Ep495: Adrian Choo – Get Business Expertise Before Starting Your Own

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Quick take

BIO: Adrian Choo is the One and Only Career Strategist in Asia and is the founder of Career Agility International. In three years, he helped more than one thousand clients successfully achieve clarity to enjoy a happier and even more successful career.

STORY: Adrian and his friend started a technology company that ran for three years. They had to call it quits when they couldn’t scale the business.

LEARNING: Don’t go into business just because you want to be in business; acquire domain expertise first. Entrepreneurship is a long game.


“Don’t they say the early bird gets the worm? Sometimes it isn’t true. It’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.”

Adrian Choo


Guest profile

Adrian Choo is the One and Only Career Strategist in Asia and is the founder of Career Agility International. In three years, he helped more than one thousand clients successfully achieve clarity to enjoy a happier and even more successful career!

Worst investment ever

Adrian wanted to start a business again after his first entrepreneurial stint. So he sat down with friends and brainstormed business ideas. They created a company doing electronic marketing. They got funded, ran it, and engineered many groundbreaking technologies in electronic marketing, data analytics, and lifestyle marketing.

Adrian and his friends ran the business for three years. They were successful at first but had difficulty scaling it. Eventually, they decided to call it a day and go their separate ways.

Lessons learned

  • Don’t go into business just because you want to be in business. First, acquire domain expertise, have a solid business foundation or idea, and then go into business.
  • Understand the market before becoming an entrepreneur, not the other way around.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • Entrepreneurship is a long game. When you go into entrepreneurship, be prepared to dedicate the next five or ten years of your life or even your lifetime.
  • Set a goal to get to $3 to $5 million in revenue as fast as possible, possibly within three years. This is enough money to cover the overheads of running a real business.

Actionable advice

You have to make mistakes to learn from them. But on the flip side of it, it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes. If you want to go into business and be an entrepreneur, Adrian recommends that you watch all seven seasons of Shark Tank, the American version.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Adrian’s goal for the next 12 months is to help another 1,000 people get more career clarity and enjoy and refocus their lives around their careers and everything else that’s important to them.

Parting words


“Stay tuned to Andrew Stotz; he knows his stuff. So, learn a lot from him. He’s the best or the worst.”

Adrian Choo


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever, stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community. We know that to win in investing, you must take risk, but to win big, you've got to reduce it. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. To reduce risk in your life. Pause this episode right now and go to my worst investment ever.com And take the risk reduction assessment that I've created from the lessons I've learned from more than 470 guests. It's time you start building wealth the easy way by reducing risk. Fellow risk takers, this is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz, from a Stotz Academy, and I'm here with featured guest, Adrian Chu Adrian, are you ready to join our mission?

Adrian Choo 00:51
I was born ready, come, let's rock and roll.

Andrew Stotz 00:55
I, I really, I can feel that from our conversation we had before we turn on the mic. I just love the energy that you bring to the world. So let me introduce you to the audience. Adrian Chu is the one and only Career Strategist in Asia and is the founder of career agility International. In three years, he has helped more than 1000 clients successfully achieve clarity to enjoy a happier and even more successful career. Adrian, take a minute and tell us a bit about the value you bring to the world.

Adrian Choo 01:31
Well, on a professional level, I one of the things I really enjoy doing is I love sitting down with senior executives who are trying to figure out what to do next with their life, what to do next with their career, and staying down understanding what they need, what they want, and how to move ahead. We help to unlock the vision for the future, via their careers. And once they get Career Clarity, you can see the amount of confidence and unhappiness they have. And we help them along that journey to be better and more successful. And that's one of the things which really drives me and I believe that that's something that keeps me going all the time.

Andrew Stotz 02:08
You know, it's interesting, when we think about let's say, building a house or making a garden or doing some project, we oftentimes map it out, we make a plan, and all of that. But when it comes to careers, I think why is it that people just don't often have a plan, maybe they have some ideas in their head, but they don't have a clear strategy of where they're going. I wonder why that is.

Adrian Choo 02:28
But two reasons. Basically, I think the first reason is, for the longest time companies have taken care of the careers of many of their executives. And unfortunately, as we know, in this day and age, that's no longer true. But a lot of executives are still holding on to that version 1.0 careers thinking where my company is going to take care of me, my boss loves him. But you know, that's not true. But the second thing, which is more interesting, which we see happening is that a lot of people are more focused on their jobs, rather than a careers. So they're looking at next quarters, KPIs, what are the targets now am I above and below, and they are so focused on it, they lose track of their careers, and one day, you know, they realize they really mean I mean, I mean, the print industry, and no one's reading newspapers anymore, you know, why am I still doing this? So we always advise, you need to take a step back from your job and look at your career. And not just in terms of your career, but how does your career fit in your entire life strategy? And it's a big picture thing everyone needs to take a pause and look at.

