Aug 07 2012
Born and grown up in Ipoh, Ms Stephanie Lai dropped out of college and started to work in an international bank as receptionist at the age of 19. One day, she saw a good opportunity to be promoted to a marketing position. However, her application was denied because an applicant needed to have worked for at least five years in three different departments before being eligible to apply. The job then went to a colleague..
The colleague did not stay on long at the new job. The position was opened up again and Stephanie tried to apply for the second time. Thanks to her diligence and resourcefulness, this time she managed to get it. Although she had to accept the job without a formal promotion and a pay rise, she went for it as she just wanted to learn new things. In the eight years that followed, she had dealt with corporate figures like C-level executives and financial controllers and gained much exposures. On the fifth year, she was formally promoted.
After over a decade in the bank, Stephanie left and started her own Kumon centre in Sunway in 1997. In the beginning, she employed no staff but learned up to do every aspect of the business herself. Unlike other Kumon centres, her centre was open for only two days a week. Why waste costs like electricity when all students could be made to come on two days only? Later, she started to hire staffs including her younger brother. In 2005, her brother took over the business as she moved on to AsiaWorks Training.
Stephanie then spent one and half year in AsiaWorks and laid down its basic training ground work. Afterwards, she got herself certified in business coaching from Brad Sugars’ company ActionCOACH in Las Vegas. She took up the franchise and became a business coach in Malaysia. She started coaching business owners in individual and group coaching to help them succeed in their business.
In 2008, she took up another opportunity to work with an investment company from Europe. However, she got embroiled in legal disputes later when the company’s CEO was charged for criminal breach of trust. A period of setback started as she spent much time and money fighting for her innocence.
During this period from 2008 to 2010, her beloved father passed away. These incidences had given her a double blow. But it was during this time that she took many effective actions to take up certifications she is using today, including neuro-lingustic programming (NLP), hypnotherapy and training. In particular, she decided to become a certified trainer as many clients saw her potentials in training and she kept receiving suggestions for training.
In 2010, Stephanie started her training company. She got only two clients in the first year and less than 10 clients in the second year. However, in 2012, a break came when suddenly she received many requests for training. Up to August 2012, her client base has grown to over 10 companies.
Today, Stephanie is known as an entrepreneur who picked herself up from the ashes and as an upcoming trainer specializing in soft skills in the training industry. Besides, she provides services as a hypnotherapist in a clinic. She also acts as consultant to European companies in their business expansion into this country and region, and helps matchmake them with local companies and business people.
As the eldest daughter with two younger brothers, Stephanie was deeply influenced by her late father. Her father came from a poor family whose mother died at a young age. Since childhood, he had been tortured and mistreated by his step-mother. However, he did not complain but lived on forbearing all hardships. He knew he owned nothing but the ability to think. He clung on the principle of endurance or forbearance (Chinese: 忍), which later brought success in his life and left a legacy to his children including Stephanie.
At the age of six, instead of accepting his fate, Stephanie’s father decided to change his own course of life. He earned for himself to enter into Standard One in a primary school by working on the street. He sustained his education by successfully negotiating with the headmaster to work for the school. He worked his way up and finally got himself a degree in computer engineering from Australia in those nascent years of computer in the 1960′s. His various achievements included programming and engineering the whole ticketing and communications system connecting the turf clubs in Malaysia at that time. Today, his story has been told in Stephanie’s training course called “Dare To Be Great”, moving and motivating many people including insurance professionals in Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT).
Ms Stephanie’s first advice to budding entrepreneurs is to turn ideas into actions, instead of just talking about them all the time and suffering from “analysis paralysis”. On top of that, her father’s principle of endurance to suffer all difficulties, accept all good and bad in any given situation, take ownership of one’s own problems instead of blaming other people or the environment. The principle works not only in business, but in life too.