CEO Series

5 S'pore Entrepreneurs Share Business Mistakes Made In 2018 And What The New Year Means For Them

  • We asked 5 Singapore entrepreneurs, from travel to e-commerce to sports media, to share their 2018 business mistakes and lessons learnt.

Happy New Year, everyone! We hope all of you had a good start so far.

While we shouldn’t dwell on the past for too long, we should take some time to relish the good times we’ve had and reflect on the mistakes we made.

We asked these five entrepreneurs about their business blunders and what they learned from it that can make 2019 better for their businesses.

Karyn Lim, Co-founder of Chirpey

entrepreneurs singapore
Co-founder of Chirpey, Karyn Lim / Image Credit: Karyn Lim

1. Were there any memorable business mistakes that you made this year, and how did you work on resolving the problem?

A business mistake would be our initial perception on what our users would want versus what they would actually need.

We had initially wanted to do a launch with only our “flocks” feature (creating meetups), but after doing further validation, we realised that this wouldn’t be sufficient.

In less than a month when our app was supposed to launch, we had to take a step back to reevaluate our direction and that’s where we made the decision to delay our launch to include the “chatters” feature.

This wouldn’t have been possible if not for my team and their capabilities as well.

2. Moving forward, what are some key lessons that you’ve learnt in 2018 that will aid you in your future business plans?

A key lesson that I’ve learnt in 2018 would revolve around making strategic decisions.

As a first-time founder, there are many instances where I wasn’t sure if the decisions that I’m making are the right ones.

While running our startup, it came to my realisation that it is important that I do not get too overly obsessed with making sure that each and every decision would reap the best results possible, but rather, they should be the most appropriate and reasonable decisions possible at that point of time.

This would certainly help in future business plans because there are so many uncertainties in store for us and we should always be reactive to changes that would take place.

The entire startup journey is still a long one, and I’m still learning along the way.

Melvin Ang, Co-founder of Kanshoku Ramen

entrepreneurs singapore
Co-founder of Kanshoku Ramen, Melvin Ang / Image Credit: Melvin Ang

1. Were there any memorable business mistakes that you made this year, and how did you work on resolving the problem?

One of the key issues we had this year was to maintain consistency throughout all our outlets.

We struggled for a while before sending our key members for training. Training our key members helped in maintaining business and operational knowledge within the outlets.

2. Moving forward, what are some key lessons that you’ve learnt in 2018 that will aid you in your future business plans?

2018 was a slow year of growth for us.

While our numbers grew, our outlets remain stagnant. We told ourselves to be patient and wait for suitable properties to come along before signing on the dotted line.

While we want to continue pushing for growth in 2019, we need to consistently remind ourselves to make careful and informed decisions before opening new outlets. Patience is the key.

Randy Chai, Co-founder of nomnomby

entrepreneurs singapore
Co-founder of nomnomby, Randy Chai / Image Credit: Randy Chai

1. Were there any memorable business mistakes that you made this year, and how did you work on resolving the problem?

At the top of my mind, I can’t recall/think of any significant business mistakes, nor if there were any memorable ones.

2. Moving forward, what are some key lessons that you’ve learnt in 2018 that will aid you in your future business plans?

The importance of:

  • Paying attention to detail with regards to our communication strategies.
  • Expediting our hiring processes. Especially for the replacement of our amazing interns, batches by batches.
  • Having a clear overall goal for the year (North Star), break them down into quarterly benchmarks where management-level employees have to be held accountable for.

Wendy Liu, CEO of ezbuy in Singapore

entrepreneurs singapore
Wendy Liu, CEO of ezbuy in Singapore / Image Credit: ezbuy

1. Were there any memorable business mistakes that you made this year, and how did you work on resolving the problem?

We are glad that the year 2018 was smooth-sailing for ezbuy. All things turned out well.

One thing to improve would be our talent management. We are looking at expanding and strengthening our team to improve business efficiency.

2. Moving forward, what are some key lessons that you’ve learnt in 2018 that will aid you in your future business plans?

In this season of a declining economy, we learnt that cash flow is the key and cash is one of the most powerful tools for business survival. In short, cash is king!

On top of that, profitability would also determine the business survival ability in the long run. We believe the business model with real demands would be more sustainable even with the turbulence during an economic decline.

We observed several new “cash-burning” businesses that grew rapidly but dropped out just as fast, like bike-sharing startups.

It was a good reminder for us to plan out our business strategy in a sustainable approach.

These are some of the crucial lessons we learnt in 2018 and will carry forward in 2019.

Chatri Sityodtong, CEO of ONE Championship

entrepreneurs singapore
CEO of ONE Championship, Chatri Sityodtong / Image Credit: ONE Championship

1. Were there any memorable business mistakes that you made this year, and how did you work on resolving the problem?

I make mistakes every week.

In fact, I make the most number of mistakes at ONE Championship — from product to marketing to sales to operations, I made tons of mistakes this year.

I always tell my team that it is ok to make mistakes as long as we learn from them.

If we are repeating the same mistakes over and over, then I consider it a real problem. It means we are not learning from our mistakes and we are not evolving into better versions of ourselves.

2. Moving forward, what are some key lessons that you’ve learnt in 2018 that will aid you in your future business plans?

Bar none, the most important job for any entrepreneur is hiring. I re-learn this precious lesson every year.

My biggest worry for ONE Championship is scaling our company to the next level with the best and the brightest talent in the world.

I don’t mean the “best and brightest” by traditional standards like a resume or CV. I don’t care a lot about paper qualifications.

As a CEO, I hire only PhDs. My definition of a PhD is a superstar who is poor, hungry, and determined in attitude and spirit.

I don’t care about paper qualifications, age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, or any other typical societal bullshit. I embrace diversity, and I celebrate differences.

For me, we are ONE. We all laugh, cry, dream, and love.

The most important things in life — your character, your values, your resilience, your work ethic, and your hunger — are never found on a CV. Our greatness does not live on a piece of paper.

I believe in the power of meritocracy. I believe in the power of dreams. I believe in the power of the human spirit.

I want to hear about the time you got bullied. I want to hear about the time you cried because you fought for a dream or a belief. I want to hear about the time you failed and what you learned. I want to hear about how far you travelled in life on nothing, but integrity, grit, courage, and hard work.

For me, a rockstar is someone who wants to achieve the extraordinary in life, someone who is ready to climb the biggest mountains to unleash his/her potential, someone who lives to defy odds, someone who is willing to make the toughest sacrifices for a dream, someone who dares to be an original.

Above all though, I want to work with someone who yearns to change the world and longs to make a positive impact on billions of lives together.

Our greatness lives in our choices — every day.

To A Prosperous 2019

While each company operates differently and works in different industries, they share a common problem: managing human resources.

They also realised the importance of planning before making their next big move.

As they say, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

You don’t have to be a CEO or a founder of a startup to learn from them as these lessons are applicable in different, everyday situations.

Here’s to an even better and successful 2019 for everyone!

Featured Image Credit: Karyn Lim, Melvin Ang, Randy Chai, ezbuy, ONE Championship

 

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