CARINA TIEN LYE CHING
Carina is a phenomenal speaker who will enliven, inspire, and encourage your audience. It gives her immense pleasure to witness her audience’s paradigm shift during and after her session. Her mission in life is to assist individuals flourish and progress even during extreme stress and adverse circumstances and also be a source of positivity and inspiration for the community and colleagues around them.
Embrace Yourself assists you with an agenda, we help you prioritize, reach your goals, track your goals and motivate you along the way – in every area of your life.
Carina is highly passionate about helping others fulfil their goals and finding the right direction in life. My biggest takeaway from this interview is her drive to run her businesses successfully by being very resourceful and self-disciplined. The interview process was uplifting with her positive outlook in both life and business, hence making the conversation very enjoyable.
Q1) What is the nature of your business?
Embrace Yourself extends the service of Life Coaching and Personal Development for women, age range from 25 to 50. We help them get what they want in life by providing them with objectives and unbiased feedback. We are not here to judge or determine what they should do or what they need, but to act as a facilitator so that they can figure it out for themselves. We are here to free them from expectations imposed on them by others so that they can live the life they want. Life Coaching starts with working on the individual’s present needs and wants and work with them toward a better future.
Q2) Do your parents have their own businesses too? Have they inspired you in one way or another?
None of my family members are entrepreneurs. My mum is a very conservative lady and she always believes in working for a company and receiving a monthly pay check. Embrace Yourself is the second company that I have set up in April 2011. In the early nineties, I started performing on stage as a vocalist but I realised that the lifespan of a singer is short. Therefore, I knew that I had to do something backstage but is still relevant to my passion. Hence, the first company, The Voice Room was established in 2003, with the focus on enhancing individuals’ voice and presentation skills. Embrace Yourself on the other hand, has taken a different approach, and the company focus on extending coaching services to women in residing in Singapore, so as to empower them to live their life purpose, based on their passion and dreams. In the past, no body has taught me how to do that. Before April 2006, as far back as I could recall, I felt tiny and powerless and lived my life as other people dictated. I took orders from others and was never able to speak up for myself. I was so powerless even in establishing my own thoughts, not to mention making my own decisions. I am a different person now. I know what I want and I have a life purpose, and I believe that all women can find their own life purpose too, with sound guidance from an experience life coach of course.
Q3) What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
I spent thirty-plus of my years losing my life direction. I didn’t know where to find my life compass. The more I tried to navigate on my own, the more I messed up my life. It was devastating. Not only I had messed up, I even became depressed. But I was lucky. At age 37, I found God, and, through Him, I was given a chance to be reborn and start my life all over again. Being able to live again has made me appreciate myself more. I have started to rediscover myself through a series of events and challenges. And, most importantly, I know my self-worth and I want to use my experiences to help others in finding their self-worth and life purpose. I have recently published a self-help e-book titled “Women, you deserve to be happy” which is downloadable free from my website: www.embrace-yourself.net and I hope women out there can benefit from the book which is written specially for you.
Q4) How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business?
Coaching is a business that does not require a huge capital. I advise young entrepreneurs not to spend too much money for a new business start-up. I try to keep my business start-up costs as low as possible. The main resource in this business is knowledge and experiences. I took a year to study an online diploma course in Cognitive Behavior Therapy which gave me the tools to teach. I wouldn't advise aspiring entrepreneurs to quit their full time job to study unless they have a lot of money in their bank accounts. I have a virtual office, where I conduct private coaching whenever I need to. I created my own website. Many entrepreneurs outsource this, however it does not give you a full control on what goes on your website and it may not be sustainable and what if the vendor disappear from the market? I do my own publicity and advertising through free e-classified ads as well by giving speeches on related topics to corporate companies.
Q6) What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business?
I have 3 cases in mind. The first one was powerful. This lady came to me helpless. She has two kids and her husband hardly participates in family activities. She suspected the husband is having an affair and wanted to get out the marriage. Her goals were to get a divorce, lose weight and bring her kids to. Since I am unable to offer legal advice, I suggested her to collect evidence to justify the divorce and to get a good lawyer. Early this year, she wrote to me to download my e-book so I dropped her an email asking her how she is doing. She replied saying that she is a very happy person now - she has divorced, taken over the HDB, lost twenty kg and had brought her children to a Europe trip last year. She feels like an entirely different person and she feels young and happy. This story is especially powerful as it shows her determination and desire to change.
The second client is a lady from Australia. The moment she came to me, she told me she has just lost a job. I encouraged her by saying it’s a new start and she can embark on her dream which was to start a new company teaching visual arts. Despite being a very hardworking girl, she came to me one day sharing how stressed she was as she was afraid that she won't be able to fulfill all the big goals she has set for herself. I told her “If you try to eat a large pizza in one evening, not only won't you be able to finish the pizza, you'll get indigestion and you will feel sick. Why not cut your pizza into smaller pieces so that you can enjoy the taste of the pizza as well?” She took the advice and took the baby steps on each of her goals and she enjoyed every process in attaining her goals. One year later, she told me that she has achieved all her goals. I am impressed with her determination and desire to create a new life for herself.
