SME Voices

16 March 2011

Exim Bank

It ís sad we will not be proceeding with the establishment of an Exim Bank. There is definitely a need for such an institution to focus on the unique requirements of SMEs. Their size, scale and scope of operation make it more difficult for SMEs to enjoy priority and dedicated service from mainstream banks and to access alternative financing. In addition, it will be more challenging to assure lenders of their financial position or to convince them to invest in projects that are of a higher risk in nature, especially in new markets, technology, innovation and systems that are outside of the normal radar screen.

Over and above facilitating grants, loans and incentives, mainstream institutions will be hard pressed to proactively uncover business and investment opportunities for SMEs, especially in the global market. They will not be as inclined  to co-invest with SMEs to capitalise on such projects. With their focus on the bottomline, it is also unlikely they will invest in developing stronger infrastructure, support and services to help groom our SMEs to be the next generation of world-beaters.

SMEs should push harder to merge their operations or hunt as a pack so as to possibly list their venture, enjoy economies of scale, link diverse markets, and strengthen their competitive edge and value-additions.

12 January 2011

Singapore Budget 2011 Wishlist

As Asia leads the way in the global economy, the 2011 Budget can be a strategic platform to help SMEs spread their external wings and capitalise on the regional growth. To enhance competitiveness, it is important to address rising business costs. These costs can be mitigated through lowering of corporate tax. By doing so, it can also help Singapore attract more foreign enterprises and investments and position us as the gateway to Asia.

In addition, there is a need to increase business grants and incentives to capitalise on the turn of economic tide to the Asian shores. We need to help SMEs enhance their competitive edge and workforce productivity. This can be achieved through providing financial assistance, especially in strategic areas such as capabilities building, talent development, R&D, and education and training. The government can also help SMEs expand overseas and possibly, hunt as a pack by facilitating availability of information, networking, trade missions, and business connections.

It is also our wish to see a growing proportion of our budget being allocated to help the poor and needy, promote the Green movement, and make Singapore a happier and more liveable city.

3 January 2011

2011 New Year Wish

As Singapore becomes more affluent, my personal wish is that my friends and I can do more to help others live a better life and to make our world a better home. I want to give more and at the same time, share about the gift of giving to my children and to anyone who wants to live a more fulfilling life.

It is sad we oftentimes judge life by what we have more than what we give. We measure success by what we have achieved for ourselves rather than how we have contributed to others. I have learned the more I give to others, the more I can tap on our Creator’s unlimited reserve of physical, emotional and spiritual wealth. What I give away will also be returned back to me. When I share love, I will not have less of it. The love that has been shared will be multiplied many fold and returned back to me. To experience more joy and peace, I must share them with others. When we give our best to others, we enrich our lives and bring out the best from ourselves. It unleashed us to live at a higher plane of life in 2011 and beyond.

 21 December 2010

CSR

As the winner of the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Award, HSR believes all companies; including SMEs, should do well and do good at the same time and all the time. We take a two-prong approach to CSR. The aspiration in our internal journey is to build a model business, a company where we can have ‘The Happiest People On Planet Earth’ working in it. As a result, we have developed HSR Building into a place where our people can hopefully find meaning, excitement and fulfillment. We have organized health screenings, wellness talks, fun activities, learning programmes and many other initiatives to help them in their overall development.

In our external journey, HSR has helped to initiate a humanitarian arm to provide community services to emerging economies. We also housed Junior Achievement, providing lifeskills training to help enhance the success of school children. We have also started an Elderly Outreach to provide holistic programmes to senior citizens, including delivering of food and ration, wellness checks, learning programmes, regular parties, and educational tours.

Callie Liew, HSR’s founder always reminds us that ‘The more we reach out to bless others, the richer and better our lives will become.’

15 December 2010

Credit Terms

We are fortunate to be in a cash-on-transaction business, where there is no need to offer credit terms. In addition, our commissions are mainly from sellers who have sold their properties, and are therefore in a better position to settle their payments. Consequently, we have minimal credit  risks associated with delayed or poor payments.

As a company that was ranked number one for productivity in terms of ROE (Property Sector, SME 500 Study 2010), we subscribe to the maxim that ‘Prevention is better than cure.’

First, we ensure that our agreements with clients are well crafted and duly completed to prevent any after sales disputes. We invest substantial resources in conducting ISO 9001–certified trainings, so as to enhance our salespersons’ competence in managing prospects as well as clients. For example, we qualify our clients to ensure they are not only credit-worthy, but are also in a position for us to build win-win relationships with them. We train our people to manage clients’ expectations, deliver value add, and provide good customer service to justify our commissions.

HSR’s customer service department and salespersons strongly adhere to a well-proven system to follow-up with clients and resolve any business issues. We have an efficient and effectual credit control department that bills clients on time and also ensures prompt settlements. Our finance and administration team tracks customer accounts diligently and regularly. We continue to review our credit control systems and execute ‘constant and never ending improvements’ to enhance our value add, profit, advantage and growth.

2 December 2010

Workplace Health

As the winner of the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Award and two of the Singapore HR Awards 2010, our focus is first, promoting preventive healthcare. For example, we have acquired equipment for health screening and put together a plan for handling potential spread of diseases such as SARS. Secondly, developing a wellness hub in HSR Building. We turned our workplace into a lifestyle office with a childcare centre, a games centre, free shuttle bus rides, a cafeteria, and a relaxation lounge. Thirdly, running wholistic health programmes. We have organized overseas holidays, birthday celebrations, physical exercises, games, and other wellness programmes. Our aim is to run educational programmes to teach our people to look after their physical, mental and emotional well-being. We want to encourage a more active bottom-up approach to health promotion with initiatives from the most junior staff. We aspire to be a model for work-life balance, including healthcare promotion in the business community.

24 November 2010

Foreign Talents

While we should give priority to employing locals, it is important to ensure there are sufficient people in our workforce to maintain and enhance our economic and social engines. In addition, we need an increasing diversity of overseas talents to improve our capabilities and productivity and to capitalise on regional and global opportunities.

With the tight labour market, restrictions in hiring foreign workers, and increasing wage levels, SMEs will have no choice but to redesign their business model to provide higher value-added services, improve productivity, or relocate or outsource part or all of their business operations.

As a company that was rated number one in productivity in terms of ROE (Property Sector, SME 500 2010), we recently sent two of our key managers overseas to study other companies and to benchmark ourselves against the best in the industry. We also engaged with more than 100 consultancies, vendors, and other service providers to see how we can further improve our effectiveness and efficiency.

We are redesigning our key business processes so as to achieve not only incremental but also quantum leaps in improvement. We hired two additional IT specialists to further automate our operations and enhance our infocommunication capabilities. We will be launching new trainings to ensure our people leverage on the new technologies and to stay at the cutting-edge. Ultimately, we aim to move from a labour-dependent model to a technology-driven virtual office, supporting our global business on a 24/7 basis.

9 November 2010

Business Positioning

Singapore is fast becoming a global marketplace with a complex set of business forces that are at work in a rapidly changing environment. Under these cluttered conditions, SME must compete to be heard. It is unfortunate that the market, including some mass media is more enamored about investments from large enterprises than brave initiatives by SMEs. To overcome it, SMEs must start by positioning themselves as a ‘big fish in a small pond’. Case in point, instead of competing with all the food and beverage outlets, aim to be the best fishball noodle stall to attract the attention of F&B consultants and publications. Determine your unique differentials that meet the targeted market’s requirements and promote it consistently, purposefully, and creatively as the ‘Killer Apps’ and the ‘Next Big Thing’.

If the mainstream media is out of reach, leverage on non-traditional channels. For example, there are many business giants that have become success stories through sheer word-of-mouth. If applied effectively through Internet marketing, you can virtually create a publicity machine on steroid. Ultimately, it is not just about capturing number of ’eye balls’, ‘hits’, or ‘viewerships’, what will establish sustainable publicity is winning mind-share. In other words, you need to develop outstanding solutions and delivered them through outstanding services. When that happened, you will be positioned for success and the market and mainstream media will soon have no choice but to take notice of your achievements. In HSR, our hardwork in this approach has helped us to win 25 business awards from experts judges and we have seen our public image improved over time. So, don’t lose heart!

3 November 2010

A Holiday Experience

I love to trek in what you would call a jungle but I call it my paradise.

I fell in love with jungle trekking when my family and I took a holiday trip to stay in a ‘floating bungalow’. This is a boat house at Tasik Kenyir, the largest man-made lake in South-east Asia. It is located at the edge of one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests.

We had hired a guide to bring us on a short walk but we ended up getting lost in the jungle. For more than six hours, we trekked with no clue as to how to get out of it.

The sun was setting. We were thirsty and tired. There was no water and food – unless you consider candies as food.

 We were definitely not prepared to stay overnight, certainly not with wild animals. While walking, I could imagine them salivating and smacking their lips, waiting patiently for a good meal – my family and I.

All we could do was to motivate ourselves with stories and words of wisdom. Fortunately, I had saturated my life with loads of them.

There was nothing we could do except to press on bravely. Meanwhile, we prayed.

We came to a fork junction and were wondering which path we should take. I sensed that our Creator was directing me to choose a particular track.

If we had taken the other track, we would either have become modern day ‘Tarzan, Jane and family’ or fresh meat for the jungle party that night.

Miraculously, just before sunset, we managed to bash out of the jungle. I celebrated with grateful joy for the new lease of life.

Looking back, I can still feel the thrill running down my spine.

 I can still recall how scared I was even though I had to put on a brave front. I had to help lead my family through the jungle with faith, hope and optimism.

After that setback; instead of being turned off, my family and I went back into the jungle again the next day.

I know the values of fear as a warning signal. However, I need to train my family to make fear our servant and not our master.

We had to fight fear with fear. We had to conquer the ‘jungle’ inside of us with courage and determination.

