How this man made his failing business great again

By December 28, 2019People

TL;DR – In 2019, he kicked out toxic people and found positive vibes and true love.

He eagerly, naively took in an investor whose connections he thought would be useful for his new business. Ended up bringing in a toxic business partner who brought in not sales, but trouble. He suffered financial losses and suffered from verbal abuse. But in 2019, he kicked the toxic partner out and picked himself up. Thankfully, he found love and he also found positive energy in a new work space. This is Ken’s story.

We’re nearing the end of 2019, a time to set your goals and resolutions for the new year as we welcome 2020.

And, of course, it’s time to look back at 2019 and count our blessings. For many, it might be recovering from an illness, earning pots of gold, bouncing back from a major setback, or even landing a dream job.

For Ken Tan, it’s about getting out of a toxic work relationship with a business investor after 12 months and also a little of everything else.

“It’s like going through a bad divorce. At some point you just do not mind giving him anything just to get rid of him from your life.”

Brand consultant, Ken, 34, has started various businesses over the years. He is currently running his own brand consultancy studio – Stratosphere Creative.

Some of Ken and his team’s work from Stratosphere Creative’s site.


“I was going through such a hard time with him. I thought I’ve met my share of slimy people to be able to identify them, but I was wrong. This guy is just another level.”

How it all started

The year was 2017. Ken was introduced to said business partner by a client.

“He promised heaven and earth and I really thought he could add value to the business. He promised me that he could bring in more revenue and introduce more clients to the business. He introduced only one lead which I did not manage to close in the entirety of our partnership. And he put it on me that I was unable to close the deal.”

Being a new set-up at that time, Ken had thought it would be valuable to have a well-connected industry veteran in the team to generate sales leads while he managed and settled the work itself. Now, looking back at the epsiode, embarrassment is all he feels.

“It is kind of embarrassing to talk about it now. I feel a little stupid every time I think about it. Why did I even sell a part of my agency away at a price so low that I could have just earned from a single project?”

READ MORE:  President Tony Tan responds to Dr Chee's claims about good money

The relationship was too complicated

“He invested in the company. He became a partner. On top of that, he gave us projects from his other business. He was a client too. He also subleases office space to the business. He was also the landlord. The relationship was just too complicated.”

“The accounts were crazy. He was making “his” company to do his work for other business and demanded a ridiculous below market rate price. He also withholds payment despite work done and uses the office lease as leverage. He created a cash flow problem in the business of almost $30,000 and refuse to pay up unless the business pays the rent. Which was $1,500.”

At one point, not only was Ken not drawing pay from the company but he was actually burning his own savings just to sustain the company. Meanwhile, that so-called investor-partner of his was living the high-life, driving a nice sports car, and presumably drawing a high pay from other business that he runs. He was being a typical bad client who started ghosting Ken when it came to payment. He would always be busy or engaged in something and refuse to commit to any payment.

While Ken was working on projects with him, he showed no interest whatsoever in Ken’s business. All he cared was for his other businesses. Time after time, he demanded ridiculous amounts of discount for his and his related businesses. He undercut Ken so much that Ken actually told him to find someone else to fulfill those projects.

Not only did Ken have to deal with the investor-partner’s illogical demands, but he also had to deal with his verbal abuse. He was putting Ken down all the time. Yup, he offered more problems than solutions.

He even guilt-tripped Ken for taking time off to attend Ken’s own sister’s wedding. And mind you, the wedding was planned and communicated before even the company was even formed.

I was ready to give it all up

“It was so toxic and painful. I was so stressed from work, and also by the cash flow problems that I could not even sleep at night. Because of all these things that happened, I am still suffering from insomnia at nights. At one point, I wanted to just fold the business and end everything on the spot. After all, I have skills and experience. I was pretty confident that I can get a job and step right back into employment.”

READ MORE:  Why Don’t Multi-National Companies Hire More Singaporeans?

“I did what I had to do.”

Ken gave a cheeky smile when he related the series of events that unfolded next. He probably knew that it was not the best way to handle it but he was left with no choice. After months of chasing for payments with no avail, Ken did something that he probably would not have if he had a choice.

Ken’s company was managing the investor-partner’s business website, social media and email accounts. He halted all work and posting on social media. After repeated emails and ignored messages over months, he then sent the investor-partner an email and demanded for his payment.

I suppose nobody in his right mind would want to go to such extremes and to burn bridges. Nobody smart enough would want to do that, but I guess Ken just had to do what he had to do.

Things did not end just there. Despite what Ken did, this business partner of his did not pay up all the outstanding payment immediately.

Positive work environment 

Ken had enough of all these drama.

Anyone who had been in similar situation before would know how damaging it can be to one mentally. He decided to take back what belonged to him. He bought his business partner out, shifted out of that guy’s office, rented a new space at a co-working space, and started the business all over again.

“It is very important to put yourself in positive company. Ever since I moved to this new co-working space, I’ve met like-minded people. People who are positive. People who are willing to work together and share their contacts. The positive energy attracted even more positivity. In fact, I am actually doing some projects with some of the other start-ups within the co-working space.”

I guess that is how the law of attraction works. Positive attracts positive. After all these dramas, the company is finally profitable and looking to expand in size.

The empire strikes back 

Just when Ken thought everything was over with that investor-partner of this, he received a call from a client. That toxic person actually went behind Ken’s back and started spilling venom about Ken. Luckily for Ken, he has always been a nice guy who works well with others, so people were actually on his side.

READ MORE:  RWS volunteers share their experience volunteering at S'pore Expo Community Care Facility

Ken confronted that person and made him stop all the drama. It has stopped for now, at least. Who knows what a bitter person can do in future?

Found love in a hopeless place

Those 12 months were really tough on Ken, but something good did come out from this toxic business relationship. If  not for that toxic investor-partner preson, Ken would not have met his current girlfriend who was working in the office at that point in time. She was actually a staff of Ken’s ex-business partner. So I guess it is not all that bad after all?

“We started off as friends gathered to talk about this guy and how bad his work ethics were. It just slowly developed over time and we got together just like that.”


I guess we all make some bad decisions in life. We can be sad but eventually, we all have to move one. That being said, not all is lost especially in Ken’s case. It might be a painful 12 months but if you look at it positively, he’s learnt some valuable lessons that weren’t ever taught in schools.

Here are some takeaways I got from his story that we could use to make our 2020 a fulfilling one.

  • Do not trust people too easily.
  • In life, we sometimes have to make tough choices even if we don’t like it.
  • Be ready to lose it all. There are people who hold on to failed businesses simply because of ego, but Ken was ready to go back to employment if all fails.
  • Determination. Yup, hang on there and chin up, good things might just be around the corner.
  • Surround yourself with positivity and yes, positive people.
  • Love is just around the corner, especially when you are not looking.

More stories of how fellow Singaporeans’ lives took a drastic turn in 2019

First cancer, then an unknown disease: one lady’s journey

The Man Who Used Emotional Intelligence To Change His Life

Meet the Train Enthusiast who nicknamed a train Snow White, and even scored his dream job



Don't be selfish... Click here to share this on Facebook!

If you like what you read, follow us on Facebook to get the latest updates.

Smith Leong

Author Smith Leong

Social Media Trainer @ NTUC | Youth Mentor | Labour Champion | Photographer | Content Creator |

More posts by Smith Leong

Leave a Reply