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The Ultimate Guide to the Startup Community in Singapore

October 17, 2016

The startup landscape is a closely-knitted community of dreamers, hustlers and shakers, all looking to help one another out. This is especially true in Singapore – a small town where you’d very likely run into a friend or two at the corner of every street! So if you are a founder (or a founder-to-be), read on because we’ve compiled below some must-join and must-know communities and programmes to keep you busy:

Communities

The Tech in Asia Community
The Tech in Asia Community tops the list because it is our everyday go-to for the latest news, events, and discussions. If you are looking for talent, you can even advertise your roles in their job portal! The friendly Tech in Asia community team also runs an interactive Facebook Group to help you keep up to date with the latest updates.

Discuss: Should startups hire a PR agency or D.I.Y.?

Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF)
Beyond local startups, the SiTF advocates for the ICM (Information, Communications and Media) industry and in its membership directory reaches widely to SMEs and MNCs alike. Their 123jumpstart initiative offers free membership for qualifying startups, which will help them gain access to mentors, investors, workshops, co-working facilities and networking and collaboration opportunities in general.

Mobile apps

B.E.A.M
Available in iOS and Android, the B.E.A.M app aims to be the single app that lists every player in the tech ecosystem: Including founders, investors, developers, journalists, legal advisors, and executives. Launched in June this year, the app remains as an invitation-only platform – to receive an invite, submit your email on the B.E.A.M homepage.

Photo credit: Vulcan Post

It was announced in a press release earlier this year that B.E.A.M had already on-boarded 500 users, with 100 more on the waiting list.

DBS BusinessClass
The DBS BusinessClass app is specially designed for SMEs to connect directly with a network of industry experts, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and DBS SME Specialists. The app boasts a membership directory of over 15,000 professionals across the region.

Facebook groups

Singapore Startups
Get advice on company set-up and structures, obtaining visas, business strategy, marketing plan, finances, investments, auditing, and networking in general.

Singapore Startup Club
For APAC technology startups only, currently a community of 19,574 members (at time of writing).

Events

The List
The List sends you a weekly email of the most interesting startup, entrepreneur, beer/boozy, bookish, networking, designery, artsy, and techy events. No more, no less.

Tech in Asia events calendar
Similar to The List, Tech in Asia diligently curates upcoming tech and startup events around Asia in this public Google Calendar. You can add the events into your own Google Calendar which makes it super easy to follow and stay updated!

Meetup.com
Meetup makes it easy for anyone in a local community to get together. The platform, at this time of writing, boasts:

Source: Meetup.com

The most active Meetup groups to join are:

Also stay on top of major conferences like Tech in Asia, Echelon, and RISE which are great for startups to either attend or exhibit.

Aside from the major tech conferences, look out for the day-to-day events in co-working spaces like The Working Capitol whose spacious event space, known as The Commons, houses more than 100 attendees each time and is a popular venue option for major events such as the Product Hunt, TEDx, or even health and wellness programmes like yoga and meditation. Subscribe to their event page on Facebook here.

Join our upcoming event at The Working Capitol:

 

Resources

Dragon Law
Lawyers are expensive – nuff’ said! A startup we work with was once quoted S$20,000 for set of legal documents required to raise a seed funding round. Most law firms begin to watch the clock and start billing from the initial consultation (even before they begin to do any work!).

Dragon Law shines a light through the ‘legal black box’: Times have changed. With technological advancements, legal is no longer the specialised, expensive, and untouchable service that once only lawyers could do. If you are a founder who would like more control over your own legal work (and save money, at the same time!), check out Dragon Law’s comprehensive library of (FREE!) eBook resources, blog, and sign up for a free trial to start creating your own legal documents.


Claim your free Website Privacy Policy and Confidentiality Agreement (NDA)

SME Centre (@ SICCI)
The SME Centre is one of SME Portal’s initiatives to help Singapore SME owners and aspiring entrepreneurs access information, tools, and services that can help them build sustainable and competitive businesses.

The SME Centre@SICCI (Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) was set up in 2008 in collaboration with SPRING Singapore. Qualifying SMEs may seek business advisory services (such as a consultation session on government grants and schemes) at no charge.

Accelerators and incubators

The Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI) claims to be longest-running, most successful startup business accelerator programme in South East Asia. JFDI offers intensive mentoring, introductions to early-stage investors, cash investment, technical facilities, and office accommodation in return for equity.

