Sakthivel Thevar is an award-winning leader in Financial Services and a highly sought-after international speaker and Maximum Performance coach within the business and corporate circle starting his career in the most challenging way possible, as a military officer and Airborne Ranger in the Singapore Armed Forces. As a highly sought-after international speaker and Success coach within the business and corporate circle, he has spoken at numerous overseas conventions and Financial Institutions on, Achieving Maximum Performance, Creating Visibility Around Personal Brand, and Transformational Leadership.
As an award-winning leader in Financial Services and a strong reputation for sound advice, Sakthi runs a genuinely client-focused business working closely with high-net-worth individuals and business owners in areas of Estate Planning, Wealth Accumulation, and Business succession planning. As the CEO of Bettery Lab, Sakthi is the mastermind who strategizes and seeks out the ‘blue ocean’ while establishing business partnerships within and out of Singapore.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Sakthivel Thevar: “Sakthi, your academic grades, performance in sports, and attitude in life seem to indicate that you have a special affiliation with borderline. My advice to you is to start a career defending the borderline of Singapore.” These were the harsh words from my dad prior to my enlistment for National Service in Singapore. Nevertheless, it was the starting point to jump-start my quest to be better than a borderline son.
After enlistment, my sole purpose was to achieve Maximum Performance just to prove my dad wrong. 5 years on and I was a Commissioned Officer achieving countless confidence courses with Ranger Course being the toughest one. It was during the graduation ceremony, that dad told me his intent to label me as borderline was not because I was not capable but because I was like a half-full glass with a lot of room to achieve greatness but simply too stubborn to realize my potential.
These were the words from my wise man while donning the RANGER Tab on my uniform that day. Though he’s not with me physically today, his words and my experiences with him have been the guiding light for my journey taking on different roles whether as a husband, father, a leader, or a person. Today, after being an ex-military Officer as a Major for 12 years, I embarked on my journey to be an entrepreneur for the past 12 years since 2009, Doing it better, is not just a motto but my way of life because the things we are capable of achieving would literally astound us.
Being labeled as a borderline son by my dad wasn’t as bad as I thought after all.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Sakthivel Thevar: “Dad, can you buy me this book?” This was the question my daughter asked me while we were walking past a book store after fetching her from Kindergarten 11 years ago. I told her it was not worth buying that book. The truth was, with only $7 in my pocket, I had to lie to my 5-year-old girl as I could not afford to buy a book that cost $10.
This happened about 8 months after I left the Military to be an entrepreneur and it was one of my toughest periods both mentally and financially as things were not as I had expected. After being in a stable career in the Military, I had depleted my savings and was not able to pay my bills as my business did not take off as expected and I was not getting the income required even to sustain my family. The thought of not being able to afford a book for my girl made me feel like a failure and affected me for some time. An incident was one of my lowest points where I was thinking of even giving up but my character as a Ranger and Officer gave me the courage to press on and find ways to change things. It was then that I made a commitment never to be in the same situation again.
After 12 years, I know for sure that the $10 book experience had pushed me to make a commitment to myself and enabled me to grow professionally and personally to be what I am today. This taught me that by facing an initial lack of success with resilience, we can actually grow considerably more through reframing how we approach these difficult experiences.
The reality is that we all face our own battles and challenges every day. Remember that hardship is painful but when we learn from it and turn it into an opportunity for growth, we gain lessons that stay with us forever.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Sakthivel Thevar: There are very few successful people who got to where they are by simply doing the same thing. One of the biggest mistakes that I see entrepreneurs make is to be comfortable with how they run their business. What better time to reflect on the importance of adaptability to stay competitive in today’s world, Today, the Covid situation has made us not just think about the New Normal but it has come to what’s the next normal. This poses a demand on an entrepreneur and leader’s skill and will to adapt to change fast. At no other time in recent history has speed adaptability’ been more important than it is now. Adaptability is not just a “nice to have competency.” It is a competitive advantage for us.
