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Going global

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INTERNATIONALISATION has been a rallying call among businesses seeking growth. Whether they are larger companies expanding their geographical footprint to mitigate business cycles or smaller firms that have outgrown their local market, businesses are increasingly aware of the perks of internationalisation. Our Enterprise 50 (E50) winners are among those going down this route.

Indeed, on average, more than 11 per cent of revenue for each of this year’s winning companies is generated outside of Singapore.

Looking ahead, more than 50 per cent said they are pressing on with internationalisation for growth, despite already having businesses in two or more countries. Increasingly, one key reason for internationalisation is the toll Singapore’s productivity drive is taking on businesses.

Apart from gaining access to new markets, the winners cite rising rental and labour costs in Singapore as push factors sending them overseas. According to a survey conducted by KPMG, the majority of the E50 companies want more government-funded direct operational and technical assistance and flexibility in labour rules to match the needs of their businesses.

Not that these businesses are waiting for handouts. After all, what sets them apart is their constant drive to be better, work faster, and go further. And they often turn to innovation - whether in terms of how they do business or the products they put out - to differentiate themselves.

Accordingly, the judging criteria for the E50 Awards this year focused on companies’ ability to identify opportunities for innovation in today’s business environment, alongside the ways these companies are improving their productivity.

What is notable is that most of these companies have moved beyond mechanical and technological upgrades to relook business processes. This is a tall order given that the E50 winners are heavily represented in the more traditional industries – manufacturing, for instance, represents 20 per cent of winners.

Another interesting fact about this year’s winners is that more than half (27 of the 50) are first-time winners. They come from a diverse range of industries - there is a private education institution, a nursing home and a firm that builds dormitories for construction workers. Half of these companies made it to the top 10 list of E50 winners.

In the next few pages, in addition to the topic of internationalisation, we look at the question of family businesses. Besides tackling currency fluctuations, access to capital, and economic cycles – issues all businesses grapple with – family businesses have an additional layer of complications, familial conflict, that only those involved in it can truly appreciate.

Also top of the minds of many SMEs is the question of succession planning. Notably, almost all of our winning companies have a succession plan. Important characteristics of potential successors include a level of commitment to the business, experience working in the business and understanding the principles of business management.

This year’s Enterprise 50 Awards takes place on the nation’s 50th birthday and is aptly forward looking. "The Next 50–Building a Better Tomorrow" acknowledges the contributions of local entrepreneurs who have displayed tenacity and resilience in building Singapore’s economy, but also celebrates visionary leadership and those with the foresight to plan for the next 50 years. In these pages, we bring you some of their stories.

The Enterprise 50 Awards is jointly organised by The Business Times and KPMG, and supported by International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore), Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and Spring Singapore. The Enterprise 50 Awards are sponsored by OCBC Bank.


Supplement editor: Mindy Tan Sub-editor: Gouw Huat May Cover design & photo illustration: Simon Ang Advertising sales: Rix Low 9620-1365, Jaclyn Sim 8333-5665, Lina Tan 9620-1355