Awards & Nominations
Mind Transformations strives to be a “small giant”; we choose to be great instead of big.
2010 Successful Extrepreneur
Mr Barney Wee was your typical conscientious sales professional. Never did he imagine that his perspective of life would change exceptionally after he completed a course in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). The results manifested were so successful that those around him soon inquired his secret to success.
He decided that in order to stay true to his new awareness, i.e. helping others empower themselves, he needed to develop a sustainable methodology which would allow people to gain control of their reality and in turn, allow them to create their own destiny.
After deepening his NLP and other brain-mind studies abroad, he established Mind Transformations in 1997. It has since enhanced the lives of thousands, both individuals and organisations. Ms Agnes Lau, a graduate of Mind Transformations, joined Barney in 1998 to co-develop this organisation with their joint passion and commitment. Mind Transformations’ vision was and still is: “Building a world where people live to contribute their best.” Barney explains:
“NLP is more than an enhancement tool. It is a life-style in which you choose to redefine with life-supportive values and resolve to give richer meaning to life.”
Today, both partners continue to work tirelessly to facilitate change for a better society. They anticipate major global shifts in a world that is converging and evolving with greater acceleration than ever before. Hence, they are in the process of streamlining and morphing their business and methodologies to align and support the rapidly emerging global consciousness. Always the humanitarian, both Barney and Agnes intend to encourage and inspire others to make a difference as well.
With much life experiences, the wise pair’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, “Listen to their heart’s calling by making their life simple, organic and sacred – to a collective consciousness. Have the courage to build your business on life-supportive values that truly enriches the lives of people you serve and the planet.
About the Successful Entrepreneur Award
The Successful Entrepreneur Award is an independent nation-wide publication that features numerous successful Singapore Entrepreneurs who shines in their own sectors, on sharing their knowledge and experiences with our readers and a catalyst to aspire our younger generation. “2010 Successful Entrepreneur” aims to promote the following:
1. The promotion of business creativity and sharing of knowledge & experiences with readers and as a catalyst to aspire our younger generation.
2. A platform to give due recognition to organisation and individuals that have demonstrated outstanding performance on the various standards.
3. To recognise past Recipients that have sustained their Successful Entrepreneur journey and attained greater heights of excellence.
Spirit of Enterprise 2008 Nominee
An upclose interview with Barney Wee by Adrian Chia Su Ming on 13 Jun 2008.
I found Mr Wee to have a great sense of humour and was very easy to relate to. He shared a lot with me on his business and personal life. To help me understand NLP better, Mr Wee even gave me a CD for free (normally costing and encouraged me to listen to it in order to feel
the effects of NLP and understand it better. Mr Wee is also the first entrepreneur I’ve interviewed whose staff were made up of former graduates of his course. Working with people who have attended his courses makes Mr Wee’s workshops more personal and unique, as his staff themselves can personally relate to new participants’ concerns and expectations.
What is the nature of your business?
We are in the business of training, coaching and consulting; specializing in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Enneagram personality profiling. We empower people to incorporate the four core life skills: learning how to learn, managing people, building self-confidence, and orchestrating priorities in life. My company’s vision is: ‘To Build A World Where People Live To Contribute Their Best.’
When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Before starting this company, I was in sales, working in the insurance industry. My mum was diagnosed with cancer, and being the only child, I needed to look after her. I decided to be self-employed so that I’d have the freedom to work near home and look after my mum. I decided to start this company instead of moving into agency management. I had stumbled upon NLP in 1995 and liked its effectiveness, so I went to the USA to take courses on NLP and hypnosis. On my return in 1997, I started this business. I did not start it because I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I decided to start this business because when I lost my mum to cancer, I asked myself a tough question, ‘Is this all I can be, to be a good salesman?’ I said, ‘No.’ That was the turning point. After all that my mum went through in her life to bring me up, I knew she would want me to be all that I can be.
What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
I wanted to do something that I was good at and passionate about. At that time, I was in a difficult position as my mum became blind from the cancer. I started the insurance business with the intention of working near home to be with her. NLP was something I first used on myself. Because I saw great results, I wanted to share it with others so that they too could learn and benefit from it. I had found my passion and discovered it is something that I can also deliver well. As NLP was not well known in Singapore at that time, there was a lot of potential for further development. It’s more knowledge-based rather than skill-based. This makes it easier for my training business to expand and grow.
How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business?
