I AM THE GENERAL, MY WIFE IS THE MAJOR
Richard Tan is the Chairman of Success Resources, a hugely successful global company founded with a good friend in 1993 and now in business partnership with his wife Veronica. It specialises in personal and business development and has some of the biggest names on its stages including: Tony Robbins, Robin Sharma, Les Brown, Robert Kiyosaki, Kim Kiyosaki, Randi Zuckerberg, Mary Buffet and many more. They hold around 500 events each year and have had ten million attendees to date. Richard tells us about his earlier life and influences, an incredible turnaround and recovery against the odds in 1995, and the principles he lives and leads by.
Can you tell us about your childhood and upbringing?
I grew up in a "red light" area in downtown Singapore. My dad ran a small business, and my mum provided for the household by working and taking up odd jobs. We were not rich but I never lacked anything. I do know that my parents loved me and that they did their best to give me everything they could afford. There are two groups of young friends that I hung out with. One group of friends was from my "red light” hooligan neighbor, whom I learned to smoke and play pranks with. The other group of friends were from my school, whom I studied with. I was fortunate that my school teacher and friends exerted a bigger influence on me and got me interested in learning.
What has carried through with you to this day of what you learned in your formative years?
In my teens, I signed up to be a youth volunteer. It is a non-profit youth organization, where we had to organize programs and activities for the youth. To fund these, we had to raise our own money. I learnt to work on a shoestring budget, get things done for free, cut wastage, and optimize whatever resources we had. These were priceless experiences that I still apply in running Success Resources today.
What were your first jobs in life and your first business as an entrepreneur?
My first job was in a store of an electrical engineering firm. Every morning, vans with workers would come by to collect the materials to bring to the construction sites. I would then be pretty free and have nothing much to do until the vans returned in the evening. I asked my manager to allow me to assist in the construction site after my work was done in the store. My routine would be working early in the morning in the store and then go to the construction site. One day, when we returned to the office in the evening from the construction site, I saw the firm's estimator was still working. He was working overnight on a tender. I asked if he needed any assistance. He was happy and taught me how to estimate the amount of material for the tenders.
My work then started in the store early in the morning, then onto the construction site with the electricians, and working through the night with the estimator, to close the tender. I became an all-rounder in the firm. I become the only one who had the experience in the store, on the site, and knew the cost of the project. In just a year, I was promoted and the supervisor that I used to report to, now reported to me. That was my first job.My first business venture was selling an anti-slipflooring chemical, which I lost money on and got into debt.
What life and business lessons did you learn from these experiences?
I learnt that failure is not the opposite of success, but failure is part of success.
How did you meet your wife and business partner. Veronica? How would you describe your personal and business relationship?
I met Veronica in church, in a bible study. Our personal and business relationships are very military-like. I am the "General" and she is the "Major". The staff and my children are the “Soldiers”. I make all the general decisions and she makes all the major decisions.
You started Success Resources with Patrick Liew in 1993. What was the inspiration behind that?
I started Success Resources by accident more than by inspiration. My good friend, Patrick Liew volunteered me to assist at a conference run by a charity organization, of which he was the chairman. After the conference, a presenter came to me and said, "you are a very good organizer, why don't you do it full-time?" That is how I started Success Resources with my friend Patrick.
Can you tell us more about your first huge National Achievers Congress in Hong Kong in 1995 and how you managed that during a very difficult time with your health?
In 1995, I had a major illness, colon cancer. After the surgery, I had to go for a six-months period of chemotherapy. At that time, we had seminars in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines. One month prior to the events, the event in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines sold very well and we had an almost full house. However, the event in Hong Kong had only 300 registrations. The reason why the event in Hong Kong had only 300 participants was because back then, the team in Hong Kong could not work together. They were from different countries and cultures and could not simply work together. We had booked the Hong Kong Coliseum, which has a capacity of 6,000. I could either choose to cancel the seminar, or move forward with the event with only 300 participants in a venue that could take 6,000 people.
Up till that day, I had never cancelled any event under any circumstances and I was not going to let this happen. I went and asked my doctor to transfer my Chemo Treatment to a hospital in Hong Kong, which she reluctantly agreed. I would then start working early in the morning and knocking on doors from the top floor to the ground floor of the buildings, to sell the seminar tickets. The team in Hong Kong was inspired that the 'boss" came all the way down to Hong Kong, while undergoing chemo treatment, rolled up his sleeves and went from door to door to support them. They were motivated and started producing results in order to fill the room. In just three weeks, we were able to fill the Hong Kong Coliseum with a full capacity. The lesson here is that your team will only go as far as you will go. If you are only willing to work eight hours per day, don't expect your team to work nine hours a day. If you set just a one million dollar sales target, don't expect your team to sell two million. Your team will only go as far as you go.
How have you overcome failures and challenges and what is the main driver that has seen you through all of them?
I am very fortunate to have a very supportive wife standing by my side with encouragement. This is of great help when I am faced with obstacles and challenges. I have a great team behind me. We work though the challenges together.
How did you build great relationships with so many of the world’s top speakers who are now part of the Success Resources family?
Actually to tell you the truth, it is my wife Veronica who is handling all the speakers relationships. They seem to naturally want to communicate with her.
How do you see the role of women in business and as speakers on the big stages, now and in the future?
Women – I believe that women usually do it better. I believe that women make better business decisions than men do, and are more hardworking. By nature, they are more careful and more approachable, too. The world needs more women speakers. However by nature, more women prefer to be supportive from behind the scenes, than to be up in the front speaking. I believe this trend is changing as I can see more and more women are stepping up to be trainers and speakers, sharing their passion in their messages.
What are your latest business ventures and where do you see Success Resources in the next 5 to 10 years compared with today?
My latest venture is SuccessLife, the World’s Leading online community platform for Premium Personal and Business Development content. SuccessLife will be the Netflix of Business and Personal Development. It will be the largest community of online subscribers and a content provider, which can be accessed anytime, anyplace,on any device. In fact, we are in the process of the Initial Coin Offering, to raise $50M to acquire content, so look out for SuccessLife.