The third story is an interesting one. This lady was a HR director in a big organization. She came to my coaching not of her own will but because her husband wanted her to come and paid for her. She came to me without any objectives so I asked her what she wanted to achieve. She thought for a while and came up with: First goal: cooking a nice meal for a husband; second goal: to take care of her health. She gave me a timeline of 4 months to achieve her first goal. I told her to start cooking something easy and to allow her to make mistakes. And by the end of 4th month, she will be able to cook something really nice for her husband. Since she did not have recipe books and I had suggested that I lent her mine and showed her some simple recipes that she can try on. I told her to bring photographs of the dishes she has cooked so that I know that she did her homework. However, she was constantly giving excuses postponing the cooking activities, eventually she didn't continue her sessions. Through this experience, I have learnt that if a person is not desperate to change, it is hard to literally improve oneself.
Q7) What is your company vision and mission? How do you convey these to your company staff and team members?
I don’t need many staff to run my company. I have an assistant who will help me with appointments and coaching inquiries. If I have to run a program, I will engage part-timers to help in the logistics. My company mission is: To coach, to inspire, to motivate. Hence, all my coaching programs, will incorporate these 3 important aspects of the company mission.
Resilience and Overcoming Adversity
Q9) What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
Connections – this is crucial in any new business setup. I am lucky that with my positive attitude, I was able to attract friends who are keen to help me in this area. I will never forget all these friends, who came to me when I need a pair of helping hands. When I first started this business, I was a little worried about the acceptance of this coaching concept in Singapore. However, after talking to women from different walks of life, I realized that there many women who need such coaching services. The only problem is that they are still skeptical about the process. Hence, whenever I have a case, I will do my very best to help them achieve what they want. And through the process, they are convinced that they can do so much more than they believe they can do. They become stronger and tougher at the end of the process.
Q10) How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges.
I have a secret weapon that I will use to overcome challenges: that is my positive attitude and mindset. Setting up a business is like playing monopoly. Sometimes you will be sent to “jail” because you did something silly but that should not be the barrier or obstacle that will stop you for achieving your dreams. I have never regretted the mistakes I made the past because if I did not make those mistakes, I will never know that those are mistakes! We learn from the mistakes and make sure we do not make the same mistakes again. Mistakes help us to grow and become wiser.
Q12) Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like giving up? What happened that made you feel that way and how did you triumph over it?
So far, I don’t remember any worst day in business. However, I do remember the time that my coaching calendar was blank. But, instead of asking myself “why” no one engage me services, I ask “what” can I value add to my business so that my clients will benefit from it and engage me for their training / coaching initiatives.
Q14) Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
Business fluctuates. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. During the “quiet” moments, it is very important to maintain a positive mindset and look into the “grey” areas that you can improve on. At the same time, upgrade yourself so that you are always prepared for any business adversity.
Q13) When was the moment you realised the business would work and support you?
I know I am in the right track after securing few corporate and private contracts. It validates that there is a need for my kind of coaching services, the rest are secondary.
Q16) What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
If I can change anyone’s life and help them fulfil their dreams, I don't think there is anything that can beat that. I am proud to say that, over the years, I’ve inspired quite a number people to fulfil their dreams. There was an NS man who attended my 3 hour seminar, was impressed by my way of speech delivery and has inspired to become a motivational speaker and he is doing pretty well now. When I see my clients’ positive transformations, I feel that all efforts are paid off. I was also invited to radio station 93.8 to talk about the subject on “self belief”. I am glad that I am able to share the importance of having a positive self-belief with the listeners.
Q17) Can you describe the company culture that you have? How does it contribute to the performance of your company growth?
In my company’s culture, I emphasized a lot on passion. Everyone have to find his or her passion. If you are passionate with what you are doing, money will come automatically. If you are passionate in what you do, your positive energy will show from your behaviours (verbal and non-verbal) and people will feel it. People like to be connected with individuals with positive energy. To add, respect and putting everything in a positive perspective also makes up the company culture.
Q18) How do you promote learning within your Company? What are the training opportunities that you provide your staff?
I believe continual learning is essential is this modern world. I always encourage my staff to improve themselves by learning new skills, taking up lessons. If they do not continue improving and develop themselves, they will become obsolete very quickly.
Q19) What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
There will always be sacrifice to expanding your business. I don't see a need to expand my business right now as I am contented with combining my passion with my work. My plan is to add more value to my current programs as well as to introduce new programs to clients with different needs. At the same time, continue to develop myself, learn new skills and knowledge so that I am prepared and able to face any future business challenges that I might encounter. This is also what I always remind my staff to do, to never stop learning.
Q21) In your opinion, what is a good and ethical business? How do you think this helps you in your Company/ business?
Sincerity and honesty is important. Your clients will appreciate these attributes of yours and they will stand by you for a long time.
Q22) How will you describe your working relationship with your suppliers?
I treat my customers as friends and I always welcome them to ask me for advice after services with no extra cost. I worked closely with training providers for corporate training assignments as well as direct corporate clients. Most of the times we focus on how we can value add our programs to benefit our clients. We treasure the working relationship with one other.
