The FCCS Entrepreneurs Committee is the platform for entrepreneurs to meet and network. In order to share experiences and visions, the committee recently launched the ‘Entrepreneur Spotlight’ where a series of interviews with successful French Entrepreneurs in Singapore will be conducted every two weeks.
Interview with Jean-François Cousin, Managing Director, 1-2-Win Executive Coaching
A few words about your business
As a global executive coach, I have been serving over 350 executives - from 25 nationalities and 50 multinational companies - across Asia and The Middle East for the past 6 years. I also conduct high-impact workshops for management and leadership skills development, around the region. Through coaching, my executive clients are mostly looking - beyond their current success - at what’s best for them next, and how they can happily make it happen.
What pushed you to leave the corporate world and set up your own company?
I spent 15 years with Lafarge group in assignments all over the globe, and was more than happy with each one. Yet the desire kept growing to focus more on what I loved the most in my management positions: helping my people unleash their talents and lead more purposeful lives. So I eventually decided to embrace a 1-year coach-training, and decided to start a new adventure in Thailand and Singapore, where I had gathered a solid network of Country Managers at the time I was expatriated myself in those countries.
What were the main difficulties you encountered and how did you face them?
Believe it or not, I did not find real difficulties, only tasks that took longer time than I would have wished (company set-up, website development, accounting system, etc.). But each challenge was a worthwhile learning-opportunity. I found out that when you have passion for what you want to achieve, your energy and dedication are enormous, and flatten all bumps on the way!
You decided to set up your company in Bangkok, but you kept a close relationship with Singapore. What would be the main differences in doing business in Thailand and Singapore?
Doing business in Singapore is way easier; its administration and airport are so much more efficient - and that is critical for a very frequent traveller like me! And I did not yet mention the comparatively heavy weight of taxes in Thailand...
What would be your advice for young entrepreneurs?
First I would like to suggest that they look at what they are deeply passionate and competent about. Because (1) passion is necessary to fuel them with the energy and confidence needed to go through challenges, and (2) everyone has a greater chance to excel at doing what they truly love.
Then I would suggest that they study very objectively the market for the activity they wish to go for. I found it useful to invite many friends and ex-colleagues to challenge my ideas in a very objective – even harsh - way, and they gave me great ideas.
I would also advise that people looking at becoming entrepreneurs develop a full-fledge business plan, especially the cash-flow part, and then gather reasonable worst-case assumptions together and write the “pessimistic” business plan with them. That pessimistic business plan should still be worth going for.
Here I am not suggesting that aspiring entrepreneurs complete a “Grand Plan” before hitting the road with it. On the contrary, I recommend to “test the water” as soon as possible, to learn by doing and refine your business plan by integrating the learning from your early mistakes and successes.
An important piece of advice: ensure you cover your personal and business cash needs for a full year (two years if you have a family), to be safe. It is important to be relaxed and confident when you go and see prospective clients, and if you are worried about not meeting your financial needs, you won’t come out as relaxed and confident… Then it will be more difficult to get your prospects to trust you.
One more advice for the road: expect to work hard to get started, and then expect to work harder! Be a good boss to yourself: challenge yourself, recognize and celebrate your achievements, and be content when you gave the very best of your talent to your mission. Surely it’s about the journey, not the destination, but it is wise and healthy to realize when you don’t need to surpass yourself anymore and be content!
Jean-François Cousin, Managing Director
1-2-Win Executive Coaching
The views and opinions expressed in these columns do not necessarily reflect those of the FCCS members and management.