Updated: Jul 27
There are 2 reasons for me to write this post, and when you read till the end, you will know why I titled it as are you ready to receive.
The first reason - count your blessings
I am the luckiest girl in the world. Sometimes you have to count your blessings.
When I told people about my concept of setting up Ascension Associates, I had my peeps immediately said yes and my network referring me associates. Of course for the last 4 years lots have happened, both people and situations have changed. Although I am not a religious person I am pretty spiritual, and like most of people said God will never give you more than you can bear.
2 years ago when almost everything fell short because 2019 was not an easy year for anyone in Hong Kong, I got an email from France out of the blue, and it has been an eye-opening and fulfilling facilitating and learning experience for me as a young entrepreneur.
The email from France was a leadership development delivery plus CliftonStrengths debrief request. Turns out my certification as a strengths coach qualified me as a facilitator and trainer for their global luxury retail client, as they were, and are still building out and strengthening their corporate university for their sales leaders. The entire program starts with strengths assessment, and hence my strengths coach qualification came in handy. We just finished delivering the last virtual class for the sales leaders on July 14th, and off they go with the last big piece of homework.
I am thrilled that we are going to host a celebration ceremony after they have completed a 6-months structured training for this batch. The entire project from introduction till delivery of last class - has been a 1.5 years of good ride for me. Learnt a lot, observed a lot, and yesterday when a sales leader told me during the sharing session of our last virtual class: "When Larraine told me strengths can be developed, but weaknesses cannot. It changed my world." When someone who has taken your class for 6 months and the first thing she said was this statement, you know you have made it. It aligns with my purpose: to change one person for the better one at a time. (In this case I can change at least a dozen at a time :)
A few months after I got the French email, one of my friends called me up and asked, hey, can you deliver coaching workshops? If I had not pursued my executive coaching course before, I wouldn't be able to deliver it virtually. I always say, before you become a teacher you are always a student. We aced it, and it opened doors to one of my greatest friendships now. (Darling you know who you are.)
For most of you, new fans, existing clients, acquaintances who know me by now would know what I have been going through for the last few years. If I haven't gone through these human experiences, I wouldn't be able to relate to so many people around the world now. It benefits me not just professionally but also on a deep personal level: my business is essentially a human connection business, whatever hat I put on. In times of ongoing pandemic and unexpected human conflicts with inflation and crazy food prices, the human connection has become so valuable, more than ever.
Because of our projects and new credentials, it has opened more doors for us, and one good thing just leads to another - our coaching assignments and experience got us invited to be podcast guests in various top ranking podcasts in management and executive coaching, from US to Malaysia. (We will post the transcripts and links when they are published and ready) Our training and coaching clients have given us lots of ideas in how to propel our business, when to stand firm and set boundaries in charging and when you can be generous, and of course referring great clients to us.
Of course our blessings are more than that, these are the notable ones that gave us the push and our firm in positioning ourselves as an 3 in 1: facilitating, coaching and headhunting. (The consulting piece will always come with what we do anyway.)
The second reason - what it's really like to be a CEO (run a LLC in our case)
Whenever people see that you don't have tons of employees on your linkedin company page or getting Series BCDE funding they assume you are one woman show. When you are a CEO of a company, you are responsible for all matters of the company. Audit, tax, marketing, staff management, sales, business development, partnership agreement, project delivery, invoicing, finance, legal contracts, in our case since we are working with more and more global clients FX exchange rate, the list goes on and on.
One of the most "interesting" observations is receiving unnecessary comments and assumptions about our capabilities and company status, which are reflected in some of the spam cold linkedin messages such as lead generations, digital marketing, SEO, data intelligence and whatever unnecessary services that clearly don't understand the needs of B2B management consulting firms, and disappointing conversations with some collaborators and clients who are simply not ready and professional to engage.
The most notable ones are: having us to speak with their prospect who hasn't even signed contract with the service provider (context: the service provider knocks on our door for on-site Hong Kong local language support in delivering leadership coaching and cultural change consulting, we found out they claimed the end user as client after the discovery call because clearly, even the end user has no clue about the background of service provider); or people asking us to do one-off afternoon debrief or even better, complementary customized wellbeing webinars. (who would provide customization for free?)
In short, they might have got the wrong idea: our doors were knocked with various requests that don't unleash our full potential and showcase our capabilities. So what did we do? We conducted an internal content and marketing outreach check to see if we have forgotten to update our network because we are so occupied with building our own school and delivering projects.
The pre-conception of big and small companies has indeed changed a lot: big firms are constantly being disrupted by new entry players, and yet, a lot of the senior corporate folks seemed to hold onto the traditional views, not really aware of this tidal change. Take our French collaborator as an example, they have received more requests to build luxury retail corporate universities since 2020, and yet their fixed term permanent staff is still less than 20. Small but beautiful is very true in our cases. Global players have been, in fact, received quality support from specialised boutique firms. We are glad that our existing clients and new conversations value our input and unique thought process, and give us the time we need to pace ourselves because we strongly believe that, companies should scale up when they are at least 70% ready, and manpower investment is not something we'd like to overcommit.
Thank goodness we set up Ascension Associates in 2018 with the foresight that our business model is better supported by associates rather than fixed-term permanent staff at this stage. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to absorb the 2019 HK social unrest shock and the ongoing pandemic.
Are you ready to receive?
Steve Harvey said it best in this video, and I strongly recommend everyone to watch it till the end without using the fast forward button. We believe that in order to realize our vision and create true impact with our founding purpose, we have to be ready to receive. And it certainly doesn't mean that you said you don't want A, B, C or D but simply, what more do we want? What can we do today to further strengthen our capabilities to be the global firm that we want to be? And most importantly, have you shared with others what you really want?
With that goes, we are proud to announce that we have revamped our internal collaboration documents and set up updated litmus test for our clients, collaborators, partners and associates intake. Also going forward, we are designing structured training and bringing our deep-dive approach in delivering our consulting projects including advicing our clients on how to hire and retain instead of working on one-off workshops or transactional headhunting assignments. Sustainability for us is key as we are serving more and more global clients.
The great design they say is not to add an inch more, but where else can you deduct another inch. You have to let go of something in order to receive something new. Take the story from the Steve Harvey's video, how can the lady in his story and Steve himself be ready for a new chapter in their lives if they don't send out the right signal, i.e by taking the right action steps to receive what they truly want in their lives?
Same with us, and for whoever who want to expand their clientele, are you ready to receive? The first sign that shows that you are: show up professionally and be crisply clear in what you can deliver and how you collaborate with others by creating a psychologically safe space and setting reasonable boundaries.