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What I’ve Learnt From 19 Years Of Entrepreneurship

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I’ve been an entrepreneur for quite a while, but I didn’t eagerly and authentically enter the ranks. In the beginning, as my income increased, I thouhght I needed to have a place to write off things so I could save on my taxes, so I followed the advice of an accountant and created a business. Yep, that’s the whole truth!

Years ago, when that 1st business, Strictly Kids Decorating, failed, it was because I was a great technician (talented as all get out) but didn’t know a thing about being a CEO. I painted tromp l’oiel murals on walls in homes and businesses and I enjoyed seeing the delight in people’s eyes when I transformed a wall from bland to vavoom!  I learned what I think is my most valuable lesson: 80% of business success is found in becoming a strategic, creative and intuitive CEO.
Then my 2nd business folded because I thought friendship would protect us.  Lesson learned: never enter business with friendship terms of agreement.  Create specific and clear partnership terms that include how a dissolution agreement.
Now for my third business, which I’ve been the CEO of for 9 years, I remembered the many lessons I learned over the years and decided I would treat my business like I wanted to and knew how to succeed and I started with respecting my values and my mission to serve and support others to create meaningful change and achieve their dreams. I did what I continue to do to this day, I studied, learned and implemented best practices and I continue to reeap the fruits of my labor.
Here are my top 20 lessons learned from 19 years as an entrepreneur:
  • Mindset is everything. What you believe and how you think will determine whether or not you succeed.
  • 80% of business success is found in becoming a strategic, creative and intuitive CEO.
  • You don’t get paid for your time, you’re paid for your expertise and the quality of experience you help your client consistently achieve.
  • It’s not about the money your gift is present to benefit others.
  • Before you gain momentum, you have to experience the moment. Success is comprised of every little thing you do added together over time. Be strategic. Keep going.
  • loving what you do causes everything that happens on your journey to have value
  • You start with talent then combine talent with focused training in the craft which leads to mastery.  Mastery has many levels. As your mastery grows, your confidence grows and thus, your business achieves ever evolving success.
  • There are 3 essential keys to growing your business: 1. mindset 2. knowledge 3. execution.  Tend to each area with focus and commitment and you can’t help but succeed!
  • Trust your gut – let your intuition sit in the head chair at all of your meetings and brainstorming sessions.
  • Whatever you don’t know and need to know, learn it. Everything else delegate to someone smarter than you.
  • Plan like the tortoise that knows when to run like the hare
  • Play with Fear on the Field – move forward especially when you’re afraid.  The benefits will BLOW your mind
  • Put an end point on the timeline for your dream. Assess where you are and whether or not you want to keep going in that direction. You can alway stop if you want to.
  • There is no shame in making money as you serve other. Money is a tool for good.
  • Invest to become the best.  Hire a coach, get a mentor who is 10 steps ahead of you.
  • Think creativity and compliment not competition and copy.
  • Be a laser beam and not a floodlight – get clear, make a plan and stay focused as you master one thing at a time.
  • The best expert knows how and when to be a great student.
  • Know what value you bring to the room.  Never apologize for how you’ve grown.
  • Serve with S.O.U.L. Serve Others with Unlimited Love.
  • BONUS – make paying yourself a priority!

If you’re in the first 5 years of your entrepreneurial journey, I used to be right where you are.  I share these lessons learned to encourage you and inspire you to keep going!  Along the way, I made quite a few mistakes, but hey, that’s part of what gives me the cahoones to help and support others to achieve their entrepreneur dreams!

What’s your success story?  Share your lessons learned below.

Remember, life is precious.  Do your happy dance. Enjoy Life!

Denise J. Hart is an entrepreneur, author and now coach. 

Callum Connects

Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

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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Callum Connects

Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

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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