How the Dhamma guided me in growing my startup

Written by Salvi Y
7 mins read
Published on Oct 27, 2023

TLDR: The entrepreneurial journey is a rollercoaster of emotions, requiring mindfulness to make wise decisions and build trust through honesty. Embracing impermanence leads to resilience and innovation, while karma influences positive actions and networking fosters authentic connections. Conflict becomes an opportunity for growth, and taking time for oneself is essential for a successful entrepreneurial experience guided by Dhamma principles

Buckle up: The Thrilling Entrepreneur Ride

Starting my own business has been an exhilarating and fulfilling adventure. It’s like riding a rollercoaster of emotions, from exhilaration to anxiety and everything in between. It’s allowed me to pursue my passions, be my own boss, and potentially achieve financial independence. 

But of course, it has not been easy. It requires meticulous planning, sheer hard work, and the willingness to take risks. 

When I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey, I made a firm decision to let Dhamma guide my path, and I’d love to share the principles I have embraced along the way.

Mindfulness in the Chaos: Taming Business Cats

First up, cultivating mindfulness. I won’t lie, this one has been a real challenge for me. I mean, seriously, try observing your thoughts and emotions while dealing with the everyday chaos of running a business. 

It’s like herding cats.

However, I’ve learned the importance of taking the time to reflect, observe my thoughts and emotions, and carefully consider the potential impact of my decisions on others. Rather than succumbing to impulsive actions, I strive to make choices that align with wisdom and compassion. 

I remember a situation where I had a meeting with a difficult client. Before the meeting, I took a brief three-minute meditation session and set my intention to listen without preconceptions based on past interactions. 

The meeting was challenging as the client started complaining about the level of service and why they should pay a penalty. I noticed that I felt attacked and could feel tension in my jaw. 

Although I had a strong urge to counter-attack, I reminded myself of my intention to clear the situation and maintain a good relationship.

I took a moment to reflect on the client’s perspective and imagined myself in their shoes. I deliberated on my thoughts and responses, considering what the client would want to hear. This helped me calm down and manage my emotions. 

I acknowledged and apologised for our mistake while explaining that there were also errors from their staff, without blaming anyone. We proposed a communication process to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

To my surprise, the client responded positively. They appreciated my honesty in acknowledging the mistake and offering a solution, which was what they were seeking. 

Interestingly, they didn’t even bring up the issue of paying the penalty. I had prepared myself to potentially lose the client, but instead, the relationship became stronger. This incident demonstrated the effectiveness of mindfulness. By avoiding impulsive reactions, the outcome exceeded my expectations.

Practising mindfulness has allowed me to develop a deeper awareness of my thoughts, emotions, and actions. 

It empowers me to respond to challenges with clarity and composure and has saved me from some major “Oops, what was I thinking?” moments. 

Mindfulness is like having my very own superhero power, allowing me to respond to challenges with composure, or at least with a little less panic. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned that progress comes from taking one step at a time.


The Power of Honesty: Building Trust Like Solid Gold

When it comes to honesty and ethics, Buddhism has instilled in me the belief that truthfulness fosters trust, credibility, and long-term success. 

The temptation to tell a little white lie can be strong, especially when you’re trying to seal that deal. 

However, I firmly believe that honesty should always be the foundation of my business practices and a positive reputation is worth its weight in gold. 

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Even in difficult situations, I strive to find skilful ways to communicate the truth. I remind myself to consider the long-term consequences and the impact on both myself and others. Honesty builds trust with customers, employees, and partners, strengthening relationships and laying the groundwork for a sustainable business.

Embracing the Unexpected: Comedy of Errors in Business

Embracing impermanence has been a crucial lesson in my entrepreneurial journey. Now, that’s a lesson that hit me like a ton of bricks. When I first started my business, I had this grand vision in mind. 

I knew exactly who my target market was, which consisted of high-net-worth individuals (HNW), fund management (FM), and private equity (PE) investors. 

I meticulously planned everything, including our business strategies, marketing materials, and a list of networks we could leverage.

We even held meetings with people in our network who confirmed the high demand in this market and promised to refer potential clients to us. 

We were optimistic and envisioned signing up significant clients in a short span of time. But, as is often the case in life, things didn’t unfold exactly as I had planned. 

It was like a comedy of errors, and I felt like I was starring in my sitcom. 

Initially, I blamed myself for not being persistent enough and pushed forward against the odds. But then, I had a moment of enlightenment, or maybe just a really good cup of coffee. 

I realised that embracing impermanence is the key to surviving and thriving in the ever-changing business world. I learned to adapt to changing circumstances, seize unexpected opportunities, and let go of attachments to specific outcomes. 

Presently, I am working with a considerable number of startup clients who require extensive support due to their unfamiliarity with Singapore regulations. Their growth is rapid and ever-changing, and I am able to contribute value to their businesses through my advisory and compliance services. 

It brings me great satisfaction to witness their businesses flourishing. Simultaneously, I also gain new knowledge and insights from these clients, which adds to my own learning experience.

