Friday, May 10, 2013

Are you planning on starting a new business?

But why??!
This post was inspired by the number of people whom I have talked to and aspire to start their own businesses for a few common reasons.

Back in 2012, when I left my job to do full-time tuition and run a tuition centre as a business, I was thinking. Was I foolish to do so? Probably. My portfolio would have been much bigger than now had I continued as an employee while doing tuition part time, although I would have been much more tired with much less free time.

Since then, while I have not regretted the move (yet), my income certainly hasn't seen a phenomenal growth. I was fortunate to have built a sufficient war chest enough to last me for quite a few years, and fortunate not to be making losses (yet).

The learning curve so far was steep, very very steep. I know I have learned much more over the past 8 months than I did over the 4 years I was employed. I have learned what is meant by marketing, advertising, branding, as well as the different government grants and taxes, the different company structures, more about profits and losses, etc. In addition, I have met up with many people over different industries, talked to many friends who have their own aspirations, etc.

It is interesting that a number of people out there are a little dissatisfied about their jobs. Yet most of them stayed at the same job for the same few reasons
1) "I need the money."
2) "I don't know what else I can do."
3) "I want to start a business, but I don't know what business I can start."
4) "If I failed, I don't think I will be able to get employment again at this age."
and probably more I can't remember for now.

To me, the reasons can be broadly classified into one category, Fear.
The fear of change, and the fear of failure.

In my previous company, my superior used to tell me (and quite frequently), "don't be too creative in your approach, just do the necessary things to complete it. You still have a long future ahead in this company."  This happens in most of the times I suggested certain changes, which probably are too radical I supposed, to be fair.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong at all playing safe all the time, and there's nothing wrong staying employed. But to me, if one wants to start a business to take on the stiff competition in the unsheltered outside world, one needs to step out of the box and try different things. It is not about playing safe, it is about daring to change, daring to fail, and daring to pick up from failures.

For the unsuspecting who are planning on starting a new business, what are your reasons?
Let's get a reality check on the common reasons.

“I’m working so hard at my job and being so stressed all the time.”
But hey, doing business is more hard work than ever before! Your business system isn't ready, and your responsibilities are much more! Any medical leave or vacation leave you take in the initial stages may cost you your business.

My friends usually raised their eyebrows when I told them I'm actually working harder while earning less now. Well...

"I need a second income stream."
Then why run a business? Why not just take on another part-time job, like driving a taxi, etc? Expenses usually comes before revenues, and the expenses could kill you before the business turns into an income stream.

Business building and branding takes time, lots of it. And the amount of time needed could be quite demoralizing. Just imagine weeks and months with minimal business.

“I hate my boss, and dislike being an employee.”
I realised I have more bosses now. My students, their parents, and even my partner and my tutors are all my bosses.

In a way, I have to meet objectives of many more people than before.

“A business will make me rich.”
In a way, I am probably a living example at the moment that starting out by myself earns me less than if I was a working professional. Certainly, there are examples out there where running a business earns the entrepreneur more than what he/she would earn if he/she remained employed, but I guess for the majority, it may not be the case.

As of now, I have my fair share of frustrations, of failures and of headaches of my first attempt to do a tuition business. The business aspect of tuition is addictive, but results are seldom immediate. An advertisement once out, seldom bring an immediate response. The same goes for any other marketing or advertising activities. Branding, recognition, takes time to build.

For everyone who have an aspiration to start a business, I hope I have not discouraged you. Because if you get discouraged just by a blog post, you are probably not suited to start one.

* What makes me continue in this is the addiction of running a business (or more than 1). To me, it feels like playing chess. I was a chess player during my student days, and honestly I was addicted. Every move I make in an attempt to advance my business position is like making a move on the chessboard. The difference is this chess game is for the game of life, and my opponents numbered more than one.


  1. What you are describing is the startup phase which can last anything from 1 year to 4-5 years or even more. Key criteria to exit this phase is a scalable clear direction and current revenues in excess of 1m for service type business or net profit above 100k and/or headcount about 20, again service business metrics.

    Your attitude and mindset will change as you scale and you will start to plan more, dream more and fear less. But key is ability for business to scale. Once you exceed 5m with profit above 1m, u may find you work less hours, earn much more, but I think the stress does it disappear, u just used to it.

    From personal experience and knowing many other entrepreneurs,

    1. Currently, I have no clear direction to scaling it, although I'm thinking and trying to work on that goal everyday. Still can't find the proper way to scale it yet.

  2. JW,

    Jia you!

    What you have learnt and experienced in 8 months is more than your previous 4 years of working. Now imagine after 5 years, you'll be street ahead of your contemporaries ;)

    When I was doing recruitment, I frequently weed out those who "claim" to have 10 years' of experience when it's actually first year's experience x 10.

    Oh what I would give to be young again! I definite would have taken more risks!

    Nice sharing.

    1. Hi SMOL!

      Yup, the amount learned is definitely tremendous.
      You are right, 10 years of experiences vs first year's experience times 10. Being just a tutor isn't enough, it's the business of tutoring, and like the comment above, the knowledge and idea to scale my beliefs and teachings to more students :)


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