I am an entrepreneur by day, a law student by night and a husband and a father in between and all in all other pockets of time that are available.
Entrepreneurship is definitely not for everyone. However, before I decided to pursue law at the SUSS School of Law, I got into the business of corporate secretarial and accounting work (how I stumbled upon this is a story for another day). I knew I had to have control over my time if I were to pursue a law degree. I figured that running my own business would be the best way for me to have the flexibility of working and studying at the same time.
The start was extremely tough. When I first started the company, I did not pay myself a salary for the first two years. I was once asked by a public servant (who was checking on some other matter) how is it possible that I did not draw an income for such a long time, I realised that not many could fathom what entrepreneurship was. I told her that I had squirrelled away a sizable enough amount of saving to be able to survive while I built the business. Suffice to say, from her persistent questioning and subsequent comments, she did not believe me. It is the truth and I did not lie. That is entrepreneurship. When I first entered law school, I only had one staff with me. That staff, knowing that I was about to start my studies, requested for a change of her employment terms. I told that staff that I could not accede to such a request. She left the company and I was back running the practice all by myself. The first semester was extremely tough. I had to interview, hire, train, fire, retrain, retain as well as study and look after my family. At times I was really running on fumes. I was so exhausted and it was so frustrating to have to cycle through new hires while looking for a perfect fit. I had to deal with individuals who just did not show up for work and their excuse was “sorry I got so drunk the night before”, one who showed up but just stared blankly at the wall whenever I was asking her to do work, to a admin staff who told me that she wanted to work from home as she was afraid of catching Covid. Oh the ridiculous part of the last one was because at that time, Singapore was already trying to live with Covid and her main job was to help retrieve physical mail and send out dispatch. She was horrible with the computer and she actually told me that she will try to open the letterbox remotely. Till today I have yet to figure out how that is possible. My research about drones and robots led me to a dead end. The only probable conclusion as to how she would be able to achieve this is if she got me or my other staff to open the letterbox.
Seriously… this whole work from home thing is not for every industry or every company.
Then there is corporate tax filing season. At the end of year 1 of my studies, my accountant decided that it would be fine to charge her personal expenses to the company credit card. I discovered it and asked her to leave. She told me that there was nothing wrong with that if she returned the monies to the company. Her resume stated that she worked for one of the “Big 4” accounting firms previously. Perhaps I should have done a more stringent background check of job applicants. This happened in November which was when I had my examinations as well as when the company had to file corporate taxes for our clients. Fortunately I had another staff with me at that time. There were 3 of us in the company when this incident happened. One was asked to leave. I had to work through the examination period. Priority had to be accorded to the company’s clients’ corporate tax filings. I still managed to work through this and did decently well for that semester.
Fast forward to today. My company now has 9 staff on the payroll. What started out as an office of about 300 square feet is now an office of about 1000 square feet. I can safely go on leave for a week to study for my examinations and the office will not crumble.
For the last few years I had been trying to build the corporate secretarial business. Today we not only do corporate secretarial and accounting work, we also deal with employment related matters as we are a licensed employment agency. We also do management consulting work. In the midst of work and law school I went through the relevant courses and examination to get certified with a body that is recognised by Enterprise Singapore. Today the business is thriving with good employees and strong revenue. 1st June 2023 marks a major milestone. The company has purchased corporate insurance for all employees. All employees are covered under our group term life, early stage critical illnesses, outpatient clinic and specialists visits. The policy, under Great Eastern, came into effect on the 1st of June 2023. This means that all staff of the company can visit the panel of clinics and specialists and the policy will fully cover their visit. Such employee benefits will help the company to retain and attract talent. To me, this is a very important milestone which I will remember. I have an extremely strong desire to build something of a significant size. I know I cannot do it myself and the future management will have to take over the reigns in time to come when I have to leave the company to pursue law as a profession. For now, the business flows through me but checks and balances have been put in place. For example, all invoices have to be sent out from my accounting team. All bank transfers require a maker and an approver. A board of directors are in place to make business decisions of which I am one of the directors. There is no possibility of a deadlocked board. Weekly and monthly reports are to be prepared and verified by a director.
Earlier this year we took a company trip up to Bangkok. Now the company is providing corporate insurance coverage. Entrepreneurship is truly tough but when you see the fruits of your labour, it is truly rewarding. The first half of 2023 has been exceptional. I am hoping that the second half of 2023 will be just as good, if not better.
This affirms my desire to eventually have my own law firm…