In this recap series of The Future Is Female conference 2017, we dive into one of the panels, How We Did It: Investment Success Stories
One may view success as the ability to set up and run a company on her own. Another may work even harder to lead her company to an IPO before she can consider herself as successful. To Yap Kwong Weng, CEO of Leap (Southeast Asia), success is a journey instead of a destination.
“Success is about maximising my own abilities to be great at what I’m good at, it’s about constantly enhancing my strengths and recognising my weaknesses, and most importantly, to remain humble at all times.”- Yap Kwong Weng
“More often than not, the human nature has a desire to achieve things quickly, leading to greed and complacency. So I continuously push myself to be better and not to sit on my laurels,” he continued.
Shannon Kalayanamitr, Founder and Group CMO of Orami, brought up the vision board she drew in 2007 and explained how it keeps her on track for her goals and successes.
“Ten years later, I’ve actually ticked all of my goals, sort of! For the first time in my life, I feel genuinely happy. Before, I was chasing love, chasing opportunities to build my career, trying to do more than I could. I definitely added new goals on my vision board along the way too. It’s the first time that I’m finally comfortable in my own skin.”
Shao-Ning Huang, former Co-Founder of JobsCentral and current part-time angel investor, reminded the audience that the definition of success differs for every individual.
“You need to define your own success and not the success defined by society. Follow your own path, and not be influenced. Remember that your definition will also change when you face new challenges and manage new opportunities.”-Shao-Ning Huang
“First, I stare at the ceiling. Then I ask myself what country I am in,” shared Kwong Weng, receiving a round of laughter from the audience.
“No, I’m not joking. Today it’s a global world. Sometimes you take the aeroplane more than the train, especially if your business is concentrated all over Asia, like mine. The world has become better and broader. Perspectives are redefined. Companies need to not only expand outside of Singapore but also to go deeper into the culture to build a better and more responsible business.”
Kwong Weng also shared that he makes it a point to clear his mind and focus on what he hopes to achieve after his reflection.
“Sometimes we go day by day, sometimes I take a macro view, but I always visualise what I hope to accomplish in the near and immediate future.”
Ted Fang, CEO of Tera Sotheby’s International Realty Frontier Group discussed his determination to succeed is his main motivation behind his works.
“I do what I like, I do what I think the market has a need for, and I don’t dread Sunday nights. I find running a company fun. There’s always an adventure and that drives me forward. There are days when you wake up and you have an issue you still have to solve, salaries you have to pay, but they drive me to work even harder.” -Ted Fang
Motherhood and Career
Shannon counted her blessings on being able to afford two helpers to look after her twins in Thailand. She had just started her business when she found out her pregnancy. Aware that she need extra help with her children, she sought to hire two extra pairs of hands. Over time, she has formed a great team with her two helpers and they help each other whenever there is a need to. Each morning, one of them would focus on household duties while the other looks after the children. On her end, Shannon would prepare for her day and spend some time with her twins over breakfast before she leaves for work with her partner.
Coincidentally the couple works in the same building which is ten minutes away from home, eliminating time spent to account for traffic. At the end of the day, they would spend some time reading with the twins before bedtime.
“It’s very structured. As a startup, we have to take last-minute client meetings at times, and the structure enables us to be able to work our schedules around without having to scramble.”
“It is similar to me. I know what I can do well and what I can’t do well,” Shao-Ning revealed, “so I set a strategy and I let others execute it. When I had my first son, we were in our second year of our startup. We realised that our parents can be a great support in this transition… So I set a strategy and I let our parents be involved in our lives.”
She acknowledged that allowing her parents to care for her children can be taxing at times because of differing views on raising a child. She encouraged the audience to look beyond the “traditional” nurturing methods used by the older generation and leverage on the benefits of different worldviews.
“Trust is hard to come by, and nothing bad happened to us so why be annoyed with the way they want to raise our children? Give and take, and be thankful that you have a circle of support,” she explained.
Betrayed? It Will Happen
“It is common to be betrayed in business, even by your friends whom you have gone to school with and whom you trust. When it comes to money, greed exists, and anything and everything is possible,” warned Kwong Weng.
Before entering the private sector, he had brushed off money and aimed to be contented easily with life. However, money becomes a constant thought when he started his business as he has to make a profit for survival. Money also causes other complications, including betrayal.
“People will do things behind your back. They say one thing, they do another thing. Choose a right local partner for business, but don’t forget. Even after due diligence, you can still be betrayed. You may have all the elements in order, and you will still need a bit of luck to be successful.”
Shao-Ning had more than an emotional hurt to deal with after she was betrayed by her business partner. After countless of sleepless nights salvaging her business, she woke up one morning with half her face immobilised. She had Bell’s Palsy disorder. After two days, Shao-Ning finally realised she had to pull the plug and let go of her failing business.
“Despite the money and effort, sometimes letting go is a lot easier than hanging on. It’s not that you should not trust people, but it’s about acknowledging something is wrong and doing something about it rather than ignoring it and trying to salvage what is not possible.”
Choosing What To Invest In- 40:20:40 ratio
“It is crucial to make friends in the market. I invest in businesses I know I can do well in, where I have skills and knowledge to excel in and am able to put together a team that can do well in a certain market and industry. I cannot stress the importance of putting the right people together to grow the business,” shared Ted.
As an angel investor, Shao-Ning breaks down a company’s potential into three parts with a 40:20:40 ratio. She looks at the calibre of the founders, the problems the startup is trying to solve, and the market opportunity.
“I’m not running the company, so the caliber of the founders is really important because they would signal how far the company can grow. The problem is important because you can’t be running a business that tries to solve a nonexistent problem, but because the problem will continue to exist, solutions might change and this creates a robust market opportunity for the company to develop further. However the solution will never make sense if the caliber of the founders is not there, hence the ratio.”
Outlining the reality of starting a business, the panellists reminded the audience that success is a journey and not an end point. During the question and answer section, there was a question on the level of commitment needed in a startup. The panellists discussed the amount of sacrifice required, ranging from the hours spent awake to social relationships taking a backseat. They also emphasised the importance of knowing how to take a step back before the work becomes too mundane and unenjoyable. The panel ended with an advice for the audience to continuously connect with the self while thriving towards personal success.
Edited by Joanne Ng
She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).
Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).
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