Firstly, apologies for the lack of an interview article in Aug! Things have been quite a whirlwind with hardly time to pen things down and write articles regularly as I’d love to. Nonetheless, for those who have been waiting for our next person in the spotlight, this month, we speak to Carmen Tang, a sassy lady who survived a failed partnership that resulted in a torn friendship. She shares with The Hooting Post how she bounced back to her feet and singlehandedly starts a new company with passion as her main driver. Lots of hard work, but she’s one tough girl too. We hope you feel her positivity and enthusiasm for work, life and everything in between amidst the turbulence!
Hello Carmen! It’s our pleasure to have you squeeze time out from your hectic projects for this exclusive interview! We’ve heard of what has happened, and we hope you could share your candid revelations and anecdotes with us and our readers. Tell us your story.
Someone once said to me that all partnerships are destined to fail. I wish he had told me earlier. My ex-company was a partnership between an old friend and I. Our friendship started way back when we both slogged our asses off for the same media company. It was a natural progression for us then, turning camaraderie into friendship and eventually into a business partnership. Not the smartest decision on hindsight because friendship is best in its purest form – without the complication of dollars, cents and lots of grey areas. We had the perfect plan – I took care of the creative aspect of the business while she took care of account servicing. It worked out well for our skill sets complemented each other. We had a common goal and were very eager to do great. Business was good and we saw healthy profits (though we kept the team small so that it was manageable). We developed new accounts and were fast gaining trust from our clients for the work we do and the dedication towards our projects, regardless of size. We were busy but happy, and things were as we had planned. But of course, it wasn’t a bed of roses. We had to deal with manpower issues and worry over covering overheads. But that was part and parcel of any business so we took it in stride. She serviced our clients well and I undertook all the projects with pride, with the support of my team of designers and art director.
Unfortunately, cracks started to show when my business partner’s focus shifted from the company to her new role as a mother. Note that I wasn’t penalising her for her decision to have a baby (her husband was an old friend of mine too). I was happy for her. It was more of the sudden imbalance that I witnessed in our contribution towards the company that triggered off the conflict. While I felt I was giving my usual 200% towards work, her contribution didn’t quite seem to match up. I didn’t raise this concern initially as I didn’t want to appear unreasonable, knowing how demanding motherhood can be. Again on hindsight, I shouldn’t have kept mum because communication is key to any successful business. It wasn’t until much later that the unhappiness surfaced, by which time was too late to be resolved. There were just too much grievances from both parties and eventually the situation was beyond salvation. It turned ugly in fact. Till this day, it still haunts me to recall all these details. The failure of the business partnership left more than bad taste in my mouth. It left me very disillusioned and disappointed. I lost faith in human kind, no kidding. For me, the saddest thing wasn’t so much the fact that our partnership didn’t survive the ordeal. It was more over the death of our friendship.
Yikes, that sounds like a whole load of what you had to deal with at that time. Stepping out of this ordeal, what were the lessons learnt from this experience?
NEVER EVER enter into a business with a friend or a family member. My ex-business partner was both a friend and family to me then… I was there for her during her wedding, her family tragedy, her marital woes etc. I guess part of the problem was that I chose not to confront her when issues arose for fear that I would jeopardise our friendship. This is definitely not right. As business partners, you SHOULD be able to air issues in the open, nip them in the bud and leave no room for them to enter the ‘dark side’. When friendship or kinship are at stake, chances are, you will not be making the most objective decisions. All the money in the world is not going to make the sacrifice worthwhile.
Yup, sticky situations are inevitable when things take a turn. Oh, we hear you have been busy with your new endeavors. We’re excited to know more!
When life throws you lemons, you better start making lemonades, FAST before it gets you down for good. After the partnership split, I knew what I needed to do – to get back on my feet and regain my confidence (yes, the entire saga left me very deflated). So I set up MR FOX CREATIVE LOFT, a boutique advertising and design firm, specialising in print, TV and web. Why MR FOX? Because I reckon I need to be smarter. I know my creative capability. I just need to be smart enough to recognise that I deserve success despite the lemons that I’ve been receiving. :P With MR FOX, not only am I able to push my creative limits (now that I am selling my own ideas instead of relying on a servicing person to do it), I am also enjoying greater freedom to develop the accounts in the best possible way. My hope for MR FOX is that it continues to produce honest, good works for clients… works that are creatively sound yet commercially and strategically viable. I don’t believe in creating works just to win awards. I know many big ad agencies only have eyes for awards. As far as I am concerned, clients are paying us to sell their products, not to inflate our own ego. At the end of the day, all ads and campaigns should serve ONE purpose – to sell your clients’ brands, NOT to sell your own through theirs.