Our past experience has shown that businesses don’t fail because of changes in the environment alone but they fail because entrepreneurs and their leaders are either unwilling or incapable of dealing with change fast enough. This means to stay competitive in today’s environment warrants not only the skill to adapt to change but also the foresight to anticipate it.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Sakthivel Thevar: Over the years, many have known me as an Airborne Ranger turned Business Owner but I believe not many know that I actually failed my first Ranger selection way back in 2002. Not only did I had to go through the pain of failure but also the discouraging comments from many that I was not cut out to be a Ranger and that I should give up. Ironically, it was the learning lessons from this failure that allowed me to do things better and achieve success in many areas of my life.
As they say, all achievement starts from desire and it was my burning desire to be a Ranger that made that failure and negative comments become my burning fuel to get up and move forward. Over the years, it was no different when I embarked on my journey as an entrepreneur, where challenges and obstacles were part of the journey.
This may sound absurd, but reflecting on it today, I was glad that I failed that selection as it was that failure that taught me that progress is not possible without failure as it is part of evolving and growing. Today, I see failures as an investment of my time to leverage on the mistakes and experiment with new approaches to move forward. The same approach I took 12 years ago for my transition from a Military Officer to be a Business Owner.
This is where being resilient is important for entrepreneurs. As business owners, we are responsible not just for our own well-being, but also for the people working for us. Tough times, fears, failures, and frustrations are part of business, and as entrepreneurs, we must be resilient so we can turn failures into success, manage the crisis and grow our business in a better way.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision or values?
Sakthivel Thevar: My company Bettery Lab, together with my business partner Iskandar, was founded on the belief that we can always do it better. As we live in an age of constant and accelerating change, the opportunity is unprecedented, but so is the scale of uncertainty, complexity, and chaos. Therefore, business progress facilitators, we believe that in this highly connected, culturally fragmented, ever-changing world, we help our clients discover their business needs not only to survive but to thrive.
We believe and place great importance to empower our clients to be learning and achieving maximum performance in a constantly changing world and enable them on their journey to transform and grow their business. As such, though our Vision and Mission are important, we place a lot of importance on our values which are Embrace change, Respect diversity, Make it happen. The fact is Organizational core values do more than just promote ethical business practices. The system of core values that our organization owns will shape the culture of the enterprise, the decision-making criteria of our leaders, and the actions of our employees. The more strongly defined the organization’s core values, the more likely that this value system will serve as a code of conduct that promotes and guides strategically aligned behaviors within the company to achieve the desired results.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Sakthivel Thevar: Over the years, I have always been intrigued by successful business leaders who accomplish more in weeks than most do in a year, yet they have time to stay in excellent shape, pursue their passions and do all the adventurous stuff they please. I’ve wondered why.
It’s definitely not because they possess a watch that reverses time at will so, instead of applying my imagination to magical solutions, I reverted back to my training as an ‘Airborne Ranger’ to achieve this. The three character traits that were most instrumental to my success are:
- Clarity of purpose
To consistently align my actions with what I want to achieve and always strive to live life by my design so that I balance my time between 4 key domains which are mainly Wellness, Aspirations, relationships and consistent wholistic growth.
- Effective Activity Management
I focus on managing activities within a given time rather than trying to manage time. This is where I focus on my priorities which is important to help me become more productive and less stressed every time I look at my to-do list so I can achieve maximum performance.
I am clearly aware that unexpected changes which can be disruptive can happen anytime, so the need to step out of my comfort zone and adapt fast is vital and this is something that I am good in. – I make it a point to take a step back and look ahead and visualize what’s coming up and anticipate potential issues that I may need to look into.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Sakthivel Thevar: In today’s business world our customers have numerous choices so, how business leaders have to be mindful of their personal branding. Position themselves and being visible must be considered seriously?