I didn’t require a lot of start-up capital as my business is not product or machine-intensive. It’s knowledge-sharing intensive. I just needed to know my material and deliver the information in an effective way. Most consultants work from home, and prepare their materials and manuals before the start of a class. Therefore, the cost of running this kind of business is relatively low. My business is powered by knowledge, not capital. I was also fortunate to have clients who invested in my business after having attended my classes. They believed in me and what I was doing. Agnes was one of my course participants. One month after attending my course, she invested in my business, and we became a partnership. Within a year, another participant joined in as a shareholder and director of the company, and Mind Transformations became a Private Limited company. Initially, we were located at a tiny office in Fortune Centre. Around 2002, another course graduate, Elaine, a Scottish expatriate, decided to join me and be part of my business. We were able to purchase our current office space for a reasonable sum at that time. Now it’s probably worth $850K. People invested in my business, funding the capital. My early staff and the people who built the foundation of my business were all previous participants. After attending a course, they came back and supported me. I’m very fortunate and eternally grateful to all of them.
What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business?
Where do I start!? Well, there was a lady who came into the program wanting to work on increasing her relationship possibilities. Upon completing the program as well as working with her on her beliefs, values and expectations – she found her desired partner within a year. Another lady came into the program with the intention to sort through her own relationship at first. In the process, she discovered her own gift and passion in early-childhood education and music. As a single mother, she created her own music CDs, programs and facilitated her own workshops. Now she is quite a celebrity in the children development and parenting workshops arena. Ah yes, another graduate of mine who is a Venture Capitalist. He shared with me how he used the NLP tools to pace and lead an angry party into a calmer state and developed an alternative solution that secured both parties’ desired intentions. The deal was maintained and the project moved forward successfully. The NLP skills he had applied in that tense & explosive situation saved his company from losing a S$260 million deal! There are many more such examples!
What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
I had actually failed in three businesses before this one. Having the courage to start this business was the biggest challenge ever.
How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges.
Selling is easy as I was in sales before this, but running a business is a jungle of complexities. There are two very important aspects in terms of business. One is to have a strong website. This enables people to find you and email you their interest. This marketing tool helped us to reach out to a lot of people; it was a huge contributor to the success of our business. The other was our skills enhancement training. We got our graduates to offer their own professional services. We allowed them to showcase their expertise, and show how they applied NLP to their business and life. In a way, they would also be advertising for us as people will know more about NLP. When I’m conducting a course, I would always ask my participants where they heard of us. Always it would be around 50% from our website, and 50% from word-of-mouth. I help my graduates stay in touch with what they have learnt after they graduate from my courses. This is to enhance their skills, and my business.
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?
I’ve actually been through many events – September 11th, SARS, Batam Riots – but I’ve never felt like giving up. I think the worst was during the Batam Riots. It was the first time that we decided to hold an overseas course at a resort in Batam. I was very excited about it. Then one of my participants called me suddenly and told me that riots had broken out. I immediately went to ask the hotel staff if we would be in danger, but they reassured me that the riots were in the north, and they would not spread down south. My second worry was that people would start calling me to cancel the course and under such circumstances, I would need to refund the fees. Out of eleven participants, ten called to cancel, and I wasn’t sure if the other one would turn up for the course. If no one attended, I would make a huge loss. I decided to carry on the next day. To my relief, nine actually showed up. I overcame this challenge through faith, that despite opposing evidence, I went ahead and turned up at the resort. Life has a way of answering to those who dare to believe.
Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
You must first have a vision and then the foresight to expand on that vision to enable you to see your business in the long term. Stay true to it even at the expense of sacrificing your short-term goals. Don’t be attracted to ‘flash’ – people offering attractive partnerships with you. I’ve received many such offers and upon deeper inquiry and spiritual evaluation, I’ve turned them down because they didn’t feel right. I stay true to my business vision and values. If you receive offers from other people regarding a joint partnership, don’t just accept it right away. Look at your vision and where you are heading. Are they heading the same direction? Don’t be concerned about competition. Know your own value proposition. Your competitors might offer discounts or free gifts to attract more customers, or even lure your customers away from you. That does not mean that you do the same. This is when you lose your value proposition. You must always maintain the quality of your business. For my business, although my prices are higher and my course hours are longer, we continue to grow from strength to strength. The business is built upon the core values of ‘quality,’ ‘competence,’ ‘due process’ and ‘comprehensive innovation.’
When was the moment you realised the business would work and support you?
That would be around 2001. The initial years were very tough. In 1997, there was the major property crash and Singapore suffered a deep recession, during which I started my business. As they say, ignorance is bliss. When SARS took place, no one dared go to TTSH. Many of the shop-houses around our office then at Cantonment Road went bust as there was no business for months. However, my business continued on. People still came to my office to attend courses. It can be said that throughout the years, this business has always worked and supported me.
