10 May Learning Entrepreneurship Through Experience
Lim Wei Liang shares about his journey – both his ups and downs, as an entrepreneur, and how it has helped him in shaping the curriculum of Pinnacle’s Entrepreneurship Programmes.
As the Entrepreneurship Programme Manager for Pinnacle and an entrepreneur himself, Wei Liang’s experience is invaluable in designing and curating programme curriculums, co-ordinating timelines, developing course materials, and engaging the right trainers to impart their knowledge to budding startups.
We caught up with Wei Liang to find out how his work empowers aspiring entrepreneurs to grow and adapt with their businesses, as well as learn from not just others’ successes but also their failures to better navigate the entrepreneurial scene.
Give us an overview of what you do as Programme Manager for Pinnacle’s Entrepreneurship Programme.
Wei Liang (WL): As an Entrepreneurship Programme Manager, I develop and run highly customisable programmes for different stages of a startup, from as early as pre-idea, to scaling to other markets. With these flexible programmes, I then identify opportunities and partners in the market where we are able to fill the gaps in their existing programmes.
Entrepreneurship programmes not only come with the end goal of starting a business, but also aim to develop an entrepreneurial and growth mindset for employees in corporates. This is especially important for corporates to adopt the creativity and agility that most startups possess, so that they can innovate and better meet their customers’ needs and business goals, without getting too comfortable with the policies and framework they have in place which might be more time-consuming.
“Entrepreneurship programmes not only come with the end goal of starting a business, but also aim to develop an entrepreneurial and growth mindset for employees in corporates.”
Share with us your journey with entrepreneurship and how it has helped you in your role and planning your programmes.
WL: I ran and failed two different startups and failed more than five ideas after gaining initial traction. Through all the failures, I learnt unique lessons from all of them and these are experiences that many do not have. This puts me in a better position to guide learners and early-stage startups on the potential pitfalls they might face.
That is where I entered the education scene as well, after seeing the startups I mentored through my experiences benefitting from my mentorship, with some gaining valuation above millions of dollars and even coming back to tell me that they are thankful for my mentorship.
I always start off a programme delivery by sharing – “If you copy and paste say, Bill Gates’s success formula, you might not succeed. But if you copy and paste his failures, you will avoid it. There is a higher chance for you to succeed by avoiding failed attempts by people than to try hitting the bullseye.”
Entrepreneurship cannot be taught, but experienced. Many times, people start off their business hoping to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. It can potentially happen, but chances are slim that you will succeed on first attempt and it’s the failures behind them that people do not pay attention to.
“Entrepreneurship cannot be taught, but experienced.”
I am a strong believer of the Kolb’s Experiential Learning Pedagogy. Many of us are not accustomed to accepting failure but failing is where we can learn the most. Hence, the programmes and mentors are here not only to root for your success, but more importantly, to help you to avoid failures based on our own experiences. We might not be able to guarantee business success due to different unpredictable factors, such as your network and resources, but we can guarantee that all learners will walk away knowing how to stand up from failures and reduce the possibilities of it happening.
The most important part of Entrepreneurship Programme development is to stay relevant and be flexible. As a Programme Manager, I must know the happenings and trends in the market and to develop a programme that is most the relevant and helpful to startups, I must therefore be active in the community itself. Even if I cannot run my own startup, talking to startups and learning about their difficulties helps in keeping myself relevant. As the saying goes, it’s easier said than done. You cannot teach someone how to be an entrepreneur if you are not an entrepreneur.
“…to develop a programme that is the most relevant and helpful to startups, I must therefore be active in the community itself. Even if I cannot run my own startup, talking to startups and learning about their difficulties helps in keeping myself relevant.”
As for being flexible, different startups, even if they are in the same industry, requires different support. Hence, on many occasions, you will see that mentorship is a huge component of a startup’s growth, rather than a lesson plan or a structured programme.
What were some of the challenges you faced in your entrepreneurship journey? Was there a significant lesson you learnt that you wished you knew earlier, or would like budding entrepreneurs to know now?
WL: There were a ton of challenges I faced in my entrepreneurial journey. I started off in this journey being an extreme introvert. That was the first hurdle I had to overcome, knowing how to network and talk to people.
Burnout was another huge obstacle in my journey, and it is really scary. It catches you off guard and the next thing you know, you feel like giving up on everything. At the time, I did not have a proper mentor in my journey to guide me along and caution me on these aspects of starting a business.
If there is something I wish I knew earlier, or would like budding entrepreneurs to know, it’s to really go out there and network. You never know if someone you meet now might be a benefactor for your business or your mentor a couple of years down the road.
“If there is something I wish I knew earlier, or would like budding entrepreneurs to know, it’s to really go out there and network.”
When I say mentor, I do not mean someone who tells you what to do or advises you on what your next steps should be. I like to differentiate between an advisor and a mentor. While an advisor is someone who mainly gives advice, a mentor is more akin to a close friend who you would confide in about your business needs. Mentorship is never one-way, and a suitable mentor is hard to come by. I wish that I had networked with more people and had a mentor to help me avoid the failures that I faced or analyse them with me from a different perspective.
Also, having passion for your business idea might be a cliché thing to say. But it is extremely important to prevent yourself from having that burnout period.