Tuition Business Lesson #1: Don’t give in to fear

One of my biggest mistakes was making decisions based on fear. 

Warning Sign In My Face

After two years in the partnership, I already felt like leaving. I brought this up with the leader of the team, Steve.

“We have so many capable people in the team.” He persuaded me by saying, “I don’t think you will do better out there alone. I am not convinced that leaving us is a wise choice.”

I felt indignant about it for a while. Part of me wanted to say, “Is that right? Watch me do it.” But I allowed myself to be persuaded, because I didn’t trust myself enough, compared to other people’s assessment of my ability.

I procrastinated for two years about leaving. I talked about it. I complained about my own team to my friends. Everybody I talked to told me to leave the partnership.

Yet many fears caused my procrastination, for example, fear that I would rock the boat, fear that I would be making things worse, fear that I would be missing out on a good team, fear that I might be the bad egg – so I should really be self-reflecting and learning form the rest, instead of leaving the team.

Learning point

On hindsight, the warning sign was right in my face. If I was staying on in any relationship, business or personal, due to fear, it cannot be a good one. I should get out of it as soon as possible.

How Strongly Should I Fight

There were many instances when I yielded to the majority on business decisions, big and small, even though I was not convinced. I told myself it was part and parcel to work with a team – everybody voted, and the majority won, right?

There was this incident when we were deciding on the type of business structure to adopt. I clearly knew that a private limited company would be most suitable. I even got an accountant friend to give the team a free consultation to explain this. Yet the team voted to go for limited liability partnership to save cost.

To be honest, I did not protest further, after I had arranged the free consultation. I told myself that I had done my part, and I should just go along and not be an ass.

Until today, I am still unsure how much stronger I should have fought about everything. As the team had very limited time to meet, our primary mode of communication was through WhatsApp. I certainly did not think it worth my time to write long messages to voice my opinion.

The truth was, I felt it a waste of time to debate when there was already tension, and whatever the team said was to placate me, rather than to really consider my point of view.

Learning point

What I have learnt is that, if I am uncomfortable with any decision, even if when I have slight doubts, I should make it a point to communicate to the team. Recently I made a business decision, but subsequently felt a nagging doubt about it.

I took some time to write an email to my partner on two things: (1) retrace what we have discussed, and my inner and expressed thoughts at every juncture (2) state my insecurities and doubts in detail, holding nothing back. I also added why I might have these thoughts.

I didn’t care how he would judge me, but I just want to communicate my thoughts. In the process of penning down my concerns and doubts, I came to a conclusion myself, and felt certain to proceed with the decision.

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