Since then, we have trekked many jungles, mountains, national parks, and nature reserves. We have stayed in tree houses, tents, rafts, and all kinds of sleeping bags.

Living in the jungle is a spiritual recluse for us. The jungle has helped us to learn many lessons in life. Here are some of them:

  • The jungle is challenging but I need challenges to live. When there are none, I know I am dead.
  • If I don’t know where I am going, I will always be in the jungle.
  • I see more obstacles when I see less of my objectives.
  •  I do not have to follow others and go to where they have gone. I want to go to where I should go and leave a track for others to follow.
  • I will not know what I can achieve unless I take the risks of going further into the jungle.
  • I do not ask for an easier jungle but for a stronger mind.
  • I am not worried of trekking slowly but of standing still. If I don’t try, I will never ever get out of the jungle.
  • I am more afraid I have not lived than of being dead in the jungle.
  • I cannot get out of the jungle without being bitten by mosquitoes and struggling through difficult tracks and thick vegetation.
  • When I feel fear, uncertainties and doubts – that can be the beginning of success.
  • I cannot discover a better track unless I leave my comfort zone.
  • I learn from the jungle which deals with challenges by renewing itself.
  • When I have gone down the wrong track, I must be brave enough to back-track and start again.
  • If I cannot go back and start again, I can start from where I am to reach a new destination.
  • It is easier to go down the mountain but the view is better from the top and the air fresher too. I can also see my way out of the jungle.
  • Every new challenge in the jungle makes me a better person.
  • If the animals are too strong for me, I avoid them. If I can’t, I must be prepared to overcome them.
  • I can resolve any challenges in the jungle if only I learned how to do it.
  • If I overcome the worst the jungle offers me, I can become the best I can be.
  • The jungle may be rough but there are enough flora and fauna to make it exciting and fun.
  • Even at nightfall, I can enjoy the wonders of the stars.
  • The natives in the jungle do not have what I have but they can be happier than me.
  • I persevere through the jungle so that I can see the beautiful waterfall.
  • Only when I have bashed through the jungle can I feel the thrill of achievement and the joy of memories. 

 2 November 2010

Managing Rising Costs

SMEs must not only contend with rising costs but also the fact that business landscape in Singapore will never be a low cost environment. If cost is a critical success factor, they will have to either relocate part or all of their operations outside of Singapore, improve their productivity, or reinvent their business model.

The real estate industry is a highly fragmented industry with many excesses due to ingrained practices, duplication of effort, and increasingly outdated value-additions. To overcome rising costs, there is a need for major consolidation through mergers and acquisitions. The industry is poised for operational rationalization to enhance size, scale and scope of services so as to support competitiveness, productivity, and cost effectiveness.

Real estate companies must transit from being a transaction-oriented broker to being a solution-oriented partner, from operating on a one-time fee basis to a recurring income basis so as to create higher margins to mitigate rising costs. They need to go beyond current practices to create new markets, businesses, and values. For example, instead of relying on the domestic market, there is a need to go beyond our shores to tap on the growing property market in the region and on a global basis.

18 October 2010

Minimum Wage Level

Wages should be dictated by free market forces. They are good arbiters of productivity, competitiveness, and sustainable results. Installing a minimum pay law will mainly affect SMEs as they are in the most vulnerable position to compete with their counterparts in other similar economies. It will increase their overheads and make them less competitive and as a result, reduce their demand for human resources. It is a vicious cycle that will ultimately affect the low skill-workers the law is trying to protect. This is tantamount to curing diabetes with cancer.

It is a law that will be difficult to withdraw once it is implemented and it may lead to introduction of unemployment welfare programmes that may further erode our economic competitiveness. Perhaps the more important focus is to increase workers’ productivity. We can do so through introduction of more trainings, job enhancement programmes, and productivity improvement tools. At the same time, the government can fine tune the workfare scheme and foreign worker levy for different sectors. They are indirect ways to help workers that need the most assistance and to adjust the equitable wage level.

 

5 October 2010

Tribute To Mrs Lee

Madam Kwa bore the hallmark of a great leader who knew what it meant to be a good follower and to work as a team. She exemplified the rephrased words of Lao Tzu in Tao Te Ching: ‘She acted without claiming the results as hers; achieved her merit and did not rest on it – showing only humility all the way. She led the people to the destination and they felt they did it on their own. All this while, she accumulated nothing for herself.’ In doing so, she left a great legacy – one that all Singaporeans should be grateful for.

5 October 2010

Business Expansion

As a service-oriented company that is on an expansion made, we are focused on hiring and retaining the right talents for the right jobs and teams. We are facing the same challenges in a tight labour market as other companies. However, we were able to fill up key positions to propel our growth in the foreseeable future. We have put in place learning programmes to ensure a succession of servant-leaders. For example, recently we were able to promote managers from within the organisation. These new managers have undergone different trainings and proven themselves to be able to handle higher responsibilities.

 We have also hired another two managers from the public and two other foreign talents for their experience and expertise. These people were attracted to HSR’s values-based culture and our commitment to have ‘The Happiest People On Planet Earth’ working in our company. Our proactive actions to love our people have helped us win the Singapore Human Resources Award 2010 for quality work-life, physical and mental well-being. We are mindful that our people’s expectations are evolving and are therefore making the necessary changes to meet their needs and requirements.

28 September 2010

Responding To Challenges

The key focus of SMEs is not to find ways to respond to every challenge in a booming or declining economy otherwise their prospects will be subject to the winds of change. Instead, they need to build a resilient business model, an adaptable organisation, and an able and agile workforce that will not only survive any turbulence but also find ways to capitalize on it for success.

Entrepreneurs must have the courage and capabilities to ‘destroy’ their organizations and creatively reinvent themselves to become more relevant and effective. Any enterprise that does not renew itself may be forced to do so by both internal and external forces, including threats and thrusts of competition. The organisation must be built on open and dynamic systems that will continually monitor the business environment and adapt to changes in the most productive way. It must align its structure, systems and processes to prepare for business discontinuities, endure disruptions to revenue generators, and reinvent itself for the post-downturn climate.

To capitalize on challenges in the industry, including the enactment of the Estate Agents Act 2010, and introduction of the latest property cooling measures, we are reinventing HSR. We will rebuild our company to be stronger, faster, and more effective than ever before. In the final analysis, it is not just about market size but market share too. In this regard, we have launched a new vision to be the dominant market leader in the industry, and be a stronger force for good.

To achieve our vision, we have re-empowered our people with new training, technologies, and other business resources. At the same time, we have hired six new key talents; from both Singapore and overseas, to enhance our capabilities, competitive edge, and value-add. Come good or bad times, we are always ready to take ourselves to a higher level.

14 September 2010

Investment In Your Business

HSR is undertaking to be listed on SGX-ST through a reverse takeover. We are open to any investment that will add value to our clients and other stakeholders, and enhance our profit, advantage and growth.

In the near future, we see tremendous opportunities for us to acquire or invest in other real estate or real estate–related businesses. The impending enactment of the Estate Agents Act 2010 will make it hard for many companies to meet the requirements of the new bill and even if they can do it, it will be very cumbersome to ensure compliance. The introduction of recent measures by the Ministry Of National Development will also make it hard for them to survive the unpredictable and challenging times ahead due to their limited size, scale and scope of service and operations.

As a result of our investments, these companies can develop a more resilient and sustainable business model. In addition, they can enjoy a stronger branding equity, image and presence in the market. They can enhance their knowledge, competence and other resources to improve their competitive edge. The integration of complementary strengths can also help create new market, values and businesses. Through increased economy of scale, they can lower costs of operation, enhance purchasing power, and create and capture a higher value-addition for their clients. They can have more capacity and capabilities to expand in new and existing markets, and develop a stronger resilience to overcome the cyclical nature of the market. They will also be in a better position to tap the capital market to improve their profit, liquidity, stability and growth.

 

7 September 2010

Foreign Workers

As the largest real estate agency according to the Singapore Book Of Records, HSR has developed a synergistic relationship between our indigenous talent pool and our foreign talents. As a rule of thumb, we prefer to hire local talents because they understand our culture and have a longer perspective about their career. Therefore, they are in a better position for the company to leverage on them for both our succession and growth plans.

However, we still need to hire foreigners for jobs that require unique commitment, experience or expertise. This is inevitable, especially because of the fact we are operating in a globalised economy. As a result of having a stronger diversity of talents, it has enhanced our family spirit and improve our capabilities and productivity.

In our personal opinion, it is not wise and prudent to increase the foreign-worker levy when the economy is on the rebound and unemployment rate is relatively low. In addition, we need more – not less – foreign workers to keep our economic engine running to compete and capitalize on opportunities in the growing Asian market.

31 August 2010

Youth Olympic Games

There is no question the inaugural Singapore 2010 YOG has positioned Singapore prominently on the world map. We have done a highly commendable job in organizing a world-class event. Our athletes have helped our little red dot win more medals per capita than any other country and have done us proud.

 Sponsors for the event can enhance their branding and visibility. They can be associated with virtues of the Olympic Games, including pursuit of passion and excellence. These companies can also position themselves as the gold standard in their industry. Obviously, for some companies, the YOG is a great showcase for their products and services and can help them develop a closer relationship with their targeted customers and other stakeholders. We look forward to more of such sponsorships, co-marketing campaigns, and event marketing tie-ins to help organize similar events so as to fly our Singapore flag proudly in a globalised economy. Majulah Singapura!

24 August 2010

Business Plan

Barring unforeseen circumstances, there are no reasons why the property market will not go through a positive trend in the short to medium term. In many sectors, the market is at one of the lowest points in terms of supply. Sentiments are strong. Interests from foreign buyers are increasing. These fundamentals are underpinned by strong economic growth and an effective pro-business government.