Andrew Stotz 03:23
Yeah, I mean, that's something that I know all the listeners can benefit from. It's just taken a pause. And I think you put things into perspective. And where is it that people can find you? And what's the best way to kind of follow what you're doing and the journey that you're on?

Adrian Choo 03:38
Well, you can find out. So you can find out more about me on www dot career agility dot o RG. Or you can just drop me an email at info at career agility dot o RG. With any career questions you might have, we're always happy to answer any questions.

Andrew Stotz 03:53
So we'll have those links in the show notes. And that's exciting. I know in my career, there was a time when I had achieved I had been voted number one analyst in Thailand in 2007, and 2008. And then it was like, I knew at that time that I wanted to have my own business. And so I started shifting, I actually changed jobs and went to a company that most people were kind of surprised I went to, but I went there because I knew it gave me a chance to type to develop what I wanted to develop to then create that new job, which is the businesses I run right now so that that strategy, I like the word strategist. So that's awesome. Well, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one goes into their worst investment thinking it will be take. Tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to then tell us your story.

Adrian Choo 04:42
Malin was back in 2001. We call it My worst investment but it was something which journey I had to go on. And I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. In fact, I was an entrepreneur back in university I started a business selling real human skeletons to medical students just to pay my way through uni. But You know, and when I started my first couple of years in shell, and I decided I wanted at a ripe young age of 30, I wanted to start my own business again. So I sat down with friends, and we brainstorm. And we started a company doing electronic marketing. Okay, this was back in 2000, doing a.com days, we got funded, we ran it. And lots of groundbreaking technologies, which we engineered, which I engineered, from electronic marketing, to data analytics, to lifestyle marketing. And it was interesting, because we ran it for three years, we were successful at first, but we had difficulty scaling it. And at the end of it now, we decided that, well, if you can't scale it, it's not going to work. And we decided to call it a day and go our separate ways. But one of the interesting things that I've learned from that, so called failure is, if you notice, I was saying that it's all the interesting stuff, which we are doing today, but back in 2000. So I know a lot of people say about first mover advantage, as actually as first over this takes some time. So one of the lessons I've learned is the old saying that, don't they say the early bird gets the worm? Sometimes it isn't true. It's the second mouse gets the cheese. So yeah, so it didn't work out. And it was a long spent three years building the business. And it was longer than I should have stuck around, honestly.

Andrew Stotz 06:28
Yeah, I always think of the, the early bird gets the worm. But what about the early worm?

Adrian Choo 06:35
That's bad for him. Just chopped up. So, so late, it was a painful lesson,

Andrew Stotz 06:40
let's talk about it just for a moment, because you seem like a guy that's gonna bring a lot of passion and energy into something that you do. And I can imagine, between your friends and yourself that you are really on track with some amazing stuff, some early successes, When was the moment that you realize this isn't going to be able to scale?

Adrian Choo 06:59
Okay. It was interesting, because we were having very good traction in the Singapore market. And we were targeting lifestyle services to young couples. And you know, every year about close to 20,000, couples got married. And we wrapped it up along the lines of electronic marketing of bridal services, wedding services, insurance and everything. And we were selling lots of stuff, lots of services and products into this particular group, which was very engaged. Okay, so it's, it's membership marketing. And it was good. But when we did the numbers, we realized that it was not large enough to support a bigger business, and we had to go regional. But the biggest moment, which I got a big aha moment that was not going to work out was when we started turning up numbers. And we said, look, we can't grow. And if you want to grow, we need to go regional, which means pumping, clunking a lot of money into it. And I guess at age 32, back then I wasn't quite ready for it yet. Yeah. And I decided that there was a lot more opportunity costs, for me going back into the corporate world. So I spent three years out on my own, in the wilderness in the wild off in the wild, wild west of entrepreneurship, and then decided now maybe the timing wasn't quite right for me at the time. So I decided, Okay, back to corporate.

