Two years ago, I was like everyone else. Graduated from university, got a job at a decent multinational company and worked long hours towards a promising career in public relations. At 26 years old, I never thought I would start my own company. Due to unforeseen circumstances, being overworked and underappreciated in a competitive agency environment made me think twice about being employed. The best way out was to make the big switch and become an entrepreneur.
Thanks to a financial loan from my supportive parents, I started Q Communications in May 2014. As a Gen-Y, female Asian entrepreneur operating in a predominantly male client sector, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into successfully gaining traction in the financial services industry. Despite all the hard work, my biggest reward was simply learning how to manage my cash flow and better plan for the future.
1. The beauty of compounding
It's challenging starting a business, but the beauty of compounding makes it possible when one decides to do it at a young age.
Born into a humble, middle-class family, I had a roof over my head and didn't have to worry about making ends meet. This meant that I could still comfortably live on a shoestring budget while dedicating all the time and energy to making the company succeed in my mid-twenties.
If all else failed, I could always go back to being employed at 30. But the dreadful thought of working out of another office cubicle strengthened my resolve to be a successful entrepreneur. Within a few months, I signed on ad-hoc communications projects which then turned into client retainers that sustained the business momentum.
2. Making lifestyle changes is easy
Contrary to popular belief, employment is necessary because we all need a steady monthly paycheck to pay the bills. In reality, it is not the salary but the lifestyle that matters.
Drinking alcohol, having a gym membership, going on travel holidays and spa treatments add up to a lot of dollars. At the end of the day, these consumerist attitudes not only chain us to our work desks, they also chock up credit card bills and unnecessary stress in our daily lives.
Living a simple life in Singapore is easy. Cooking meals at home, drawing up a spending budget to fulfil daily needs rather than aspirational wants can stretch dollars over longer periods of time.
Running my own company meant that I had to constantly monitor cash reserves, adapting to the ebb and flow of business revenue. Over time, I found that my spending habits naturally changed to suit my new lifestyle.
By staying focused on the business, I could hardly find the excuse to splurge on food and fashion. This took away my attention from dining out, socializing, shopping and travelling. Soon after, I saw my cash reserves increasing as spending reduced! Sadly, this never happened when I was still employed.
3. Always return financial loans
It would be awful for an entrepreneur to take their loved ones for granted. As soon as profits streamed in, I made sure all the capital was safely returned to my parents. It was the best way to thank them for foolishly extending a financial loan to start the business. It was also the least I could do to show that I am a responsible business owner.
For those who need a financial head start in business, turning to family and friends is always a good first option. Their support and low-risk factor could become a major driving force in making your business succeed in the long run.
4. Reinvest in the business
Mastery takes time, that's why we should plan for the future and never rest on our laurels when the company makes money.
As public relations is a people business, I made it a great priority to reinvest profits into networking events, training workshops and hiring creative talents. These strategies will breathe new ideas and perspectives into the company, sharpen the business' thinking and stay relevant in a competitive marketplace.
5. You only live once
Time is money, and the YOLO lingo beautifully captures the essence of living in the present.
Before starting my own business, I never believed in saving money. Instead, I succumbed to the whims and fancies of instant gratification which led to collecting a wardrobe full of new outfits and an extra waistline from constant eating out.
Thankfully, running a company changed my perspective. For women who are contemplating either staying employed or becoming an entrepreneur, get ready to experience a rollercoaster ride as starting a business is never a linear process.
If you are up for an adventure of a lifetime, go at it courageously. Now that I have created a work environment to call my own, I smile brighter and delight in spending time growing the business with a sparkly vibe and keen enthusiasm.
Most importantly, it has given me a better appreciation of spending time and money. As the saying goes, "youth is wasted on the young". Instead of looking back at the past and worrying about the future, start living in the present moment and you will see that every possible opportunity is there for us to embrace.
Good luck to all the women who are finding their own beauty in compounding!
ShuQi Liu helms Q Communications, an independent branding and communications outfit committed to helping newly formed companies achieve open communications with various stakeholder groups. A Gen-Y entrepreneur, she started her own public relations company in May 2014.