I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. I think people who call themselves a “serial entrepreneur” are masochists and plain crazy – how would you explain wanting to relive that WFIO moment (This term, “We’re F#%ked, It’s Over”, pronounced whiff-ee-yo, is from Ben Horowitz’s post. So apt.) over and over again? For me, the decision to start my own business came about under dire circumstances. I had to do it, it was not a choice.
I was in Aquent when the sub-prime mortgage financial crisis hit in 2009. I just returned from maternity leave, to the worst time in recruitment. Not only no one was hiring, candidates that I placed were now being retrenched. We got a new boss at this time. Several months into the role, he issued letters to a few of us – make two placements, otherwise your role is redundant. The letter did not make business sense to me. The economy was starting to swing around and the hiring frenzy was about to start. The letter made me feel like a cog in a wheel, easily replaceable. This triggered some thoughts that eventually led to my decision to look outside for my next role.
Unlike the last time, I loved what I was doing and I really wanted to stay in recruitment. In the following weeks, Roger would casually suggest I start my own business. I was very reluctant, driven by the fear of the unknown, “I don’t know how to start, let alone run a business”. Roger’s gentle nudge became more persistent, and as I interviewed with other recruitment firms, I realized that they were pretty much the same. The idea of creating something new according to my set of values became more promising. I also had a colleague who shared a lot of the same values. This ultimately led to us becoming first-time entrepreneurs, co-founding Onezta in 2010. I would not have gone ahead without her.
I remember that first day at work as our own boss. We were at Starbucks Plaza Singapura. The first order of duty was choosing a name for our company. I remember thinking “Boy, this is hard, facing a complete unknown. We do not even have a name!” We took it step by step – registering the company, crafting our identity, and reaching out to new clients. There were many micro-decisions that had to be made each step of the way, things that we take for granted as an employee. We had to build the business engine room, nothing moved unless we pushed it. We really had to believe in ourselves. We had no big brand behind us, only our personal reputation and inner confidence that we do good work. Actions were driven by necessity. We did whatever was needed to get candidates successfully placed into jobs. One role, turned into two roles, and slowly Onezta took on a persona of its own, and grew into a real brand.
There were many micro-decisions that had to be made each step of the way, things that we take for granted as an employee. We had to build the business engine room, nothing moved unless we pushed it.
Success is part hard work and part luck. The economy picked up at the right moment, and job briefs came in. At the same time, the recruitment industry was disrupted by new technologies, like Linkedin. In this changing environment, the practical “get things done NOW” side of me kept me firmly strapped in on this roller-coaster ride – tenacious during the good times, and resilient during the down times.
Six years on, Onezta is now rebranded as Personna. We are a small team of eight, focusing on recruitment and training. I still enjoy hustling every day, helping individuals do their best work.
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About Sophia Chin, Coach & Co-founder of PERSONNA
Sophia helps people unleash the force for positive change to create transformational business growth.
Over the last 10 years, Sophia has interviewed thousands of senior business leaders and learnt their secrets to driving transformational business growth in large complex organisations including Apple and Grab.