IT Solutions: How 4 Singapore Entrepreneurs use Technology To Grow Their Business
Birds of the same feather flock together, and one key behaviour of every successful person is the eagerness to learn new things. This week, we learn from 4 business owners whose businesses are driven by IT solutions, and are thriving. What are their x factors? Read and investigate for yourself!
Gigi Ng, Director of DreiHeit House
Web Imp had the privilege of interviewing Gigi Ng, the director of DreiHeit House. DreiHeit House provides quality services in international brand management, business consultancy and distribution. The company also supplies quality products to the HORECA industry, fine retailers and professional trades in the Asiatic region.
In 2013, Gigi was invited by the Korean government to represent Singapore as a Judge and keynote speaker at the World Tea Forum, which opened doors to bespoke (tailor-made) tea blending and private label tea blending services. To-date, DreiHeit House has developed and successfully launched 7 private label brands for their clients around the world. Gigi disclosed that the reason for her company’s success is “being blessed with marvellous people (both internal and external customers) throughout the years”.
When asked about her business management style, Gigi replied that she empowers, delegates and releases people to their relevant departments. Representing her management team, she asserted that “we do not meddle in and control, but entrust the departments fully to take ownership. Yet, we are readily available to offer guidance when needed. Order, patience, contentment and discipline (disciplined people, disciplined thought and disciplined action) are essential in managing a company.
On her business outlook in the local scene, she shares, “As a tea concept house, we go beyond supply, providing a full range of support services. These services include designing full tea programmes (exclusive house blend teas available), advising on tea selection and presentation, staff training, quality audits and recommendation for tea equipment and accessories. The culinary scene faces varying challenges, from sophisticated consumers’ lifestyle changes to strong competition, high rental costs and labour constraints. Looking at Singapore’s changing lifestyles, culinary preferences, and interest with staying healthy, the health benefits of tea have contributed to the growth in demand for tea and tea drinking experience.”
Technology has also played a big role in DreiHeit House’s success. Gigi expresses that “Technology, and I mean the advances in communication and information technology, has changed the face and the pace of our business. Technology has opened the trading doors far and wide as we expand to the ASEAN region for Tea Forte; and private label tea blending service to as far as Mongolia. We integrate our information technology solutions: accounting software that manage our finances, website content management system that allow our staffs to update content, products and menu easily to our site, and inventory management software that help to track orders, control stock, and manage our business.”
Yet, even with a comprehensive set of IT solutions, DreiHeit House continues to invest in IT solutions for business. They are currently revamping their website for better user experience and improve page rank statistics, making it mobile responsive for greater accessibility and enabling dynamic website personalisation.
Before ending the interview, Gigi left us a quote to ponder over.
“Our greatest fear should not be failure but succeeding at something that does not really matter.” – Dwight Lyman Moody.
Let’s wish her and DreiHeit House all the best!
Miri Yeo, Creative Director of Owl City SG
Owl City SG was set up in 2014. A former nursing student, Ms Yeo spent a few years working in the healthcare sector. On the lookout for new challenges, she entered the marketing industry through a friend and has not looked back since. Four years after her first foray into the industry, her love for brainstorming, creating ideas and executing projects led her to start her own business, which helps SMEs in Singapore grow and flourish. Following various discussions and market surveys with former clients and friends who had started their own businesses, she eventually set up Owl City SG.
Now in 2016, Owl City SG has grown from a team of only 3 to a highly active strong group of 13. The company has managed more than 500 companies’ marketing content and advertising as well as over 50 companies’ brand management and marketing directions.
Miri acknowledged the tough competition in the marketing sectors due to the volume of similar competitors as well as the slow market economy since 2015. But she assures us that “OCS (Owl City SG) has been growing strong with it’s number of partners as well as clients who have been on board with us since the beginning, and these partnerships have contributed to the growth of the company as well as it’s reputation.”
Miri described her business management style as “keeping it fun and exciting, being a good leader rather than a boss”. She places importance on her staff’s growth, helping them gain knowledge and experience along the way. “Knowledge is ever learning, and I am learning from my staff each and every day as well,” she shares with us.
Technology has provided Owl City with a vast platform for communication and social outreach. Miri ascertains that “Messages can easily be sent out, and with social media, the number of opportunities to meet demands, as well as market research, has been a breeze.”
Miri leaves us with her top 3 priorities in life. Her first priority is happiness. She shares the quote that daily pushes her, “time is more valuable then money; you can get more money, but you cannot get more time“. She goes on to share her story with us, “Everyday since I was a teenager, my father would ask me ‘Are you happy?’. I never understood why he asked that question, but one day he did explain. He said: Life doesn’t always have to be so hard…” Her father’s message is her main source of encouragement whenever something brings her down, and it gives her confidence to trust that there is always a solution to every problem.
Miri’s second priority in life is experience. This is the word she emphasises to her staff. Experience is about learning the work as well as living the moment. Everyday is a new experience and learning too is an experience. She iterates her belief that “skills ‘beat’ paper. That’s why I always encourage students whenever I go for school talks and networking sessions to go and ‘experience’ the industry before entering it.” Last but not least, she also prioritises family. Her final words as the interview came to a close was, “Money can buy you anything but not love, especially family’s love.”
Let’s give Miri and Owl City SG our best support!