Update 14 Sep: JFDI, a pioneer in Singapore’s startup ecosystem, closes its bootcamp programme

Startupbootcamp is an accelerator programme on a global scale. They claim to offer startups access to an international network of the most relevant mentors, partners, investors to help them scale globally. Additionally, Startupbootcamp invests in each startup to help cover living expenses, as well as access to co-working spaces. Check out the current programmes open for applications:

Source: Startupbootcamp

In recent years, corporations and banks have also jumped on the startup bandwagon to introduce accelerator programmes of their own:

The SPH Plug & Play accelerator programme seeks media and/or technology startups looking for early-stage or seed-stage funding. Selected startups will receive S$30,000 in seed funding, plus perks and services worth up to S$200,000 in exchange for an equity stake.

Related reading: SPH Plug & Play finalist Soulscape shares their journey with Dragon Law

The DBS HotSpot Accelerator Programme on the other hand makes offers a compelling award of S$25,000 for zero equity.

Other accelerator operators for example, like Nest.vc who runs the AIA Konica-Minolta and OCBC Open Vault FinTech accelerator programmes, have their own unique styles of working with corporations and startups, and offer different terms and conditions of particpation:

Source: The Open Vault at OCBC

Related reading: Is getting on-board with an accelerator/incubator the right route for every startup?

 

Did we miss anything?

What buzzing startup and entrepreneur communities are you a part of?

Let us know in the comments below!

This article was written by Dragon Law for The Working Capitol and was first published on The Working Capitol blog and the Capitol Press, a publication of The Working Capitol.

Top 8 Pain Points Small Businesses Face, and How to Deal With Them

October 11, 2016

The impact that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have on the local economy is phenomenal. Making up 99% of all companies in Singapore, the 180,000 local SMEs contribute to almost half of the GDP and employ 70% of the workforce. Similarly, in Hong Kong, 320,000 SMEs account for over 98% of all business entities and employ close to 1.3 million people.

Most SMEs are characterised by 1) lean teams (hence, little resources) and 2) slim margins (hence, tight finances), and as a result face a host of challenges.

Today, we lay out the top 8 pain points that SMEs most commonly face, and point to some resources that may make this entrepreneurial journey easier for you:

1. Managing cash flow

With slim margins and limited resources, SME owners are always concerned with ‘balancing their balance sheet’. SMEs need to have a thorough understanding of their sales margin in order to ensure that their revenue covers not only the cost of goods but also overheads as well as the costs of financing. It is no surprise that one of the key challenges hindering efficient cash flow in SMEs is the problem of late payments by customers. This poses a headache especially for small businesses with low cash reserves.

Things are looking up. Banks in Singapore are looking to grow their SME lending – Maybank Singapore is targeting retail SMEs with revenues of up to S$20 million while DBS announced a loan structure to help SMEs cope with restructuring costs. SPRING Singapore also launched a S$2 billion SME Working Capital Loan Programme, under which SPRING Singapore will co-share 50% of loan default risks with participating financial institutions and SMEs can apply for unsecured term loans of up to S$ 300,000.

Related reading: The 6 Singapore government grants for small businesses you need to know

On a day-to-day level, SME owners can also take things into their own hands by drafting legal documents that set out favourable payment terms in order to obtain timely payment and optimise cash flow. Download our free eBook on Managing Cash Flow to learn the legal documents that you need.

2. Hiring and retaining staff

Hiring and retaining staff is an ongoing challenge for SMEs. A survey by DP Information Group revealed difficulty in hiring staff and high manpower costs as the top two business concerns in both 2014 and 2015. 

While you may not be able to offer the best remuneration packages for your employees, there are other creative (and non-monetary) means to keep your employees happy and motivated. You may also wish to consider hiring freelance consultants instead of taking on a full-time employee for fixed term projects with once-off deliverables – such as building a website or designing a brand identity for an event. In that case, make sure you know the key differences between independent contractors and employees and the relevant legal rights and obligations:

Download our FREE eBook on hiring and managing staff:
Singapore version   Hong Kong version

3. Dealing with customer complaints

Statistics from the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) in 2015 revealed the 3 industries that received the most complaints to be motorcars, electrical and electronics and the beauty industry.

