Enabling, Engaging and Empowering Entrepreneurs

Guest Seminar, Spring 2012

It was another memorable guest seminar. I have taken some wonderful things for granted: great speakers, super organization capabilities of our students, good networking and most of all, seeing the alumnus. And I think I'd probably miss a lot of that for at least the rest of the year.

Everything is subject to criticism. That's just how people are, and I know there will be some who will say that the guest seminar is a waste of their time. Some will make excuses not to come, and some will simply not turn up. I've gotten used to that, and learnt that no matter how hard I try, there will be people who think that things are not good enough. Sometimes, I feel that my effort is wasted, but most times, I receive enough encouragement to know I should continue. I write this to let you know why I take the effort to do the guest seminar every semester ever since 2006. I had wanted in 2006 for the guest seminar to be an event people will look forward to for years to come.

Yesterday's seminar was great because we have three people from different age groups, with very different backgrounds. Jeffrey Paine appears to me as an investor more than an entrepreneur. Perhaps because he shared little about his journey as an entrepreneur, and more as an investor dishing out good advice to our students. His advice to think big and go global struck a chord in me. Vincent Lai is an old student. O, I can still remember how he would sit on the second row in 2007 and he would ask me non-academic questions, including how to handle his contract problems with a bank. I remember to this day how he shared his past with me, how he came to Singapore. It was my honour to be able to watch how his company progressed and see how he grew. Then, Mr Yee. He is very successful in the space I will be venturing into. It was again good to hear how as entrepreneurs we are all the same: we all struggled and braved unchartered waters. He is truly a man who humbled me.

I had planned the guest seminar for many good reasons, and I'll share them here. There are many learning objectives I find I can achieve by doing this guest seminar which replaces weeks of teaching.

Industry perspective
Instead of talking no end about how the real world is like from the text book, listen from the industry. Have these folks up close and see things through their eyes. Even though I am a practitioner (for >20 years for that matter), it is nothing like getting endorsement from others. Often, I find that after attending the guest seminar, students realize that I had not been bull-shitting them. Instead of just teaching from the books, I wanted the lessons to come alive through others.

Organization skills
I recently learnt how students from my class are different compared to other SMU students, and I think it has to do with the way we learn to organize through the guest seminar. To organize a large scale event like this is not simple. I want students to learn that it is possible to provide food and drinks on a tight budget. I used to budget only $20, but increased that to $100 just this year for 200 pax. It is always interesting to see how your money can really stretch, and I wasn't looking for the food, I was looking for innovative ideas. You'd be surprised how difficult and how much negotiation skills one must possess to get the tables organized and I entrusted that to a group I know can get that done. There's also room for innovation in being the MC, photographers and even sending out flyers. I was looking for innovation, not just getting the tasks done. And because the rest of the world just do them as tasks, or consider them 'extra work', to do them well will stand anyone out. So, yes. I want my students to be innovative and passionate in even chores like these in the real world one day. I found that to the best short cut to corporate promotions. :)

The guest seminar provides one of the most comfortable and non-threatening environment for networking. Now that I teach more entrepreneur classes, the power of networking cannot be overemphasized. Even if you are an introvert and shut yourself up in a corner like how Jeffrey Paine puts it, you will still benefit. In any event, there are always opportunity to know who will be good networkers. They are the ones who would stick around for a chance to meet and talk to the speakers, the ones who do not mind asking a seemingly stupid question. Those are skills I want to impart: the ability to ask stupid questions, stick around and be interested in someone else. And to talk about yourself in a humble and engaging way.

For the senior class, they have to pitch during the guest seminar. Did you see them all dressed up doing an elevator pitch? That 3-minute pitch is probably one of the most important tool everyone should have. Pitching your product, your service, your company, your favourite activity or just yourself. As long as you are alive, you have something to pitch. We have two very distinguished guests to do that for us this time. Alan and Andy. Both very successful in their businesses and they were to guide.I believe that it is not what you have but what people think you have that counts. So think about how you want to tell people about that. The second opportunity to pitch was in front of the seminar room, which is no different from any industry exhibition. They are prepared for any scale of exhibition once they leave our classroom, all done in that 10 weeks in class.

Nothing like hearing from people who have done something that you are perhaps thinking of doing. I want my students to have a career of passion, and a passion in their career. I have seen too many people slaving away for reasons I doubt they even know. It is possible to have a career, do well, and live big dreams. No matter what we do, there will be sacrifices. My belief is to make sure those sacrifices are worth makiing. I hope the students will be inspired to do great things, to be happy and live lives without regrets.

So there, why guest seminars. And what is my own take-away for this guest seminar? Jeffrey reminded me to think big, Vincent's inspiring video made me want to be a child again and take action for my dreams one more time, and Mr Yee reminded me to start again on a new page. Perhaps this is a wake-up call. My contract ends this June.

Guest seminar 2012 flyer

Date: March 16, 2012

Venue: Mochtar Riady Auditorium at the Admin Bldg

Time: 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Speaker 1 - Jeffrey Paine
Speaker 2 - Vincent Lai
Speaker 3 - Yee Jenn Jong

Watch the speakers at the seminar here:


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