We have identified many key areas of growth for our company and are stepping up our investments to enhance our branding equity, talent management, capabilities building, and innovations. We are also excited about the impending enactment of the Estate Agents Acts 2010 as we have positioned and prepared ourselves to achieve the highest level of professionalism, quality, service and result for a long time. We foresee many of our counterparts will not be able to meet the requirements and shoulder the additional investments for corporate governance and compliance. There are opportunities for us to consolidate a fragmented industry to increase our profit, advantage and growth. We are gearing up to make 2011 the best year in the 30-year history of our company.

 

17 August 2010

Seventh Lunar Month

Traditionally, the seventh lunar month is a slow month for the real estate industry. There are people out there who still believe it is not auspicious to buy or sell a property during this period.

However, for HSR, we have been able to buck the trend. For us, it is not about market size but market share. It is not about the market situation but the proactive action taken to capitalize on it. And the best time to win market share is oftentimes during a soft market.

In this regard, our company has launched a new logo this month for property classified advertisements and is running a campaign to promote our positioning as the preferred property vendor. We are also organizing a lucky draw for our clients to win a brand new Mercedes Benz C180.

We will be recalling about 7000 of our agents to prime them for a strategic business thrust. In line with the campaign, we will be launching a series of business trainings to help them advance what we called their KASH, otherwise known as their knowledge, attitude, skills and habits. Till date, we have enrolled more than 600 of our people for retraining. We will also be introducing a suite of marketing ‘weapons’ to help them stand out from the crowd and lead the field. We have also acquired new infocommunication systems and office equipment to enhance our effectiveness and efficiency. I believe we are doing much more than any of our competitor and are confident of a great month ahead.

3 August 2010

Simplified Accounting Standards

The need to implement a simplified version of accounting standards for SMEs is overdue. The reality is that SMEs do not have the same business structure, resources, and funding as large enterprises. The objective and focus of the users of financial reports for SMEs can also be very different. For example, SMEs are more focused on current and short term financial positions and cashflow than on long term forecasts of earnings and cashflow. There is no need for extensive and elaborate financial statements, as SMEs are generally run by the business owner or a small team. Requirements such as segment reporting; earnings per share; and revaluation model for property, plant and equipment, and for intangible assets may not be totally important or even necessary. The resulting financial statements may not be crucial in, for example, supporting applications for loans as financial institutions will normally rely on and require personal guarantees or collaterals before approving the loans. The current accounting standards can, therefore, impose an unnecessary burden on SMEs.

Countries such as Japan, UK and Australia have adopted a simplified reporting requirement for their SMEs and it has served them well. Benefits for SMEs include the need for lesser resources to prepare financial statements and ensure compliance to regulatory requirements; stronger focus on sustaining and growing their businesses; and improvements in business productivity and results. On a national level; with less cumbersome accounting requirements, it can also help Singapore attract more foreign SMEs to establish their regional offices in our country.  

27 July 2010

Cultural Intelligence

Cultural Intelligence is a vital and integral factor for operating in any overseas market and for that matter, in any local market segment that is culturally unfamiliar to you.

The key starting point is to avoid adopting an ethnocentric mindset, believing that your objectives, perspective, and way of doing business are better than others. It includes making judgments about other’s behavior based on your own self conception and past experience.  What works for your business locally may not succeed overseas because of societal and cultural differences. A great executive in a new setting may not even be a good one.

It is important to stay culturally open. You need to have a healthy tolerance for and sensitivity to cross-cultural differences. When you commit yourself to learn about and adapt to other culture, it can not only enrich your life but also help you develop appropriate bridges to capitalize on markets abroad.

To be culturally empathetic – and not be culturally-blinded – it is important to conduct vigorous research especially about relevant cross-cultural differences and study how to leverage on them for business purposes. You need to be humble to enquire about and learn how to operate in accordance to new cultural cues, expectations and behavior. If need be, go ‘back to basics’ and hire an employee who understands the local culture or retain the right coach to help you work with foreign customers and in new markets.

As a company that probably markets more property investments from all over the world to Asians, it has been an honour and sheer joy to learn how to appreciate different culture and work towards win-win relationships that are based on love, trust and mutual respect.

 13 July 2010

Redefinition Of An SME

SMEs are the prime movers of entrepreneurial spirit and the economy. Collectively, it is the largest employer and is therefore, a key pillar of society. Therefore, to start with the end in mind, any redefinition of SME should help the government monitor SMEs’ performance and contributions, and to formulate policies and programmes to optimize its growth.  It should also ensure that financial and technical assistance are channeled to businesses that deserved it.

With the advancement of economic development and the positioning of our economy in higher value-added and growth areas, the number of employees and the financial threshold to qualify as an SME should be increased. It will ensure that a greater number of SMEs; forming the backbone of our economy, is given the necessary support to enhance capabilities building and business growth. It will also placed them on equal footing to tap public schemes with their counterparts in USA and EU where SME refer to an enterprise with less than 500 and 250 employees respectively. The bottomline is, the redefinition of SME must foster entrepreneurship, innovations, investments and sustainable growth.

1 July 2010

Business Model

HSR Code Of Honour #6 elaborates on the fact that we are not just in the property business, we are also in the people business. It is not just about real estate but also relationships. For us to achieve excellence, we need to headhunt and retain the right talent for the right job and at the right time. To do so, HSR takes a holistic approach to talent retention. It begins with the HSR Family Heartware. As a Company built on love, we believe our focus should be to serve our people, bring out the best from them, and help them live a meaningful, rewarding and fulfilling life. We want them to treat our organization as their extended family and the office, their second home. We aim to have ‘The Happiest People’ in HSR – people who will have pleasant and memorable experiences while working with us.

As a result, we have developed and will continue to improve on the HSR Family Hardware. It includes being sensitive to the overall needs of our people and creating a pleasant working environment. It includes enhancing their work-life balance, and physical and emotional well-being. For example, HSR is probably the first and only company to have a wellness hub, recreational outlets, gymnasium, image studio, restaurant, alfresco dining, free valet service, free shuttle bus rides, infocomm learning lab and private function rooms.

We are also proud of our innovations in developing the HSR Family Software to create a warm, dynamic and caring culture. We go out of the way to improve our formal and informal communication processes so that we can build a ‘One Big Happy Family’ (Lianhe Zaobao). For example, we organize overseas trips for our staff and their family members, employ a full-time counselor, celebrate birthdays, enjoy regular ‘makan’ sessions, arrange stay-in orientation boot camps, and organize many other fun-filled activities. We also conduct comprehensive learning programmes in HSR Building to help our people advance their professional and personal developments. As a result of our talent appreciation and retention systems, our people has helped us win more than 20 business awards, including two of the latest HR awards from Singapore Human Resources Institute.

22 June 2010

World Cup

As the longest established mega real estate agency, HSR has gone through seven World Cup tournaments and we are happy to note that our productivity has never been affected. However, we chose to err on the side of caution and have reminded our people to enjoy the beautiful game but not to allow it to affect their contributions and quality of life.

Personally, I am not as concerned about football fans’ sleep deprivation, emotional roller coaster, or physical ailments associated with couch potatoes. My deepest concern is the possibility of them spending their hard-earned money on gambling. As a result, it may not only affect their productivity but also their- and their families’ livehood. Even if one family suffers because of it, the beautiful game will become a tragic one.

25 May 2010

Shanghai World Expo

The Shanghai World Expo; as the most expensive Expo in history and the largest ever, once again signal China as a major economic influence in the 21st century. It is definitely worth a visit but more importantly, SMEs must tap on the explosive Chinese bandwagon to grow their business. Besides exporting goods to the massive market, SMEs can exploit China’s cost advantages and its growing technological prowess to improve their business model and operations.

While China is gradually moving towards being a market economy, the central-planning bureaucracy still plays a major part in the country. China is still characterized by unpredictability, unclear rules and regulations, and unreliable intellectual protection rights. SMEs are inclined to underestimating the risks involved in doing business in China or overestimating their capabilities to succeed in it. Perhaps, visiting the Shanghai World Expo may be a good start to achieving the right equilibrium.

18 May 2010

Resillient Organisation

The Greek debt crisis is not the first nor the last crisis that will directly or indirectly impact SMEs. The key focus is not just to find ways to respond to every challenge but to develop a more resilient organization that will not only survive turbulence but also exploit opportunities in every crisis to create advantages over less adaptive companies and build for stronger growth.

Key leaders must have the willingness and capabilities to reinvent current business model.  The organization must be built on dynamic and open systems that will continually monitor the environment, come out with new options and change accordingly. It must align its structure, systems and processes to prepare for business discontinuities, endure disruptions to existing revenue generators, and reinvent itself for the post-crisis environment.

The ability and agility to galvanize human resources to build such a resilient organization is a company’s ultimate advantage in the Greek debt and other crisis. To do so, we need to constantly ask ourselves, “What are the future’s problems we need to start solving today? What are the future’s opportunities we need to start preparing to capitalize upon from today?

11 May 2010

CPF

It will bode well to remember that the CPF rate was cut from 36 percent to 33 percent in 2003 after the SARS crisis to help employers’ better respond to the challenging times. With the improvement of the economy, it is only fair that it should be restored, albeit partially. We need to put our money where our mouth is to show our employees that they are important assets and that we care for them through both good and bad times. The increase in morale and performance can more than offset the minor CPF adjustment.

 The 1 percent increase should be factored as a part of the total wage cost. Any further increase in the total wage package must be evaluated in tandem with employee’s productivity, innovations and other contributions, and overall business competitiveness and resilience. (Bear in mind, competitors operating from other countries do not have to pay CPF contributions). To ensure this increase is equitable, employers can factor it into a variable wage component or develop a flexible salary package to reward employees accordingly.

 The financial impact of the CPF increase is minimal and will only kick in from the last quarter in two stages. Meanwhile, both employers and employees will need to look at how to increase the bottomline on a sustainable and inclusive basis. They can do so by creating new markets, values and businesses while at the same time, improving overall productivity.

