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Question: Please tell us about your company, what you do and how you started the company?
Stanley Ng Tze Li: Established in 2011, APTSTAR Consultancy Pte Ltd is an award-winning consulting company growing fast and serving SMEs by putting them on the business success roadmap. We are a strong and dynamic team of practising management consultants with extensive MNC experience, who are committed to serving our clients with effective solutions.
I decided to become an entrepreneur as I wanted to create my own business instead of going into the corporate world. It is my passion to choose my colleagues and partners who are of the right mindset and willing to grow the business during good and bad times. In this manner, it gives me the privilege to choose my own people.
Jeffrey Tan: AOX is in the business of developing and marketing a line of affordable products, which comprises natural antioxidant alkaline water dispensers, filters and accessories.
In 2009, I chanced upon alkaline water and heard so much about its health benefits. I did some intensive research on it and later I purchased some samples to test them. I was amazed by its health benefits when I observed the transformation of my live blood test result from a 400x German Darkfield microscope. In order to understand more about live blood analysis, I took up a course with a German doctor, Dr Eddy Bettermann, and I graduated with an Advance Diploma in Darkfield Microscopy. With this knowledge of live blood sample analysis, I could then offer free health checks to all our AOX users. Most of our users are delighted to see their health improve through our health check services. Naturally, our business grows with their health improvement.
Regina Lee: Amplitude Inc Holdings Pte Ltd is a regional distributor of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), particularly processed foods, through specialty stores, supermarkets and online-to-offline platforms.
I began my business career 20 years ago as a fashion buyer and distributor. However, upon seeing the volatility of the fashion industry, I decided to expand Amplitude's horizons. During 2014, I chanced upon a Greek couple and was impressed by the quality of their farm's honey. After a trip to the Mediterranean to meet the couple in person, I realised that I had discovered an opportunity in a new industry: FMCG food products.
Paul Roger Lim: We are a multi-disciplinary construction consultancy service provider and started the business in 2009.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because I wanted to work hard and decide my own fate. After being disappointed in my previous jobs, I decided the only way to receive my just rewards would be to work for myself.
Ann Lee: Adonis International deals with skincare and essential oils in the beauty industry. Now we are a chain store with 23 outlets in Singapore and Malaysia
I enjoy seeing, serving and bringing beauty to people. Being an entrepreneur allows me to pursue my passion and interest and I always keep myself up to date and relevant to the hospitality industry.
Kenny Tay: We are a B2B marketing and grants consultancy company specialist assisting B2B companies to market their services to potential clients. The company started in 2007 and had assisted more than 1,000 companies in their productivity enhancement and grants applications.
I was a cancer survivor in 2006 and thereafter I decided to spend my time assisting entrepreneurs in building their businesses.
Sky Tan: Sky Creation Asia is an integrated space solution consulting company with a variety of services and products. Established in 2008 in Singapore, the company focuses on interior design services, gradually branching into complementary businesses such as renovation, small-scale construction, furniture production, modular kitchen cabinet and wardrobe systems and modular office furniture systems. We are the first interior design firm in South-east Asia to open an interior design themed cafe and we have even open a design academy to train future generations of designers.
I decided to be an entrepreneur to fulfil my career dream. I wanted to test my own capabilities. I like challenges. I wanted to know how much I can achieve.
Q: What are some of the essential qualities of a successful entrepreneur?
Jeffrey Tan: An entrepreneur is someone who has a vision and is well equipped with the skills to motivate and lead the team towards a common vision. An entrepreneur must be able to anticipate future trends and respond promptly with strategies to meet future demands.
Most importantly, a successful entrepreneur needs to be humble to learn from his past experiences, bounce back quickly and adapt to market changes. We must not let success breed complacency. Rather, constantly innovating and improving business practices will eventually set us apart from our competitors and increase our overall market share.
Being an entrepreneur means I'm faced with all kinds of challenges such as employing the right team, meeting customers' expectations, finding the right suppliers and anticipating market trends. I am thankful because I can call upon my business mentors for help. I also spend some quiet time in the morning to pray and seek for divine guidance before starting work. This gives me strength for the day.
Regina Lee: I believe that there is no fixed formula for success. However, I believe that a good entrepreneur should be flexible, adaptable and be able to turn every challenge into an opportunity. Over the years, I have trained myself to be more self-aware and observant, and learnt the best ways to handle different situations. I believe that any issue can be addressed with the correct approach, and strive to uphold this principle in conducting my business.
My philosophy is that every problem has a solution, and that no obstacle is insurmountable. Some solutions can be fixed immediately, whereas others require a sustained approach. It is all a matter of perspective and timing. You have to know the right action to take at the right time, and maintain a positive attitude.
