Sunday, December 17, 2006

Looking Back 5: Rise from the ashes (Year 2006 – The Transition Year )

A series of setbacks hit me during the start of the year. Firstly, my uncle (my mother’s elder brother) who was living with us passed away during mid January. He was quite close to me and basically treated me like a son. Weeks before his death, he had been in and out of the hospital and needed to rely on the portable oxygen concentrater. It was really painful to see him suffering and it had been a physically and emotionally stressful period to me.

At about the same time, my partner K decided to withdraw from our partnership and went back to his previous company. And he wanted to take back his initial capital plus some more amount for the work he had done. So eventually, I paid him an amount out of my own pocket for his withdrawal, despite the fact that the business was not doing well and our company account was already depleted.

So the partnership became a sole-proprietorship at early February. I looked at the loads of problems stacked in front of me:

  • Company bank account was depleted to only S$500++.
  • The lack of sales for the past few months.
  • In addition to product R&D, I will have to take care of admin, sales and marketing stuffs in future, which I had no prior experience on.
  • Problems from existing customers: Complaining and demanding for new features but unwilling to pay for it; Bad debts from some clients.
  • No income for the past 11 months. Personal bank account was decreasing drastically.

I had no confident to carry on. I wasn't prepared to run a company on my own. Quite a number of my friends advised me to terminate the business and find a new job. But I was very reluctant to just end it this way, as I had put in so much effort in the business. Most importantly, I still believed in my passion and dreams.

So I tried to write out a business plan, and along with my product, I approached some of my friends and ex-colleagues for investment. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I finally convinced 2 of my friends to invest in my company as sleeping partners. Though the total amount gathered wasn’t a lot, it was enough to sustain my company’s operation for quite a while. I terminated the original sole-proprietor business and incorporated a new pte ltd company with my new shareholders, with myself as the sole director.

To prevent my personal account from further depletion, I decided to draw a monthly allowance to partially cover my own expenses. I learnt to take over the admin stuffs and tried to service my existing customers’ demands by enhancing my product’s features.

Then during mid March, I was informed by the building management of my office that they will not renew the lease of all the offices in the building. I needed to move out of my office by end of May. Since my company was an OMO (One-Man-Operation), I felt that there was actually no need to find a new office. What initially seemed to be a bad news (losing my office) may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Without an office, I would be able to cut down quite a bit of my monthly operational cost. The compensation I received more than covered for the cost of registering a virtual office, reprinting of letterheads and engaging transportation for moving my office furnitures (to my friend’s house).

But the sales remained poor and there was a period of time when I begin to question my decision to carry on the business. I started to think whether I should get a full-time job and do my business part-time, or simply terminate it. Gradually, I started to lose confidence and hide myself in my bedroom like an ostrich. I would just switch my handphone to silent mode, refusing to take any phone calls or emails. I was feeling extremely tired….physically, mentally, emotionally. There’s a voice inside me screaming, “I need a rest, I need a rest, I need a rest….”

Then came July, I finally felt that I needed to brace up. I began to read up on marketing stuffs and decided to re-position my product. I carried on enhancing my product according to the new positioning, and created a few different editions out of it. I reviewed the original price list and made some modifications. I thought of more effective ways to do sales presentations. As a result, I had more enquiries and managed to close some sales. I started to regain some confidence and believed that I can do sales and marketing, better than K previously did.

As the end of the year was approaching, my company had managed to accumulate some profit and this somehow had given me the confidence to carry on. Looking back, I had learnt to overcome my fears and adapt myself to changes. And most importantly, I had learnt to enjoy the path I had chosen.

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