In the Spotlight Interview with Executive Lifestyle
Published by Executive Lifestyle on 18th October 2016
There’s nothing quite like realising life has so much more to offer you in confidence, work, business, and personal development.
Anu has been helping people for almost 10 years and has recently built her own company based on that very innate ability. She is sharing her beginnings and progress, opening up on valuable lessons learned along the way, in this Spotlight Interview. Whether you’re new to business, or a seasoned coach, there is refreshing insight to be gained.
Tell us about your business and what you were doing before?
I am a Singaporean and started my career in the Singapore Public Service in 2000. I held several roles in public policy and during the last few years I was a researcher, facilitator, and executive coach. Last year, after sessions with my coach and a soul-searching retreat, I decided to follow my passion and resigned to set up my own company in July 2016. The services I offer are executive coaching, large and small group facilitation, training in scenario planning and retreats. I absolutely love the work I do as I get the opportunity to interact with people and help them make a difference in their lives. I also now have the flexibility to manage my work and my three kids better.
From Public Service To My Own Business
I consider myself a late bloomer, as I didn’t always know what I wanted to do. However, I did know that I wasn’t interested in business, which is probably why I got into public service in the first place. I think connecting to the higher public service values resonated with me, as I felt that I was contributing to a larger purpose. Some of the key milestones in my career were:
Firstly, getting a job in the public service and beginning to understand the bureaucracy. While there were challenges, I learned a lot about the bigger purpose of serving in the public and the satisfaction of doing that.
Secondly, meeting then marrying my husband while in the public service. I attribute much of who I am today to my husband and his support through the years. He’s a man of few words, but someone I have always managed to count on.
Thirdly, getting selected to be part of an internal leadership facilitation programme in 2012. I give credit to my boss at that time, who probably saw potential in me and asked me to sign up for the programme. I did so thinking that I would certainly not get selected. Getting selected surprised me, as I did not consider myself as experienced as the other facilitators. This took me on a personal self-development journey that was completely unexpected. During this journey, I met my current coach and many wonderful people who helped with my development, and finally led to me deciding to set up my own company.
Fourth, resigning from my job and setting up my own company in 2016. Interestingly I had started my career in the public service thinking that business was not for me. However, now that I am running my own business, I see that we can still set higher purposeful goals for ourselves even as we try to be bottom-line driven. My main aim is help people clarify and achieve their life goals.
Building A Brand For Yourself
I think the key thing I have learnt is that it boils down to building a reputation for yourself in anything you do. Even as an employee, it is important to think about your “brand” and how you project yourself. This is something that I only learnt many years after starting my career and it has served me well, as many of the projects I got after I resigned were through referrals and word-of-mouth. I think we sometimes tend to underestimate the power of networking and just making connections with people. It is not about selling your services all the time we meet people but building relationships and helping people to solve their problems.
Questions To Ask Yourself Daily
We are all on our own personal journeys, so it is difficult for me to give generic advice. But I would say start by having an honest and open conversation with someone trusted. Also spend time with yourself in silence and ask yourself questions, such as:
- If there was one thing you would like to change about your situation by next year, what would that be?
- What would that change bring you?
- How will people around you be impacted by that change?
- What feelings do you want to create in yourself?
Keep a journal and reflect on questions like these on a daily basis. I truly believe that deep down our soul knows what is best for us and it just needs to surface at the right moment. This is also where coaches can help professionals with the struggles they are facing.
A Good Support Group
One of my biggest challenges or shifts from being an employee to a business owner is not having a ready network of people around me on a daily basis. Working in an organisation, you are always surrounded by people and you know you can count on others to help you get your projects done. As a business owner, it is really up to you to do everything and get the people or resources you need. When I was talking to other small business owners, I realised that feeling a little lonely was quite prevalent among small business owners. So I set up a small peer group of fellow small business owners to support one another in our journeys. This has helped me, as I now feel I have a group I can text if I need advice or just to check in with on a monthly basis. I think subconsciously it also raises my accountability, as I know I need to update this group on my progress on a certain project.
Important Lessons Learnt
I had always considered myself to be a loyal employee and believed that as long as I got my work done well that was all that mattered. While this had served me relatively well, I think one of the biggest lessons in corporate life I have learnt is that it pays to publicise yourself once in a while. In recent years, I would speak up and say more at meetings to state my viewpoint. I also started agreeing to be photographed or videotaped at work. It was awkward in the beginning because I was not used to it and felt a little embarrassed. But I changed my mindset and started thinking that it was not about “publicity” but about me putting my message out so that people who needed my help would be able to get in touch with me. I think this was also my motivation to begin writing for the Executive Lifestyle magazine.
Another lesson I have learnt is to ask for what I need, because you never know when people might be able to help you. Even before I registered my business I knew I would need help with the details of setting up. So when I met a wonderful lady at a networking event, I asked if she could help me; she agreed and has been an invaluable support in setting up my business since then.
If I Could Do It All Again
I would definitely have gotten a coach much earlier in my career! My coach has helped me stretch myself in personal growth, which I would never have been able to do on my own. She supported me by asking powerful questions every time I was confused and helped me to raise my self-awareness. It has been a transformational journey with her and I have been inspired to help others feel “heard” the same way I have been by her.
You Are The Universe
I love listening to lectures by the philosopher Alan Watts. One of his lectures “You are the Universe” leaves a deep impression on me every time I hear it. So that has become my favourite quote – “You are the Universe”. Those few words say so much and imply that we are whole, resourceful and powerful. A great feeling to have on days when I’m feeling nervous!
Work With Anu
“There are always more questions than answers.”
If you feel that life is rushing by and you need a pause, come for a breather at the Instant Pause on 19 November 2016. It’s a one-day retreat for busy people to take stock of their lives and set intentions for the future. For more details visit here.
Anu does helps by working in person with clients and by sharing valuable information on her blog.