The Day My Company Almost Died…

by Patrick Liew on September 29, 2017

There was an evening scene that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.

A living room in a resort in Langkawi, Malaysia. Six of us were sitting around a table and we were in a deep discussion.

There were looks of despair, fear and helplessness – three potent emotions that when mixed together would drive anyone down an emotional spiral.

Prior to that moment, I had given everybody an overview of our business’s strategic and financial positions.

The prognosis was not good. In fact, my conclusion was that we had come to the end of the entrepreneurial road.

Some years before that painful evening and during the dot-com boom, we had founded a technology company

At the initial stage, our start-up had big dreams, great potential, and you could say, staggering achievements too.

Within a short period, we had thousands of clients paying us a decent fee. They came from more than ten countries.

That achievement was unprecedented and almost record-breaking.

Most dot-com companies were providing freebies while chasing eye balls. They have also not quite expanded beyond their home and neighbouring countries.

We were certainly on a roll. Nothing seemed to be able to stop our technological juggernaut.

Then came the dot-com crash in 2001. By then, we had many copycats.

Meanwhile, there was a wave of disruptive innovations that turned our “radical innovation” into a normal proposition.

We were facing multiple disruptions on many fronts and throughout the value chain.

There were no more road ahead of us.

We were facing untamed jungles and they were looming over us in a hostile way.

That night, there wasn’t even a single star in sight to guide us forward.

After my short message, there was a deep silence. It was like an avalanche had suddenly hit us and buried us up to our neck with snow.

The initial coldness was gradually biting deeper and deeper into our being.

After what seemed like ages, I finally broke the silence.

“We have no other choices. So far, we have invested more than $4 million of our own savings into the company.

“We can’t go on pouring money into a deep dark well.

“Let’s close the company.”

The proverbial guillotine was released.

In this case, our life was not just taken away in a split of a moment.

It was worse.

We felt like our baby was forcibly taken from us and the sharp blade had cut through our hearts.

After that meeting, you could imagine how all of us had walked out of the door and into the suffocating darkness of the night.

What was more painful was that we were gradually being swallowed by the darkness in our spirit.

The next few days, I was a tormented soul.

I couldn’t get my brain to face my heart or for that matter, any other part of my being.

Shortly after, my team and I made a brave and many would say, an illogical decision.

We decided to fight back.

We believed that we have many more fights left inside us.

We would not run away from disruptive forces. Instead, we would take them by the horns.

We would beat our way through hostile jungles until we can build a bigger and better road to freedom.

Long story short, our company went on to recover out losses. Stopped the bleeding and became one of the most profitable dot-com companies.

In 2005, we became the seventh fastest growing company in the Asia Pacific region according to Deloitte & Touché.

From this and many other experiences, I realized that failures do not have to be millstones around your neck.

They can be stepping stones to help you achieve greater successes.

Through that dark experience, I rediscovered one of the critical success factors – Tenacity.

Without tenacity, you can never achieve sustainable success.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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