Last week was an especially exciting time at OPRA Asia. Not only did we secure two new executive coaching clients, we have also begun work with a multinational on the roll out of their psychometric testing solution. Wins like these are great and we always feel privileged when clients choose us as a partner to help them achieve their goals. However, this is not what made the week extra special. That joy came from finally moving into our new swanky office in Beach Road (check out the view from our boardroom!) which represents a real coming of age for the company here in Singapore.
The photo on the bottom left in the montage above is the team at OPRA Asia. Standing next to me is Beng Huan Tey, my business partner in OPRA Asia and the man who runs the operation in Singapore. In the front is our psychologist in training, Jia Yin, and completing the team is the backbone of the office our para-consultant Zaheen. For a year prior to the move into Beach Road the four of us squeezed into a shared space on Waterloo Street (together with the team from Aurago Consulting) as we built the business up to a stage that a move was commercially feasible; no small feat in Singapore! The move to Waterloo Street was itself an upgrade out of the home office I had been working in since arriving here in 2013 tasked with building OPRA’s presence in South East Asia.
Milestones, such as graduating to executive office space, are the real joys of being involved in start-ups. All businesses have their unique celebratory events. For entrepreneurs, the sense of pride when moving into a comfortable home after struggling through the hardship of initial set-up is hard to beat. I had a similar feeling when Dr. Sarah Burke (my business partner in OPRA for over 16 years) and I moved into our first office in Wellington, New Zealand. Those were tough years and every client call was met with fist pumps. The sense of accomplishment that our first office brought, after working for a year in home offices and committing ourselves to grow the type of company we wanted, will always remain a fond memory.
When OPRA expanded into Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand, I packed everything I owned and drove my Cortina stationwagon on to the ferry to cross the Cook Strait. Together with Simon Gluyas, we set up a new office to go head-to-head with well-established players in the market. Two years later OPRA was a leading I/O consultancy in Christchurch and some of our competition had even closed their local offices in response. Simon is now at IBM in Hong Kong and whenever we catch up in this part of the world we will always share a story from our days of building OPRA in Christchurch.
In entrepreneurship you must celebrate the journey as well as the successes. Building a business is a tough vocation. Having built a few, and worked for large and small businesses, I recognise the unique pressure of being an entrepreneur. The hours are not 9 to 5, the reinvestment is always risky and the need to earn your supper in the knowledge that you are only as good as your last assignment is a constant. These realities, however, make the rewards all the sweeter. The camaraderie that comes from building professional consulting teams, the capacity for a degree of autonomy in how you shape your work-life, and the ability to create and build a business which others join and leave their mark on, are more than fair compensation for the hardships of entrepreneurship.
16 years on, and with offices throughout Asia Pacific, the thrill of being part of a team that has graduated to a new office in Singapore is as exciting today as it was when I was 24. Now that is something worth celebrating.