GAVIN TEH, 35, CO-FOUNDER OF TIRECARE
Scroll down for real advice from small business owners in Singapore, courtesy of QuickBooks Online
“I think different personalities are important when it comes to starting a small business. If the whole company is made up of the same kind of people, it would probably be really fun but I don’t think it will be sustainable.
For a new product like ours, offline marketing is much more effective than online methods. We spent quite a bit on social media marketing in the early days but didn’t receive any actual return on our investments. On the flip-side, on-ground events and pop-ups brought us many conversions because the public could actually see a real demonstration of how it works.
The automotive industry in Singapore is a mature one, considering the market size and the car population. There are about half a million cars on the road, and that number hasn’t changed in the last 10 years. Most of the people who I deal with in the industry are very senior and the few younger folks I’ve met are often the second generation taking over from their parents.
We currently have 60 retailers across the island and dealing with this more senior client base involves a shift in the way I had to do business. Older businessmen are much more conservative and need a lot more assurances before they are comfortable enought to do business with you. That involves a lot of face-time and on-premise support to help push the product.
While I personally think of technology as a new way to do business that’s great for increasing efficiency and lowering costs for everyone, the older generation tends to consider it as somewhat of a threat to them. And we help to bridge that gap.
Initially, most of the business start-up cost estimates were based on gut feeling. We had the rough prices for all the things we needed in our heads, but when it came down to actually paying the bills we realised it was much higher. It’s like when you’re planning for the renovation of your first house or the cost of your wedding — it’s always going to be more than what you initially had in mind. In my view, whatever number you are thinking about, bump it up by 30 per cent for a more accurate indication.
My dad owns his own business. When I was growing up, I saw him working so hard because with small business owners, they always have to work 24/7. So, I didn’t grow up thinking that I wanted to start my own business. But in recent years, I realised what I was looking for was the freedom of time to spend with my family and the control in business decisions. It’s also a wonderful feeling to build a brand and make a direct impact on our customers and employees.
Some might say that having a business that only focuses on one product can be risky but I think when it comes to building a brand, it’s important to be clear in the messaging and positioning of what we do. I want to make sure that TireCare is the first solution people think of when it comes to punctured tires in Singapore. If you diversify with too many products too early, it can be difficult for people to identify with your brand.
I grew up in a time when parents wanted their kids to do the things they wished they had done themselves. We were told to do well in school, get good grades so that we could get a good job. But now we realise it’s not really the case; that’s not the best way to go.
Achieving success in life is not just about schooling. It essentially boils down to what makes you happy — whether you’re a salaried worker or own a business; if you’re going to be working all day and then complaining about it, or if you drag your feet to the office every morning, what is the point?
If you’re looking to start your own business, my advice is: think twice. You are definitely going to need passion and a belief in yourself to make it through no matter how bad the obstacles may be. All successful business owners you hear about were committed to what they believed in. If you aren’t going to be committed to your business, don’t even start.
Gavin Teh has been using QuickBooks since he started her his business in 2016. Find out more about TireCare here. Also, uncover more ways to build a successful business in Singapore, and discover how QuickBooks Online can help you do just that.
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