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Definitive 10 Week Guide To Entrepreneurial Success

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I started life rather late. Or so I say, gauging on my personal standards.

I wanted to be uber rich by the time I was 19. However, I lacked the fortitude of certain vital organs to commit to the decision. So I wussed out, went to college, got a degree, wussed out some more, then got a job, then wussed out some more, got a credit card and then finally I manned up.

I started many different ventures, all which had successes, little but not enough to push me out of the rat race of life, meaning pay check to paycheck. Years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing anything for free, because a salary and commissions and payments for my service sustained my wuss life. Of course I idolized Bill Gates and the guy who created Yahoo. Of course I dreamt about being just like them. But, the seduction of middle class life (no matter how high you are in the pay grade, it is still middle class) was far harder to ignore. Also being of Asian descent, family pressure to get a degree and a job was monumental. So basically it was plenty of facilitated wussing.

Then, I took a leap of faith; I was at the time earning almost 100k annually and I decided to finally live all the books and seminars I took. I resigned from my job and I jumped into the middle of the ocean without a life jacket, raft or even knowing which part of the ocean this was. And when you are in that deep, you either swim or die. Best way to learn to swim is when you are in the middle of the ocean. No amount of swimming lessons can beat that motivation. So, I did everything from selling, to acting to directing. Plenty of success in almost all, but it was never enough. I was still clinging to the degree that would be my raft. I kept leaning on my former profession as a life saver. I never really grew as much as I wanted to.

And then it happened. In 2009 my meager business empire came crashing down. All of it just wiped out by the next year. I hit rock bottom. From driving my own cars to washing other people’s cars for a meal. It took me a few more years to grow a pair and really swim. Today the ocean of business is rougher than ever, but I changed my approach. I no longer look for a raft or a life jacket. As a matter of fact I feel nervous when there is shore.

Now, enough about me. What is this got to do with you ? Well if you are an entrepreneur or want to be, before anything else, you need to be ready for one certain thing that will definitely happen when you get into business. Ready? You will definitely fail. And oh so glorious this failure would be that you would want to stab yourself in your own aching heart.  But, keep moving. Never stop swimming and I guarantee you, the next fall won’t be as painful. And then every fall, would just seem like a tiny shaving cut. You won’t even notice it is there. You will understand that a strong psyche is above anything else when it comes to business. Not just foolhardy optimism, but a strong mental ability to accept, adapt and grow. Not denial, but rather acceptance; not ego, but rather humility in learning.

And above all, a cause greater than money, a desire more powerful than wanting to gain wealth. When you have this then know that you are no longer just a businessman, you are now an entrepreneur. Ready to rock the world?

What are you waiting for?

So here are my 10-week guideline for you as an entrepreneur. Do this very diligently. I will go into greater detail in the coming weeks, but for now this is your rough guide to the rough world of entrepreneurship. Take one week for each task, as you will go through your logic sequence of Why, What and How. Define and write down everything that pops into your head. All this is designed to give you enough tools to calculate your probability and then jump into the ocean of business!

Week 1 – Understand your nature.

Why are you an entrepreneur? What makes you as an entrepreneur different? Bill Gates is a much different entrepreneur than Steve Jobs. Richard Branson is a very different entrepreneur than Tony Fernandez.  If you were given a challenge, to sell your service or product with absolutely no profit or no personal revenue for you, will you still be an entrepreneur? Find your definition as an entrepreneur.

Week 2 – What do you really want?

Are you in business for a purpose greater than money? Money is not evil; as a matter of fact I love it. It’s the greatest invention ever. It makes the world move. But lust for it makes people go cuckoo. What is more important, your way of life or your business? Can you go for a year without your past time activities? Will you be able to give up an expensive hobby until your business is really developed?

Week 3 – Money: You either have it or you want it.

How much money do you have? In business (and in life) money buys you time. If you have a fixed monthly expense of 10,000 plus a variable of 5,000, that means you need to have at least 180,000 to flow in seamlessly for the next 12 months. And most businesses do not turn around or even break even until the 3rd year is over. Do you see a flow happening?