It’s important to keep your customers happy. After all, they keep your business going! Inspired by Small Business BC, here are 10 tips for dealing with customer complaints to keep them on your side:

10 tips for offering good customer service

  1. Listen. Show customers that you are aware the problem and don’t be dismissive.
  2. Apologise. Rather than engaging in fault-finding, acknowledge the problem and deal with it immediately.
  3. Take them seriously. Make customers feel important and appreciated, and not laughed at or spoken down to.
  4. Stay calm. By staying calm, you’ll allow your customer to feel that you’re in control of the situation and that you can help solve their problem.
  5. Identify and anticipate needs.
  6. Suggest solutions. Have at hand a pre-determined menu of solutions that you and your employees can turn to; whether this is a refund, or vouchers that the customer can return to use in the future.
  7. Appreciate the power of “Yes”. Make doing business with you easy.
  8. Acknowledge your limits. At the same time, be upfront when you are unable to fulfill their requests and ensure that you can keep your promises to your customers.
  9. Be available. Identify key pain points and situate information on avenues for help there.  
  10. Get regular feedback. Provide avenues for your customers to offer feedback, whether as an online form or a targeted customer satisfaction survey.    Tweet this

4. Marketing your business online

Technology has presented businesses today with whole new ways to market themselves. This however poses its own challenges:

Customer expectations have changed and competition is no longer local but now global. Deciding on an effective marketing method with the most return on investment can be difficult, especially when faced with little budget and resources. While channels like social media are free to set up, it can take time to build up an online community. The same goes for blogging. Other forms of advertising, while quick to scale, can be expensive.

So which marketing channels are best for SMEs? This article lists a variety of ways you can start marketing your business online. 

Source: Slides from Doing Business Online – Legal Academy by Dragon Law

 

The key is to employ a mix of marketing tactics. Based on HubSpot’s inbound marketing methodology, visitors pass through a purchasing funnel before they are converted into customers. HubSpot also produces a tonne of (free!) and useful resources for sales and marketing – which the team at Dragon Law absolutely loves!

Learn more about Doing Business Online. Download our free eBook:

5. Rising costs & competition

Running a business in hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore can be a challenge with the high overheads and strong competition. The rising cost of office rental, as well as increased cost of production, has squeezed the profit margin for small businesses.

Thankfully, there are ways to manage costs even in expensive cities like Hong Kong and Singapore. While co-working spaces are often associated with startups and tech entrepreneurs, SMEs who use co-working spaces agree that it may be a more cost-effective alternative to rented office space. Co-working provides you with the flexibility to scale the size of your operations up or down rapidly, and allow frequent review of your terms of stay more frequently than traditional, fixed leasing arrangements.

Read more: Co-working Space Terms of Use

As members of spaces like The Working Capitol, The Hub and Paperclip, you also stand to benefit from the community events and education workshops they host, such as Dragon Law’s Legal Academy. 

6. Protecting ideas and commercial assets

Intellectual property (IP), which comprises of trade marks, patents, copyrights and trade secrets, is a core business asset. Yet, SME owners neglect to properly protect their IP rights as they are daunted by the application process, and often are unaware of what needs be protected. As a result, SMEs run the risk of having their ideas stolen. 

Whenever your business develops intangible human creations, it is key that you protect your creations. Your business has information that should remain private, such as your customer database, financial information, and new business ideas. A Confidentiality Agreement (or Non-disclosure Agreement) is your first line of defence to protecting this information. This legal document creates a confidential relationship between your business and any contractors, employees, and other business partners who might get a behind-the-scenes look at your operations.

Additional reading: Download our free eBook on Protecting Your Trade Mark

7. Dealing with regulation and staying up-to-date

While Hong Kong and Singapore are provide relatively easy environments for conducting business, it is important that you stay up-to-date with the latest updates to laws, acts, and regulation that may impact the way you run your business.

Legislation changes frequently; and by being unaware of the latest developments, you put your business at risk.

This is especially true for SMEs who are looking to expand overseas, where it can be challenging to fully grasp the relevant legal and taxation requirements are in other marketsin the host country.

Read: International Growth: Getting it Right

This is why most business owners choose to engage in-country experts to help navigate bureaucracy and other administrative hurdles. This inevitably raises expansion costs. In addition, a potential pitfall that entrepreneurs make is putting too much attention into overzealous expansion and neglecting the home market.

