Online MBA Alumni's Journey to Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is in the GLOBIS DNA. From our very foundation to the faculty and students, many have deep ties to this area. That is why we are always excited to see when our students and alumni follow this path. Join us as we talk with GLOBIS alumni Aaron Lau and his journey to founding AITLAU Management Services.
Q&A with Aaron Lau, Founder of AITLAU Management Services
- Did you always know you wanted to start your own company?
I had no intentions of starting my own company. My first job was with Messrs Arthur Andersen & Co (“AA”) based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was engaged in financial audits in various sectors like property development, construction, insurance, stockbroking, oil and gas, and general trading, just to name a few.
My career path when I joined AA was very clear. To be a manager and strive to be a partner of AA. But there were two significant events that took place that caused me to change my mind. The first was a life-threatening incident that happened when I was on an assignment in Indonesia. The incident taught me the value of life and the urgency to achieve what I wanted to do in the future. The second event was when I took a solo backpacking trip to Vietnam. Whilst at Hanoi, I met an entrepreneur, Ben that was very encouraging and his key takeaways were to ensure that I had 9 to 12 months work of cash flow and also to never give up when times are hard.
I did not initially start with starting a firm specializing in financial fraud investigation. I started with the basics of my specialty which with book-keeping and company secretarial services. When the accounting practice stabilized, I started a business consulting firm specializing initially in financial fraud investigation services and then later in Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Compliance and independent AML audit services.
- Did studying at GLOBIS contribute in any way to confirming this path? Was there any class in particular?
Studying at GLOBIS helped me draw clearer goals and objectives that have to be coherent with values and strategies adopted.
Leadership, Ethics, and Values taught by Tadahiro Wakasugi taught me the importance of ethics and values shared by the leaders in driving the business; Entrepreneurial Leadership taught by Tomoya Nakamura gave me insights into my passion and gave me direction on how to improve shared values in my organization, and Social Venture Management taught by Suzuka Kobayakawa expanded my knowledge on how social ventures are managed with different business models.
Naturally, courses like Robotics Business Innovation, Operations Strategy and Strategy classes taught by Jorge Calvo; and Marketing and Corporate Philosophy and Social Values course did enable me to relook into my own organization’s values, objectives, and strategy (which includes marketing strategy); and the requirement to digitalize processes were very helpful to me.
- What would you say were your biggest challenges in founding AITLAU Management Services and how did you tackle them?
The biggest challenge that I had was to build AITLAU Management Services single-handedly with minimal support from my former colleagues and friends. At times I had wanted to give up and go back to being a fully employed person. But I clung to what Ben told me in Vietnam and continued to prospect clients, meeting prospects and not forgetting the back-end administrative side. The most important support was from my family members and loved ones which encouraged me to continue pursuing my dream.
Of course, there were also a lot of non-related opportunities that competed for my time which I did indulge in them. Most of them did not materialize but one which is in health and wellness. This business is still running to this day.
I ultimately realize that I needed to focus on my core business after many side deviations. I learned how to say no to many other promising opportunities that came my way that would steer me away from my initial objective.
- As an entrepreneur and MBA graduate, what advice would you give to those seeking to take the same path?
For those thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, my advice would be:
1) Make sure you have sufficient cashflows 9-12 months buffer and constantly watch your burn rate. Getting the business in is just as important as the burn rate. Some business is better than none at all. Work hard and work smart.
2) Be humble and always be willing to learn from everyone.
3) Many entrepreneurs do not give themselves sufficient time and give up before success is achieved. Give yourself at least 3 years as being an entrepreneur as it is a learning journey equivalent to studying for a degree. Don’t give up as success may just be a moment away.
4) If you think it is impossible, it is. If you think it is possible, it is.