Q23) Where do you draw the line with your customers since you treat them much like friends?
If they request to see me in person outside or try to “date” me, I'll have to reconsider. As I have mentioned earlier, I treasure the relationships with my suppliers and service providers. I don't focus too much fee/price as I believe that building a good long-term working relationship is important. Customer service and relationship building must always come before sales.
Q24) Can you share the working terms (e.g payment terms) that you have established with your suppliers?
That depends. With corporate clients – 30 days upon delivery, private clients – confirmation upon receiving of cash, for training providers – some cash on delivery, some 30 days.
Q25) How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide specific examples.
My coaching business focuses on women and women alone. My method of coaching is based on what my client want rather than what I want them to do. Most importantly, I do not judge. Some of my competitors dealing with similar business are psychologist and counsellors. They call their clients “patient” whereas I call them “clients “instead. No one would want to be labelled a patient. Counsellors don't coach, they will listen but they cannot give you advice like life coaches do. There are other life coaches in Singapore as well but I focus mainly on women’s mind and well-being and currently no one else in Singapore is doing this. I conduct my coaching services with a combination of various skills namely: facilitation, coaching, therapy as well as training. My coaching process also includes homework and my clients have to be committed to finishing them and show them to me in each session. I will review the homework with them together. This process helps my clients to facilitate changes knowing that there is a coach behind them, supporting and encouraging them. This means a lot to them. Through the process, I am also being able to have a sense of any changes in my clients, in terms of mind and well being.
Q26) What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?
To provide 30 minutes of free consultation on the phone. This allows clients to know their coach better and decide whether I am the right coach for them, before signing up for any coaching packages.
Q27) Where or who do you get your business ideas from?
Personal friends, Internet, talking to business associates, feedback from clients as well as through business networking.
Q28) How have these business ideas impacted your Company or business? Please specify the qualitative and quantitative terms of the impact.
So far, our program ratings have been good for the last 3 years. On an average, we scored 4 or 4.5 out of 5 or sometimes 5 out of 5 in our post-coaching evaluations. These post-coaching evaluations has proven that the ideas generated from all sources did value add to our programs and clients are happy with the coaching outcomes. Also, with the written testimonials from clients double validate the effective of the coaching programs.
Q29) How do you think your business have made a positive impact or contribute to the community that you serve? For example: creating jobs for Singaporeans or underprivileged; upgrading the skills of employees; improving livelihoods or lifestyles of customers.
I make a positive impact by making people happier. Happy people have positive attractions with others. People like to do business with happy people. Driven and positive people hardly fall sick and thus unlikely to take medical leave resulting in higher productivity. Positive energies are contagious. If workers are positive and happy, they will be able to inspire and influence their co-workers to feel, think and act the same and thus creating a happy and harmonious working environment. Happy people also tend to have better relationships, weather with their spouse, friends or family. We have helped numerous women live their life purpose. I have given them the strength to re-create the life they want. One of my clients has achieved her dream and is currently running her dream art teaching business.
Q30) What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Finding your passion, embracing your strengths and living your dream. Everyone have a passion, if you are really passionate about what you are doing, you will never be tired of it and be willing to take the calculated risks. This will definitely benefit the business in the long run.
Q31) What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you both have which has helped you come this far?
I have a very positive mindset, diligence, resourceful, courage to try new things, not afraid of making mistakes and willingness to take calculated risks. One of my motto is ‘If you never try, you'll never know’.
Q32) In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be successful in business? And why? (e.g. Educational qualification, work experience, family influence, attitude, etc)
Positive attitude, be surrounded with positive and supportive friends and families, good interpersonal skills, relevant skills and knowledge, eager to learn and desire for opportunities.
Q33) In your opinion, what does it mean to have the “spirit of enterprise”?
Never say die.
Q34) Who or what motivates and inspires you?
The person who inspires me is my mum. I saw her in my old negative self. I have successfully coached myself to become a positive and happy person. If I can, I am sure everyone can. Faith is very important to me and my belief in God. Another person that inspires me is Oprah Winfrey. She had helped and influenced millions of people (including myself) through her talk shows and initiatives. I want to be like her, watching my clients living their life to the fullest inspires and motivates me to do more for the community.
Q35) What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down to others, particularly the younger generation?
Respect others the way you want to be respected. Be sincere and honest when dealing with clients.
Q36) With the changes in the market today, do you think it has become harder or easier to succeed in business? Why do you say so?
You have to develop a niche so that even when the market is getting more saturated, you will still have a competitive edge. For instance, personal qualities like a unique skill, personal experiences and such. As for success in business, to me it means running a fulfilling and purposeful business. With what I am doing today, I consider myself successful.
Q37) what advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
Have an open mindset, a positive attitude, keep overhead low, start something that do not need huge capital, set realistic goals, take baby steps, be humble and willing to learn, ask questions, find connections from social media and business working. Recognise that making mistakes is a common hurdle in business, learn from the mistakes and make sure do not make them again. Failures are fine. You will only succeed after you have failed.