One solution is to cut costs by reducing dependency on external providers, or automating certain tasks with the help of technology. Online tools such as Dragon Law allow businesses in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and New Zealand to self-service legal work while saving time and money in the process.

These documents are localised for use in their respective jurisdictions and because it is all online, you will have the ability to, from wherever you’re based, administer the documents you require for expanding into other countries.

8. Time management

As a business owner, you wear multiple hats in your organisation. Did you know that almost 9 in 10 Singapore SMEs lose focus on long-term business goals as a result of being to caught up in day-to-day business operations?

A natural solution to the perpetual time crunch is to employ technology to automate basic tasks. According to a Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) survey, more than 70% of Singapore’s SMEs are applicants of the various government assistance schemes in Singapore. One key business area where SMEs can afford to save time and money is legal. Legal technology has emerged in Asia as a newer and more cost-effective solution for SMEs to meet their legal needs.

Our cloud software enables fast production of custom documentation which will help your business improve efficiency, accuracy and compliance.

Dragon Law is used by 5,000 small and medium-sized businesses, general counsels, law firms and business advisors and that number is growing at 20% every month. Join the new face of business law – as a Dragon Law subscriber, you can:

  • Access any of our 500 existing business documents and customise them to your specific needs, and
  • Choose to automate any of your frequently used documents and save a few hours each week.

Contact us to learn how you can manage legal at the fraction of the time, cost, and complexity.

No credit card required.

Lessons of a CEO #3

October 10, 2016

A Brief History of Thyme

So, apologies are of course due. We are only at Blog week 3 and I’m already a day late. My subscriber base (my mum) was up in arms about the delay – such atrophy, she lamented must surely be the cause of the recent Sterling flash crash and will not bear me well in life. I must also apologise to the patient viewers of my 22 press ups in 22 days challenge. Having only succeeded in 20 push-ups, and having missed day two – this is not looking like a project coated in success.

Anyway let it just be said that it was a busy week – on which I will update you more in a separate post, when I can.

I’m returning today to look at the ingredients of a successful startup – and this week I thought I would spend a bit of time looking at productivity tools.

Related reading: These technology tools will help you do more with less in your small business

Your life has changed (and let’s be honest, not for the better) when you quite consciously click on the iStore, looking for an app to make ‘email something you love again’. (Yes that one exists – go hunt for it yourself and if any of you reignite the fires of passion for your Yahoo account after downloading it, then email me and tell me why). Needless to say I have downloaded (and often scrapped pretty quickly) many many online tools over the last few years – looking for solutions to problems big and small and I thought it would be useful to list a few of them out for you here – so you don’t have to!

My memory isn’t great (there are a lot of productivity apps for that) so I may not get round to listing every last app I’ve stumbled upon here today BUT fear not, just like Baldrick, I have a cunning plan. I will jettison in our hotshot team of Dragons and ask them to add anything else they download to this list whenever they next do – heck this blog might become the startup software survival list in a few years. One simply must think big.

Lists, my grandmother – Mamgu, always said should be well-organised – so mine shall be.  Mamgu (which is Welsh for grandmother, and we’re English – go figure) was actually a productivity rockstar. Her hand got shaky when she was older and she would write me letters used a typewriter with a digital display. I think it would show about ten or fifteen characters before it typed on the paper, so if you made a mistake, booom, you could erase it before it hit the paper. Now that was some cutting edge sh*t back in the day I assure you, and saved her a bunch of money in tippex.

WELL-ORGANISED LIST INDEX

SALES PRODUCTIVITY

Unless you are shipping snow across the States – don’t get me started, you’re really going to want to have a play with some of these at one point or another

LinkedIn Sales Navigator – Why would you pay 50 bucks or so a month for something that is free? Because LinkedIn isn’t free. Collecting your very up-to-date data – that’s free – but if you want to use LinkedIn to talk to folks you don’t know, you’re going to need to pay.

Unless you’re a recruiter, Sales Navigator is the subscription I’d recommend. LinkedIn tries to get you to use a different interface once you sign up. You probably won’t end up ever looking at it. You’ll just be delighted to now have a few million new friends who will share daily photographs in your feed of inspiring messages. Favourites include photographs of expensive sports cars with overlayed white text about hard work and success. Don’t click ‘like’ on these posts. It won’t help you with sales productivity.