4 May 2010

EAP

I find it sad that we have to craft regulations, including the impending employment law and the maintenance of parents act to look after the elderly. While the laws can protect them, it cannot ensure our gratefulness for the generation that has helped to build our nation. We cannot legislate our appreciation for the people without whose labour we cannot have the fruit we are enjoying today. Without such values, we will lose the soul of our country and any law – no matter how well crafted – can have a backlash effect. For example, the EAP can deter SMEs from employing the elderly or worse, cause them to lay off older workers before they reach retirement age.

Regardless of whether the EAP is paid as a lump sum or in stages, employers should treat it as a last resort and not as a cop-out. They should do whatever they can to ensure employability of their people by growing their business, training their staff, and looking after employees’ overall health and wellness. They should be preemptive in planning for their career, including preparing them to be deployed in other positions or vocations. In addition, they should create elder-friendly environment to facilitate work and contributions.

We will do well to remember that we, too, will grow old and we will certainly want others to treat us as valuable members of the country and to ensure we can choose to be gainfully employed and to contribute to society. As the winner of the Asia Entrepreneurship Award for investing in people, HSR is establishing structure, systems and processes to help our elderly employees and associates find meaning, excitement and fulfillment in their work.

19 April 2010

Adaptable Organisation

The Thailand crisis is but a reflection of a bigger challenge for SMEs in the era of disruptive discontinuities.  They have to work with the unforeseen and manage the unexpected.  To survive, they have to almost apply the ‘double think’ concept posited by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighteen-Four and that is to hold opposing beliefs simultaneously in the mind and yet accepting both.  For example, SMEs need to focus on their target market and at the same time, focus on exploring and opening up new markets. 

 The key to do so is to be able to build a highly focused and yet adaptable organization.  Such organizations are led by leaders who are sensitive and responsive to the environment, are constantly learning, and are competent in managing constant changes to achieve sustainable results.  Such values are then embedded into the corporate culture and practiced by employees throughout the rank and file of the organisational hierachy.  The key issue for SMEs is not so much to find new improvements but to give up old ones.

20 April 2010

Innovation

In the new world of disorder, the rate of change will be faster than ever before.  What works yesterday may not tomorrow.  Therefore, SMEs need to innovate or become lunch for those who do.

The challenges for SMEs are to integrate innovation in management and every level of the organisational hierarchy.  Innovation should become a systemic capability, a value proposition for their clients that is deeply embedded in their culture, structure, systems and processes.   

Unfortunately, the misconception is that innovation is to be delegated only to a part of the organization eg. R & D department rather than being an integral part of every employee’s role and responsibilities.  By tapping on collective creative power of the organization, SMEs can enhance productivity and the bottomline.

To orchestrate a culture of innovation, SMEs need to commit itself to building a learning organisation that is willing to accept failures as a necessary part of growth. It should put the spotlights on the new heroes of innovation and introduce incentive schemes to reward breakthrough thinking.  There should be open communication to build an organisation that will not accept status quo and have a passion for constant and radical improvements.  

5 April 2010

Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

Even though HSR is not a direct beneficiary of any FTA, we would like to commend the government for their successful initiatives in this area. It will open doors to help SMEs tap on bigger markets and major economies. They can exploit new businesses in a faster way and with added benefits and advantages. In addition, they can enjoy stronger intellectual property protection. However, SMEs may have to face more intense competition that may require stronger size, scale and scope of operation and it may put SMEs at a disadvantage.

We suspect the reason why many SMEs are not exploiting any FTA is mainly due to ignorance, undue worries, and plain apathy. Unlike MNCs and large companies who can have dedicated workforce to carry out the due processes, many SMEs do not have the infrastructure, system or resources to keep track of and to capitalize on these FTAs.

In addition, SMEs are worried about the penalties and potential losses when they make any mistake. SMEs may also not want to incur additional time and other resources to research and carry out other activities to find out the necessary information and procedures, for example, between the differences between ACFTA and CSFTA should they wish to do business in China.

Coming from a country with a limited market size and limited possibilities of profit; by creating strategic alliances, SMEs are in a better position to capitalize on FTAs to enhance profit, advantage and growth. SMEs should ‘hunt as a pack’ and leverage on their combined knowledge, capabilities, and other assets. The government may have to be more proactive in helping to initiate such alliances and to hire ‘salespersons’ to help SMEs understand and execute the necessary actions to exploit any FTA.

30 March 2010

Corporate Governance

All respectable companies should manage their businesses with the most effective framework and practices for sound corporate governance. By doing that, it will enhance branding and corporate image to attract more and a better quality of customers, employees and other stakeholders. This will in turn contribute to a vibrant cycle of profit, advantage and growth. On a national level, it will also strengthen Singapore Inc.’s growing recognition in the business world for integrity, transparency, law-abiding corporate citizens, accountability and responsibility.

The challenges for SMEs include establishing a strong management team; putting in place effective structure, system and process; instilling financial discipline and controls; developing sound branding and reputational management; and initiating proactive systems, including whistle-blowing processes to ensure compliance with the highest standards of the laws, morality, ethos and honor.

To respond to these challenges, SMEs need to have the right talents, financial resources, organizational capabilities, and third-party experts. They are caught in the proverbial chicken-and-egg dilemma. Without the right resources, they cannot resolve the challenges. Without resolving the challenges; oftentimes, they cannot attract the right resources.

We are thankful that we have a proactive government that has done a lot and will continue to do more to help SMEs. As we are at the inflection point to enjoy one of the biggest economic booms in Asia and Singapore, it is our wish that our Government will be even more courageous to invest in and help our SMEs – beyond planned and budgeted measures – to become globally–competitive enterprises that are renowned for sound corporate governance.

8 March 2010

Growth Capital 2010

The Growth Capital for helping, viable, deserving, and vulnerable SMEs should be broad-based to ensure survival and success; targeted so as to help SMEs respond to key issues such as productivity and competitiveness; catalytic so that they can leverage on it to achieve the next level of growth; and timely so that SMEs can access the funding without too many red tapes and at the appropriate time.

SMEs predominantly require higher limit of and easy access to financing; equity capital, and expert inputs for managing the business. To help them grow, they need assistance in major areas, including R&D, HR development, infocommunication technology, capabilities building, and new market development. To ensure that SMEs can tap on the Growth Capital, the government should hire the equivalent of ‘salespersons’ to proactively seek out qualified candidates to help them complete the necessary application and approval processes. The mass media can help to highlight success stories so that it will stimulate further and better use of the Growth Capital.

As Singapore do not have a relatively strong culture and legacy for venture capital and angel funding; perhaps, the initial task is to foster start-up and growth of such enterprises. The government can help initiate a steering committee; comprising of representatives from all relevant constituencies, to expand these initiatives, including helping to form networks of different investors to share information, tap on each other’s resources, and co-invest in companies. As partners with the investing community, the Government can provide loan guarantees, funds at favorable rates, and additional tax advantages. It can also help set up infrastructure and systems for loan syndication, securitization of funds, and business risk management. The government can look at how to enhance success rate by, co-investing with relevant parties to, for example, provide strategic consultancy, training and coaching services to key executives so as to help them grow their business and generate better returns.

The Growth Capital for helping, viable, deserving, and vulnerable SMEs should be broad-based to ensure survival and success; targeted so as to help SMEs respond to key issues such as productivity and competitiveness; catalytic so that they can leverage on it to achieve the next level of growth; and timely so that SMEs can access the funding without too many red tapes and at the appropriate time.

SMEs predominantly require higher limit of and easy access to financing; equity capital, and expert inputs for managing the business. To help them grow, they need assistance in major areas, including R&D, HR development, infocommunication technology, capabilities building, and new market development. To ensure that SMEs can tap on the Growth Capital, the government should hire the equivalent of ‘salespersons’ to proactively seek out qualified candidates to help them complete the necessary application and approval processes. The mass media can help to highlight success stories so that it will stimulate further and better use of the Growth Capital.

As Singapore do not have a relatively strong culture and legacy for venture capital and angel funding; perhaps, the initial task is to foster start-up and growth of such enterprises. The government can help initiate a steering committee; comprising of representatives from all relevant constituencies, to expand these initiatives, including helping to form networks of different investors to share information, tap on each other’s resources, and co-invest in companies. As partners with the investing community, the Government can provide loan guarantees, funds at favorable rates, and additional tax advantages. It can also help set up infrastructure and systems for loan syndication, securitization of funds, and business risk management. The government can look at how to enhance success rate by, co-investing with relevant parties to, for example, provide strategic consultancy, training and coaching services to key executives so as to help them grow their business and generate better returns.

2 March 2010

Mergers & Acquisitions

As SMEs expand in increasingly globalised and technology-driven markets, it may not be a question of growing either organically or through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) but through both strategies. M&A can help combine and integrate the core resources and competence of different enterprises to enhance size, scale and scope of services. By leveraging on complementary strengths, they can also create new markets, values and businesses. In addition, they can enhance their knowledge and competence; especially in disciplines that cannot be acquired in the open market, so as to enhance their profit, advantage and growth. Therefore, HSR has leveraged on M&A and will continue to do so to help us become a globally competitive company and a leader in the market.

 While the Budget incentives are commendable, they are more reactive than proactive in helping SMEs plan and execute M&A. As viable SMEs are limited in terms of organization, competence and other resources, they need government-linked networks to help them scan the environment and identify M&A opportunities. They need financial grants, loans and assistance to help them implement M&A; including investments in consultancy and advisory services, talent development, and development of new infrastructure, systems, technology and processes. If we can introduce such off-budget incentives, we can propel our SMEs to proactively consider M&A and leverage on it to leapfrog over competitors in other countries.

9 February 2010

Economic Budget 2010

As we have only barely escaped the recent crises, it is my hope that the budget will stimulate a broader economic recovery and growth, especially for SMEs. Our SMEs cannot rely on a large domestic market to support their expansion in the globalised arena. They need government assistance to help them enhance their infrastructure, innovation, productivity, competitive edge, and sustainability.