Andrew Stotz 08:25
And that's, you know, a valuable lesson for the listeners out there. I know plenty of people who are struggling to set up their own business and do their own thing. And scaling is really, really an issue. And most people go into, they're like, no, no, it'll be okay, I'll get my customers and you know, I'll figure it out. But the truth is, is that, you know, without the ability to scale, you just have a hobby. So what lessons did you learn from this experience?

Adrian Choo 08:48
Well, quite a number of lessons. Number one, as I said earlier, don't be don't be the first Don't be dearly, but it's sometimes it's just tough. By the time you will be educated the market, we improve our technologies and everything. And we weren't working with technologies that weren't even ready yet. So we had to construct our own. But by the time we did it, now, the market caught on and competitors jumped on the bandwagon. So it was a bit difficult. But one of the bigger lessons I've learned is, there were lots of lessons which I learned, while bigger lessons I learned is, you don't go into business just because you want to be in business. You really need to have the domain expertise, the very solid business foundation business idea, and then you go into business. You don't just wake up one morning and go, I want to do it. Let's drop everything and do it. I'm a big fan of Mark Cuban Shark Tank. And he is named for people like this. He loves them. He loves entrepreneurs. Okay, he's a big entrepreneur himself. He has a temper he calls these guys, one one entrepreneurs. People who don't have a business idea, but they're trying okay, but I want to be because it's so glamorous. I was born for this and they rent out it. So I said you were gonna pick a distinction between being an entrepreneur With a service or product you can sell or being an entrepreneur. I'll go visit a businessman. Let me see what can I sell here? Hey, you know, a better mousetrap. So one of the lessons I learned is you really need to get into zone, understand the market. And then you go out and become an entrepreneur, not the other way around.

Andrew Stotz 10:19
And maybe I'll summarize some of the things that I took away from it. I mean, one thing I realized, and I didn't know when I was young, is that entrepreneurship is a trap, ultimately, because you're going to go in, and it's not mean unless you'd like to super lucky one, it's going to go harder than you thought it's going to take longer than you thought it's going to take more money than you thought. Yes. And it's really becomes this long game. And I think for many people, the emotional journey of that for themselves, and maybe their family is more than what they bargained for. And that's probably a reason why I'm plenty of them stop. It's like, this is beyond what I thought. So the first thing it kind of reminded me is that, you know, when you go into entrepreneurship, you know, be prepared, you could be dead, dedicated the next five or 10, or years of your life, or maybe even your lifetime. I look at one of our startups about 26 years ago, our coffee business in Thailand called call hooks, and my business partner and I just had dinner last night, but he's been running it for 26 years, and it has become, you know, it is ultimately his life. The second thing is, you know, I thought if I wrote down on a whim, you know, many people start a business on a whim like, Well, yeah, it's a great idea. And, you know, I just feel really sorry for that, because it's gonna crash. But you see it all the time. And I think Michael Gerber said it very well, in his book, The E Myth, he called it the entrepreneurial seizure. So you just get so excited about you just get into it, right? Yeah, yeah. And the last thing that I like to say, when people are getting into business is that you have to set a goal to get to three to $5 million in revenue, as fast as possible, let's say within three years, why three to 5 million, because three to $5 million is enough money. To cover the overhead of running a real business, you got to have a marketing sales manager, you've got to have a manager of the business, you can't do everything yourself, you've got to have all the different people in the business that are managers, number one, so to have a management team, it takes real money. And the second thing is that the infrastructure, you know, you want exactly, exactly, you know, an ERP system, you want to have all the communication, the software, it's not cheap. And so when you get to so the idea is really forget about hobby, if you're going to get serious, you got to get to three to 5 million, or else you are just going to drive yourself into the ground.

Adrian Choo 12:47
Exactly. And then once again, it boils down to scalability, because and it's a chicken in the egg, because you want to be able to scale your operations. And in order to scale your operations and revenue, you need to scale your people as well. But in order to support the scalability of people, you to scale your revenues up again, right? So so unless you're, you're really blessed to be like one of those mega unicorns, where you have billion dollar investors who don't care about whether you have an ROI or not, you know, you just keep spending money, but most of us out there in the real world, you know, it's it's a different ballgame altogether. So what's it just the balance?

Andrew Stotz 13:23
So based upon what you learned from this story, and what you continue to learn what one action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate think of that man or woman out there who's listening, who is just about to dive in. And you may have some fantastic one piece of advice for them.

