TAN CHOON MING JOSEPH & PAN YIN CHING RENNIE
Mr Joseph Tan is the marketing director of the Impact lifestyle company. He is always smiling and ever ready to help and assist.
Impact lifestyle company is a business thats delve into the sales of ergonomics, chairs or backpacks that improve the posture of the people using it.
Mr Tan and his partner, also his wife is rather down to earth and is ready to share his experiences be it good or bad and the success of the business.
- What is the nature of your business?
IMPACT LIFESTYLE is a manufacturer, distributor and exporter of a wide range of reputable brands in ergonomics lifestyle products, such as spinal protection backpacks, back-care chairs and ergonomic furniture, posture aid accessories and premium back to school essentials. We also own premium retail brand ERGOWORKS, a leading ergonomic concept chain stores in Singapore.
- When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur / take over your family business?
I grew up in an environment seeing my parents putting in tremendous hard work in building up a family business from scratch. I was inspired to bring my family business to a greater height. Situation was especially bad in 2001 when profit was hampered by high manufacturing cost and shortage of skillful sewers locally. Growth potential and sales channels were limited and competition was very stiff within the bags & luggage industry. That was the impetus to venture into new markets and products. I ventured into the new market; ergonomics, with a 3 man team.
- What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
In the past, my family business has been revolving around manufacturing bags and luggage. The range of the bags sold in past was constrained by the lack of know-how and served basic needs only. On top of durability, we felt modern science technology could be incorporated with better ergonomic design into the product. The revolution started with friends and relatives kids complaining about their heavy school bags, so we decided to focus on this product segment with further research and development, and this marked the first step towards the birth of our company. I personally was a victim, using bad design chairs. It gives poor posture. We researched and found some good products targeting these problems and started incorporating such things.
- 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.
There werent much resource to begin with. My parents had retired from the scene, however they were kind enough to provide me with some seed funding. It all started with a 3 men team and a rented small office cum store 10 times smaller than currently owned premises. I was handling purchasing, sales and marketing, and my wife was in charge of finance and admin, while we could only afford to employ a delivery cum store man.
- What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business?
The initial start up experience was very challenging as we lacked the branding and product lines to convince retailers to display our products on shelves, however, we managed to convince some customers who are willing to give us a chance. We use to knock on major stalls and retailers to gain some kind of recognition. Now, I am proud our business relationship was blossomed over the past decade.
Customers are very curious with new ideas and things. They find out a lot of things from us. We work with our medical therapist and refer the customers to professionals for advice. It helps them to improve their current situation, be it scoliosis or bad pain related problems.
- What are your company's vision and mission?
To be an industry leader providing one-stop professional ergonomic back care solutions and to improve the spinal health and well being of our customers. We convey this message in every meeting and staff orientation. Our name cards bear the slogan too!
- What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
When we first started this new business line, the execution of the business plan wasnt as smooth as we had thought, especially for niche products that required a longer period to gain brand and products acceptance. Our tough moments were the SARS outbreak in 2003 and financial crisis in 2008. Many customers spending was curbed and affected our sales adversely.
- How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges.
Despite the many challenges and critics, we persisted in our business direction, and continue to educate the public, increase awareness of the importance of good spinal health. We ploughed back most of our earning into research and development to enhance products feature. Our strong belief in this industry deters us from looking elsewhere and we managed to pull through. I am still glad that none of our staff was being laid off during that period, and we stood shoulder-to-shoulder to continue our pursuit of goal for the company. Our strong conviction to provide professional spinal-care solutions is the main driving force for the success. Our employees have progress together with our organization, and they have contributed and internalized the company value that lead to greater height.
- What was the driving force that prevent you from giving up from all the challenges and hurdles?
I believe in passion. Youll do well if you have passion. I stand on my strong convictions and that is to provide healthcare solutions for our customers as we were victims before.
- Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
Strong convictions. Our companies' conviction is to provide good spinal care solution and that was our driving force. Staffs and employees understand and internalize all that because of those are our beliefs and visions. It is also in line with the company values and we are able to progress together as we are on the same page. Perseverance is key and believing in your dreams.
- What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
The regionalization of our products, the opening of our flagship showroom and medical professionals endorsement of our products, we are proud to receive Promising SME500 award and also be conferred by several local and overseas media as the best of the best in the ergonomic products category. We always feel proud with all these, even if its small. All these motivated our staff internally and everyone in the organization to move forward. All these achievements mean more confidence to our new customers that do not know us. It also raises the public awareness in our products.
- Can you describe the company culture that you have? How does it contribute to the performance of your company or the growth?