The government can help improve limit of and access to financing by cooperating with; including providing loan guarantees to, banks and other lending institutions. It can act as a catalyst for growth by providing tax reliefs for qualified expenditures such as investments in business infrastructure, capital equipment, infocommunication technology, talent development, and capabilities building. It can provide additional funding for training and development of our workforce so as to enhance our nation’s competitiveness, especially against fast growing economies in the region. As the job market becomes tighter, the government should relax its policies about hiring foreign talents and in fact, should fund the employment of such professionals to help SMEs accelerate their profit, advantage and growth. It is impossible for Singapore to have all the necessary experts in every field.

 There should be financial assistance to help SMEs develop their external wing so as to capitalize on the opportunities and growth of the Asian market. I suspect many start-ups and small enterprises need help to not only access the funds, they also need the government to set up the infrastructure to hand-hold them through the minefields of regional as well as global expansions. For example, there is a need to help SMEs develop their e-commerce capabilities so that they can capitalize on the explosive growth of online business transactions.

 While we should continue to attract multinational companies to our shore, we must ensure that our nation is not overly-dependent on them. As the economy goes through an upturn, this is the best of times for the government to invest in SMEs so as to produce the next generation of world-beaters.

5 January 2010

Asean China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA)

The ACFTA is the largest agreement of its kind, covering an economic region of 1.7 billion consumers with a regional GDP of about US$2 trillion and with a total trade that is projected to be about US$1.23 billion. It opens the door for SMEs to tap a bigger market with added advantages, leverage on the phenomenal growth of the China market, and attract trading partners from outside of the ASEAN-China region to exploit new opportunities. However, there will be more intense competition that requires stronger size, scale and scope of operations that may put SMEs at a disadvantage.

Any new changes in the business landscape will dictate a redesign of mindset, restructure of business model, and reengineering of business processes. SMEs must be ready to creatively ‘destroy’ themselves so as to give birth to more viable, sustainable and effective initiatives.

For example, SMEs must consider the possibilities of ‘hunting as a pack’ to enhance their success rate, minimize risk, and optimize productivity. Strategic alliances can enhance branding equity and market presence. By leveraging on complementary strengths, they can create new values, markets and opportunities. They can also integrate specialized knowledge, competence, relationships, and other tangible and intangible assets to make better decisions, improve execution, and enhance profit, advantage and growth.

As the winner of the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Award, HSR has been planning for the past three years on entrenching our stake in the region. We have market-tested a new business model to create the largest pan-Asian alliance of real estate companies so as to lead the market through cutting-edge systems, technologies, and processes.

We are living in exciting times. As the economic tide flows from the west to the east, my prayer is that Singapore will produce our fair share of iconic business giants that will lead Singapore to another prosperous economic era.

29 December 2009

Government-Backed Loan Schemes

HSR is not a beneficiary of any of the government-backed loan schemes. While these schemes are crucial in supporting the survival and success of an enterprise, it is equally important to ensure that we are not trigger-happy in relying on borrowings. As entrepreneurs, we need to learn how to be prudent in forecasting cashflow, wise in enhancing profits, and disciplined in building up reserves. On this basis, there is a continued need for government assistance especially in helping SMEs; with their limited size, scope and scale of operations, to increase profit, improve productivity, enhance competitiveness and respond to unpredictable changes. In the final analysis, the SME must have a sustainable business model that justifies financial assistance.

23 December 2009

Plan For 2010 

We plan to make 2010 the best ever year in HSR’s history. As the global economic pendulum swings from the West to Asia, we believe that Singapore can reap positive gains, and that the property market will enjoy another upturn.

To capitalize on this growth, we are reinventing HSR – a new company will emerge that will be stronger, smarter and more effective than ever. We have engaged three highly regarded consulting firms to help us be the best-of-breed in different areas of our business, including providing the best support and services to our valued clients and other stakeholders. We will transform our business model so as to enhance our profit, market share and growth.

We will further strengthen our Lifelong Learning Institute to produce the most professional, best-equipped and service-oriented people in the industry. Our in-house infocomm technology think tank is planning to launch six major technology breakthroughs to help us achieve quantum improvements and launch paradigm shifts in the way we work. We seek to enlarge our comprehensive suite of ‘marketing weapons’ to help our Advisors outperform the competition and win the hearts of our clients.

We are challenging our people to benchmark with the best and to surpass their past achievements so that we can even train real estate agents from all over the world.

In the final analysis, we continue to work towards our aspiration to be a champion of consumers, a model of our industry, and a shining light in the business community. We want ‘The Happiest People On Planet Earth’ to work in our company. Together, we will do our part to make the world better in 2010.

11 December 2009

Corporate Social Respondsibility

In HSR, we believe that we have one life to live and one planet to live it in. Hence, we need to make the most of our life, and to do so, we must protect and preserve mother earth – not only for our generation but also for the generations to come. This begins with a commitment to exercise both our individual and corporate social responsibility. All our agents carry the HSR Code of Honour together with their office access card. Code #13 states clearly, “I will reduce, reuse, recycle, repair and recover valuable resources, and reject anything that is harmful to the environment.’ We have monthly trainings to remind ourselves of our obligations. At the same time, we have crafted original songs (refer to www.hsr.com.sg) that we sing regularly, as a company, to remind ourselves of these values. We have run company-wide campaigns with a focus on specific methods of protecting the environment. Moreover, we have implement specific programmes such as a free shuttle bus service to discourage driving. We micro-manage the use of resources from simple paper clips to paper. Together, we can make our world a better home.

1 December 2009

Dubai World Debacle

The Dubai World debacle will be a major concern in an interconnected world. The bearish knee-jerk bearish reaction has been felt, but in the mid to long term, Singapore’s post-Asian and economic crises’ development model and strong balance-sheet strength will help us weather the storm. More importantly, we need to learn another series of useful lessons from this financial contagion. In growing our economy, we need to ensure we do not overinvest and create another asset bubble, especially when affordable and easy financing is available. We need to diversify our external economic wings so that we are not overly dependent on any particular grouping of nations, economic sectors, industries or MNCs. Proper corporate governance should be put in place to ensure diversity of expert views, check and balance controls, accountability, transparency and responsibility. Although we may be aware of these principles, we cannot stop there, we need to be mindful, and put in place mechanisms to ensure that they are adhered to. When these are resolved, we can be confident about the long-term prospects of our economy.

15 November 2009

Christmas Celebration

As a company built on love, we take every opportunity to express our appreciation to our staff and advisors. We will be organizing a white Christmas Gala Night at HSR Auditorium, with HSR Love Bistro doing the catering. We have recently renovated and upgraded our café, and hired a new team comprising a French chef, a pastry chef and two sous-chefs. Like at all previous HSR parties, there will be great food, fun and fellowshipping. As part of our desire to promote a ‘vertical kampong’ spirit, we have also invited our neighbours to our party. Equally important is the special Christmas party our staff and advisors are co-organizing for the elderly staying in Toa Payoh, particularly those who are staying in the vicinity of the HSR Building. This is in line with our corporate social mission to help the weak, provide for the needy and empower the disadvantaged, to enable them to live fulfilling lives. This Christmas, may we all live the spirit of love, gratitude and giving as we build a better world together.

25 November 2009

Aging Workforce

Age should not be a handicap. With longer projected lifespans, advancements in medical technology and healthier lifestyles, many people can still be productive at the age of 62 or even older. MM Lee has clearly shown the way. It will be a waste of one’s life and our nation’s limited human resources if Singaporeans cannot choose to be gainfully employed and be a contributing factor to society. Offering EAP to workers should therefore not be a cop-out, but a last resort. Companies should proactively look at enhancing the employability and professional development of their older workers. They should either prolong their employment contracts or explore possibilities to train and deploy them in other positions or professions. In addition, they should create elderly-friendly environments to facilitate the work and contributions.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to be at the drivers’ seat in crafting these HR plans and systems, please remember that we too will grow old, and would certainly want our future leaders to treat us as a valuable part of the workforce. As the winner of the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Award for investing in people, we feel honoured to build our company on love and to put in place policies and procedures to empower, equip and encourage our older staff and real estate agents to find meaning and fulfillment in their work.

Yes, our real estate agents can become even more productive at 62 years of age and beyond. We have living examples in our HSR Family.

19 November 2009

Entreprenuership

Entrepreneurship cannot be created. We can only develop the environment to foster its growth. While it is important to ensure that SMEs are given a hand to sustain and grow their business, it is equally important we do not unknowingly create a ‘hand out’ mentality. As number 1 in productivity in the nationwide Singapore 1000 / SME 500 study in terms of return on equity, we believe that SMEs should be educated on how to be ‘stingy’ in conserving and enhancing their capital base so as to prepare for stormy weather and to enhance their profit, advantage and growth. Any help in financing should be strategic, targeted, timely and catalytic. It should be strategic in helping deserving, viable and vulnerable industries and companies to respond especially to unforeseen environmental changes. The capital should be focused on helping SMEs enhance their productivity and competiveness. In addition, provision of the capital must be easily accessible and timely. In the final analysis, it should stimulate sustainable growth.

11 November 2009

Wages

Wages should be reinstated and compensation reviewed except in industries that have not recovered from the recent downturn and in companies that are facing foreseeable challenges in the near future. In practical terms, it should be redesigned so that it is pegged to performance and results. We have to ensure that Singapore continues to be competitive and is improving in terms of productivity otherwise any unwise move can cause another recession and, possibly, a prolonged one.

 As ‘The #1 Real Estate Company’ Award winner (MLMIA), we have taken the opportunity of the downturn to review our business model, reengineer our systems and enhance individual employee’s productivity. We are doing it with the help of three consulting firms covering different areas of our business. We aim to benchmark not only with the best practice in our country but also across the world.

