In this article
  • We spoke to four CEOs on a decision they made that almost destroyed their business and how they recovered from it.
  • The CEOs also shared the important lessons they learned from their painful experiences.

Being a CEO is tough.

You have to constantly be on your toes with the latest trends, ensure your company is always performing at its best, and keep your customers pleased with your service. All this while managing your own lifestyle.

Despite their best efforts, these executives are human, so mistakes do happen. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs have little room to allow for mistakes as even the slightest error in judgement could lead to the worst outcome for their businesses.

We talked to the CEOs regarding their biggest screw ups that jeopardised their livelihoods and how they built them back up.

1) Raymond Devadass, CEO of Daythree

Raymond of Daythree noticed how other similar businesses have already moved further into the digital age and how it was significantly changing the way their businesses operated.

His mistake was not being aggressive in embracing this change, despite recognising the importance of these disruptive technologies.

“Early adopters, which quickly built up the requisite talent bases and experience, were already shifting gears to begin exploring disruptive opportunities. As a result we lost significant business opportunities,” shared Raymond.

Missing the boat, it took a long while for him to recover from that indecision. He knew his company needed a “digital reinvention” internally, starting from building and growing the business around the customer’s needs.

It took them almost 18 months for them to be ready to conduct small-scale experiments, learning how to embrace new ways of doing work.

“We underwent a significant transformation journey, which included digitally reinventing ourselves. The eventual success of our long and hard journey was evident when we were acknowledged by CIO Advisor Magazine in October 2017 as one of the Top 10 APAC Robotic Process Automation Companies of 2017,” added Raymond.

2) Natalie Sit, CEO of Acestar

When Acestar was founded back in 2008, times were tough.

They were a new entity without a track record, so most businesses refused to put their trust in Acestar to manage their IT service. With a team of only three, Natalie said they worked hard without strategy or direction.

“Even as the CEO and founder, I had to multitask to save cost. I handled everything from sales to delivery and accounts. It eventually took a toll on the business and myself as I couldn’t cope with the stress physically and mentally.”

“It was an uphill struggle that caused me to fall into depression that resulted to two major surgeries and few months of medical leave. During this period, all my three staff resigned on the same day,” shared Natalie.

Thanks to the support of her business and life partner, Natalie was able to overcome these obstacles six months later by creating in-demand products in the industry. But five years into the business, it started to stagnate and she realised Acestar needed a breakthrough.

“At this point, I felt that I lacked knowledge and needed self-empowerment. So I invested in an intensive business course in London. I then digitalised my business sales activity using a sales management system that I developed myself, enabling me to develop a better work culture besides creating more value,” said Natalie.

Now Acestar rakes in RM25 million in revenue as a leading IT supplies and services provider in Malaysia with a team of 15.

Her earlier lack of judgement in hiring employees taught her that running a business is not only about sales, it is also about the leadership skills and quality to guide the team using the best strategies onto the right direction.

3) Johary Mustapha, CEO of Forest Interactive

The first five years of any business is usually the toughest for most entrepreneurs. When Forest Interactive started out, “startup” was still an unknown term and funding opportunities were scarce.

So when Johary received a big opportunity to grow his company, he seized it.

“We had many opportunities to participate and deploy projects, and particularly for one of them, the commitment was huge but we decided to participate anyway. The first few months was pure excitement but then everything started going downhill. We lowered our standards in the quality of talents we recruited and suddenly there was an influx of people with the wrong attitude and culture within the company, just so that we could reduce cost and increase profitability,” shared Johary.

To get themselves back up from this blunder, the small team had to grow rapidly within a short time just to accommodate for this single project alone. But the costly decision of wrong hires led to wrong project decisions and this cost him on his company’s growth and culture.

“Just as fast as we were hiring in five months, it took us the same amount of time to later cancel the project and lay off 45 persons immediately. We were so vulnerable as the decision not only cost us huge losses, but also drained us mentally and emotionally. Eventually, it took a full year for us to fully realign our priorities and what to really focus on,” shared Johary.

From this, he learned that it’s not wise to simply commit to any offers. His mistake was an immature decision made based on impulse, the desire and rush to commit, without proper due diligence.

4) Yazrie Shukri, CEO of YAZ Ventures

For Yazrie, it wasn’t about making a bad business decision in particular – as his team was very clear about the benefits his company, YAZ Ventures, offered to their clients and stakeholders.

While the potential was clear, he realised the people around him somehow went off tangent in terms of the proprietary principles of doing business and the journey they needed to face.

“There were also unexpected challenges coming from all angles, which required us to be resilient, patient, agile, financially sound as well as testing our business relationship on whether it could really withstand the test of times,” said Yazrie.

He admitted to overlooking the signs and warnings around him due to his eagerness in building his business, leading him to take a 3 month break to analyse and reflect on how and when things went wrong.

“However, I have no regrets. I am now more mature and alert towards my surroundings as well as the people I’m interacting with,” added Yazrie.

His biggest lesson was learning that things should always be done professionally in business, regardless of who you deal with. Friendship is friendship but business is business.


After listening to these CEOs, I realised that the “wrong” decisions they made were very ordinary, and often repeated by others.

It illustrated that major mistakes don’t just come from outlandish, risky or bold decisions. Even the smallest slipup could cost you the success of your company, and it’s up to the strength of the CEO to be able to bring it back from the brink.

This is why programmes such as MDEC’S Global Acceleration and Innovation Network (GAIN) programme help the companies under them understand that failure is not a shameful thing. It should be celebrated as a pathway to elevate the company to greater heights There is a caveat: you must learn from the mistakes and never repeat them.

  • This is the third part of our collaboration with MDEC GAIN. Our next piece in this series will go into the hiring practices of CEOs and what traits they look for in their employees. Stay tuned!

Image Credit: Compiled from TheStar & kelabumnokorea.wordpress

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)