20 questions for the CEO

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Those who have heard of AllForU or have used our services, probably know that the CEO is a pretty young guy. And those who worked here know the story of AllForU and the age of the CEO itself. But for someone this young (age 27 for those who don’t know), how did he manage to get into such a niche market and acquire success? And what advice does he have for aspiring student entrepreneurs? We delved deeper to find out. 

q1. how was allforu born?

Before forming AllForU, I was a club committee member in NTU. While performing the time consuming tasks of seeking sponsors and sourcing vendors, for club events, I realized that the businesses I was contacting were also looking to make contact with student decision makers to offer sponsorships and/or products. I began thinking about how to create a platform that would save countless hours of time for everyone.

q2. whats your highest qualification?

I majored in Bachelor of Biological Sciences in NTU. Previously with a business minor, but i dropped it after realising that actual running of a business is more exciting and the learning curve is steeper.

q3. Was it easy doing business for you with such a different qualification and background?

Firstly, I think it is not difficult to start a business, all you need is the guts to take the first step. If you can overcome all the fear and hesitations, you have already started.

Then the challenge comes in the next phase where you have to scale the business. But without formal business training, certain businesses operations does pose a challenge, eg: accounting. It is starkly different from writing experimental thesis so it took me more effort to learn, experiment and acquire the skill sets. But it depends on your determination to be honest. Me being an adobe illustrator idiot, it took me a day to get sufficiently good at illustrator, self-taught from YouTube video.

Also a business can only grow so far and fast with only you in it since you have that fixed capacity and the same 24hrs as everybody else. A pity that cloning technology is not matured, else I will probably clone another 10 of myself. Haha just joking. But when the startup grow from just you to a team of 5-6 you will experience another set of challenge. But I am glad that correct hiring decisions was made thus far. Pro-tip, always recruit people who are smarter than you to help run the business. Especially in areas you are insufficient or weak in. For me, I would tend to rely on people whom I know have the expertise.

q4. How did you build your team?

My personal philosophy is if I choose to have this person in my team, it must be someone I can trust and not doubt his/her abilities. I always believe in empowerment and knowing there are always people way smarter than me, hence, my job is to find, entice, recruit talents who believe in the vision. My policy is that you can be the best talent, but if you are not a believer of the vision, I am sorry but you do not sync with the team on a bigger scale. But practically, how I executed that is the hire slow, fire fast policy.

q5. Tips and advice for students who want to be entrepreneurs

Think of a good idea , trust your gut feel, take the first step and try it out. The only opportunity cost is your time, not lost income. But first do your due diligence and fully understand what are the pros and cons if you were to embark on this journey, before you put all that energy and effort into this. Taking Leave Of Absence to build your business. Pretty unorthodox way but it helps you focus on building your business, delay your student loans, gaining all student perks. Sounds like a good deal in fact. I mean, I took a 2 years Leave of Absence (LOA) from NTU and it pans out well still.

q6. Any regrets? If so, how did you deal with it?

Back in university, I did not get to see the world as much as my friends who went for exchange and they get to travel within their exchange. At that time, I gave it up to run AllForU instead. But if I were to choose between these two, I would still choose to give up exchange and continue running AllForU as there are more students who require my help as compared to my personal gratification of wanting to travel.

q7. Study hacks or school hacks for students ?

This is very relevant to JC students who have no experience in the CGPA system. LISTEN UP!
Very important, do not be so kiasu (scared to lose out) and kiasi (scared to die), confidently use your SUs on modules that will negatively affect your GPA. Even on the verge of graduation, I still have 2 SUs unused, what a waste!
Also, try to go for student exchanges if you can so that you can freeze your GPA while clearing difficult modules.

q8. Is there anything in your life you would have done differently given that you're able to turn back time?

University life. Minus the academic work. In my opinion, it is the phase where most opportunities are given since you get the freedom and flexibility to explore ideas on your own. The soft skills, such as system thinking that learnt from my degree are applicable too.

q9. Best piece of advice you ever received?

There are many temptations around you that will try to entice and influence you to make the wrong decision, but never lose sight of your end goal. FOCUS on value. Focus on building and providing value to those you are serving and money will just be a by-product.

q10. What did you relied most on when you're a student?

The support from family, friends, mentors and naysayers. As well as the strong faith that your idea will work regardless of what obstacles being thrown at you. Family and friends forms the fundamental support network that you can fall back on to nurse your wounds before you recover and fight the uphill battle again. Having a family supportive of what you are doing makes a real big difference mentally and emotionally. Family will definitely be the most difficult part of your initial challenge as they are both direct and heavily vested in your interest and well being. I will suggest convincing your family first because if you do, you can literally convince anybody else. Next, I worked harder than anybody else to bring in the metrics to show my family that this idea is viable with customers wanting our services. As a student, I also relied a lot on my buddy who is also my room mate in hall, and my course mate in university, and probably my best man in future. Finding that great buddy who will be willing to lend you his ears and shoulders in your lowest moments; who will give you honest feedback about your idea because he is concern; who will let you bunk in his room when you fail to get your hostel allocation and you stay too far away; remind you that there is an exam/project/mid-term coming. I am fortunate to have this very strong support network.

Next, in our entrepreneur journey we will definitely meet plenty of naysayers. But putting into perspective, it depends on how you intend to utilise their opinions, in my case, I love them as they actually act as my sword sharpener to further sharpen my business idea. The best moment comes when you can make your naysayers speechless with a validated vision with traction. Lastly, the strong faith in your vision is the most important component actually, as you can have the strongest support from family and friends and with zero naysayers, but if you have weak faith in your vision, any slightest obstacles or knock can put you down permanently.

q11. What is a must-have clothing item everyone should have?