What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
I kept focused on quality, competence, due process and comprehensive innovation. They are my proudest business achievements to date, and are very important and meaningful to me. The quality of my business stems from it being practical, useful and comprising cutting-edge programmes. Competence is focusing on core skills that matter most in a given performance context, and working on them diligently. Due process is the time taken to make something good. I focused on adding quality to my business. Instead of making it shorter and cheaper, I made it more comprehensive, increasing the benefits to our participants.
How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
The way we differentiate our business is to concentrate our focus on our core competence, which is our expertise in NLP. We trouble-shoot and provide solutions to all our clients using NLP. Whether we are consulting, training or coaching, our concepts, frameworks and processes are based on NLP. In short, we keep our branding clear; NLP is our way of life. We also differentiate our business by constantly refining and adding dynamism into our tools and applications. We strive to make it contextually relevant, simpler and practical. For example, we developed linguistic tools to help people demonstrate understanding in their day to day communication. We have monthly revision sessions and support groups that offer course participants the opportunity to keep in touch with and practise what they’ve learnt. It also promotes our business. Not many companies actually provide a support group upon graduation.
What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?
My company website and skills enhancement training were some of the business ideas that created great results for my business. The idea of providing ‘Introductory Kits’ on the website and offering referral incentives to my graduates has paid off very handsomely.
Where or who do you get your business ideas from?
There are two people from whom I get my business ideas – Doug Hall and Michael Gerber. They are both entrepreneurial gurus, and they often talk about how they made entrepreneurship work for their businesses. They provided me with the wisdom of automating the business and crafting and articulating my unique value of difference to my clients.
What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
I am going to come up with my own coaching and intervention processes. This helps people get results even faster. Currently, my eyes are set on Asia. I’m planning to go in the direction of life coaching, and therefore we won’t just be in NLP. I plan to establish a strong life coaching presence in Asia within the next 5 years.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
It means that you have the courage to pursue your aspirations with the intention to express your talent/gift. It also means taking your vision and turning it into action – manifesting it into reality.
What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you have which has helped you come this far?
Believing in quality, having the passion, and living with integrity. Integrity builds trust in customers.
In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be successful in business? And why?
In order to be successful, a person must be willing to experiment. You must also do your homework and believe in continuous learning. You must study ahead of time. You must be the very change that you want to see, because people and the world respond to your way of being.
In your opinion, what does it mean to have the ‘spirit of enterprise’?
Having the spirit means to believe in your own gifts and focus on creating the best quality and continually making it better. In order to stay in business, one must focus on long-term values. It also means the willingness to experiment. Also, don’t spread yourself too thin.
Who or what motivates and inspires you?
My life experience motivates and inspires me. Even through the September 11th tragedy, Batam Riots and SARS outbreak, my business survived and this made me even stronger. Gandhi is a man who also inspires me a lot. Though a gentle soul, his spiritual essence was powerful enough to make a tremendous impact on humanity, and all without violence. Another man who motivates me is Peter Jackson, who made Lord of the Rings. The dedication and undeniable passion he had for his work and the painstaking details he crafted motivates me tremendously. He filmed it in 100 locations, on 350 sets in New Zealand. Around 48,000 props were custom made by his team. The amount of detail, precision and the uncompromising quality which signifies Lord of the Rings is an inspiration to many of us. The other luminary is Dr David Hawkins. Though he had made significant contributions and advances in academia and psychiatry, his surrender to spirituality – living a life of simplicity and truth, has given the world true power through his spiritual teachings.
What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down to others, particularly the younger generation?
Integrity is a must, doing what you feel is the most honourable thing to do. You must also experiment with new ideas that resonate with your business. As you are growing your business, the first person you pay is yourself.
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?
In my opinion, it is easier. Information is easily accessible and transferable online, and you can reach out to many people with ease. With this comes a huge responsibility to deliver quality products and honourable services. You must not create false hopes. You must deliver what you advertise, and not just focus on earning money. Adding true value to people’s lives is what makes business sustainable in today’s market.
What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
Think at least 5 years ahead of time. Take a more leisurely pace. Do your own research first and act as if you’re really going into the business. Dream big and start taking small steps. You must also sharpen and deepen your communication skills. With all this in mind and hand, then the sky is the limit. In NLP, we say there are no failures, only feedback.
Have you ever considered a partnership with other coaching companies, not just individuals looking to invest their money?
It all boils down to our philosophy in life, what we believe in and our work culture. That translates to our business plan and what we deliver ultimately. I’ve received many offers of partnership. No matter how great their business is, they must gel with my values and philosophy. I value the autonomy in the way I run things, and I want to remain fluidly poised to seize appropriate opportunities.
This interview was originally published on the Spirit of Enterprise website.