11 Things I Learned About Being An Asian Entrepreneur

Who wants to be an entrepreneur? I’m guessing many of you have flirted with the idea and others bravely made that leap. Three years ago I was one of the people making that leap, turning a low point in my life into an opportunity.

I had lost everything. My NYC apartment, my flashy advertising job, and my savings account. My life was falling apart and in the same month my landlord was suing me for back rent. Yes, I cried and I cried some more. But it was also the moment I realized that I needed to be an entrepreneur. So I decided to start my own global branding agency in NYC, which meant no one could ever fire me again.

The journey from where I started to where I am has definitely not been fun or easy. There were many times I’ve asked myself, “Did I make the right choices? Should I just quit and go back to a 9 to 5? Or maybe I should start all over with another company?”

All of these are very normal questions that every entrepreneur goes through. The difference that will set you apart is not only grit, but also the ability to be patient. Patient when there doesn’t seem to be anything to be patient for. Along my personal entrepreneurial journey, there were a lot of things that I needed to let go, and others I needed to learn quickly. Some of these were lessons taught to me by my own family, others I learned from my own experiences.

Here’s how you can make it as an entrepreneur who grew up in an Asian culture.

1. Speak Up For Yourself

Asians are often raised with the notion of always following the rules, taught to, “Listen and never talk back, because it’s disrespectful.” But in business, you need to learn to stand up for yourself. Speak up! If you don’t, who’s going to do it for you? This leads me to my next point.

2. Saying No To Clients Can Feel Empowering

It’s ok to say, “no.” There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s nothing embarrassing about saying no, even to your client. Actually, it can be an empowering experience. When you say no, you’re setting clear boundaries and letting others know what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t.

3. Long Emails Get No Play

Your long, wordy emails will never get read. It’s true! When we start sending out emails in the business world, we’re all victims of long email syndrome. Everyone is busy, so they aren’t reading your email—instead people scan for the important points. So, keep your emails short and straight to the point, using only six sentences including the salutation. This will get people to respond.

4. Perfect Is For Losers

So many times as a kid it was drilled into me that I had to be perfect. But as an entrepreneur I’ve learned was that perfect is for losers. When you’re an entrepreneur, you will fail again and again. So if you’re looking for perfection, there’s no such thing. In fact, you’re just causing more suffering. Give yourself the permission to be perfectly imperfect, you’ll learn so much more.

5. Fear Isn’t Real

Asian parents have a tendency to raise kids using fear tactics and severe punishment, which makes many of us afraid to step outside the box. Even trying something new can be daunting. The word “fear” is simply false expectations masquerading as reality. Just give things a try, because anything that’s done wrong can always be fixed.

6. Team Work Makes The Dream Work

This was a big challenge for me when I first started in the business world. My parents never encouraged me to be part of a sports team or to work with others as a kid. So it was tough being in a team environment, not knowing how to interact with people. If there’s one valuable piece of advice I can share with you, it’s to learn how to work with a team. There’s truth in the tired phrase: you’re only as good as your team. Learning social skills can take you a long way.

7. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

It’s easy to stay in place, where you know what to expect. This strategy is the surest way to prevent yourself from growing. Give yourself a goal and try something new every week. It doesn’t have to be something big, the point is to try something that you usually don’t do.

8. Don’t Forget Personal Growth

Most Asians aren’t raised with leadership skills in mind. It’s up to you to put in the work and continuously build on your own personal growth. As an entrepreneur who leads a team, you have to be able to provide insights and unique point of views to your team. You’re responsible for your own growth.

9. Who Cares What Others Think Of You

No matter whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, don’t focus on what people think of you. Whoever you are, people will always have an opinion of you. Some will love you, some won’t. Focus on you and don’t worry about what others think.

10. Splurge on The Right Things

We all love to buy things, but as an entrepreneur spend your money the right way. Don’t be afraid to pay thousands of dollars for classes. I’m a fierce advocate of online courses, and they’ve helped me grow from an employee mindset to an entrepreneur. My first year as an entrepreneur I spent over $15,000 USD on online courses. What I got back was invaluable.

11. Fiercely Protect Your Time

This is probably the toughest one to master. As an entrepreneur, you need to be aware of where you’re spending your time. Every minute counts and if you ever look at Elon Musk’s schedule, he has his days planned out to the minute. Start creating rules for your time. For example, when it comes to my personal schedule, phone calls that aren’t business related will get 15 minutes max and client phone calls will get 30 minutes max. I don’t take coffee meetings or lunch meetings because, after doing some math, the time and money spent don’t validate the outcome. Mark Cuban, an American investor and businessman said it best, “I don’t come to meetings unless someone is cutting me a check.”

(written by Connie Chi (@Connie_Chi_). Connie is the founder and CEO of The Chi Group, a NYC branding agency humanizing and co-branding brands through experiences. The Chi Group works with global clients in fashion, beauty, hospitality, food, wine, spirits, events, and entertainment. She’s also the host of The Brand Academy Podcast which talks about trends in branding and marketing, secrets to co-branding and brand strategies that can help you level up your brand.)

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