Mark Chang, founder of at ‘Kopi Chat’ today

I attended a ‘Kopi Chat’ session with Mark Chang, Founder and CEO of, this afternoon. And here are 8 things I learnt from him:

1) Learn to go with the flow. “I was an engineer and very raw as an entrepreneur. I never really planned what I wanted to do next. I decided to just go, see what happens, give it a try.”

2) Make your staff your friends. “I do not know how to make friends when I have money. My staff are my best friends. I like to see them, talk to them. I have breakfast with them, I have lunch with them, I have dinner with them.”

3) There are no supermen. Behind every success story is hard work. “When you see people who are successful and they tell you some incredible story, you think the person is Superman. I am not Superman. I bum around. You have your own story. With persistence and patience, you will also make it.”

4) Entrepreneurs may need to “unwind” mistakes. “When the company is small, with hardly any revenue, I can give the salesperson 15% commissions. After 5 years, 15% is a huge amount of money. Can I redo commissions to 3%? There are things that we have to unwind. If I hire an IT manager then realize he doesn’t have certain skills, can I hire someone else to be his manager?…

It boils down to leadership. If you treat them well, at times when you have to make tough decisions, they will still stay with you and not break the team apart. Build relationships and build a lot of goodwill from the start! Do not look at staff as labor and just to solve a problem! Look at them as your extended family! Value them a lot. Every year, we give out awards. There are some people who have worked in our company for more than 15 yrs.”

5) Learn to balance work with family. “As an entrepreneur, you must have a lot of interest and passion in your company. The family part tends to get neglected. My first marriage didn’t survive. Just some of the things entrepreneurs have to go through. Have the tenacity to get things done, and so on, while other things are being neglected. My wife says I don’t have a balanced life. Haven’t learnt ‘balance’ yet.”

6) Good companies solve problems. “Good companies are built because they solve a real issue in the society. E.g: instant noodles – ‘Cos we cannot keep food. Just boil it to eat. In your business, what kind of problem are you solving? Society will reward you if you solve it well. Don’t try to solve things that are too small or unimportant.”

7) Hard work + Luck = Success. “Create your product. Differentiate. Serve the market. What problem are you solving? If you are solving a problem, you will surely have customers. Success is hard work and luck! If I had started the company a bit earlier or later, things will be different. You can pray and hope Bill Gates invests in a company similar to yours, so your space becomes hot.”

8) Never turn down free food. 😀 “As an entrepreneur, you always have to reduce costs. So any time there is free breakfast, lunch or dinner, just eat! :)” (in response to the announcement that free kaya toast is being served outside)