Week 4 – The power of PAUSE.  Stillness is far greater than motion.

Everyone makes this mistake. And they make it repeatedly. The trick is to catch yourself doing it. I say this all the time, don’t be in the business, but work on it. When you are feeling overwhelmed, you need to pause. TOTAL PAUSE. No communication, no business talk, nothing. Just PAUSE and absolutely figure out where you are at this moment in your business. Do this frequently.

Week 5 – YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY ALONE!

This is the furthest thing from the truth. In today’s world of business, you are never alone. There is so much help, from free consultations, to leveraging off your competitors; there is absolutely so much help. I don’t say this from theory, but backed by actual experience. I was able to rebuild myself so much more quickly because the world today is about adding value. Seek for help!

Week 6 – Bouncing back after a fall.

If you are an entrepreneur, I would wish for you to fail, and fail big. HUH? You never truly become an entrepreneur unless you have been threatened with law suits, employees complaining to the employment office, partners treating you like crap and above all, teetering the edge of bankruptcy. Please get these experiences sooner than later, because it is so much easier to bounce back up when you are younger.

Week 7 – Love, family and business?

Love and family, could be your greatest ally or your biggest annoyance, when you are on the entrepreneurial path. Most businessman (and women) end up having very sour personal relationships. If someone denies this, they are lying. This is the art of balance; there is no way around it. Messy affairs, fighting with your spouse, divorces and families that cheat lie and steal; get ready for it. But you will eventually find a way to deal with these. This happens because business takes a toll on your personal and emotional needs and of those around you. From trusting too much to being emotionally void; these are the side effects.

Week 8 – The ASIAN FRINGE, Business SCIENCE.

If you are Asian, then you know what Feng Shui or Vastu is. Numerology, astrology, horoscope compatibility… (Did you know that the Tiger and Rabbit are a good business match in Chinese horoscope)? Now, I am not discounting these, as a matter of fact I don’t take in clients that do not fit their numerology personality with me, however business is business. Remember these things are old beliefs that have some practical roots to them. They should not be the full decision maker for you, rather a support system. Best you understand what you are getting yourself into. Else, forget about it.

Week 9 – GLOCAL ECONOMY.

Glocal stands for think Global work Local. Meaning, you take what is globally a standard and you adapt it to you. For example, McDonalds in the Philippines serves rice by default. Why? Filipinos cannot live without rice. But it is still McDonalds and has all the goodness that comes with it.  So if you are a company here in Asia or a business in Asia, adapt your model to fit the international way (primarily western way) but tailor it so it fits your culture. The old logic that Asia has huge populations and you will succeed by the sheer number of people who get your services is a myth and a painful one, if you get into it without understanding the local market. Trust me, I have seen these happen repeatedly with many foreign owned companies. Every single Asian country is worlds apart in terms of business and people management culture. So, think global operate local.

Week 10 – AUTOMATION, DELEGATION, ACCELERATION.

It’s the new millennium. If Microsoft Excel is your primary accounting tool, you are seriously backdated. Windows is now only in 14% of the world’s computers. Everyone is moving to the CLOUD. A 5-man operation can make bank. There are apps for everything today. Get wise. Get “APP’ed” up. Equip yourself and make life easy for you. Business process is still the same, but it has been sped up so much, that if you snooze, you will definitely loose!

JUMP AND SWIM. Do or die, there is no try.

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read, “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang

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Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang.

Jeff knows how to spot and groom good culture, as the book session was held in Zestfinance a company he invested in and now, “The Best Workplaces for Women” and for “The Best Workplaces for Tech”, by Fortune.

These are the questions during the Book Launch.

How to know if a hire including the founder is Startup material?
Jeff says to watch for these qualities.

First, do the hires think like an owner?
Second, do the hires test the limits, to see how things can it be done better?
Are they problem solvers and are biased toward action?
Do they like managing uncertainty and being comfortable with uncertainty? And comfortable with rapid decision-making?
Are they comfortable with flexible enough to take in a series of undefined roles and task?

