Interview with QiuYan
1. How is being a leader and heading a business different in a corporate versus being in a startup?
In leading a startup, inspiring your colleagues becomes highly important, especially in the early stages. The future is relatively unknown and business direction and plans may change rapidly. It is easy for your team to feel frustrated with the process, hence constantly communicating the vision is of the utmost importance.
The core mission of why we do what we do needs to be embodied. We need to walk the talk instead of being able to recite “core values” we can easily slap on the wall.
Leaders of a startup also face the challenge of needing T-shaped skillsets: being both wide and deep, without the luxury of having specialists due to the multiple hatted nature of our roles.
2. What are some of the curveballs you have experienced in running your business and how have you dealt with them?
Issues with partners/co-founders. I have had co-founders suddenly deciding to leave the business. This is my 3rd startup and now I know to tell potential partners and co-founders all the negative things about running a startup – I no longer “chase” them or sugar coat the experience. Running a startup is no walk in the park and I usually say it’ll be the hardest thing you would have most likely ever experienced in your life. I set expectations right at the start and I get their hands dirty before having them commit. Should they still choose to stay, you know that they know what they’re getting themselves into.
3. Is there ever a good time and can you prepare yourself to be an entrepreneur one day?
The best time is yesterday as you can never be fully prepared. 🙂
I feel character is the hardest to carve, but the school of hard knocks does accelerate growth and teaches persistence. Opportunities aren’t created, but you need to be ready to take the chance when it presents itself. Skillsets can be learned, but you need to be raw and brutally honest with yourself. To be self-aware and know your blindspots, so you can be the best version of yourself. Put pride aside. As a new entrepreneur, it is important you take on a student/learner mindset. Learn from the success and failures of others.
I became an entrepreneur after my first job in the corporate world. That was a good balance for me – I was still young enough to take risks, yet I was equipped with corporate experience to see how a well-oiled company should be run. But everyone is different. Find your balance. If you’re more risk-averse, do a corporate job first, but if you’re fairly risk-loving, curious and street smart, go for it as early as possible.
4. Do you think your industry is progressing at the right pace? How do you see your industry evolving in the next 5 years?
I think it is a little slow, largely due to financial regulations and legacy issues. But this is understandable and I do see change happening at a much faster pace today than say 3 years ago. I do believe that the financial services industry will be almost, if not completely, digital in 5 years time, especially in the developed market space.
5. Can you share a crystal ball prediction for 2027?
The whole journey of financial planning will just be a click of a button. Taking into account your current financial state and knowing your goals and your profile no longer has to be a 2-3 hour process. Financial planning also becomes a real issue/importance as people are living longer than they had expected.
6. What is the one piece of advice you would like to give to your younger self? Or to the aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Be shameless and hustle. Stop planning and start doing. Most entrepreneurs I meet are always too shy or too afraid of rejections to ask for what they want. What’s the worst that can happen?