Embracing impermanence has also fostered resilience, flexibility, and an openness to innovation when necessary. While I still work towards my initial goals, I’ve learned to open myself up to other possibilities. Who knows, those detours might just lead me to my original goal, or even something better. It’s like rewriting the script of my entrepreneurial sitcom.

Kamma: What Goes Around, Comes Around

Now, let’s dive into the concept of kamma. Understanding the concept of Kamma has profoundly influenced my actions and intentions. I’ve come to recognize that every choice and action I make carries consequences, shaping the future outcomes of my business. 

By acting with integrity, kindness, respect, and consideration for the well-being of all stakeholders, I sow seeds of positive kamma. 

Of course, there are times when bad kamma comes knocking on my door. But, I take it as a life lesson, analyse the situation, and learn from it. It’s like bad kamma ripening, and it keeps me on my toes and motivates me to make ethical decisions.

Networking Magic: Planting Seeds of Genuine Connections

Networking has proven to be a transformative aspect of my entrepreneurial journey. Instead of viewing it as a mere transactional endeavour, I approach networking as an opportunity to forge authentic connections. 

By offering support, connecting authentically, and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships, I’m planting seeds of goodwill. Those seeds gradually grow into a network of like-minded individuals. 

Together, we share common values, support one another, and contribute to collective growth and success.

I still remember when I was contacted by a friend whom I have known for a number of years of a potential client that would like to start a business in Singapore. Over the years, she will sometimes ask me for some tax advice. 

Since her profession has no link to my industry at all, this was quite an unexpected referral but she remembered me and the services that my company provides. Subsequently, this client also refers other clients to me.

It is also through this that I met various mentors in my entrepreneurial journey, where I sought guidance and support from those who had walked similar paths and who generously shared their insights and experiences. 

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I recognised that seeking advice from experienced individuals would plant seeds of wisdom and guide me towards making informed decisions. Their wisdom shaped my perspective and helped me navigate the challenges with greater clarity and understanding.

Conflict: A Chance to Grow and Understand

Ah, conflict, my old frenemy. It is an inevitable part of business, and I’ve learned to view it as an opportunity for growth and understanding. 

When conflicts arise, instead of pulling out my boxing gloves, I take a deep breath and approach it with mindfulness and compassion. I listen, empathise, and seek win-win solutions. 

This helps to foster an environment of open communication and mutual respect. Resolving conflicts based on Dhamma principles transforms challenges into opportunities for collaboration, learning, and strengthening relationships.

There was a conflict with my business partner where we had differing opinions and our priorities began to diverge, leading to disagreements and tension within our once-harmonious partnership.

Instead of resorting to dishonesty or manipulation, I engaged in open and honest communication. 

I listened and sought to understand the perspectives and concerns of my business partner and also shared my thoughts, concerns, and intentions without embellishment or deception. We acknowledged our differences and worked out a solution that worked for both of us.

“Me” Time: Sanity Check in the Entrepreneurial Vortex

And lastly, let’s not forget about “me” time. Taking time for myself has become an essential aspect of maintaining balance and well-being in my entrepreneurial journey. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the vortex of workaholism. But I’ve learned the hard way that burnout is not a good look on anyone. 

So, I will make sure to carve out time for myself, whether it’s reading a book, listening to Dhamma, meditating, taking a walk, engaging in hobbies, volunteering, or doing the chicken dance in my living room. 

It’s my recharge time, my sanity check. In turn, it enhances my productivity and allows me to bring my best self to my work. Trust me, your business will thank you for it.

Dhamma-Driven Success: Walking the Path of Happiness

Reflecting on my journey, I’ve come to realise that integrating Dhamma principles into my business has been transformative. 

They’ve provided me with a strong moral compass, guiding me towards wise decisions and compassionate actions. 

As I continue along my entrepreneurial path, I hold onto the profound words of the Buddha:

Mind is the forerunner of all states.

Mind is chief; mind-made are they” – Dhammapda verse

So I choose to think positively, and embrace challenges with a smile and a sprinkle of humour.

After all, as the zen master, Late Thich Nhat Hanh wisely said, “There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.” and I’m grateful to be walking it as an entrepreneur.

Wise Steps:

  1. Practice mindfulness by catching the small moments e.g. when you feel anger/fear/anxiety arise, just need to be aware and acknowledge it. I will tell myself “I am angry/feeling fear/anxious and I acknowledge this feeling.” This is how I started my mindfulness journey by just catching these small moments.
  2. Be kind and patient with yourself. Progress does not come linearly and celebrate the small moments e.g. when I am aware that I am angry or indulge in gossip or I can let go of fear/anger, I will mentally “high five” myself.
  3. Have me time which allows you to recharge and reflect.

Author: Salvi Y

Salvi is a tax advisor and accountant by trade. When she not immersed in the world of taxes and crunching numbers, she is exploring her purpose in life through listening to dhamma talks, reading, seeking inner balance through yoga and meditation or doing volunteering work.

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