CHRISTOPHER TAN

Coming from a history of humble beginnings and a journey unbelievably harsh for anyone of any generation, Mr Tan understands the hardships of starting up in any industry. Mr Tan has accumulated a past filled with odd jobs and being continuously overlooked for promotions and job opportunities due to his lack of an education background, but sees it as a blessing in disguise with obvious reasons, that without these trials, he would have never become the man he is today. I suppose Chris's strength and attributes is more than just giving back to the community. He is highly motivated with great drive and determination to achieve the goals set.

Business Profile:

Emphasizing the definition of precision into the rugged world of manufacturing , Mr Christopher Tan, owner and founder of Smartec aims to continue to uphold and improve with no reservations the benchmark his company has set in the industry. The notable precision engineering company Smartec designs, manufactures, refurbishes components for the oil and gas industry as well as the marine, energy, aerospace and biomedical industries. ,a highly versatile company specializing in full turnkey precision manufacturing solutions for oil, gas, offshore, marine, energy, aerospace and biomedical industries. Our primary goal is to work hand in hand with our customers to achieve cost effectiveness, quality and speed. No doubt that Smartec will continue to do so and at the same time truly clinches the spirit of enterprise.  

Interviewer's Comments:

I was instantly welcomed with hospitality of the warmest regards beyond what anyone would expect from such an overachieving man. The towering Mr tan later gave me a personal tour around the compound explaining his operations and at the same What followed afterwards was a tour was an uniquely inspirational and relaxing interview. The main lobby of the factory clearly displays the company Vision, Mission, Core Values and Quality Policy. Also a video introducing the company and another TV video depicting the attention and emphasis that the company placed on SAFETY. The lasting impression after the tour is that the company has a clear business direction and knows what is required to achieve it, first of its kind to my personal experience. I felt that this man, who emits a certain aura of both humility and business pride, has much to teach and convey to anyone willing to learn it with discrimination of only slothfulness.

Interview:

1. What is the nature of your business?
The nature of my business is that we are a highly versatile company specializing in full turnkey precision manufacturing solutions for oil, gas, offshore, marine, energy, aerospace and biomedical industries. Our primary goal is to work hand in hand with our customers to achieve cost effectiveness, quality and speed.

2. When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Its not the most inspirational story but because I come from a rather broken family, I had to understand independence and learn to support myself at a very early age with odd jobs. I only started to think about starting my own business when I was 27, because as much as I love what I did, I couldn't see any more room for growth, being passed over promotions after promotions, due to my lacking of a good education background,

3. What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
I am a man who like to plan ahead, I spent a lot of time doing market research and surveys and I realized that this industry(oil) is the most likely industry to outlast most others. I am a practical man.

4. How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business?
It was insanely tough in the beginning, I invested my savings of a 100k dollars from my sales job, together with bank loans.   very tough at first, you need cash, high end equipment, he used his 100k to loan from banks, hardworking, he fixed the fans and interiors himself in the the. his phillophy is that it is never the wrong time, as long as you got the passion.

5. What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in
business?
*laughs* I am not a hands on kind of person, I had no prior experience with the field and I remembered clearly, my first client was complaining to me about me that I knew so little about my operations and how could he expect to leave the job to me. I eventually managed to convince him that the fact of me not knowing much about the operations will not affect the quality of the products I'm delivering and it is the business system point of view that I can strongly contribute. Ultimately ,he was convinced and satisfied with both the products and service I delivered which was a big game changer for Time spent at the customer site everyday to learn and do the job for customer. Aim is to understand the requirement and expectation of the customer. Even to the extent that the customer wanted to provide a table for him

6. What is your company vision and mission?

How do you convey these to your company staff and team members?My company vision is of course upholding what we promise, which is punctuality, and to deliver top grade products to our customers, the vision of the company is to be a strategic partner to our customers and suppliers. and the mission is to achieve customer satisfaction through the fulfilment of On time delivery, Uncompromised Quality and customer Service. I conduct weekly meetings to evaluate the operation performance and also add in a little casual bonding with my colleagues, we're one big family over here in employees are given pocket size card where they carry with them with their employees badges everyday to remind them of our company vision, mission and also core values.

