Delivering Happiness: An Interview with Entrepreneur Kalika Yap

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Simplicity, humility, service—those basic, old-fashioned values still have relevance in an Internet world, according to an entrepreneur who knows everything from spas to the ecommerce. Those guideposts will help you to better deal with employees, vendors, and with clients—and to keep focused on what is really important.

It Takes More Than Hard Work

Kalika Yap knows all about hard work. The small business owner, entrepreneur, e-marketer, and inventor has been doing just that for years. So the advice she has for startups may be unexpected.

“Carve out time every day for yourself. Even though your schedule’s crazy, you need to protect your mental health and your mind and your heart,” said Yap. “The only way to do that is being happy now. You have to work to do that all the time.”

That counterintuitive advice comes from a hard-driving entrepreneur who founded Citrus Studios, an interactive design studio that has helped institutions as varied as the Getty Museum and local religious organizations polish their web images. Yap has an active ecommerce business, provides advice and ecommerce services for other small business, and runs a salon in Hawaii.

Entrepreneurs: Protect Your Ideas

For good measure, she invented a device for keeping a woman’s purse securely attached to a table top. That helps make sure the purse won’t be knocked to the floor.

“When I first started, I got bad advice from people saying that it's a waste of time to patent because it was expensive,” said Yap. Her invention was one that that others quickly copied. The foresight and ability to protect entrepreneurial ideas became critical to Yap’s business future.

“I found taking the time to do the research, and spend the money on a patent has paid off. We are now licensing our product to all the ‘copy cats’ out there and have a strong foothold in the market.”

Keep Focused On What Counts

Entrepreneurs who must devote most of their waking hours to taking care of business in a depressed economy can lose sight of what’s important. Despite her multi-state ventures, Yap says she tries each day to remember why she’s working so hard—and recommends others do the same.

“I try to carve out little bits of happiness every day for myself. This is our whole concept of why we’re doing this,” said Yap. She knows colleagues who do little more than work hard, hoping for a time when the economy improves and they arrive at the end of the rainbow.

“It’s very important to be happy now,” she said. Even though you’re in the rat race, it’s important to be happy every single day.”

Yap’s Rule of Five

Yap advises business owners to adopt the discipline of looking for five good things in their lives every day. “Don’t do it casually, really take it to heart. We are really privileged. It’s up to us to lead the way, to have a really good vision. Concentrate on today, on now.”

Yap doesn’t minimize the challenges in today’s business environment: cash flow, lack of credit, late payments, and a general lack of business. “Everyone is working harder than they ever have, and making less money,” Yap said. “If you had to cold call 30 people before, you have to cold call 60 to 100 to get the same business today.”

Take Care of Clients Who Tell the World

“It’s more important to take care of your clients than anything else. It’s your clients who will keep you in business. If they think you’re providing the best service, they’ll always keep coming back,” Yap said.

It’s a time when customers “are in the driver’s seat,” said Yap, an active leader in the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Providing mediocre service just won’t cut it in this economy. If people are unhappy, they’re going to speak up—and today, with the Internet and social networking, they can reach out to thousands. “Before they would tell their neighbor, now they can tell the world,” Yap said.

Even if you can’t solve the problem immediately, tell the client you’re working on it and you’re working very hard. Give them updates, keep them calm and secure, Yap advised.

Offer customers discounts. As a matter of policy, answer all calls within two rings. Try not to place customers on hold for more than two minutes.

Do Unto Others

“Anything that you would want yourself as a customer, provide that and more,” Yap said. “Don’t just say this. Do it. You need to follow through. You have to be consistent. It has to be in your bones to really want to help,” Yap said.

Yap speaks of using her businesses to “deliver happiness,” to more than just her customers. She said that if you make your shop a great place to work, that feeling will “trickle down” to customers and vendors.

“Now, it’s really important to know what your core values are. They need to be solidified by the entrepreneur. Mine are to provide excellent service that exceeds clients’ expectations. Exceptional customer service, positive spirit from your team, and be humble. Provide open and honest communication. Have integrity—keep your word.” Yap said.

“Once you have those values, you’ll be better able to deal with employees, vendors, and with clients.”