Dux Soup – Go on, admit it, you’ve never heard of it! BOOM, check it out. If you use LinkedIn and you’re into sales automation, you really want to have a look at this. It’s a native Chrome app and it makes your LinkedIn Sales Navigator account very much more valuable.

LinkedIn Autopilot – The nemesis of Dux Soup. I downloaded this, used it for a while and then switched to Dux Soup. They do different things so have a look at both.

Salestools.io – Some of the sales guys use this. Having never used it myself, I can’t make much comment but I think its wizardry is guessing email addresses from social media profiles. Can we hide nowhere any more?!

Gmass – This little bad boy lets you mass-email directly from your Gmail account. That’s presumably how it got the name. It was free for a while but I think they’ve started charging a few bucks a month now. It’s a great way of avoiding your email looking ‘spammy’ or ‘newslettery’ or anything else with a ‘y’ on the end.

Pipedrive – This is a CRM really but it’s a pretty neat tool for very small sales teams that just want to push leads along a pipeline. It’s visual – for those of you that are – visual.

SumoMe – This is pretty hardcore sales stuff for your website. These guys know page conversions. If you’re new to traffic generation, you should have a kick around here.

Boomerang – This lives right in Gmail and schedules your mails to go when you like. But clearly I’m not paying for that. Why do people buy this? Because of ‘read receipts’. You know the minute your sales email is opened – and sales folk like that for fairly obvious reasons. There are a bunch of competitors to Boomerang but the sales guys I talk to like Boomerang.

BACK OFFICE

TeamGantt – Never used this in my life, but our Product team swears by it. Gantt gets stuff done on time, and that’s good for you and your startup. So there you go, I endorse it!

Receipt Bank – Awesomeness on your phone. Spend company cash, take a photo, and it’s in Xero. Done. Clearly our CFO will ‘lol’ at this post since he routinely finds my expenses in my bag crumpled up. But look in-principle – this app is just amazing!

Google Apps – Long story in three words: CTO was right. And to think all those years ago I thought Microsoft was the centre of the world. Forgive me cloud computing, I was a humble lawyer. You know now when I start a spreadsheet, I actually do it in Sheets. First!

Xero – Love these guys. If you do need online accounting software – make it Xero.

Dragon Law – Our CFO loves it for legal work, and our Cathy swears by it for e-signing (You should create a free account for that alone!).

Evernote – Everyone struggles to organise their life. I found this and for about a month, Chris and I talked about nothing else. Then we downloaded the Scannable app and it just got better. Then for reasons I don’t recall both of us just stopped using it. But quite frankly you should give it a go. Its beautifully designed. I think I might start using it again.

COLLABORATION

There is so much SaaS software out there for working together on your software that I’m not going to waste time going too deep here. Needless to say you’ll end up using one or other.

Smartsheet – When we were just starting out we tried to use this to help with early project stuff. I did not take to it at all (but then let’s be fair – see my comments on Basecamp, the thing we actually use (not on Basecamp of course because I would never in my wildest moment of madness actually use it). Anyway this was a few years back now – I’m sure its worth having a play with.

Basecamp – Yes Dragon Law uses this. Do I personally use this? No. Never. Never. Is it useful for our business? Our team thinks so. Should you ever say on a group call at Dragon Law, “It’s on Basecamp”? No, of course you shouldn’t. Ever. Is any of this Basecamp’s fault? No. See my comment on it’s competitors, Smartsheet and Trello.

Trello – Downloaded it. Didn’t really get it. A pretty version of Smartsheet for folks that like their collaboration software to be visual. Anyway the Dragons have spoken, we use Basecamp.

COMMUNICATIONS

Intercom – Look, this isn’t cheap and it will probably not be a Day One purchase for you, but when you are casing out customer contact software for your app, and you will be, don’t hesitate. This is quite simply the best.  API works like a breeze. It channels chat to the right folks in your business. It does work on your phone and they’ve done a rather jolly good over there at Intercom. 10 points to Gryffindor!

Zendesk  – Oldie but a goodie. Works well alongside Intercom. We used to use Freshdesk but moved on to Zendesk when we implemented Intercom. Our Customer Success team is a lot happier (and thus more successful) now!