An entrepreneur set: A fitting casual blazer, a leather dress watch, dress shoes, slim fit dress pants, leather belt. This can be used literally anywhere to impress and show respect to anyone be it: your investor, your date, your clients, wedding banquets (not yours), pitching, as an interviewee, as an interviewer

q12. How do you stay positive everyday?

I have a great team on hand! Strengthen your mindset. You got to know how to separate your emotions and draw a line between friendship and professionalism. I would describe myself as kind and friendly and i do not take things personally. But if things go overboard, i have the guts and confidence to step in and stop that joke or action or whatever dead in its track. 

I also love experimenting on new ideas and concepts, but since I am more of a statistics guy, to simply comment that that idea doesn’t work, I need to see reasonable evidence or else I would want to try it out. You need to have the confidence of knowing whether to execute it. 

q13. What’s something you notice about someone when you first meet them?

I will unknowingly notice how he or she smiles. I love people with bright and sincere smiles. Having a hearty laughter is a bonus as I love to joke and laugh too. 

q14. Favorite local food?

Chili crab, I just like eating crab. I like texture of it (the sauce). Its spicy, sweet and sour. I like to eat it with mantou (fried buns).

q15. What's the last country you’ve been to and what do you suggest doing there?

Switzerland. Skiing, appreciating the natural landscape there. Thankfully the transit cost wasn’t that high for me as I am already travelling to Europe to settle some personal matters anyway. The experience is fantastic and it is definitely by first snow experience, which I feel cheated by all the movies honestly. It is not as powdery as what I thought to be. hahaha

q16. How do you define yourself in 3 words?

I always believe a hustler at heart must have these 3 values in them.

Motivation : The never dying entrepreneur fire within them to not only keep themselves moving but also to keep everyone in their team moving. And that everything is actually possible, but whether it is just limited by resources of technology.

Optimism: The amber to the never ending motivation. This one is a tool for me to self-psycho. Sometimes it is not that an idea is not feasible, but it is too futuristic or that there are no reference points in the market that it incurs some doubt. But as long as you smile and say, well let’s give step 1 a chance. that helps to build your optimism and momentum that brings along step 2, step 3 and final step to fruition. It’s like putting a man on the moon is not in a day’s effort, neither is there a practical/physical reference point that can be replicated when the idea is incepted.

Servant Leadership:  I always believe that a happy, motivated and harmonized team is the most important part of every business. By making sure that we listen and acknowledge that each of their opinion matters; empower them to lead projects, discussions to drive engagement with our users and close sales etc. ; Understanding that everyone does not comes with 15 years of specialised experience, growth and success have to be incremental. But yet giving them the challenge to push them to build a better version of themselves. The happiest moment will be when their employment with us have ended, and they feel that they have learnt and contributed so much here that if they want to explore their own ideas, they are equipped with the experience, knowledge and hustler backbone to do so. 

q17. How do you start your day?

Well, I have to confess I am not an early riser because I am more productive at night. So I will wake up at 7.30am – 8am. Since I abstained from coffee now and have resisted that addiction. I drink warm milo ever since. If you are interested in knowing the why and how I kick my coffee addiction, hit me up. I do some static exercise like push ups and sit ups, and at times running at wee night 2am when there is not a soul around. Basically exercise that can help me achieve this: ace my IPPT, get my $300/$500, and keep fit.

Start the work day with Stand-up (aka short meeting) with my team to get everyone up to speed. Then i will head off to work on my tasks and many times help out in task that require my inputs. Management meetings to align the managers and plan for campaigns before launching them for discussions with the team. Pre-covid, we will go for lunch together and this is my favorite part cos we will sit and joke, usually everyone will joke about me hahaha but hey that’s what everyone does to their boss right and that’s what makes the culture fun. departmental sprints continue after lunch.

End of the day with another short meeting to round it up and make sure everyone stays accountable not only to their tasks but also to people around them who are depending on the completion of their tasks. To top it off, a shot of macallan on the rocks whilst reading a self-improvement book will be a great way to end off the day. (just saying if u do not abuse, a bottle can last for a good 6-7 months. Its worth the investment)

q18. How do you cope during this circuit breaker?

Im a more kinesthetic person, i need people interaction. It has been a real challenge for me.

q19. What are the things you're doing differently during this circuit breaker?

I start to exercise more now, especially HIIT, Need to get back my fit-ass body during my NSF days. I tend to read more now especially self-developmental books. I’m currently reading ‘CEO CODE’ by David Rollander. For developmental books, I prefer a new copy as it signifies a new fresh start and I tend to jolt my thoughts, realization and ideas inside books. I’ve also learnt how to stay away from distractions, because there’s simply too much work everyday. I won’t think CB is good but it does gives me more time to work since I can save 3 hours worth of travelling. And that the ending time is only when your body tells you that “Please go and sleep otherwise I am gonna knock you out without you knowing it”

q20. How different has the business changed during this Circuit breaker period in terms of operations and do you have any advice to give to solve these issues?

We have to learn how to do everything online. Including meetings. The 1st step is of course , how you could transit from running meetings to online, you need to establish a good standard operating procedures. Although our company took some time, it really helped us in full transition as we did not have time to do 50/50 migration. There’s this feeling of you wanna be in control on whats happening daily, but you need to trust your staff on doing their work.

There you have it! 20 questions for our dear CEO. Of course, we still have more but we will talk about it again some other time. Hope his advice on life and business helps you readers in 1 way or the other or it could lead you to some new insights. Feel like working here would be fun? Click here to find out more! Find any of his advice useful? Tag us on instagram (allforu_sg) to be featured on your page! 

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