouraged by the perceived difficulty of doing so, and I questioned whether I was really destined to be an entrepreneur, with my Mum’s words ringing in my ears.
I took this course partially to clear my compulsory TE requirement, but also heeded the advice of some of my friends who took this course previously. I was still pretty skeptical in the first few weeks of the course, until the team actually started working on product development and planning for sales and marketing.
Putting asides the theories and all the detailed plans, it was a gradual realisation for me that all the while through the course, I was actually putting entrepreneurship into action, and seeing my ideas coming into fruition. It’s about setting goals for the business and myself, meeting them slowly one by one with the help of a like-minded team, encountering the various hurdles, and gathering the courage and motivation to overcome them.
Above all, it was about proving myself wrong: closing a lid on all those fears and personal inhibitions about being an entrepreneur.
This course has made me realise that anyone can become an entrepreneur if they commit themselves to the goals they set, and overcome the psychological barrier of being one. It doesn’t matter if one lacks knowledge in financial planning, product development, or marketing. More importantly, one has to be true to oneself: If you have a business idea that you are passionate about, run with it with all of your heart and soul. You are doing yourself a great disservice if you hold back based on unfounded fears and the need to stay in your comfort zone.
Above all, I am even more committed to starting my own consultancy for non-profits after working in the civil serviced and private sector following graduation. Life is simply too short to hold back our dreams.
There are a few other business tips that I would like to share during the course of my entrepreneurship journey:
(1) Fexibility trumps all the planning in the world!
You can do all the detailed SWOT analysis, financial projections and marketing plans, but along the way, there will be many surprises to derail those plans. While it’s good to have plans, it’s more important to stay flexible and plan for multiple options in case one fails. This is based on my experience as the CTO with LapLock when we banked our product development schedule on just a few programmers who failed to deliver their products on time, thus leading to the delay in our product launch.
(2) You are only what you think you are!
When we encounter hurdles, it is very tempting to give in to emotions, or jump to conclusions about ourselves and others. Similarly, the way we relate to others is defined by how we perceive others. Hence, it’s very important to know how to “let things go”, be calm, rational and objective when we encounter hurdles, and remember this when we deal with all kinds of people – team members, programmers, potential partners, business mentors, and above all, OURSELVES!
(3) Say more “Yes” and less “No”!
There is a natural human compulsion to say “No” to things that we are unfamiliar with or are uncomfortable with. Why not go against this by saying more “Yes”? Before I knew it, I was attending entrepreneurship talks beyond the classroom, and meeting my group’s business mentor for lunch to get some ideas, among other activities that I never knew I would do. As an entrepreneur, it is important to get out of our comfort zone. Whenever we get too comfortable, perhaps it’s time to start moving out!