Had a wonderful time sharing with young undergraduates on what entrepreneurship is really all about. Our future truly depends on more of our young in Singapore creating new value and new globally competitive home-brew companies. The Internet is a key to the global market and my hope is to see Singapore leverage it more than any other nation.
Here are some reflections by the participants...
To me the best and most inspiring speaker would definitely have to be Mr Wong Toon King, also known as T.K Wong. He has a wonderful ability of engaging his audience and captured my attention from the start all the way to the end, so much so that I wished he had continued on even more because I truly enjoyed his talk.
We could relate very well to him because he talked about things that resonates close to our hearts and addresses almost all of my concerns in taking that leap to be an entrepreneur. Here are some of the take away learning points that have truly inspired me and changed the way I think about entrepreneurship.
Firstly, he mentioned that any Tom, Dick and Harry can be successful entrepreneurs. It does not matter if you have a PhD or if you are a school dropout, or if you come from a rich or poor family background, the most important thing about being a successful entrepreneur is to have the ability and integrity to see your ideas through. He constantly mentions that business ideas are cheap, and that there is no point just being a visionary and not executing the business idea or plan. He calls this group of people ?dreamers?. Only if you are visionary and can execute the business plan are you then called an entrepreneur.
The next thing he talked about that really struck a chord among all of us is the willingness to give up the good and stable jobs upon graduation. He mentioned that his friends were earning three to four thousand a month on their first jobs but he was getting only five hundred a month doing his own business initially. He stuck to it as he believed in what he was doing. This leads to rule number one: You must have the integrity to see your business through. He mentioned that this applies to everyone in being successful in whatever you do. When the going gets tough, you do not quit, you persevere and you make sure you see it through. Only with this kind of attitude will you be successful.
Rule number two: be willing to sacrifice for what you believe in even if it is a harder route and there is already an easier route laid out for you. I believe that most students are victims of rule number two, including myself. TK Wong mentioned that education is a liability and that the more one studies, the bigger the liability and the less risk one is willing to take to become an entrepreneur. It will be even harder to start once we have started our own careers. The best time to start would be when we are students. It is very important to at least give it a shot and it is perfectly fine if you try but the business initially fails. As TK mentions, ?better to have a few cuts rather than living your whole life in regret and saying you wished?.? At least if you have tried a few times and you have failed greatly you would at least know that maybe this is really not cut out for you, then you would not regret not embarking on the brilliant business ideas that you had.
Rule number 3: Work hard when it matters, work smart. This is my favourite take away lesson from TK! He is truly a smart man. Even as a scholar, he said the best application of effort is to get a B and that you would need to study SO MUCH MORE to get an ?A?, which is not even guaranteed as you would need to compete with the geniuses. He feels that it is really not worth the effort, as there is so much more to life than studying all the time. He gathered a lot more valuable information by being involved in other co-curricular activities and meeting and interacting with people. This leads to another quote of his, which is ?Do not let school get in the way of your real education.? However he did win a reputable competition in his last year to justify his scholarship, and got away with not getting excellent results throughout his college years but gaining valuable life lessons. The most important aspect here is time, knowing when it is crucial for you to work hard and to seize the opportunity when it comes.
Rule number four: Love what you do and contribute back to society. TK does not come across as a man who is very money-driven. He is passionate about what he does and supports companies who contribute to society. One example is that he has chosen to set up Ben and Jerrys here in Singapore as the company buys milk from a group of collective individual dairy farmers instead of obtaining it more cheaply from factories so that these farmers would be able to sustain a living. TK mentions, ?the pursuit of happiness is attained when what you say, think and do are in perfect harmony?.
Looking forward, I have been truly inspired by TK and hope to embark on one of my business ideas soon. This goes to show how much of an impact he has made on me. I feel that it is now the perfect time for me to do so as I am still currently looking for a job and have no commitments. Business ideas are cheap and I am ready to take on the challenge of executing them as I am tired of always saying to my friends, ?I have a brilliant business idea!? But at the end of the day, it's all talk and no action. I am prepared now to take that leap of faith to become an entrepreneur.
For more reflections by the students, read here.