Yes, I acknowledge that I have made my mark in the design trade on 3 counts.
Firstly, attaining certain measures of financial success through my unique design consulting business model. Secondly, having personally groomed more than 30 staff to become owners of their own agencies who went on to become my direct competitors. Thirdly, able to successfully transformed my career from a swimming coach, designer, designpreneur and now an educator.
I have often been asked to share my secrets on how did I do it? And despite the odds that were stacked against me, how I was able to overcome these challenges and at time, rise up from the ashes and turn the tide over.
Let me be candid and share with you some tips on success.
Environment Was a Plus Factor
I must admit it was the environment then that shaped me to be what I am today. I was born poor and started working since age 7 during every year end school holidays. Poor may be a relative term to many. To cite a reference, I don't own a bed till I was in secondary three or age 14.Academically, I fared poorly too. In school, I was in the last class of my entire cohort and in the third position from the back. I was always regarded as useless and an outcast.
Morale of my story
I dislike the idea of being poor for the rest of my life. I was relentlessly searching for a breakthrough till I chanced upon this blue book called ‘7 Laws of Success.’ It taught me that no one owes me a living and God only helps those who help themselves. It also gives me clear direction and taught me valuable lessons on how to become successful.Outside school, I am very sure of my own likes and dislikes. I take it upon myself to make things happen. I was a scout patrol leader with eight scouts under my charge. I was adventurous and an extrovert.With little financial means from the family, I think out of the box to find ways and means to find money to participate in outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain climbing and camping including a hitch-hiking trip from Singapore to Malacca with only S$1.
Morale of the story
As an individual with strong personality, I have to be resourceful to solution finding. In one of the scout camping trip, I was the patrol leader and we have no money to buy utensils. So we used bamboo to create bowls, cooking pot, ladle, spoon, table and chairs. If I need a new pair of shoes or slipper, I will go around the neighbouring housing flats looking for shoes or slippers that were left unattended. I love sports, especially swimming. I am an accomplished swimmer, certified lifeguard, licensed open water diver and a Class One swimming coach. As a coach, I practised what I preached. I was a demanding, nasty and well liked swimming coach all at once. I trained alongside with my charges, approximately 50 to 70 of them. My regular warm-up routine was 30 laps of the butterfly stroke. Few people could match my toughness.
Morale of the story – Failure is good. It hones one’s diligence, patience and perseverance.
I started a design agency with $2,000. Working from home, I made countless calls to introduce my services. The design trade, at that point, was saturated with many established players. I was a nobody. I have no network, no relevant work experience and staff. I struggled but I stayed very motivated. I knew my end game – I wanted to build Lancer Design into a first class agency. I recognised management skill will be crucial when the business grows. So I went back to school again – evening classes.
Morale of the story – Start with the end in mind. It narrows your focus and increases your concentration.
I enjoy design and I like people. I have a natural instinct to connect with all levels of people. Though I am a demanding leader, I am reasonable. I pay my staff fairly but treated them superbly. I treated everyone well and was respected by many. Rolex watches, winter holidays, bonuses and incentives were a rarity but the staff enjoyed all of these. My design business, with the support of a strong cohesive team, flourished. My business managed to outlast that of many of my strong competitors.