Google Hangouts – I guess the secret here is to understand what Hangouts is, or rather what it isn’t. It isn’t Skype nor is it Whatsapp Audio or FaceTime Audio, which are of course totally awesome lifehacks when you’re overseas and working off a data-only plan. You can use Hangouts as a Skype replacement because it does have a call function but you’ll 7 times out of 10 end up mad at your phone and want to do damage requiring screen replacement (if you do – GetFynd are good if you’re in Singapore). No, Hangouts is simply a meeting room. Once you figure this out and you set up your calendar invites clearly (with the link to the meeting in the meeting description so your friends dialing in from their phone can find it) well it works rather well. Boom, con-calls for free.

Outlook for iPhone – I have no idea why Microsoft released a full-blown piece of software for the iPhone for free after about 8 years of competitors doing it. But they did. We assumed it would be horrible and clunky. I tried it for a week (because I have used EVERY single email client for the iPhone and I give them all a week). It’s still on my phone. I kind of like it!

That’s all for now – but bookmark this page – we will keep adding to the list as we try out more of the truly mind-boggling array out there!

 

Daniel Walker

3 Career Planning & Development Lessons From My Apprentice Asia TV Experience

October 6, 2016

The importance of career planning and development dawns upon many after several years (or decades). By then it’s too late to change career tracks.

For fans of The Apprentice – Asia, Andrea Loh from Singapore would ring a bell. She was the runner-up in the hugely popular first season of the super-hit franchise. Along with the winner of the show (Jonathan), she was also among the youngest participants in the show, going head-to-head with seasoned professionals in the show that was described as the toughest job interview.

The show which puts ‘interns’ through gruelling simulated & real challenges from the corporate world, has excellent lessons for MBA aspirants & students.

Andrea takes us through her on-screen and off-screen journey. She also picked up a few powerful career planning lessons that she generously shares with us.

Career Planning & Development Lessons from my Apprentice experience
by Andrea Loh

(first published on MBA Crystal Ball on 10 Mar 2015)

It all happened in a massive blur – just 4 months ago, I was filming myself on my Macbook in my bedroom after pulling yet another 14-hour workday in Singapore, with only a week to go for the audition deadline I’d seen on TV. Today, I was in a boardroom in Kuala Lumpur — THE Boardroom — awaiting my fate as to whether or not I’d be Tony Fernandes’ pick as his apprentice.

In 2013, The Apprentice Asia went on to be screened in 22 countries all over Asia, ranking first amongst the coveted PMEB viewer segment, and torrented (don’t quote me!) by many others all over the world. But for all its international reach and recognition it brought me, all I could grapple with was the fact that I came so close, only to finish second.

Post-show, I quit my job as a commercial litigation lawyer, packed my bags, and took 4 months off to soul-search. Since January 2014, I’ve lived and worked in Hyderabad, India, as a commercial manager in a technology start-up.

These are 3 career planning lessons that stood out to me from the entire experience, and I hope they encourage you to find your own path as well.

#1: Don’t Put Off The Hard Career Questions

At the Final 4 stage of The Apprentice, we were interviewed by 3 prominent CEOs (General Electric, AirAsia, and a local Malaysian conglomerate) — pretty nerve-racking if you ask me! One question I found difficult to answer was about where I saw myself fitting in within Tony’s empire. In other words, what was the career path I saw myself taking, were I to clinch the job?

Career Path: i) the way that someone progresses in their professional life, typically through a series of occupations with one or more organisations, AND ii) something we think we’re on and sometimes follow blindly.

A recurring question I get is something along the lines of “Seriously? How did you move from Singapore to India?”, served up with a large dose of incredulity. For me, the move was a very straightforward choice. It wasn’t so much about the city; it was more about the job opportunity.

Let me explain: For me, I knew my aim was to work in some type of commercial role, in the “front-end” of a business as it were.

Being a lawyer in private practice, I knew my exposure would be restricted to the legal industry if I followed the “career path” of a typical lawyer. And because law wasn’t giving me relevant skills anymore, all signs were clear that I had to go elsewhere to learn what I required to transition to a commercial role in the future.

