Modern-Day Entrepreneurs

Modern day Entrepreneurs VS ‘TOWKAYS’

Much has been said about the modern-day entrepreneur and how he is cut from different cloth compared to business leaders of yore.

Even the term “entrepreneur” became fashionable only recently. “Back in the day, they were called ‘businessmen’.

5 years ago, a young man came to see Mr Thomas Fernandez, founding chairman of PestBusters and asked him to be his mentor. The 21-year-old had an idea for a gaming app and told Mr Fernandez that he wanted to earn his first million dollars before he turned 23.

He was so adamant about it, and then he became so arrogant. He went (into the business) with money on his mind, and it was his ego that killed him. Mr Fernandez, turned him down.

Entrepreneurs and businessmen these days are “a bit overambitious”.

During yesteryears, they were more realistic and pragmatic. They even won’t say they want to build a million-dollar company straightaway.

Mr Fernandez also felt that some are simply jumping on the bandwagon. They tend to see what the hot thing is now… and they think that this particular industry is booming and they jump in, but they don’t even know the difficulties that the big boys are going through. It is this lack of knowledge and a deeper understanding of the business environment that lets them down someday.

There also seems to be a prevalent “build-and-sell” mentality, particularly in the technology industry, with start-ups hoping to be bought over by the big players, instead of thinking about long-term growth.

He attributed this to the slew of stories in the media on tech start-ups, for example, being acquired for huge sums.

“But how often do we highlight failures?

There aren’t enough of such stories of failures reported, giving (younger entrepreneurs) an unhealthy impression.

Mr Oswald Yeo, 24, co-founder of Glints, an online talent recruitment and career discovery platform, disagreed with the generalisation of young entrepreneurs as being overly ambitious.

He said: “It is simply because there is technology now to scale up the impact of a business… In the past, to impact 1 million people in a year was not possible.”

He noted that older brick-and-mortar companies had to build their business brick by brick, but circumstances are different now.

And while the dreams of his generation of entrepreneurs may seem lofty, Mr Yeo felt that the older businessmen would have been seen by their elders as having “big dreams” too.

Nevertheless, after the dream, we need to plan how to get there – can’t just lie there and dream. Need to take action, step by step.

Mr Yeo believes that the Government has an “important role to play in enabling the entrepreneur ecosystem”, and it has been “doing a good job”. “But the best entrepreneurs are (those who seek out opportunities) independently and are resourceful enough with (what they have).

The grants and support are an option, a nice-to-have.

The business veterans stress the need for stamina and patience in building up a business empire. While derring-do is often held up as a key trait of today’s enterpreneurs, they too stress the importance of being pragmatic and prudent as well.

Yeo’s brand was built over the decades on the back of its stringent quality checks on its food products. There is no cutting of corners.

One of Singapore’s oldest, founded in 1938 – is “very conservatively managed and almost debt adverse”. Unlike some companies which seek support from external capital providers for business growth, Yeo’s funds most of its expansion through internally generated cash.

Mr Teo said: “All this is important because when an economic crisis strikes, you could be able to survive the crisis better by ensuring that you are not having all these pressures – whether from banks, financial houses, or suppliers – which can, one way or the other, push you into making management decisions that are not sound.”

Suresh Shah, Pathfinders Enterprise

Inspired from an article from Today, a daily published  in Singapore

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