Spirit of Enterprise Award 2008 Interview – Part 3

by Andrew Chow | July 5, 2019
The tale of 2 Andrew Chows

http://www.soe.org.sg/files/interview2008.php?i=256&a=&c=&year=200811. You mentioned that you faced considerable challenges during the Asian Financial Crisis. What about the 911 incident in 2001 and the SARS period in 2003? What are the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Asian Financial crisis was my first big hit. My partner and I just had to scale down our operations. Fortunately, we did not do export business so the crisis was still manageable for us although we did had some losses. In 2000, I concentrated instead in importing premium supplies for customers who want quality. That strategy works well for me to handle 911. A lot of business then suffered in their business volume and turnover. Fortunately for me, i was still managing about the same as i chose to go for small turnover with higher margin In 2003, my MICE business is again affected and I made considerable financial losses. However, after I rode through SARS, I realized diversification of business is very important. Therefore in 2005, I chose to spin off a project by the government into the dating business.
12. Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like giving up? What happened that made you feel that way and how did you triumph over it?
There are always down periods which any entrepreneur will feel discouraged. I learn to move away from the problem and stop engaging it continuously in order to gain a fresh perspective on the solution. Sometimes doing something totally different when you have a crisis can give you a 2nd wind.
13. Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
Always know your core competencies and your strength, assess the market environment especially the competitors and the changing demand of the customers. Then decide on the more appropriate to differentiate yourself The process of doing business is always full of ups and downs. A good Entrepreneur is one who can adjust appropriately to fit to the current market situation and condition.
14. What do you think about the education of Entrepreneurs? Can Entrepreneurship be taught?
I think the whole education of Entrepreneurship consist of the element of coaching and learning. You must know things in theory. This is where formal education and schools come in. You learn in business schools the fundamentals of business. Of course, there are people who argue Entrepreneurship cannot be taught and “You either have it or you don’t”. To me, I feel Entrepreneurship can be taught, provided you have a good mentor. However, even with books and good mentors, they can only teach you 20%. The rest of the 80% you have to learn through yourself and that is through managing a real business.
15. How important does the role of Mentors play in a successful Entrepreneur?
A mentor is someone who has probably went through the path that you are currently in now, and have great knowledge and experience in what you are facing now. Therefore, he can give you great advice, which is very important for young starters. He can also impart the basics of doing business, and also share his mistakes he made then to the young starters. More importantly, over the course of time, the mentor is able to tell you how well you are progressing, and objectively tell you the mistakes you are making, and advise accordingly. This is very important, as if you make a mistake, and do not correct it, over time it could be ingrained and etched in you and it would be very hard to change. Many aspiring Entrepreneurs or even amateur business people, who although have the financial resources and networks, could not succeed because they lack a very important ingredient. They are short of a mentor, a coach to coach them to help them whip up the successful dish. As you move on to different phases, you probably need different mentors, as not all mentors had walked totally the same path as you as you grow your business. In fact, I would like to bring in this concept of mentorship, and would want to build a community, sustainable self-help groups However, there will not be “forever coach”. In my case, my mentor was with me for the first 5 years, and after that, I went on my own. Indeed, although I have other mentors, however, there are many I could not publicly acknowledge. Why would anyone mentor you if he does not know you well? Therefore, I actually secretly acknowledge these mentors secretly, and tried to absorb as much as possible from them. This is a 2 way thing. You want to learn, you also have to give. Therefore, this is where networking and partnership comes. Entrepreneurs can ride through business networks to give and learn from each other successes and failures.

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