Super Savers Interviews: Looi Qin En (COO of Glints)

qin-en

Q1. Could you do a short introduction about yourself and what you do?

I lead people operations at Glints. We are on a mission to empower young people to discover & develop their careers. I do this by bringing my colorful experiences together: behavioural science research (published 12 papers in Tier-1 conferences & journals), data-driven marketing strategy (founded a profitable digital agency that earned the Google Partner certification in 90 days) & emotional brand development (worked with Wells Fargo, Hilton, Singtel).

Today, Glints has shaped the professional development of 100,000+ youths. And we’re just getting started. Backed by an incredible & fun-loving team alongside investors who firmly believe in our mission (Infocomm Investments, East Ventures, 500 Startups, SPH Media Fund, Pixvine Capital, 8Capita, JFDI.Asia), I take great pride in bringing out the best in people.

I have been described as “damn cheeky”​ with a “fundamental naughtiness and healthy disrespect for rules”​. I combine that cheekiness and naughtiness with relentless, rapid execution to achieve what I set out to do.

Q2. What are some of the money saving tips that you live by?

    • Always budget. What you don’t measure, you don’t manage. I only started doing proper budgeting for my personal finances at the end of last year, after I realised how little I saved despite having worked for almost a year! I was appalled at my own spending habits, and what was worse, I didn’t think at that point that I was spending a lot. But what I realised is that you don’t manage what you don’t measure. Setting a goal and working towards it has helped me saved more than 50% of my salary ever since!

 

    • Don’t be lazy, do your homework & always compare for the best promotions / deals. Doesn’t hurt to be aunty! There are plenty of amazing deals a Google search away. And more often than not, the banks (DBS & OCBC) have excellent promotions so do a bit of hunting. One of the wonderful things about being young and hanging out with young people is that when we want to head out for meals or to have fun, more often than not, we don’t have a specific thing in mind. Pulling up the bank promotions / latest discounts is an excellent way to see where you can have a delicious meal or enjoyable experience at a fraction of the costs.

 

    • The most valuable investment you is yourself, specifically, what value can you create? I see many of my peers being really excited and upon graduation (or even before), they leap into investments, wanting to learn how to do stock trade, forex, commodities trading, etc. But what they don’t realise is the fastest and most reliable way to build wealth is to find out how can you create value for others. Especially when you’re young, you don’t have a lot of capital to invest and the returns are minimal, as compared to building valuable skills and being crystal clear on what value you can bring to organisations. The more value you can bring (and the rarer that value), the higher in demand you can be. The returns on investment for developing your skills way higher than the 5% – 10% of a well-balanced investment portfolio.

 

Q3.  Being an entrepreneur, what is the toughest part in managing your finance in your job?

    • Collecting money is probably one of the hardest (yet most important) activities. When we first started out, we were afraid to ask for money and chase for money. We learnt the hard way when our mentors whacked us for servicing clients before having our clients commit to payment. We felt almost embarrassed to have to ask our clients for the first cheque, but over time, we learnt that it is absolutely essential to be able to ask our clients to pay up, confident with the knowledge that we are delivering value worth more than what the payment is.
    • Small expenses add up rapidly, so watch the budget. It is never the big-ticket items that cause us to over-spend our budget, but the small items / subscriptions that we think do not make an impact to our budget that end up causing us to over-spend. Small expenses, even a $10 cab ride, can throw us off track — not because of the amount per se, but the discipline we lack everytime we make those decisions. If you tell yourself: Ok, we can spend for just this time, you set yourself up to spend much more in future.

 

    • Always have checks & balances. Entrepreneurs are excellent persuaders — persuading themselves that this is necessary. As entrepreneurs, we are effective communicators. And that means we are great at persuading ourselves on why expenses are justified. Always create checks & balances, even if you are a solo founder. I have seen solo founder friends who have spent ridiculous amounts on money on unnecessary items, but they told themselves a great story on why they need it. To be able to talk through someone, even if it’s your employees or friends, is helpful. Be rational, don’t rationalise.

 

Q4. Any tips for the aspiring entrepreneurs out there?

    • The most common misconception is that the toughest part about being an entrepreneur is about the money & finances. It’s not. Bringing me back to the point earlier about the highest leverage is to increase the amount of value you can bring to an organisation, the hardest part about entrepreneur is not about the money. In fact, problems that money can solve aren’t difficult. It’s the problems that money can’t solve that frustrate us day-to-day. We can’t “pay” our customers to use our products/services (that model only works for a select few), and we can’t “pay” our employees to be highly motivated & driven (we can only pay them to work for us, not be highly motivated). Be aware, but don’t let finances (or the lack thereof) be a hindrance to your entrepreneurial pursuits.

 

    • Building a business & building wealth is very similar. It takes discipline. Discipline to do the uncomfortable things. Discipline to budget every month when there are a thousand other things to do. It’s all about a habit. It took us a year to get into the habit of proper financial controls, and after we became disciplined, we realised how much money we could have saved. It pays to be disciplined.

 

    • Measure, measure, measure. What you measure, you don’t manage. Check your bank balance (personal and for your business) at least once a week and don’t bull-shit yourself. Don’t rationalise, be rational.