Friday, December 27, 2013

Review of Year 2013 & Some business lessons

In a few days time, it will be the last day of 2013, and it marks the first full year since I went self-employed. It has been a long way since I graduated from NUS in the mid of 2008.

I still remember the time where I just started work; I was full of optimism. I also gave tuition as a sideline then. In the "safe haven" of employment, it was so comfortable and the future looks bright. The company would try it best for us, or so it appeared.

But some events woke me up.
First event: Retrenchments
I see this company taking a loan from the government so that it could stay afloat and keep the jobs intact. A few months later, retrenchment came, and 10% have to be retrenched. Yet within a few months, hirings resume, for the positions that were retrenched. Jobs are never safe.

Second event: What I saw on my manager's desk
I remember there was once in the office, I saw a stack of printed powerpoint slides that titled: "How to motivate your employees without monetary means". There was a pay freeze at that juncture, and I was still at the pay of a fresh grad after working for 2 years. While I know this MNC isn't doing well in the crisis, and is logical from the business side, this event still left a deep impression on me.

Thus the tough decision to step out in 2012, and attempt to make a living by myself. The first few months were tough, my discipline was sorely lacking, and I was running around like a headless chicken. Fortunately for me, I have an experienced partner in the business, who manages the admin stuff well.

Which brings me to the first lesson I learned: Having an experienced partner or mentor helps greatly in the initial stages of doing business.

That is common knowledge, but I truly appreciate the wisdom in it. I could see the mistakes that I would have made, in terms of finance, HR (choosing tutors) and branding. I wondered if I would have learned these if I had just "do-it-myself". Fortunately for me, my previous dabbling in FAs of companies left me with some basic skills to manage and understand some aspects of SME finance.

There were many times during the course of the year that we went "shucks, should have done it earlier". This was a result of poor planning. This is what the second lesson I learned:

Plan and strategize your moves early; and you jolly well execute it with speed and precision.

What happened? First, in 2013, my flyers were printed late when it should have been ready by end February 2013. There were so many unforeseen delays that lead it to be finally ready in early April 2013. Also, with poor planning, I had put in a promotion date that ends in April 2013, which essentially render it useless in just a few weeks!

While planning is important, execution is even more important.

What's with all the great plans if nothing was executed eventually? :x
At least I learned my lesson, the flyers for 2014 are now done :)

I'm earning less than what I earned while I was in full time employment. I guess most businesses do at the initial stages. Which mean to say your passion is of utmost importance for staying in the business. For me, my passion and goal is to help as many students as possible with my knowledge. Tuition is only part of the equation. I programmed quick revision apps for students of Singapore, free, when it would have cost at least $2k or more per app if it were outsourced. I'm exploring e-learning through videos next. :)

I'm exploring collaboration, systemizing procedures for future expansion as well as potential expansion into a synergistic business (publishing).


Expenses Management
In year 2013, I stopped tracking my expenses, to reduce the workload on me, and to also see if my bank account would suffer if I stopped the tracking. Ok, the main reason is probably I can't bear to see the huge expenses for my wedding preparations :x  But I'm happy to say that at the end of 2013, I'm still surviving well, and my personal accounts still look sufficiently healthy, although I did earn less than when I was under full-time employment. That will soon change I hope :)

Wedding preparations will probably form the bulk of my expenses this year and next, along with HDB renovation. I have already downsized my portfolio by about 10% (slightly < 30k), to prep for these as well as a probable foray into publishing. Of course, I still have a small emergency cash fund which could be used to purchase stocks if value appears. Or I make use of some of the funds reserved for wedding and renovation, but I doubt that the stock market will drop significantly enough in price to be sufficiently attractive for me in 2014.

But seriously, just thinking of the expenses that will come in the next few years... makes me wonder how I could grow my portfolio further. Wedding expenses and housing renovation in 2014, and maybe baby expenses for 2015 and beyond. I must work harder and work smarter.

Goal 2013
Goal 2013, my target few years ago, was not met. But there was definitely progress. The main purpose of setting goals, is to help set a clear direction and path for one to progress. Meeting the goal is a bonus. This practice of setting goals has guided me well over past 10 years.

I will probably write up a goal 2015 soon.


  1. Hello JW,

    What you have experienced and learned in this year is many times over what you would have experienced in the sanctuary of a regular job.

    Congratulations to your coming marriage and HDB ownership ;)

    Merry Christmas and Happy 2014!

  2. You can explore self publishing if you have the know how, or you can contact those decent and established publishing house that charges a reasonable amount. I do know a few decent publishing house though. Contact me if you need them.

    1. You mean printing presses? I don't want to go through a publisher because I want to keep the copyright, especially since I have painstakingly done all the graphics myself :)


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