As part of my business expansion plans, I have also recently created a new brand – WOLF WOOF, specializing in interior styling for residential, commercial and retail projects. WOLF WOOF differentiates itself from most interior design firms by walking the grey line between interior designers and contractors, giving any interior a distinctive, graphic touch. My penthouse home which I designed had been featured on TV (Channel 8’s Small Spaces and Toggle’s Home Tips with Bryan Wong), magazine (Home & Decor – Feb 2013) and newspaper (The Straits Times). It had also won the first prize in International Category of Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool Contest. Through WOLF WOOF, I hope to eventually venture into home accessory design.
Wow! Sounds like great plans and we are impressed with your energy level and zest to overcome the odds to become stronger. Has Mr Fox changed you as a person?
Whatever happened to me before MR FOX had definitely toughen me up psychologically. It opened up my eyes and made me understand myself a lot more than I thought I did. It brought me closer to my group of good friends who stuck by me during those difficult times. It made me see what really matters most – family and true friends. Now with MR FOX, I feel more complete as an advertising person for I walk the line between creative and sales. I see things from BOTH a creative director’s point of view as well as that of a sales director. Marrying these aspects help me produce works that meet clients’ briefs without compromising on creativity. Understanding the importance of forging strong, long term business relations with clients and associates also made me cherish them a lot more now. I especially love the fact that some clients have become my friends.
Now that you’re taking everything upon your own shoulders, seems like 24hours might not be enough for you. Tell us, how do u juggle the new changes and your personal life? It’s awe-mazing, so do share!
With lots of sweat, haha. My current situation sees my working late every night as well as into the weekends. Frankly I don’t have much of a social life but I supposed that’s a happy problem. I recently bought my own office space which implies busier days ahead to get the space operation-ready. I am crazy busy but yet very gratified. I believe strongly in this – DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO. If you are stuck in a job that you are not deriving any form of satisfaction, do yourself a favor and start looking really hard within. Is this what you want to be doing for the days/months/years to come? Are you happy? If you aren’t, it’s time to move on. It’s natural to fear moving on because of the unknown but YOLO (You Only Live Once)! Be brave and see what life has in-store for you.
True that! Life is short and there’s no time for regrets, eh? Never try, never know. Heh! So how do you keep your mind off work to recharge?
When you spend your waking moments cracking your brains for new ideas, any form of spacing out is god-sent. For me, nothing beats chilling out on beaches away from Singapore and sipping ice cold beers. When I am not indulging myself with the business of doing nothing, I usually dive into the pool for a swim because swimming is therapeutic for me. When you are in the waters, it’s just you, yourself and the sound of your own breathing. I think better when I swim. Similarly, when I drive too, if I don’t end up getting irritated by inconsiderate drivers that is, haha.
Hahaha! We know what you mean… quiet moments can be rare but very much-needed to preserve one’s sanity. Carmen, with your experience and enterprising spirit, do share 3 tips for those who wish to be entrepreneurs!
First of all, you need courage – courage to think differently. If you have major herd mentality, then ntrepreneurship is probably not for you. It’s really a road less travelled by most.
Secondly, you need to be an independent thinker. Entrepreneurs need to think on their feet and make decisions every day… decisions that may cost them money, clients’ trust, suppliers’ support etc. You just cannot afford to consult everyone’s opinion before making your decisions. If you have to even ask what your friends are having for lunch before you can decide your order, then entrepreneurship is likely not for you. You are probably better off working for someone.
Lastly and most importantly, you need to be able to resilient, accept failure and bounce back on your feet fast whenever something gets you down. Because guess what? Life is just going to keep handing you quite a bit of lemons. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you STRONGER!
About Mr Fox Creative Loft:
MR FOX is a smart and dynamic creative loft that specialises in advertising, design, branding – print, TV and web… the whole nine yards. We take the “Why didn’t I think of that?” out of the marketing equation and introduce the “Aha” into it. To achieve one thing and one thing only – develop creative yet targeted solutions for businesses’ marketing needs. To keep brands fresh, To keep audience engaged. To deliver the best campaign yet. Mr Fox resides here.
About Wolf Woof:
It’s not an interior design. It’s not a renovation contractor. WOLF WOOF is an interior styling firm that walks the grey line between the two, specializing in adding attitude and spunk to residential, commercial and retail spaces through bold graphic design touches . Armed with vast experience in graphic design and an eye for all things nice, WOLF WOOF clearly sets itself apart in an industry filled with cookie-cutter designs, by carving a unique niche like no other.
Life is a rollercoaster ride and sometimes throws us curve balls too. It is also a test on how we deal with situations and how we step up AND up when things don’t go our way. We thank Carmen for sharing her inspiring story and hope that it serves as a motivational piece if you’re in a similar situation. If you’ve got an interesting experience or story to share, or know someone who should be featured, drop us a note!