This is still a traditional chinese business model though weve modernised it a bit. We professionalize the customer service setup by having a team of dedicated customer care officers, providing technical support to answer customers inquiries and service requests. Recently, we have implemented data management software to ensure prompt response for customers repair and services. I remembered there was once an urgent request for a service on his ergonomic chair to be performed after 8 pm due to unexpected circumstances. Our service team rushed down to assist the customer without much hesitation. We encourage our staff to go the extra mile and serve all customers with passion. We are also proud to be a member of Singapore Service Stars.
- How do you promote learning within your Company? What are the training opportunities that you provide your staff?
We believe in skill upgrading, in order to improve total productivity and efficiency for our organization. We analysis all staffs training needs, identify the learning gap, and then we send them to relevant courses that will enhance their capability. The mindset is that "You might not work here forever, but if you have learn some skills, you achieve some course levels during the course in our company, it would benefit them no matter what other organisation they go to." When they leave, they do not leave empty handed. It helps them to catch up with the fast pace changing trends.
- What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
We aim to have presence all over in Asia, and operate online platform to widen our outreach internationally.
- In your opinion, what is a good and ethical business? How do you think this helps you in your Company/ business?
We must deliver genuinely quality products and dedicated services that improve peoples lives. We try and gain strong customers trust and confidence, and repeat business with them plus recommendation through word of mouth.
- How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide specific examples.
We do not compete on prices, rather we choose to invest most resources in Research & Development to develop better innovative designs and enhance products functionality, marketing and education plus branding to empower customers knowledge and confidence. We provide professional and attentive services to all our customers. We offer most complete ergonomic and back care solutions for all age group (our target group range from 3 years old to 100 years old), some of key products include our iconic DUOREST; dual backrests ergonomic chairs (20 years German design and proven technology), RH ergo-performance seating from Sweden, highly popular IMPACT ergo-growing workstations and IMPACT spinal protection backpacks for children and adults. Our products have undergone stringent laboratory test on quality and durability, medically endorsed and recommended by chiropractors and physiotherapists, as well as tested and proven by consumers during the last decade.
- What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?
We were the first in our industry to submit school bags for quality and durability tests conducted by reputable lab. We set a trail by setting up a full ergonomic concept showroom which proved to be a big hit among consumers. We have been educating our customers on proper sitting and posture knowledge, as well our unique on-site warranty coverage. We studied the market and realized most brands are selling chairs but not wholesome back care solutions, and thats inspired us to generate new business ideas. With the introduction of fresh ideas, we broke even within the first year and have stabilized progress since. We are a member of Singapore service stars providing excellent services to customers.
- How do you think your business have made a positive impact or contribute to the community that you serve? For example: creating jobs for Singaporeans or underprivileged; upgrading the skills of employees; improving livelihoods or lifestyles of customers.
We benefited the community by creating job opportunities for Singaporeans. We takes pride in helping many people from young to adults, keeping their postures right, to avoid back pains and other posture-related ailments, enabling them to grow healthily and achieve their greatest potential in work & education. Our company plans to recruit underprivileged and physically impaired staffs in near future. We have been donating regularly to charitable bodies in form of cash and products.
- In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be successful in business? And why? (e.g. Educational qualification, work experience, family influence, attitude, etc)
Attributes educational qualification provides knowledge, work experience rewards me with interpersonal skills, family influences built my characters, positive attitude keeps me going forward.
- Who or what motivates and inspires you?
My wife, who is my best friend and also business partner, as well as my family members who have been very supportive towards us.
- What does entrepreneurship means to you?
Perseverance and believing in your dreams. I also believe that if the opportunity doesnt knock, build a door. Being able to take calculated risks while optimizing business opportunities and strive to materialize our vision, pursue dreams while maintaining good business ethics and positive thoughts.
- Can you share some of the more significant events / incidents that affected or shaped your business philosophy and the way you conduct your business? i.e. SARS, new competition or shifts in market behaviour and trends, etc.
Year 2008 financial crisis we turned adversity into opportunity to have better work life balance for our employees, by implementing a 5-day week. The shift in consumer behavior over the years has allowed ergonomic products to gain wider market acceptance and generated higher demand.
- What doe spirit of enterprise means to you?
Sharing of knowledge and experience with budding entrepreneurs, inspire and nature the younger generation.
- What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
I would say perseverance. You must have passion and pursue your dreams and visions whatever bad situation you might face during the course of business. We find younger generation nowadays tend to give up easier. Thats why I say perserverance is important. We must have once again I repeat, good business ethics. To be a socially responsible company and by that keeping the organization forward. Hopefully this advice will benefit the young entrepreneurs.
- Anything else you would like to add on?
Were proud to be nominated, we look forward having an opportunity to win this prestigious award because we believe this award allow me to share my story with young people and hopefully to inspire them. It would also motivate our staff internally to be an industrial leader.