So I took the plunge, quit my job, and made the leap! Result: career switch within 2 years. Without those interviews on The Apprentice, I would probably have taken a longer time to come to this conclusion, so I’m sharing this as my first lesson for everyone.

The lesson is not to put off the difficult question of one’s career path, and consequently switch ASAP, because the longer you dither, the more time you waste. Making a career switch is no mean feat, so the earlier you do it, the lesser the opportunity cost.

Andrea shares her experience at The Hub Singapore’s 12th F*ckup Nights

Similarly, the longer you wait, the more entrenched you become in a particular skill set and industry, and the greater the inertia to switch later on. I’ve met plenty of people who tell me they just can’t walk away from their jobs anymore, because starting again would be too much of a sacrifice.

So how can this be applied? My advice would be to first know the area you want to work in— and be honest with yourself here! Don’t be afraid to shoot for the moon, because as the saying goes, then at least you’ll land among the stars. Next, ask yourself whether what you’re currently doing matches or complements where you want to be. If they don’t match, your next move is clear: make that switch ASAP!

#2: Age and Experience Are No Substitutes For Drive and Passion

Being the youngest contestant on The Apprentice was pretty daunting — everyone had years of work to their name, and similarly bloated titles. Oddly enough, the 2 finalists (myself and Jonathan Yabut, the eventual winner) were the youngest girl and boy respectively. Coincidence, or a sign or something more?

Image source: Rappler

Tony himself said that it was passion and drive that brought us to the final two, not necessarily the experience that other candidates had. Here at work in India, a quote we have on our wall is,

my discipline will beat your intellect anytime of the day”.

I’m going to tweak that a tad to say that discipline (and drive, and passion!) will beat experience. In my opinion, people can always learn new skills, but the determination to learn those skills well and quickly is what really counts at work and in life.

 

Here’s more anecdotal evidence for you: Based on my 2 years in the hierarchical legal industry, age matters because seniority how it functions. It’s a lock-step industry where you get promoted and rewarded based on the number of years of experience you have in practice.

As a contrast, in the fast-paced technology industry which I’m currently in, age is just a number which takes a significant backseat to one’s skills and smarts — you need look no further than all the Silicon Valley twenty-something keyboard geniuses! The world economy’s changing, and we would do well to keep pace with that change.

This is good news because it means you don’t need to have decades of experience in an area before venturing into it. All this ties in very well with my first point — don’t be afraid to make that switch, as long as you’re convinced about the new mountain you want to scale!

The application of this lesson necessarily entails some level of competition between you and other potential candidates, be it a job, a promotion, or a new career. In order to apply this, you’ll have to get out there, realise there is a ton of competition for every spot, and choose not to be daunted by it! (I suppose its a concept that’s more familiar to Indians, all 1.2 billion of you.)

Just remember: Your determination to succeed and bright-eyed bushy-tailed eagerness can and will beat someone else’s experience. And that should be enough reason to give it a go.

#3: Be Fearless

The tasks we had to accomplish each week on The Apprentice were often larger than life. They ranged from re-designing the AirAsia crew uniforms (side note: we won, and they’re wearing our tweaked designs a year on!), to pitching appliances to retail bigwigs from Sogo and Giant Hypermart, conceptualising and executing marketing campaigns for the Volkswagen Beetle and Nestle’s Dolce Gusto capsule coffee machine, and even running the Hilton hotel for a day.

In the finale, we had 3 days to put together a black-tie event from scratch and run the auction at the event (side note: we raised more than RM1.1 million, the equivalent of 2 crore INR, in that one night alone!), where attendees included CEOs, ambassadors, and society elite.

So let’s be frank: I knew next to nothing about these tasks I was supposed to execute. I was trained to read contracts and advocate for my clients in front of a judge, not to determine consumer tastes, execute product pitches, or organise high-profile events. And the only logical response to all this would have been to be scared sh*tless.

But what is it that got me to the final, going through 8 tasks, numerous interviews, and the millions of times I doubted my own capabilities?

Fearlessness.

This is the final step in the trilogy of lessons I’m sharing here, and really the most abstract of the lot. It’s hard to tell someone “Be Fearless”, when they’re faced with a pile of emails and the daily slog in front of them, as opposed to an intense competition for a job where stakes are high.