4 November 2009

Customer Service

As a service-oriented company, we are mindful it is not just about service, it is about working on a high-value added business model that is vital, distinctive and desired. In this regard, we have been moving up the value chain to enhance our deliverables to our valued clients. In addition, as a result of consolidation and convergence, we aim to provide an integrated range of services so as to position ourselves as a ‘one-stop’ solution provider. By leveraging on infocommunication technology, we have also improved our productivity level. In the near to medium term, we aim to expand our business through franchising, licencing and strategic alliances. As the number one company for productivity (in terms of returns on equity, Singapore 1000 / SME 500 study), we are focused on maximizing stakeholder value on a local and regional basis.

27 October 2009

Corporate Social Mission

‘The best way to live

our lives is to live our

lives for others. When you

reach out to bless other

lives, we live the best life’.

–          HSR Value

 Since March 2003, we sense that God was guiding us to build HSR into more than just a business, a company, or an organization. We are to go beyond mere profit and personal gain.

We are to start a HSR Revolution: Our Mission is: To Make A Positive Difference Through Leading Edge Services.

We aim to touch lives, bless families, improve communities, and enhance society. We can make our world a better home for our children and our children’s children.

We encourage our HSR Family members to do well and do good at the same time, all the time. We seek to measure ourselves by four bottomlines as follows:

a. Financial (Profit)                       : How can we maximize our value–additions to generate the best win-win results?

b. Social (People)                          : How can we maximize our positive contributions to our colleagues, clients, competitors, and our  communities?

c. Environment (Planet)            : How can we best protect, sustain, and enhance our environmental resources?        

d. Spiritual (Purpose)                  : How can we help ourselves, our company, and our loved ones serve a  higher purpose in life?

 HSR takes a holistic approach in fulfilling our corporate social responsibility (check @ http://www.hsr.com.sg). It is a part of our corporate DNA ; from  HSR corporate philosophy, business practice, contributions to our staff, advisors and their families, to improving our communities and society at large.

 We challenge our HSR Family members to make it an integral part of their lives to give thoughts, time, talent, and treasures (including money) to help the people around them and to support worthwhile causes.

As a family of like-minded professionals, we seek to leverage on each other to optimize our contributions and results. We aim to also partner external individuals and organizations to make our world a better place to live, work, learn, and play in.

The following are some of the ways we motivate ourselves to be socially responsible:

1.       HSR Corporate Philosophy. These policies are crafted to make our world a better home.

2.       Business Practice. In all our major meetings, we sing our National Anthem, take a corporate pledge, and sing My HSR values-based songs to encourage our Advisors to set the highest standards of professionalism, quality, service and results.

 We train our people to be lawful, ethical, and honorable in their business practice. We proactively solicit feedback from our valued clients to help us improve and achieve better results.

 Our complaints and mediation department will not hesitate to terminate any errant agents and report them to the relevant Authorities if need be.

 3. Work-Life Balance. HSR is the first and only company in our industry to have a cafeteria, karaoke lounge, pool saloon, game centre, gymnasium, childcare centre, alfresco dining area, massage corner, valet service, and free shuttle bus. We want our staff and advisors to treat HSR as their extended family and the office as their second home. Ultimately, we aim to make them ‘The Happiest People On Planet Earth’.

 4.       Comprehensive Business Resources. HSR offers a comprehensive range of business, technological and educational resources to help our advisors and clients enhance their results.

 5.       Charities. HSR Building houses three charities; Operation Blessing (Singapore), Junior Achievement, and Senior Citizens Outreach. They serve critical segments of our society.

 6.       Social Mission. HSR employs a full-time manager to facilitate our social missions. In addition, we raised funds on a monthly basis for worthy causes. We have contributed to the Mt Everest Women Team, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Life Community Services Society (LCSS), Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA), Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH) and Youth Guidance Outreach Services (YGOS).

7.       Crises Response. HSR has responded to disaster relief effort during major crises, including the Asian Tsunami, Pakistan Earthquake, China Earthquake, Myanmar Cyclone, and Sumatra Earthquake. We have applied our creativity to come out with exciting initiatives to support humanitarian missions, including setting a record for the longest banner, most number of people to walk on broken glass, most number of people to break an arrow using the throat, most number of people to break a block of wood in one wave. We have also organized Fun Fair, Family Day, Christmas Celebration, and Charity Carnival to strengthen My ‘One HSR’ Family culture, promote a giving spirit and raise money for disaster relief projects.

8.       Doing Well And Good. HSR believes in doing good by doing well and doing well by doing good.

HSR is the fastest growing real estate company and the number one in productivity in terms of returns on equity (Singapore 1000/SME 500 study). We won The #1 Real Estate Company Award (MLMIA) and The Largest Real Estate Agency Award (Singapore Book of Records). HSR is the most awarded real estate company, having won more than 20 awards and recognitions. Within the next few months, we have great plans to take HSR to a higher level. We aim to be large and strong enough so that we can make a positive impact on society.

HSR helped to win the Entrepreneur Of The Year Award For Social Contribution (ASME / Rotary). We are also the first and only company to win the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Award for investment in people.

 

 

14 October 2009

Sumatra Eartquake

We are not as affected in our business than in our emotion for the horrors that has plagued our fellow brothers and sisters in the recent earthquake. Oftentimes in business, we are so lost in the pursuit of material wealth that we forget to be grateful for the comfort we enjoy in Singapore and to realise our responsibility for those who are not as blessed as we are. We are pleased to share that our advisors have initiated a HSR Sumatra Earthquake Charity Carnival to raise funds for the victims. This event will be held at HSR Building on Tuesday, November 3, 6pm to 10pm. There will be free entertainment, ‘pasar malam-style’ bazaar, food and beverage stalls and other interesting programs. Whether your business is affected or not, let us do our part to help those who are in need. Our Creator will bless you in return.

29 September 2009

Leadership

We are deeply grateful to the Singapore Government for the Jobs Credit. It has motivated us to work harder so as to keep every single one of our staff even though the real estate industry was going through tough times. We have also used it to subsidise programs to have ‘ The Happiest People On Planet Earth ‘ working in our company. We have established a wellness center, childcare center, games room, karaoke lounge, billiard saloon, massage corner, gymnasium, cafe, free shuttle bus and valet service. As a result of effective use of Jobs Credit, we have a more motivated workforce that helped us achieve commendable results. We hope the Government will extend the Jobs Credit, especially for SMEs.

23 September 2009

Jobs Credit 2009

We are deeply grateful to the Singapore Government for the Jobs Credit. It has motivated us to work harder so as to keep every single one of our staff even though the real estate industry was going through tough times. We have also used it to subsidize programs to have ‘The Happiest People On Planet Earth’ working in our company. We have established a wellness centre, childcare center, games room, karaoke lounge, billiard saloon, massage corner, gymnasium, café, free shuttle bus and valet service. As a result of effective use of Jobs Credit, we have a more motivated workforce that helped us achieve commendable results. We hope the Government will extend the Jobs Credit, especially for SMEs.

15 September 2009

F1

We use F1 racing as a metaphor to inspire our people to be the best they can be, live a great life, and fulfill their worthy dreams and visions. Our corporate strategy is based on the same metaphor. We reckon our staff and associates to be like F1 drivers with world class racing cars. However, without a good track, they cannot go further and faster in life. Therefore, the commitment of the company is to build what we call the HSR 10-Lane Success Super Highway so that they can ‘zoom!’ all the way to success. HSR will stay ahead because we have the best branding, leadership, culture, support and services, training and coaching, technology, business resources, solution, commission, and human resources. To anchor them to these beliefs, we are the first company to run our Annual Family Night and launch our fund raising campaign for the President’s Challenge at the F1 track, besides The Singapore Flyer.

5 September 2009

Productivity

As the market leader of the real estate industry, we hold on to the belief that, ‘If it ain’t broken, break it anyway.’ From a macro perspective, we were taking the opportunity of the recent downturn to transform our business model so as to enhance our productivity edge. From being an organization that is office-centric to technology-centric, training-driven to coaching-driven, transaction-based to values-based, and sales-oriented to service-oriented; we turned every stone so that we can be more responsive to the market, differentiated and scalable, and we can operate the business on a 24/7 basis.

We infused our corporate culture with a healthy paranoia that our “beloved” daily practices will run out of steam anytime. Therefore, we are committed to systematic practice of innovation and we open ourselves to new ideas, experimentation and adventures so as to enhance productivity and create radical solution.

As the first and only company to win the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Award for investment in people, our founders realized the key to productivity lies in the hands of our human resources. Call us idealists if you will, we have an aspiration to have ‘The Happiest People on Planet Earth’ in our company.

In line with our dream, we have established a Spa, Childcare Centre, Games Room, Karaoke Lounge, Massage Corner, Gymnasium, Bistro, Alfresco Dining Area, Valet Service, and Free Bus Shuttle Service. We have more than ten training, counseling and coaching rooms and we plan to add more facilities in the near future. At the end of the day, we live by the maxim, ‘If we don’t love our people and have a heart to serve, we don’t deserve to be leaders.’ And anything we do in the name of productivity will not be sustainable.

31 August 2009

In the short to medium term, there are not many factors that will dampen the property market. The supporting factors for an upturn outweigh the opposite forces. Market sentiment has improved and is the main driving factor of the recent bull run. In particular, outlying areas which have not generally recovered to previous peak level are attracting upgraders who are capitalizing on the narrowed gap between prices of HDB flats and private residential properties. The pent-up demand, including demand from families that were dislodged from recent enbloc sales and projected number of foreigners moving into Singapore will drive the order books until the end of the year and beyond Christmas.

24 August 2009

 Strategic Alliance

As businesses become more globalised and technology–driven, it demands a wider range of human talents, skills, and other resources to capitalize on new markets and opportunities overseas. No company can do it alone. One way is to bond together under the Singapore brand to enhance profit, advantage, and growth.