Leaders must understand that Positioning as an expert is an integral part of leaders. The emotions, imagery, and associations we create, connects us with people as a professional. A leader who develops a strong personal brand becomes someone the public is more likely to trust as the face of their company and an expert in their industry. This trust, in turn, allows for increased opportunities for themselves and their organization. This process has to be well thought out and planned before execution.
The biggest challenge leaders face is to create visibility effectively. This means one needs to use multiple methods to enhance visibility to reach potential customers. I place so much importance on this that I had given talks on numerous platforms and podcasts to ‘Create Visibility Around Personal Brand’ about 2 years ago addressing questions that many professionals have on how to position themself and create visibility through both online and offline communications that give the maximum number of opportunities to connect with potential customers.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Sakthivel Thevar: In today’s world, I strongly believe that Transformational Leadership is key, where change and adaptation to change are the forerunners of a successful modern organization A leader, along with his/her team, must be able to identify the challenges ahead, resources available, and build a long-term vision for the team, and constantly engage employees to perform to the best of their abilities and grow professionally and personally in the process.
Steve Jobs is one of the most iconic transformational leaders the world has ever seen. His passion for perfection, simplicity, and sophistication drove the company and made sure that it got engraved into every employee who worked at Apple. He constantly challenged his employees to think beyond what has already been done and made them create products that the world did not even know it needed.
- Inspiring people – inspire people to move in the right direction.
- Intellectual simulation – Stimulates his own subordinates intellectually.
- Idealized influence – Has a huge influence on people who follow him.
- Individualized consideration – Considers each individual separately by treating each person as a different human being.
Above are the 4 key elements that make one a transformational leader.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Sakthivel Thevar: In today’s digital age, entrepreneurship is more accessible than ever before. For the young readers out there who wants to become an entrepreneur, it is important that you are clear on your Why, play your cards right, have resilience and patience.
What motivated me was the belief that all of us have a choice to choose the quality and kind of life we want to live. I don’t know what your believes are, your needs and aspirations are but the truth is, so long as one understands the commitment, willing to face the consequences and take on the responsibilities required to live up to the choice they take, then this entrepreneurship might be for you. Two things to take note of:
- Solid business plan
There is no substitute for a solid business plan. If you think you’ve planned your business and market strategy out enough, you’re probably wrong. Analysis of your target demographic and competitors is especially important. Also, prepare yourself for any eventuality. Analyze any possible thing that can go wrong with your game plan, and then prepare an apt response. That way, when anything does happen, you’re ready. Keep track of your skills and weaknesses, what you offer, how said product or service is unique, and how you plan on growing your offering once you’ve entered the market.
- Be mentally prepared for a rough journey
Richard Branson says his biggest motivation is to keep challenging himself. He treats life like one long university education, where he can learn more every day. The reality is entrepreneurship is not just about positive experience alone. During my journey on my pursuit to rise above mediocrity there were numerous failures, challenges, and even moments of humiliation that came my way but my mental preparation and resilience kept me moving.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Sakthivel Thevar: My favorite‘ life lesson’ quote or rather a question that I ask and remind myself is “Do you want to live life by your design or Default?” It is easy to fall into habits that lead to a life lived by Default. It happens all the time even for simple day-to-day activities. “I should really wake up earlier,” but hit the snooze ten times. I’m unhappy with my job,” but expect it to change on its own without any actions.
I had learned during my journey to Live by my design and 3 things that this has helped me to build a life and surround myself with people who believed what I believed. I write down what excites me and what is it that I am ultimately working towards. It firmly instills in my subconscious what I’m working on and helps attract into my life what I need, to make that vision a reality.
I have noticed that people who live by Default hang around people who live by Default. Similarly, people who live by Design hang around people who live by Design. I ensure that I surround myself with the right people. Don’t be afraid to go your own way as very few people actually live a life of Design. If you want to Design your life, you have to be willing to let go of people and environments that no longer serve due to their Default way of thinking.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Sakthivel Thevar for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Sakthivel Thevar or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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