ALMOND KO

Mr Almond Ko come across as a stable and down-to-earth person with great passion in printing. He not only focuses on quality services but believe in giving back to the society through education and development too.

Business Profile:

SC (Sang Choy) International specializes as a One-Stop full facility printing house. Their services range from pre-press to post-press, which include create design, precise colour separation and professional printing.

Interviewer's Comments:

A humble man with great determination, Mr Almond Ko seeks to do the best in providing quality. The calligraphy at his office states it all: heaven rewards the diligent.

Interview:

  • What is the nature of your business? 
    We provide wide and comprehensive range of quality printing services, both offset and digital. 
  • When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur / take over your family business? 
    I did not have the intention to be an entrepreneur. In 1984, I had a partnership with my elder brother on black and white film reproduction. In 1990, I brought the company into the international market. In 2001, I had aspirations to venture fully into doing printing business instead of only colour reproduction, but with my brother not being supportive, I grabbed the opportunity to become an entrepreneur and we split the business, with me taking over the printing arm, and him keeping the colour reproduction side of it. 
  • What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry? 
    Printing is my life. Since 11 years old, I started as an apprentice in the printing industry and it had become natural for me to continue in this industry. 
  • How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing, advertising, etc. At that time, we have very little funding and small team to work together, but the Singapore government was very supportive and provided SC with same grants to build the overseas marketing for the company. Apart from that, I did not really have a business plan for it, and instead, I prepared myself for the worst rather than looking at the potential profits. 
  • What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business? 
    There are a lot of interesting stories, but I would like to share one heartwarming story especially. At that time, we printed the first book published regarding the highway signboards covering the island Mauritius, and our client was very satisfied with the product. They invited us to the press conference in Mauritius and paid for our air flight and accommodation. In additional, the compliment letters we received from our international clients from time to time have been motivating us to do better. 
  • What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
    One of the challenges faced is how competitors undercut the pricing which undermines the professionalism of the industry. Due to competitiveness, companies attempt to cut down cost in order to attract businesses. This became a viscous cycle which led to the stagnation or even deterioration of the skills and quality of the printing industry. This practice was in contrary to my vision of providing the best quality printing services. 
  • How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges. 
    Through the training of our staff, we were able to break free of this viscous cycle. Our sales representatives have to undergo ground training in the production area for three months to allow them to have an in-depth understanding of the production process. With the knowledge of our expertise skills in printing, our sales are able to deliver the promise of quality to our customers more efficiently and effectively. This promise most often convinced our customers that quality is more important than profit. 
  • How do you promote learning within your company? What are the training opportunities that you provide your staff?
    Apart from training in customer services, we regularly send our staff to the SCI Print Technology Institute to undergo training for the production knowledge and colour management work flow. Also, we will send staff who do not have a good grasp for English to ITE. With the certifications, our staffs are able to improve and move up the career ladder. 
  • What are some of the proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you? 
    I do not have one because I believe I can do better. Even though SC does provide good printing services, I feel that there is still room for improvement in its processing procedures. My goal is to provide our clients an absolute peace of mind when they entrust their projects with us. 
  • Can you describe the company culture you have? What are some of the activities that the company has that promotes this culture? 
    SC has a strong team spirit. We have a company sports club where staff can engage in different sports, such as badminton, bowling, and fencing. On top of that, we have a yearly company retreat for our staff to help rejuvenate them and boost morale for the company. 
  • With all these upgrading schemes, what do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion? 
    For the local market, I intend to focus on providing quality fine printing services rather than expanding. For the international market, I intend to expand my business to even more countries.
  • How will you describe your working relationship with your customers, suppliers and service providers? 
    Our suppliers play an important role and hence I hold very high respect on the relationship between SC and our suppliers. And SC will not have what we have today without the support of both our customers and suppliers. One hand can never clap alone! 
  • How do you think your business have made a positive impact or contribute to the community that you serve? 
    In 2005, the government approached me with the idea to set up a printing school in Singapore. I immediately supported the idea by leading and funding the setting-up of the school. The SCI Print Technology Institute was the first and only institution in Singapore which provides specialized training on print-related skills. This school allowed me to pass down my knowledge to the next generation which will allow them to play a supporting role to their future companies. Moreover, I feel honored to be able to give back to society. 

    On top of that, we had sponsored the National Day Parade for 5 years after being approached by the government in 1995. I feel that it is a way for us to return to the society and let the government know we appreciate them. 

  • What does entrepreneurship mean to you? 
    I think that I'm only a small business man. I believe doing business involves being rooted in moral values, staff personal development and welfare. I value my staff as I believe that they are the core group that drives the business. Furthermore, I value the relationship with my suppliers too. 
  • What are some entrepreneurship quality that you have which has helped you come this far? 
    My philosophy is that - There is nothing I cannot do; there are only things that I do not want to do. If you are willing to do it, put in all time and efforts, and you will succeed. 
  • In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be successful in business? 
    Professionalism, dedication and hard work. 
  • In your opinion, what does it mean to have the Spirit of Enterprise? 
    Develop your people and you will be able to develop your enterprise. Also, you need to have staff who are devoted and passionate about your enterprise. 
  • What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down to others, particularly the younger generation?
    The importance of moral values when doing business and being humble. 
  • What is your company vision and mission? How do you convey these to your company staff and team members? What are the strategies did you take to turn the vision & mission into a reality? 
    SCs vision is to provide the best professional quality printing services to our customers to be one of the top leading printing companies in Asia. The management is regularly meeting up with production to run through challenges and also feedback on the workflows, technology and skill improvements, while also holding departmental meetings at least once a month to make sure that the mission and vision are not compromised.

    Staff also provided with training opportunities to upgrade their skills, so that we are able to constantly provide quality assurance to our clients.

  • What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business? 
    Work hard and look out for opportunities; they do not just drop on your doorstep. Without hard work, it will be hard to succeed; do not blame on luck if you don't succeed.