Stanley Ng Tze Li: I believe passion, commitment, perseverance and innovation are key qualities for an entrepreneur to have. They not only drive an individual but also everyone working in the organisation.
When we first started, we faced difficulties in finding the right talent. The company was facing difficulties closing deals as the economy was not favourable in 2012. We tapped on school internship programmes to hire fresh talent and put them through on-the-job training in managing and implementing consultancy projects. This enabled the interns to experience how a consultancy firm works.
We overcame difficulties by leveraging with our partner's clients. We participated and conducted networking sessions for business owners and potential clients, which built up leads and clients.
Paul Roger Lim: For an entrepreneur to be successful, he must always take any opportunity that he is given. You never know where one opportunity might lead you.
Among the difficulties we faced in our journey as an entrepreneur was establishing ourselves against other well established consultant companies. To overcome this, we take pride in the service that we provide for our clients.
Ann Lee: I had to work alone most of the time, especially at the initial business development stage. I had problems inviting people to join our retail skincare servicing business, as most people believe that our business is mainly for those who do not perform well in the academic arena, and the worst thing is that this retail business is not sexy enough to attract more human talent.
I had to multi-task. Besides focusing on the business competition, I also designed my own training programme in order to integrate it into the system. I have now managed to largely solve the people retention problem. Currently my staff turnover is below 8 per cent. My next challenge is to create a career path for staff who have had faith in me all these years.
Kenny Tay: Patience, determination and innovation are key to a successful entrepreneur. Work hard and create more opportunities when the timing is right. Trust is an important quality too.
Learning how to run a business is all about learning how to manage people. Becoming a leader is one of the toughest parts of the learning curve. The only way to overcome most problems is not to stop learning and doing.
Sky Tan: The essential quality for an entrepreneur to be successful is that he must be a risk taker. Besides that, an entrepreneur should be able to create something totally new and make sure it's workable for the business. Lastly, another essential quality is self-motivation. We can't live without any dream to motivate us. So that should be the core element not only for an entrepreneur but also for everyone in the organisation.
Q: How has winning the One Asia Award helped you in growing your business?
Jeffrey Tan: It has provided a platform for us to build our company's credentials. Along with the added exposure that One Asia Award gives to the business, we are able to establish a clear point of difference and send a positive message to both potential business partners and customers on what makes us stand out from our competitors. In return, the recognition we get in the market has a great impact on our company's sales and profitability.
It is a fantastic win-win situation for us to participate in this awards event. Our company and brand receive good exposure to many like-minded entrepreneurs. There are so many business opportunities and new ideas when entrepreneurs come together. The fruit of success is always tastier when it's shared with others.
Regina Lee: Winning the One Asia Award from a well-known and respected organisation like the APF Group provides a major stamp of credibility. It helps to raise the profile of my business and the media coverage that follows is a good exposure. One key benefit for us has been the positive impact on team morale.
I believe that this award is an important landmark in Amplitude's journey and an affirmation that we are headed in the right direction. This award has provided me an opportunity to connect with the awardees to share business ideas and practices as well as growing to become an active community of socially responsible leaders.
Stanley Ng Tze Li: Winning the One Asia Award has elevated our branding position in the market. As a result, we are able to acquire more SME and MNC clients. The award gives a lot of benefits such as publicity and also potential for growing the business overseas. Another factor is that with the One Asia Award we are more recognised. Thus, we are able to attract new and experienced talents to join our firm in view of its potential to grow as a niche market.
Q: What advice can you give to budding entrepreneurs in view of the slowing economy?
Jeffrey Tan: We can ignore the world around us and continue to live and do business the usual way on an island called Singapore. Or, we can see the world as our market and change our business model to go beyond the Singapore market. It is not easy, but it is not impossible. We need to have the right products, right strategic partners and a proper plan to achieve this vision. As an entrepreneur, we need to be bold and courageous to take risk.
Regina Lee: My advice would be not to give up easily. As the saying goes, "you have only failed if you have given up". If you are confident that your idea is well worth the struggle, have the courage to weather the storm. The business environment is constantly changing, and you have to adapt to these challenges in order to transform them into opportunities.
Stanley Ng Tze Li: Aspiring entrepreneurs should look at the long-term perspective of the economy and how it will affect their businesses. Marketing is another factor entrepreneurs should not ignore as it helps to boost the company's reputation. Keep marketing the company even during the economic downturn as the company may be able to overtake potential competitors.
Ann Lee: It is not enough to build a business worth a fortune; you have to plan ahead and make sure you have an exit strategy, somewhere to get the money back.
Kenny Tay: Always explore new ways to expand and create awareness. Do not be afraid to try and always learn to leverage resources such as government grants and assistance schemes. Building strategy and partnerships are important steps towards expansion of the business.