Ho Chang Jun, Founder of Flide
Flide is a web based presentation software that helps people make awesome slides easily. It came to be when Chang Jun was a student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic and wanted to stand out from the competition by designing slides that would wow his audience.
Chang Jun shares, “I spent too much time creating these slides and thought up a better solution. With Flide, now I can focus better on my content, and rest assured that I can quickly and easily have high quality designed slides, and so can millions of others.”
He lets us in on his business insight:
“Nowadays, there are many budding entrepreneurs creating their own start ups, pitching their ideas. They want to stand out from the competition, and one easy way is to have better presentation slides. All entrepreneurs have to spend time creating pitch decks that usually follow the same standard structure. Therefore one of our templates is a beautifully well crafted pitch deck that helps our local entrepreneurs have a great start for their pitch deck, and hopefully impress investors and secure more funding.
For the local scene, one of our features is to have a community of content creators to create their own design related content, and they would be able to sell it on our platform to a global audience. We hope that this would be a profitable avenue for Singaporean designers and developers, and encourage them to pursue their freelancing passion.”
About his business management style, Chang Jun articulates that he goes for flat hierarchy, where everyone manages their own tasks and are not given specific tasks to carry out. With the company’s goal communicated to them, employees are encouraged to do whatever they want to hit that goal. Interpersonal trust must be strongly established, believing that everyone is working towards the achievement of the company’s goal.
“As the founder, I empower my staff to come up with their own initiatives, propose it, and execute it themselves. This relief me from having to waste effort, time, and energy trying to manage them, as it’s more effective for people to manage themselves than to be managed by someone else,” he shares.
When asked about how technology plays a part in his business, Chang Jun’s reply is:
“There’s so much to say here, but simply, it transformed our productivity and has enabled so many things to become possible, also our entire business is a tech based web app.
Our app can only exist because of recent advancement in web technology, and it’ll continue to leverage on new advancement in technology to release new features that help improve the productivity of others.
What are the top 3 priorities in Chang Jun’s life? He reveals that the first is to make his tech start up a success, because it would likely be the most exciting adventure in his life, and a story worth sharing and inspiring others with. His second priority is finding the right partner with a similar mindset to settle down with (read: start a business together) and his last, also biggest priority is to build a school with a better education system, as he see how important education plays in a society’s welfare. It is Chang Jun’s wish to “contribute to creating a more effective and modernized education system for the world.”
Let’s wish him all the best in his entrepreneurial endeavours!
Atwell Lim, Director of Toasties
Toasties is an express deli, serving a base of freshly baked bread, hand-crafted wraps and tossed salads with each meal made-to-order. Ms Atwell Lim, founder and director of Toasties, expressed that her company’s vision is “to become a sustainable part of the community, offering a richer experience as customers’ go-to healthy express deli.” Toasties is also community-driven, always keeping ears peeled to the voice of customers.
Toasties currently holds the title of the only Halal certified sub-sandwich joint in Singapore. Ms Lim uses this competitive advantage to reach out to the Muslim community.
Toasties is reinventing the way people think about fast, affordable food. “Fast food is junk food? Definitely not here,” Ms Lim affirms. Toasties serves up delicious and wholesome food, with its made-to-order express deli concept. More importantly, Toasties is determined to develop the new market of “affordable premium” fast-food that currently have few competitors in the space at its average price offering
When sharing about her sandwich chain, in relation to the local scene, Ms Lim explains that “Toasties, being a home-grown local brand, is constantly listening to what our local community wants, and we give them just that! Although submarine style sandwiches are of western origins, we occasionally infuse Singaporean flavours into our sandwiches, such as Chilli Crab and Black Pepper Crab flavours.”
Ms Lim adopts participative leadership values in her business management style. She advocates listening before instructing, leading by example, and describes Toasties’ culture as fun, vibrant, causal yet professional.
Toasties is a great believer in technology as efficiency boosters. Ms Lim explains that technology is what enabled her company to pass on cost savings to customers in the form of affordable food prices.
She revealed that Toasties “invested in a new cutting-edge POS system powered by Revel, that allows us to link up our sales, inventory, and finance. This allows for the management to gain real time insights to all our outlets’ inventories, sales, and purchases, which means less time spent on managing reports, and more time to focus on what’s really important; bringing better food and service for our customers.”
Ms Lim further adds, “in managing our staffs, we rely on our HR system which effortlessly tracks their shift hours through fingerprints clock-ins and outs, and this automatically links up to payroll processing. Staff can also use the HR system to apply for leave, claim expenses, and schedule their work shifts anytime and anywhere, as long as they have internet access on their computers. This frees up valuable HR time and resource, which is better spent on identifying and retaining good workers. Toasties also uses quickbooks to manage its accounts where it can be linked to its POS, enabling it to generate auto invoices.”
Ms Lim wraps up the interview by sharing with us her top 3 priorities in life. The first is to be happy, the second is to inspire and impact the world, and the third is family.
Let’s wish Ms Lim the very best, and give her a toast to her sandwich chain, Toasties!
From these four directors, we can see how management styles have evolved to become, as Chang Jun says, a “flat hierarchy”. This involves putting large amounts of trust in individual employees, and creating a work atmosphere that is flexible, dynamic and experimental. What better way to adopt this cutting-edge management style than using IT solutions as the backbone of your business? You would then be able to support your employees through their initiatives, and need not worry about your business suffering severe repercussions!