What I can do is write from an anecdotal perspective: Whether it was driven by a foolish overestimation of myself, or sheer “fight or flight” mode kicking in, each day I attacked the challenge in front of me like I had nothing to lose.

Fearlessness is crucial to thriving (not merely surviving!) in the workplace because it requires an abandonment of traditional, in-the-box paradigms and behavior in favour of a more gung-ho, risk-taking approach.

It could be advocating testing a different product in the market, speaking up for an unpopular idea in a management meeting, or even simply disagreeing with your boss.

Fearlessness doesn’t exist in a vacuum, by the way. You have to be fearless with reference to something. A good friend of mine always says,

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

The corollary to fearlessness is a sense of conviction, belief in something that you hold close to your heart. Fearlessness just means not letting conventions get in the way of something you believe in.

So at the end of the day, I think for anyone contemplating their professional life (and let’s face it, we millenials do that constantly, trying to strike a work-life balance while grappling with unfulfilled dreams), it’s useful to:

  1. ask yourself the difficult questions;
  2. be determined to seek out a path that you’re passionate about; and
  3. act on your decisions with fearlessness.

My career trajectory has been deeply impacted by taking these steps, and while I’ve got a long way ahead of me still, I can rest in the knowledge that I’m getting closer to my goals with each move I make. All the best and press on!

Image source: AXN Website

Which Payroll Method Works Best For You?

October 4, 2016

Have you ever considered all the possible ways that you could process your payroll? With the rapid advancement of technology today, there are plenty of options for your business when it comes to processing employee payroll. They can be classified into two broad categories: Manual or automated.

Most organisations today have progressed into the latter, though there remains a handful of companies who have yet to make the transition.

Here are some of the common methods of payroll processing:

Excel Spreadsheets

We all have been through the horrifying experience of manual payroll calculations using excel spreadsheets. At one glance, it is just spreadsheet after spreadsheet filled with figures that seem to swim about the more you stare at it.

Processing payroll using excel is extremely tedious as you will have to manually input employees’ working hours or calculate overtime pay using excel formulas. One wrong entry could result in incorrect calculations of wages and more often than not, these errors prove difficult to detect amongst the abyss of numbers! Excel spreadsheets also fail to keep up with the constant changes in employment legislation.

Learn how Dragon Law helps you increase efficiency, minimise errors, and keep up-to-date with the latest legislation.

Watch (in Cantonese with English subtitles):

 

Yet, several small to medium business owners still stick this type of payroll processing method as it is less costly without the technological complications.

Outsourcing Payroll

Outsourcing your payroll involves engaging an external company that handles your company’s payroll functions. Fully-outsourcing the payroll process has considerable benefits:

  1. You free up more time that will allow you to focus critical issues in your business.
  2. Your accounts are managed by the experts – hence you minimise costly payroll mistakes.
  3. Your provider (and not you) have to worry about deadlines for wages and taxes.
Related: Subcontracting? Outline commitments with a Consultancy Agreement

However, the downside of this payroll method is that the costs associated with engaging an external payroll processing company can be very high. Additionally, there is the risk of breach of privacy as sensitive information has to be released to an external party in order to process the payroll.

Payroll Software

Payroll software uses technology to streamline and automate payroll processing. The most obvious benefit of using payroll software is that payroll calculations can be completed within a fraction of the time that is spent calculating manually.

Online payroll software such as Gpayroll provide the ability to automate payroll calculations, and takes care of post-payroll activities such as auto filing of CPF & taxes, salary disbursements and payslips generation. By adopting intelligent payroll software, you can enjoy the same benefits of payroll outsourcing without worrying about high cost.

A full-functional payroll software provider will likely allow you to select additional payroll functions as “add-ons”, on top of the core set of payroll functions. This provides organisations the flexibility in customising their payroll system.

The method of payroll processing chosen depends on a multitude of factors such as size of the business, the organisation’s technological capabilities, the complexity of the payroll and the time and resources invested. Typically, payroll software is an attractive option for most companies due to the flexibility and low costs.

This a guest contribution submitted by Gpayroll. The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Dragon Law may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view. Learn more about guest blogging for Dragon Law here.

About Gpayroll

Gpayroll is an easy to use, self-run online payroll service that will redefine and revolutionize the payroll industry. Its intuitive and automated system will help business owners focus on their core business without the hassle of managing payroll. Follow on Facebook