From newly start–ups to iconic giants, strategic alliances; including networks, coalitions, and joint ventures, are not an option but a necessity to achieve competitive success in a fast-changing global market. Companies must have the competence to initiate, shape, sustain, and grow a network of strategic partnerships so as to leverage on complementary insights, strengths, and resources. This is not limited to a few industries but it can be applicable to a plethora of new and imaginative alliances in industries from manufacturing, telecommunications, finance, transportation, pharmaceutical, health care, life science, real estate, media, entertainment, and even professional business services.

There are many inherent advantages to such alliances and they include: a. Co-opetition, synergy created by leveraging on complementary strengths of competitors to create new values, markets, and businesses. b. Co-specialization, whereby the sum of the parts is bigger than the whole. By integrating specialized knowledge, branding, relationships, strengths, and other tangible and intangible assets of each partner, the alliance can enhance size, scale, and scope of services. This will strengthen competitive edge of each partner and the alliance as a whole. c. Kaizen, companies can enhance its knowledge and competence base, especially in disciplines that cannot be acquired in the open market. By learning and internalizing these strengths, companies can even capitalize on them in other businesses and markets that are beyond those covered by the alliance.

Local companies rightfully have an edge in creating such strategic alliances by riding on the Singapore brand because it is generally respected for professionalism, law-abiding culture, systems, and productivity. The challenge is that not many managers; as a result of scarcity mindset, can work with undefined boundary between competition and collaboration. In addition, they need to develop complex organizational design, competitive strategy, and collaborative management to provide unfamiliar value-creation process. To do so, they have to reengineer themselves to acquire a new toolbox of knowledge, attitude, skills, and habits (KASH).

7 August 2009

Raising Capital

Entrepreneurs oftentimes are too quick to use other people’s money. They should, first, go back to basics, including building up reserves and enhancing cashflow so as to prepare for rainy days and to fight better battles in the market. That is one of the virtues we are grateful our company’s founders taught us, making HSR the longest established mega agency (Singapore Property News). Cash is not king. It is how you raise and use it that determines whether you rule over your industry. In the final analysis, you must measure the overall cost of using other people’s money vis-à-vis projected returns and that may include undue influence on management and direction of the company.

 Regardless of whether we are planning for an IPO, we should run our business like a listed company with all the framework and practice of good governance in place. Only when that happens can the company then look at raising external sources of capital. For HSR, currently we believe we are optimizing our growth as the fastest growing real estate company (Singapore 1000/SME 500 Study) by tapping our corporate savings and trading profits. However, we are open to other sources of capital especially if it comes from any party that can add value to our business model.

3 August 2009

Sentiments In The Property Market 2009

The sentiments in the property market have surpassed our expectations and we are monitoring the market with cautious optimism. In the short run, sentiments will drive the market more than economic factors, including supply and demand forces. As the most productive company in terms of returns on equity according to the Singapore 1000/SME 500 study; supported by Business Times and three government agencies, we are focusing on enhancing our profit, advantage and growth. We will not hire for hiring sake. Currently, we are redesigning our business model and processes to further improve our results. We are developing our infrastructure, ICT and other resources, including hiring more customer relationship officers to enhance our service standards. In addition, we are looking for business managers to develop new sources of income. Our investment is in preparation for stronger projected growth in 2010.

19 Jul 2009

Succession Planning

 In HSR, we believe that every great organization is led by great leaders together with great teams. Our business model is therefore based on a ‘Leader builds leaders who will then build more and better leaders…’ system. The leadership development chain will continue until it takes on a life by itself and everyone achieves win-win results. Ultimately, it is leadership that will determine our success and failure in business. The quality of our leadership will shape the quality of our company.

Based on this belief, the first step to succession planning and business continuity is that we must aim to become great leaders. Otherwise, we will never be able to envision, exemplify, enroll, encourage, empower, excel, and execute strategies for more leaders. The litmus test of our leadership is our ability to build width and depth of leaders in our organization. ‘Width’ refers to number of leaders and ‘depth’ refers to levels of leaders. We believe that the more we develop others, the more we will develop ourselves. The more leaders we develop, the better a leader we will become. When we invest in a person’s life, we will enjoy the best life.

That’s why, we run more than 25 proprietary courses, totaling more than 500 man-days of ISO-certified trainings per year for our staff and advisors. We have more than 10 training and coaching rooms and continue to invest in more and better training resources to help produce a continuous flow of leaders to take our 8000-strong organization to a higher level. This is one of the reasons why HSR won the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Award for our investment in human resources development.

As the fourth CEO of the company, I am proud to say that should I be absent from the company for whatever reason, there will be at least two persons that can lead and manage our company. There will also be replacements for key positions in our management team. By aiming to be dispensable, our key managers have become indispensable to us.

13 Jul 2009

As a society characterized by ‘kaisuism’, we are not only afraid to fail, we also generally disdain and prefer to look up to success stories. This culture runs contrary to promoting entrepreneurship. It is, therefore, not a wonder that most people prefer to look for jobs than to start their own business. The mass media are generally more excited about reporting foreign direct investments than brave initiatives by local entrepreneurs.

 It is not possible to force people to become entrepreneurs. We can only create the environment to make it happen, an environment where entrepreneurship is encouraged, valued and supported. For example, there should be more initiatives to appreciate, tolerate and learn from failures, a necessary ingredient for success. There are enough rags-to-reasonable-results stories that we should publicize to encourage fellow Singaporeans to move away from a ‘kiasu’ mentality and to help nurture an entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial culture.

 Our government’s achievements in crafting vision and initiatives to attract multinational companies to our shores are legendary. Perhaps, we need to apply similar passion, investment and persistence to develop a national entrepreneurship blueprint. This is to ensure we are always supported by a substantial and growing pool of local entrepreneurs who will usually be more loyal and committed to invest in the home country.

 

We can certainly do more to develop business creation policies and encourage entrepreneurship. In my opinion, this is more important in stimulating economic growth, generating innovations, and creating jobs on a long term basis than MNCs, scientists and even the government. This blueprint should ideally be crafted with the help of and championed by both prominent and struggling entrepreneurs. They will understand how to create and more importantly, implement programs to support entrepreneurs by, for example, meeting their fundamental needs. Most people have entrepreneurial ideas at some point in their lives. What they need is assistance in getting relevant information, conducting feasibility study, accessing capital and talents, and implementing their ideas by having the right advice, trainings, facilities, peer-to-peer-support, networks, and other resources. For example, when an entrepreneur needs financial assistance, the support program should seamlessly connect them to sources of capital to match their requirements, from start-up stage to globalizing the business.

 

25 June 2009

IT Systems

As the first and only real estate agency to be the merit winner of National Infocomm Award 2008 from IDA, it has given us the opportunities to be exposed to world-class technologies and to benchmark our use of and benefit from IT. We are more convinced than ever that IT will either make or break our business. As a result, we continued to develop our proprietary HSR Smart Plus, the first online enterprise resource planning system for a 8500-strong multi-tier organization. Through the system, we are able to enhance our competitive edge because it provides relevant and timely information, improves interpersonal and corporate communication, increases productivity, and enhances our financial as well as non-financial results on a more scalable and sustainable basis. Especially during the current challenge with H1N1, we are comforted by the fact that through HSR Smart Plus, our agents can access office support online and 24/7. We can also deploy key staff in and operate major operations from the home.

15 June 2009

Flexi-Place & Flexi-Time Arrangements

Flexi-place and flexi-time arrangements; as the namesake suggests, promote flexibility for both employers and employees to achieve win-win results.

Companies can increase or decrease the size of their human resources to meet requirements of the workload; demand from customers and other stakeholders; and changes in the economic and market condition. They can also enhance customer service by extending their operation and service hours. In particular, during this economic crisis, companies can maintain competitiveness and lower costs by retaining its employees without having to resort to retrenchments which may result in lower workforce morale and other negative repercussions. Companies will also be in a better position to capitalize on opportunities during the next upturn. They can also potentially recruit from a larger pool of employees that includes people who are unable to work in accordance to conventional place and time. They can also retain key staff, especially older employees and females. By showing that they care for employees’ family and personal welfare, employers can increase morale and job satisfaction of the workforce. It will result in stronger contributions, higher productivity, and more loyalty to the company.

On the employees’ side, they can have flexibility to plan and organize their work, and save time and money in travelling and other office-related activities. When they are able to balance their personal and work commitments, it will help them to better focus on their job. If they can work on more important matters at the time when their energy level is higher and in a place where there are lesser distractions, they can also achieve more and better results.

Managers and supervisors may be uncomfortable about such a working arrangement, especially when these employees are out of sight and not available for sudden face-to-face communication. It takes time away from them to manage these employees and divert them from other work. Additional resources, including infocommunication equipment and services are needed to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of such arrangements. Employees may need to put up with some inevitable interruptions during their personal and family time, for example, to receive telephone calls. They may not be able to update themselves promptly with the latest changes about the company, competitors and colleagues. There may be more challenges in facilitating communication, coordination, control of work process. As a result, it may be harder to monitor and improve their productivity; leverage upon and synergize with other resources; and align their contributions. In addition, teamwork may suffer because of lack of supervision and interactions. Security of trade secrets may be compromised through, for example, negligence in securing and deleting information in home computers.

The advancement of infocommunication are technology has made it possible for employees to fulfill all or part of their work outside of the office and normal working hours. However, these arrangements may not apply to every profession and job. They apply, in particular, to employees who can work alone and without close supervision e.g. jobs that revolves around one-man-operation and personalized research and analysis, correspondence, and graphic design, etc.

For all intents and purposes, employers should consider such arrangements, especially for the sake of their employees’ welfare and work-life balance.

5 June 2009

Government Co-Investing With SMEs

In the new business economy, it is not uncommon for the ‘David’s to slay the ‘Goliath’s. The government should co-invest with SMEs and introduce proactive interventions to produce such giant killers. To help SMEs enhance their experience and expertise, the government should look at how to outsource more of their services and ensure that SMEs get a fair share of these contracts and procurements. The government should set up a dedicated agency as a one-stop total solution hub to help SMEs survive and succeed in the globalised economy. While it is not advisable for the government to spoon-feed entrepreneurs, it can certainly create the environment for them to start new businesses and be a catalyst for sustainable growth.