 

7. What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business? 

Capital problems of course, which was my biggest challenge at that time, I had a hard time finding good talents as well, and definitely the labor crunch policy which was put forward at such bad timing for me. Which made me proud of myself to be able to pull through all these problems and build my company. 

8. How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges.
I always believe that challenges faced are opportunities and everything requires effort. There is no magic to success. Only persistence , passion and being disciplined. This has been my philosophy in life. I was also fortunate to have a few of my employees who are willing to work their heart for me. These are my pioneer staffs who are willing to go through hell with me which I am really appreciative of them.

9. Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like giving up? What happened that made you feel that way and how did you triumph over it?
Absolutely, it was the initial phase of my business, at that point of time I only had one manpower which I could barely afford, the work needed to build this empire was overwhelming for just the two of us, but what really made me want to give up was when I was literally attending to the building process myself, like setting up the fans and wiring, due to budget issues, it made me feel powerless because I greatly lacked the practical skills needed at that time with no one to turn for help. I struggled for a while and then it hit me that I am doing this for myself and my passion, If I can push to this stage, I can push further. Ultimately it was the raw determination I forced out of myself that helped me pass this trial.

10. Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
I've learned that even though business is business, you must not forget the people who have helped you, like my staff, my suppliers and clients, and always treat them with respect no matter what their title is on paper, it is the little things like this that will continue to help you in the long run. Adding on, you must always understand that there will times to work, and there will be times to relax, work fun balance is more important than it sounds and most importantly, do the thing you like, not what is easy, it will take you a long way.

11. When was the moment you first realized the business would work and support

I never take for granted my success as I know what i achieved can be gone tomorrow if I do not continuously strive to do better and be on top of the game. I make it a point to always be on my toes and be ready to adapt to anything. No business is a guarantee, uncertainty is abundant no matter which line you are in, and you must always be ready to let go.  

12. What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?

 *Laughs* My proudest achievement has nothing to do with numbers, and  is undoubtedly my staff, who has helped me in ways my two hand can't count. It was them who helped me keep a firm foothold to my goals all these years, it was them who made me the man I am today. 

 

13. Can you describe the company culture that you have? How does it contribute to the performance of your company?

The company culture I have is simple, which is work life balance, to mark a clear cut line of discipline between work and fun. Which has does wonders really, more than I expected.  We organize annual D&Ds and monthly BBQs too.

14. How do you promote learning within your Company? What are the training opportunities that you provide your staff?

We provide opportunities and sponsorship for potential staffs to upgrade themselves through tertiary education. We have a comprehensive SMART training program where each employees will have to go through 8 modules during their first year with the company. This will adequately equip them with the skills to carry out their jobs effectively.

15. What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?

1. satellite production centre
2. looking beyong turn key projects but rather be a total solution provider to customers
3. strong penetration into aerospace and medical markets
4. acquiring more high end multi axis machine to be high value job for customer
5. incorporate secondary process into  our operation
6. to embark into other complementary line of businesses, i.e building and construction, lab testing and calibration of tooling and equipment,  etc

16. In your opinion, what is a good and ethical business? How do you think this helps you in your Company/ business?
A business that abides by the values of honesty and integrity, and also being able to stepping back a step to resolve a problem, a business is not just about making money in contrast to popular belief, being able to trust others is important too. All I've mentioned above has helped me build this company of mine, and my reputation which kept my clients and suppliers close to me all these years.

17. How will you describe your working relationship with your customers, suppliers and service providers?

I definitely see them as friends and partners, I make it a point to always see beyond someone's title on paper, you're welcome to "lim kopi" with me anytime. Everybody wants to do a good job, be it a customer or a supplier. We must always put ourselves in the shoes of our customer and understand their concerns and expectation. Treat them as part of yourself, always believing that we need each other to complete this cycle of accomplishment.

