Sunday, 16 December 2007

Starting A Business

Sometime in April 1996, I left my high-salaried job (in fact, the best in all my careers) as a senior manager with a local major IT retailer; and started making efforts to realise one of my remaining major ambitions - to go into full-time business.

Ever since I was in primary school, I had wanted to be a businessman in my grown-up years. Just never thought of the key word, WHEN ? until then. On reflection, I probably had stayed on working with the retailer if not for harsh working conditions.

My CEO had wanted me to stay on, but I felt that "enough is enough" when I had to repeatedly look at the traffic lights to reassure myself that it was alright to drive on when ever I moved out from the office's car-park.

I was rather comfortable with my lifestyle then, but I felt that it was inevitable to make fundamental changes if I were to move onto a higher plane of achievements in life. Most fundamental of which was to sell my cosy 5-room flat in Ang Mo Kio Central.

With the cash proceeds, I started looking for suitable shop space to set up what I felt was my forte in business venture - twelve years of retailing experience.

From the notice-board at the Commercial Section of Housing and Development Board (HDB), I went on to conduct a feasibility study at a newly-built commercial centre at Woodlands New Town. GREAT ! A foreseeable bustling shopping centre specked in the midst of a vast catchment area of newly-built HDB blocks of potential customers.

The first round of tenders had gone by, and the rentals offered by the successful bidders were exorbitant. But, those were the days when optimism ran high; and every choice location was up for grabs.

The high rental was disturbing, but I was reluctant to let go of this golden opportunity of setting up my retail business; although I was already the Managing Consultant of my other business entity set up a year earlier on.

I thought to myself that if I did not grasp this opportunity to go into active business venture ( my consulting business was rather low-key then ), I probably never dare in the future. The seemingly large cash proceeds were reassuringly adequate to sustain the venture for some time.

Right in my mind, a venture is always a risks-taking effort - never be overly confident of easy succcess. I was never confident that I could have another cash fallout ( from heaven ? ) again.

I considered various options for my retail merchandise mix - groceries, household items, sports goods, etc. My decision - stationery, gifts, books, magazines and sports merchandise as they were not easily perishable, and relatively fast selling too.

I was determined to keep my business format unique (incidentally, that was why the business name was named " D' SIA CONCEPT, ie my concept of retailing although the Mandarin version bore my mum's name), and went on to design my own fixtures, layout and ambiene. Next, I went on to source for my merchandise by visiting the suppliers' showrooms across the island.

Merchandise range was extended as the days passed by. As long as there were repeated demands and enquiries by residents, we would source for the merchandise (Lower left picture shows the subsequent addition of CD-ROMs to meet the craze then).

Mum agreed to help out as I wanted to keep my operational costs as low as possible.
Secondly, I believed in giving priority to my family members, relatives, close friends and ex-staff (apologetically in that order of priority) gainfully employed in my business. Could you find my mum's painstakingly helping out in the price-tagging efforts ( there was no electricity supply then ) in the picture ?

Support from known suppliers (from past working relationships) was good. In fact, several of them enquired about the official opening date for sending their Congratulations floral arrangements. I declined their good intentions. Reason: I was not sure of the viability of the business venture, so why bother about celebrations at this juncture. My Buddhist teachings had taught me to be more reticent about one's joy and celebration. The greater the celebration, the deeper the sadness that may follow. On the right: Pictures show the first Chinese New Year's celebration dinner-cum-karaoke session held for staff and invited suppliers at Ngee Ann City.
Some rear space was reserved for office and pantry use.

Contingency plans were made to boost sales in the event that the shopfront could not generate adequate sales to keep the business viable.

No comments: