Article 6 – Setting a ‘realistic’ target for success

by Tan Thiam Hock

How do you describe a successful entrepreneur? Someone who has made it, right? Someone who has increased his net worth compared with before he became an entrepreneur. Good for him.

And how do you measure success? Flamboyant lifestyle, flashy cars, big houses, multiple businesses, multiple mistresses or multiple wives? To the female entrepreneurs, I would add “head to toe” bling, multiple handbags and multiple toy boys. No gender discrimination from me for sure. Not with the continuous rise of the fairer sex in education and in business.

The “success” scenario depicted is cliche but there is an element of truth to it, especially with the younger generation of successful entrepreneurs. If you have it, flaunt it. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Live your dreams. Today.

For the older generation entrepreneurs like myself, finally at the tail end of my entrepreneurial pursuit, I feel I deserve to flaunt my limited hard earned wealth minus the flamboyant lifestyle and the multiples businesses, mistresses and wives. Good for me. Marriage and family life is still intact.

Different entrepreneurs measure success differently. How do you measure yours?

To a hawker who has toiled for over 40 years, he would have sent his four filial kids to local universities, bought three terrace houses, two cars and travelled to one overseas trip a year.

Knowing his limited capabilities, he worked hard, saved diligently and invested wisely for his children and his retirement. Is he a successful entrepreneur?

You also have the mid-sized entrepreneur with a reasonably successful SME enterprise built over 20 years of wheeling and dealing. Having already a net worth of RM10mil or so, he still has to work hard trying to survive in a competitive industry.

But he is quite contented with his success, knowing that out of the 400,000 SMEs, he is among the top 5% who has made a breakthrough. Would you consider him successful?

At the other end, the already highly successful entrepreneur continues to invest and grow. His juggernaut enterprise has no brakes. It is a runaway train on unlimited tracks.

Nobody can understand what motivates the Kuoks and the Queks as they continue their quest into their twilight years. Before you dream of emulating them, just remember only a few hundred of them exist in the world. You will definitely feel that you have under-achieved if you still want to compare with them.

To the entrepreneur wannabes, it is ok to identify idols to emulate. It is also good to dream if it motivates you. But set yourself a realistic target of what you deemed as “success”. Once you have achieved the first “success” target, move the goal post and set the next achievable level based on your capabilities. How far you go will depend on your own ability and luck.

To the struggling entrepreneurs, let me comfort you by telling you that you are in good company. You are a member of the exclusive club which comprises 95% of the 400,000 SMEs. If you are not happy with your achievements, I recommend that you set yourself a lower achievable success target.

Over the 26 years of my business life, I have moved my “success” goal post numerous times. Up and down and round and round, the emotional ride has been nerve wrecking and very humbling to say the least. I started to doubt my own ability and questioned my decisions. Luckily, I managed to achieve my “success” level and now I am emotionally stable again.

In fact, I have just moved my goal post again and this time I am going for the mother of all dreams. Buy Arsenal Football Club. I know it makes no financial sense and I definitely cannot afford it. But if there are any private equity funds out there who believe in my abilities, I promise you that I will buy Lionel Messi and the whole Barcelona midfield (minus Fabregas) and beat the crap out of the two Manchesters.

Now if you think my dream sounds ridiculous, how’s yours? Is it as bizarre as mine? Or have you dreamt a realistic success level that even your wife will believe in you ? My wife will probably have a good laugh at my absurd idea but stay nervous at the thought of going back to being broke if I suddenly decide to throw everything into realising this dream.

So before you decide to go on your own, listen to your head, not your heart.

Achieving small successes at the early stage of an entrepreneurial journey is important as it gives you confidence and the courage to move forward to the next level. “Success” should not only be monetary targets but realised operational milestones will help to lift the team spirit and reaffirm that you are on the right track. Just be happy that you are getting richer by the day and make sure you are contented with what you have.

My late partner left me with a gem of a quote.

“You are considered rich when you have no idea how much you are worth.”

Since I can count every penny that I have, I am not rich. Buying Arsenal will remain a dream. But I will not move my goal post this time and settle for any second rate BPL team. It’s Arsenal or nothing.

Advertisements