 As SMEs are small and limited in experience and expertise, the government can take initiatives to uncover opportunities overseas and co-invest with SMEs to exploit them. It can encourage them to band together so as to enhance their size, speed, scale and scope of services. The government can also help SMEs move up their learning curve by organizing more trade missions, trade shows, conferences, skill-building workshops, advisory services, and even one-to-one consulting.

To facilitate growth, it can provide a repository of information, and a network of overseas offices, contacts, and resource partners. It can offer financial grants, loans and assistance to help SMEs develop innovations, enhance competitive edge, and develop additional expertise. In addition, it can provide the necessary infrastructure and resources to help them open new markets, conduct research and development, develop core competence, and increase productivity. Just as we have done a great job in attracting multinational companies to our shore, we need to groom local enterprises to help Singapore in our next phase of economic development.

This is the best of times to invest in SMEs so as to survive the current crisis, preserve jobs, and capitalize on new opportunities in the economic upturn.

29 May 2009

Regionalisation

As the business world becomes more globalised, it is not a question of whether SMEs should expand their business overseas but when. It is not only a preemptive move to check competitors’ growth but to also go beyond Singapore’s limited market to increase profit, advantage and growth. However, as SMEs are small and have limited resources and expertise, they need to band together to enhance their size, speed, scale and scope of services. They can also minimize risk and enhance their success rate. Together, through a spirit of cooperation, SMEs can co-operate to achieve the following:

1. Enhancement. SMEs can enhance their branding, image and presence in the market as in the case of Star Alliance for airline companies.

2. Empowerment. By sharing their information, cultural insights, customers, contacts, value chain, and other resources, they can empower each other to make better informed decisions, increase their speed to market, and grow their customer base.

3. Edge. As SMEs chart their growth through current stormy water, by joining their ‘boats’ together, it is harder for them to capsize and in fact, they will be in a better position to compete in the market. Even large companies such as Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota have committed to share resources to create European-centric cars for the European market.

4. Economy of Scale. SMEs can also synergize products and services, share common costs, and integrate and streamline their business processes. By doing that, they can lower costs of operation, enhance their purchasing power, and create and capture higher value-additions for their customers.

5. Execution. SMEs may be in a better position to tap the capital market to improve liquidity and cash flow. They can also have more capacity and capabilities to enter new markets, execute strategies which they cannot do alone, and have stronger resilience to overcome the ups and downs of the global market.

 It is not a wonder that Peter Drucker and other experts have proposed that collaborative dynamic of networks, partnerships and joint ventures is a main organizing principle of the new economy.

15 May 2009

Stimulus Package 2009

Form a key pillar in the economy and the biggest employer in Singapore. Their survival and success have major implications on the social fabric and future of Singapore. Because of their size, expertise and limited resources, SMEs are vulnerable to the deepening economic crisis. Therefore, the government needs to be preemptive in supporting them by launching a second stimulus package.

 While the first package is macro in nature, the second should be focused, strategic, timely, and catalytic. It should be focused in helping viable but vulnerable industries and companies as well as employees that require the most support and assistance. The package should be strategic in helping SMEs enhance results and growth, improve productivity and exports, increase and maintain employment, and develop stronger sustainability. While our government has done a great job in attracting MNCs to our shores, we should apply the same fervor in grooming SMEs and help them open new markets. The package should be timely, especially in facilitating SMEs’ cashflow, the lifeline of any business. As sentiments become more negative, banks will become more bureaucratic and stringent in approving loans. The government may need to provide micro-credit services directly and help structure trade credit and financing at reduced interest and favourable repayment terms so as to prevent SMEs from collapsing.

 The package should be catalytic in stimulating expansion and growth. Incentives, including tax-deductible benefits, can be given to SMEs to recruit, retain and re-train their staff and to help retrenched workers find new jobs and to survive during the job search. The government can help SMEs reduce cost by financing business development and capital expenditures so as to enhance competitiveness and growth.

7 May 2009

H1N1 Virus

If a more resilient strain of H1N1 virus should land at our shores, we may be hit by another wave of negative sentiments. When negative sentiments crashed with sound fundamentals; in the short term, sentiments will prevail. However, for astute property investors, the two forces will form a silhouette indicating opportunities for profits.

As a company, we adopt a holistic approach to well being. We encourage our people to be fit, strong and healthy so as to strengthen our immune system. We have established a gymnasium, a karaoke lounge, a billiard saloon, an Osim spa and we are planning for a wellness spa to help our people rest, relax, exercise and have fun.

 We have educated and encouraged our people who are not feeling well to stay home and away from the public. In addition, we are taking measures to prevent the spread of any infectious disease, including preparation for daily temperature check. We have a healthy supply of thermometers, N95 masks, tamiflu in case of emergencies. We are thankful that HSR SmartPlus, our Award-winning enterprise resource planning system can help us enhance business continuity. Many of the office support and services can be provided from home through the Internet. More than anything else, I pray that God will protect all of us.

30 April 2009

Economic Cycle 2009

Barring unforeseen circumstances, there are few key factors that will continue to drive the economy southward. The economic cycle should go through a U-shape turn in the short to medium term. Singapore’s stimulus package and other concerted effort, if leveraged correctly, should enhance our competitive edge and help us leapfrog over other nations. In recent times, we have seen more interest, resulting in higher transaction number, in the sales of properties. With more than 8000 agents on the ground, our gut feel is that there is a pent-up demand and buyers are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Fundamentally, the supporting factors for an upturn outweigh the opposite forces. There are no major oversupply issues. On the other hand, there are positive demand from more than 12000 families dislodged in recent enbloc sales and projected number of foreigners moving to live, learn and work in Singapore. Many properties for sales are selling below replacement cost and affordability is at one of the highest levels in the past eight years. The key forces are converging into a ‘perfect Spring’ for buyers to return to the market before the end of 2009.

14 April 2009

Non-Traditional Markets

During a downturn, it is tempting to diffuse business effort (‘shotgun’ approach) by looking for greener pastures instead of targeting existing garden (‘rifle’ approach). As a rule of the thumb, we should focus! focus! and focus! We need to look for more users, uses, and usage of our products and make full use of our resources for the best returns. Only when it is insufficient to ensure survival and optimize growth should we then look at non-traditional markets. Even then, we should leverage on our strengths to expand in a more attractive market.

 In the highly fragmented real estate industry that our company is operating in, we believe the forces of competition, consolidation, and convergence will pull the industry in two opposite polarities. Within the next three years, there will only be two types of real estate agencies – mega agencies or small ‘mom and pop’ agencies. We have decided to be single-focus and to concentrate all our firepower so that through size, scope, scale, and specialization of services, we will dominate the market and provide customer-centric and unbeatable values to our current market.

8 April 2009

Innovation

In the new world of disorder, business life cycle is shortening. What has brought SMEs to current level cannot bring them to the next. In simple words, SMEs must innovate or die – especially during hard times. The battlefield of the new economy is driven by quality and quantity of continuous innovations.

For innovation to grow, there must be a ‘mind-not-set’ culture for innovation. Every mental model, dogma and precedent must be challenged. We need to be open to new ideas, experiments, and adventures for radical solution.

The responsibility for innovation cannot be left to any one member or group of members in the organization. And it must cover each and every single area of the business. We need to constantly ask ourselves, “What are future problems we need to start solving today? What are future opportunities we need to start preparing to capitalize upon from today?”

The standard of our innovation depends on the standard of our innovative leaders. We must begin by hiring the right people to do the right job at the right time and for the right cause. There must be one-on-one as well as networks of cooperative and collaborative initiatives for innovation. And they must be fired by healthy competition to achieve new breakthroughs.

 We cannot force our human talents to innovate. We can only create the environment to make it happen. An environment where people are valued and appreciated. There should be high tolerance for and motivation to learn from failures. Very importantly, there should be a sense of purpose, passion, priority, partnership and progress. In HSR, we say, ‘Even if it ain’t broke, innovate to make it better.’

30 March 2009

MBA Schools

I refer to the article, ‘MBA Schools, Just Shut Them Down’ dated March 28-29, 2009 and would like to commend the writer for a well-written but flawed article. First, I am an MBA graduate and proud of the education I received in one of the top business schools and I may be biased.

While it is true many of the top CEOs who are involved in the current financial crisis have an MBA, it is only a half-truth. A half-truth, as we know, is more dangerous than a lie. There are also many other MBA graduates who; because of and not despite of their education, are running healthy companies that are contributing to the economy and society. I suspect many of the writer’s, colleagues and friends who are making it possible for him to earn a living and live a meaningful life belongs to the same professional group.

In addition, the financial crisis; just like any systemic failure, is the result of a variety of organizations and people from different educational background, profession, and experience. MBA graduates cannot and do not have the authority, ability, capacity and all the flexibility to create a worldwide bane or boon. If they do, then, all the more, we should not shut business schools down but study their educational system to change and improve it.

Graduates from reputable universities who are professional will know that they need to enhance financial (profit), environmental (planet), and social (people) bottomlines to achieve sustainable success. To do so, they cannot have an elitist attitude, be ‘mechanistic’, and do everything according to ‘a textbook’. There are few, if any, absolute system or process to run a business just as there are no fixed way to write an article. I may be wrong and I am open to be corrected.

In my personal opinion, the financial crisis is caused by leaders. But, please, do not shut down leadership schools or ban leaders. I am referring to toxic leaders who are characterized by negative purposes, performance, partnerships and pursuits.

 In the final analysis, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. If the heart of a leader or group of leaders or anybody for that matter is not for betterment of community and society, we will continue to have crisis and problems. Perhaps, we need to inject more moral and ethics training in the curriculum of educational institutions.

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