Adrian Choo 13:39
Actually, I got two pieces of advice. One is, you know, sometimes you have to learn from your mistakes. Sometimes, in order to do that, you got to make mistakes. So you know, that three years in a while, and my journey in the desert, so to speak, has made me a better entrepreneur. Now. That's why I'm not repeating the mistakes, which I did before. And that's why I created it International, we are doing really well. And we are growing very well. So you got to make the mistakes, not to learn from mistakes. But on the flip side of it, the other piece of advice is you can learn from other people's mistakes as well. You know, like, that's what this channel is about isn't exactly right. So that's why that's the big reason why you should listen to this channel. And Andrew, you know, he's the number one guy when it comes to being the worst. Yes, man on that bed. Yeah, but 111 interesting piece of advice for entrepreneurs, okay, is if you really want to go into business and be an entrepreneur yourself. I would recommend that No, no, not get an MBA. Okay. I will recommend you go watch all seven seasons of Shark Tank, the American version. Okay, there's so many lessons can learn from a shark there. And you look at the business models, you look at the questions which they throw to the individuals to the entrepreneurs, and you're like yeah, shucks, no, that was my business idea. I can't answer that. Oh that you mean that's an issue or To me, that has taught me a lot more about entrepreneurship and being a better entrepreneur, then actually my business school degree. So

Andrew Stotz 15:07
yeah, that's great advice. Reminding. Yeah, I reminds me we have somewhat of a shark tank competition here called the Bangkok Business Challenge at Sasson University. Wow, I've been a judge in it for maybe about 10 years. And it's, it's, it's, it's on TV, it's published. You know, it's live for the finalist teams. And I've always been a finalist judge. So last year, I had some interns working with me, and I said, let's find those videos. And let's cut out the questions. And then try to create a presentation around the questions. So I created a presentation called get funded. And really, it's just all about these are 30 questions that you must have an answer to any years how you should do it. And so I haven't really published that one yet, but I'm getting close. So it makes me think about studying the past, watching those videos, marking things down. Very valuable advice. Now,

Adrian Choo 16:04
I'm looking, I'm looking forward to that. Yeah, that's gonna

Andrew Stotz 16:06
be fun to get out. So what is one resource that you'd recommend to the listeners they could benefit from?

Adrian Choo 16:14
I would say, back to back to what I was mentioning about Shark Tank, just watch all seven seasons, okay, with an open mind. But I would say, you know, go just listen to this channel. I mean, we've Andrew, you know, yourself, you've been a great catalyst, and in the movement, where you, you learn from other people's mistakes, so that you don't repeat them? You know, and it's, and it's free, free advice, good advice, you know, and, and, like, like, what, one of the things, one of my angel investor during that period of the business raising a business? Or I say, remember, lastly, when we shut the operations down, she said, No, Adrian, it's, it's not a failure, it's not a loss. After all, it's only money. Make sure that you learn the lessons here and carry them forward in your life ahead. So that when you finally the time is funny, right for you to rise and, and grab that, that brass ring, okay? You can do it right? Because we're all the mistakes, you've done it before. You're a better person, you're smarter present, bring it along. So you know, feel free to make mistakes, feel free to learn from other people's mistakes like mine, and get better at what you do.

Andrew Stotz 17:23
Fantastic. I like to quote from Otto von Bismarck, he says Only a fool learns from his mistakes the wise man learns from the mistakes of others. Last question, what's your number one goal for the next 12 months?

Adrian Choo 17:36
Well, we want to help another 1000 People in the coming year hit. I mean, we've helped many people, but we are scaling our operations. And we want to help them in terms of getting more Career Clarity, and getting to enjoy and refocus their lives around their careers. But not just about careers, but everything else that's important to them. And just enjoying themselves working, rather than being slaved to the job.

Andrew Stotz 18:02
Well, listeners, if you need that help you know where to go, just go to the show notes, and I'll have all the links so you can follow Adrian and get to know what he's doing well, listeners, there you have it another story of loss to keep you winning. If you haven't taken the risk reduction assessment, I challenge you right now to go to my worst investment ever.com and start building wealth the easy way by reducing risk. As we conclude, Adrian, I want to thank you again, for joining our mission. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Adrian Choo 18:44
Stay tuned to Andrew Stotz, so he knows his stuff. So learn a lot from him is the best or the worst. Yes.

Andrew Stotz 18:51
That's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our wealth. Remember, ladies and gentlemen, this podcast is about one guest one story. One mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast hose Andrew Stotz saying. I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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