It Takes Two

The more I want to sit down and post my thoughts, the more stuff lands on my plate and the more they drag me away from blogging.

Such is life, sometimes!

I had a great Chinese New Year break – despite the fact I didn’t get to visit Bangkok with my parents, no thanks to the political unrest in Thailand. My sister and I were quite adamant that we go, protest or not but the thing with travelling with parents is that they INSIST everyone stay home and quit moaning about not going shopping in Bangkok.

I was so looking forward to a change in my Chinese New Year routine so we got our Air Asia tickets cancelled (and got the credit shell from them in exchange – they weren’t giving us back our money but credit shell was all right).

Still, I was surprised they agreed to refund our hotel booking money into our credit card within the next 90 days of cancellation. So you see, Air Asia isn’t always the villain despite trying to upsell you always into better seats, travel insurance and all those extras. Actually when I called their customer service personnel about two weeks before our travel date, she wasn’t sure I could cancel my flight.

Anyway, I still haven’t figured out where we’re going as we have to use our credit shell before it expires in April.

So I spent my Chinese New Year in Banting with my parents and sisters and the kids. It was crazy hot as Chinese New Year always is.

I got back to Penang only to be sucked back into work the day we officially opened for business. Still no complaints. It kicked off the year on a highly positive vibe indeed. We did a one-day business and marketing training workshop for a local SME and helped them see how they could better strategize their products and marketing.

But this post isn’t about that.

Nope, this post is about some things that lingered in my mind right after I was interviewed by 3 analysts from Penang Institute. Sue Ann, Maxine and Robita wanted to get my thoughts on what the grassroots thought of government support particularly in regard to women in small businesses (in Penang, of course).

(They were interested in other areas of course and for those they’d be talking to other women and men. Yes, to their credit, they’re going to be totally comprehensive and speak to as many key women decision-makers as they could but they also wanted the men’s opinions.)

This was certainly a first for me. I’ve always loved interviewing people so being on the other end was a little intimidating but it is an honour to be thought of as someone important enough to interview! They were smart. They started with me because of my co-founding status with WomenBizSENSE.

When I came home, I ruminated on a few questions they asked me.

Is it easier for a woman to start a business if she gets the support of her husband?

A woman starts a business for many reasons.

As we have about 52 members, I roughly know some of our members’ well. Some start businesses because they didn’t want to work for others. Others started businesses because they were looking for products or services they could not find locally. Still many others started businesses purely because they needed to earn a living and feed their families.

I am in business today because I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I finished my Masters’ degree. I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world. It was fun while it lasted but office politics got to me. I just decided to join Nic and help him out and look where that lead me.

Some 10 years later, I am still here and worse, I am addicted to my business.

It is definitely not easy to start a business without the support of one’s partner or husband. Especially if you have kids. In a way I consider myself an oddity. My husband is my business partner and we don’t have kids. This leaves us a lot more time to focus on the business.

I would imagine how stressful it would be IF I were running a business on my own while Nic worked for another company.

Perhaps he would not understand the struggles and challenges of a business.

Perhaps he would be irritated if I kept talking about business at the dinner table.

Perhaps he’d be upset that I was spending so much time attending events out of the home. Or worse, he’d be jealous of his time with me. That every weekend must be spent with him as his only freedom came around on Saturdays and Sundays.

Well, on the other hand, if you are in business with your spouse, you’d see each other every single day. (Then again, some people don’t as a friend revealed to me recently. She and her husband run a business together but they both are out almost every day talking to prospects and customers that the only time they ever see each other is at the end of the day – when they get back to the office or home).

Nic and I talk about marketing, ideas, things we could potentially do, people we want to connect with, plans for today, plans for the next 6 – 12 months, hiring, new website packages, new ways to do things faster etc. ALL THE TIME.

When we travel, we observe how other people run their businesses.

When we go to the bookstore, we head to the Marketing & Business section, curious to know how other businesses are and what we can learn from them.

When I listen to (yes, business & marketing) podcasts, I keep an ear out for the interesting lessons I might glean.

When I shop, I am always observing the selling process. If I go into a store, I’d talk to the sales person and get as much information from her about products and observe the way she serves me. I’d then compare notes and ask myself, “What was great about this sales person? What did she do that made me impressed?” 

These daily experiments and research keep me and Nic excited all the time.

Which is why we or rather I attract curious questions: “Don’t you want to adopt?” or “Do you want to have kids?” or “Have you tried all methods?” and I feel like there’s something infinitely wrong with me if I don’t have that die-die-must-have-kids attitude. And when they find out I’m 40 this year…..haha, that’s when questions get really interesting.

Because in many ways, the business is our baby. That’s what we have shared to build all these years.

If I could do it all over again, I’d still opt to build a business with my spouse. Sure, we get all hot and bothered sometimes when we argue about the business but the business is also better if you have someone to share your challenges with. On the flip side, as you celebrate each milestone, you have someone who understands what it took to get there.

It definitely takes two to create a business. One is just too lonely!

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