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Learnings from building a business in Asia

I've recently passed my 7th year with Ambition based in Singapore and it's flown by. Over the years there have been a huge number of learns. Some enjoyable, some painful, but all necessary.

So with so many to choose from where should I start? Simplest is often best, so here are 7 learns, one for each year (in no particular order);

  1. Have a clear vision that is easily communicated

    Be absolutely clear on what you are trying to achieve. This shouldn't be just a 12 month goal, but what you will achieve over the next 3- 5 years and even beyond. This goes beyond results, but also look and feel. Sure, often a business (particularly a start up) will have to pivot, but you should remain true to your core vision as this is the compass that will provide direction to you and your teams during those challenging times that will inevitably come.
  2. Back GREAT people

    Hire people that are smart, passionate and driven. Yes, some roles require experience, but passionate, self-motivated people will learn, will grow and will often deliver far more to your business than just individual results. Back them, invest in them, develop them and they will pay you back many times over.
  3. Never get complacent

    Always be hungry, never get complacent. Complacency will kill your business. Be hungry, driven and motivated. Be thankful for business (that doesn't mean be a pushover) and continually build advocates. No matter how strong your brand gets never get arrogant, remember what it took you to get there and don't forget those who gave you the opportunity in the first place.
  4. Your people ARE your Brand

    Don't ever forget that your people are your most powerful marketing tool. They should epitomise your brand and be true to it in their interactions with people internally and externally. If they do this consistently they will build advocates. Keep your service levels high, keep them consistent and develop a culture where your team will buy into this and do their very best to deliver to these exacting standards.
  5. Be decisive 

    Never procrastinate about making a decision. Yes, do your due diligence, but when a decision needs to be made, make one. Sometimes it may not be the right one with the benefit of hindsight, but have the confidence to make a decision based on the circumstances and the information you have at the time. Indecisiveness leads to inaction which will lead to the erosion of confidence in your leadership.
  6. Don't be afraid to set high standards

    Having a workplace with a yoga room and table football and flexible working won't necessarily translate to engaged employees and drive high performance. Good performers and high achievers want to be surrounded by good performers and high achievers. They expect to be in an environment where people are pushed to meet their potential and that comes with high standards and realistic, yet stretched expectations. No high performing business ever got there through a culture of acceptable mediocrity. Get that high performance culture going and then implement the yoga room and football table!
  7. Develop a culture where failure is acceptable

    Encourage a culture where people can learn from their mistakes and be open to sharing what they were so others can also learn from them. It's not just about celebrating and sharing success (which is hugely important), it's also about acknowledging and learning from failure. This will make your business more adaptive to change, more nimble and more likely improve and therefore succeed.

These are just a few lessons that have been reinforced to me along the way. There have been many more and I'm sure there are many more to come.

It would be great to learn from any lessons on developing business you'd like to share in the comments below.

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