18. Can you share the working terms (e.g payment terms) that you have established with your suppliers?

I will always make my payments within 60 days without fail, the suppliers which has supported my business once let me drag my payments to a 120 days because of our good relationship, I will always repay kindness from again I am fortunate that we have very understanding suppliers. Some suppliers understand the challenges we faced during the startup and was prepare to delay our payment. I reckon in business, the word "BUILDING TRUST " is invaluable.  

19. How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide specific examples.

It is simple, I know my competitors very well, I will always do things faster, better and cheaper. the difference is that we take challenges that competitors might not dare to embark upon. We always believe in going the extra mile for the customer even to the extent of losing money. There was a time where I was shown a part that was done in US and all vendors will asked to see whether they are able to do it or not. While most of the vendor felt that it is not worth doing, we took the challenge and even told the customer that we will do it for free if it does not meet their expectation. This is our way of building confidence and collaboration with the customer.

20. What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?

Mine is to greatly emphasize on details while others in this industry do not, that is why my clients and I will always have long and trusting collaborations. Investing a little more on better equipment will go a long way investing and nurturing the right people and equipment. Also treating customers as friends and partners by looking beyond placing of orders and making money from them. I have always kept a very close relationship with all my customers to better understand them and their needs and expectation.  

21. Where or who do you get your business ideas from?

From the opportunities given to me throughout the years, but mainly my passion is business. I have gone through a lot during my younger days and was exposed to many different fields and Industries. I have also many contacts in the course of my sales job, I take their inputs and advices seriously and with due consideration and not forgetting the research that I spent to gather through the market . These inputs helped in my consideration, but at the end of the day, it is still yourself that you have to depend upon. It is your own decision, risk that you take and also your judgement as to what business you deem as viable..  

22. How have these business ideas impacted your Company or business? Please specify the qualitative and quantitative terms of the impact.

They have let me operate cheaper, faster and better than others, profits and clients has also been doubling year by year.

23. How do you think your business have made a positive impact or contribute to the community that you serve?

I'd like to think that I've encouraged diversifying in the market, and adaptability, that merely talking about it will not change anything, that results is what matters.

24. What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

It is leadership to me, to be able to provide for my staff, to be able to believe in each other and being a moral compass to them.

25. What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you have which has helped you come this far?

Being able to adapt quickly is what I think helped me  come this far, being able to lead by example s well, by not just sitting around and sprouting commands but really getting my hands dirty to work together and of course by making sure that all my staff are well trained.

26. In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be successful in business? And why?

Being able to let go of your pride when needed, and voicing out any problems you might to the people close to you, be humble and have strong business integrity. Value  people as an important asset in the organisation. Treat them and respect them well. They will return you this favour by fighting for your company

27. In your opinion, what does it mean to have the “spirit of enterprise”?

It is to always think smart with a cool head, and also being willing to learn and willing to teach and also to dare to take the challenges ahead. To have a "never say die" attitude and to work really hard to achieve your goals

28. Who or what motivates and inspires you?

My loving family of course, they are a huge part of who I am. People may say I tend to overachieve, but I am not perfect, I need support from the people close to me.

29. What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down to others, particularly the younger generation.

That would be to always remember your roots, you may be making big money, but remember contribute to the community as well. work hard. no short cut to success.be honest and disciplined. Passion and be persistent to get what you want.

30. Can you share some of the more significant events / incidents that affected or shaped your business philosophy and the way you conduct your business?

In the initial stages of my company I realized that my staff were only looking at their job, as a job and nothing more, morale was low and productivity was slow, I thought to myself why and then I started to organize bonding activities and get to know them personally , which increased productivity so much. The manpower you have is your business, not your machines.  

31. With the changes in the market today, do you think it has become harder or easier to succeed in business? Why do you say so?

It has become much harder I have to say, there are price wars everywhere, our younger generations are spoilt, and competition runs overseas as well, room for success has decreased.

32. What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?

That would be to know that, there is no right time or wrong time to start a business, plan your steps and take it slow.

1.dare to dream big
2. be prepared to work very hard
3. be disciplined and honest
4. must be passionate with what you want to do
5. motivated by fear of failure
6. flexible and adaptable
7. take responsibility