How do we know if we are simply too corporate to be startup?

Corporate mindsets more interested in going deep into a particular functional area? These corporate beings are more comfortable with clear and distinct lines of responsibility, control, and communication? They are more hesitant or unable to put in the extra effort because “it’s not my job”.

If you do still want to enter a startup despite the very small gains at the onset, Jeff offers a few key considerations on how to pick a right one.

He suggests you pick a city as each city has a different ecosystems stakeholders and funding sources and market strengths. You have to invest in the ecosystem and this is your due diligence. Understand it so you can find the best match when it arises.
Next, to pick a domain, research and solidify your understanding with every informational interview and discussion you begin. Then, pick a stage you are willing to enter at. They are usually 1)in the Jungle, 2) the Dirt Road or 3) the Highway. The Jungle has 1-50 staff and no clear path with distractions everywhere and very tough conditions. The Dirt Road gets clearer but is definitely bumpy and windy. Well the Highway speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Finally Please – Pick a winner!

Ask people on the inside – the Venture Capitalists, the lawyers, the recruiters and evaluate the team quality like any venture capitalists would. Would you want to work for the team again and again? And is the startup working in a massive market? Is there a clear recurring business model?

After you have picked a winning team and product, how would you get in through the door?

You need to know that warm introductions have to be done. That’s the way to get their attention. Startups value relationships and people as they need social capital to grow. If you have little experience or seemingly irrelevant experience, go bearing a gift. Jeff shared a story of a young ambitious and bright candidate with no tech experience who went and did a thorough customer survey of the users of the startup she intended to work with. She came with point-of-view and presented her findings, and they found in her, what they needed at that stage. She became their Director of Growth. Go in with the philosophy of adding value-add you can get any job you want.

And as any true advisor would do, Jeff did not mince his words, when he reminded the audience that, “If you can’t get introduced you may not be resourceful enough to be in startup.”

Startupland is not a Traditional Career or Learning Cycles

Remember to see your career stage as a runs of 5 years, 8 or 10 – it is not a life long career. In Startup land consider each startup as a single career for you.

Douglas Merrill, founder of Zestfinance added from his hard-earned experience that retention is a challenge. Startup Leaders to keep your people, do help them with the quick learning cycles. Essentially from Jungle to Dirt road, the transition can be rapid and so each communication model that starts and exists, gets changed quickly. Every twelve months, the communication model will have no choice but to break down and you have to reinvent the communication model. Be ready as a founder and be ready as a member of the startup.

Another suggestion was to have no titles for first two years. So that everyone was hands-on and also able to move as one entity.

Effective Startupland Leaders paint a Vision of the Future yet unseen.

What I really enjoyed and resonated with as a coach and psychologist was how Douglas at the 10th hire thought very carefully what he was promising each of his new team member. He was reminded that startups die at their 10th and their 100th hires. He took some mindful down time and reflected. He then wrote a story for each person in his own team and literally wrote out what the company would look like and their individual part in it. In He writing each of the team members’ stories into his vision and giving each person this story, it was a powerful communication piece. He definitely increased the touch points and communication here is the effective startup’s leverage.

Douglas and Jeff both suggested transparency from the onset.

If you think like an owner and if you think of your founding team as problem solvers. Then getting transparent about financials with your team is probably a good idea. As a member of a startup, you should insist on knowing these things
Such skills and domain knowledge will be valuable. There is now historical evidence of people leaving startups and being a successful founder themselves because they were in the financial trenches in their initial startup. Think Paypal and Facebook Mafia.

What drives people to enter a startup?

The whole nature of work is changing. Many are ready to pay to learn. Daniel Pink’s book Drive showed how people are motivated by certain qualities like Mastery, Autonomy and Where your work fits into big picture. Startups do that naturally. There is a huge amount of passion and the quality of team today and as it grows then the quality of company changes.

The Progress principle is in place, why people love their startup jobs is not money rather are my contributions being valued? Do I see a path of progress and do I have autonomy over work and am I treated well?

Find out more about StartupLand on Amazon

And learn from Zestfinance

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