GOH TECK TING PETER
With a strong emphasis on being people and service-oriented, Chloros Solution Pte delivers premium customized and tailored Green solutions as a one-stop platform to suit the needs of client. Chloros Solutions also makes an effort to raise environmental awareness to the students in Singapore, believing that every small step taken makes a difference.
Mr Peter Goh was keen to share his insights and business model. After the interview, he also took time to slowly explain how being awarded the Spring YES Scheme was the determining factor that changed his parents and friends’ mentality about entrepreneurship in Singapore being a very possible career option.
1) What is the nature of your business?
Our business is in green tech consultancy and also turn-key project management. Some of the services we provide are energy auditing, equipment performance appraisal, feasibility studies and so on. We also are a distributor for a wide range of green products including LED lighting system for indoor and outdoor, public sanitary and water efficient systems, vertical greenery, solar panels; basically a wide range of green products.
2) What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
I felt that the green industry is an up and coming industry with limitless potential. Upon graduation I decided to jump onto the green bandwagon.
My course of study was sociology and political science but I took a module in my final year in NUS called global and environmental issues. That semester was very interesting and I got exposed to all the green concepts. After a year of planning with 2 of my other partners, we decided to incorporate it into a company and start a business.
3) When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur? Were there rejections from your friends or family?
I never really thought of working for people. There was always a part of me that wanted to come out and do my own thing, to prove my own mettle.
Of course most parents will ask you to get a regular job, but that was not something I wanted to do. I wanted to do my own business. So practically what other people said did not have an impact on me.
4) How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business?
Melvin was my secondary school classmate and I knew him for a long time, while Rebecca was from our sister school, RGS, and we knew each other for quite a long time too. So we sat down and discussed the feasibility of the business and made changes along the way. We graduated in 2010 and incorporated the company by the end of the year.
When starting a company, capital is always an issue. We applied for the Young Entrepreneur Scheme plan around end of December 2010 and got the funding after rounds of interviews. We capitalised the company in March 2011, and that is when we became operational.
We each had to put in $4200, totalling to $12600. Spring then funded $4 to a dollar raised, so we got the full $50000 funding from Spring.
5) What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business?
Actually our business was initially in the residential sector and we were the ones who pioneered the home energy audit services in Singapore. Our value proposition was to provide a one-stop platform for end-to-end solutions for the clients. This would also help them to save money off their monthly utility bills.
At the start, it was about talking to friends and family members. That was how we got into it—by word of mouth. Spring Singapore set us a target of 50 projects in a year, but we broke through that and achieved 100 projects within the first three months.
6) What is your company vision and mission?
Our vision is to be one of the few green conglomerates in the world, starting in Singapore. But that is something in the long term. Eco-friendly living and sustainble development aside, the company hopes to be able to raise awareness in matters pertaining to the environment, believing that every small step taken makes a difference.
7) What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
The challenges that were pertinent in the first few years are still challenges we are facing today. The green industry is very new concept in the market today, and the market lags a fair bit. As a result, there is a lot of education we have to do for our clients and the market.
And that is the biggest challenge: to convince why should you change from a high energy sodium street lamp to LED street lamp when the sodium one is working perfectly fine.
Why would anyone want to waste extra money and resources to change that? They need to understand that energy used for the sodium lamp is four times of that of the LED lamp. Therefore in the long run, you are actually wasting electricity and energy.
We need to educate clients in that manner, and this is not something they see instantly. This is unlike in Europe, where people are legislated to use certain appliances.
8) How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges.
Sales cycle in our line takes a very long time span. A sale cannot be closed within a week or a month; we have to constantly follow up with clients and do not lose touch. We keep up with the clients every now and then to ask about their equipment and energy use and that gives us the idea on how to pitch to the client. It is all about following up with the client I would say.
9) Do you think Singapore is lagging behind in terms of the green sector then?
It is an Asian mindset actually. For us Asians, we feel that if something is not broken, then we should not change it. This is what we learnt when we worked with the home owners. There is no one size fits all solution, because every client is different.
In other countries people do not think this way. They can see the need to change because they are affected. For instance, in the more rural countries, electricity supply is more limited and they know they have to use appliances that are more energy saving. Otherwise they are going to have a blackout.
10) Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like giving up?
Generally I do whine about it on a day to day basis, but I have not really thought of giving up before.
11) Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
No matter what happens you have to put your clients first, put on a smile and rectify the problem. That is the most important thing.
12) What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
From the start we were already very delighted when we were awarded the Spring YES fund. At that point in time, there were not many companies that were awarded and today, many are no longer surviving.
The Spring funding gave us a boost because it showed us that Spring believed in our business that gave us confidence. This is especially important in our line of business as we are in a consultancy business and it is important for clients to trust you when you are a fresh graduate, negotiating with projects that are of high value. Being funded by Spring also inspired confidence in the clients and that was the first jab of confidence.
When we completed our milestones in three months when we were given a year, that was a very proud moment as well. We are still one of the few companies that managed to complete their milestones so quickly.
At the end of 2011, we had a half page feature on Business Times, which opened up a lot of doors for us. After the Business Times article was published, NUS contacted us and the Solar energy Research Institute wanted to joint venture with us to tackle the non- residential sector. It did not materialise in the end, but that gave us a huge confidence boost.
More recently, we were able to secure CEO of GreenPac Ms Susan Chong as a shareholder and she will also be on our board. That made us feel that after all these 4 years, we have survived, given the mortality rate for startups is quite high, and now have new investors pumping in money. We are more or less on the right track.
13) Can you describe the company culture that you have?
There are times we work till very late, sending emails until 4am in the morning. I think the good thing about start-ups is that the organization style is less hierarchical. It is more like a family.
14) How do you promote learning within your Company? What are the training opportunities that you provide your staff?
Not all of us are engineers; there are finance people, architects and many others. The expertise is not about being green, but it iis through the job where they pick up things that they would otherwise not have been able to learn.
I would say that the learning curve here is very steep. Even I myself am learning new things every single day. I try to be as hands on as possible to fix equipment for clients myself, so as to help myself in my consultancy work, that I may better know how to pitch to the clients.
15) What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
We are planning to go overseas. We already have plans to be involved in an overseas project, and we are hoping that this will be soon. We are trying to establish our business in Singapore first, thus the 5 years will likely be to consolidate our base in Singapore while slowly expanding outwards. Singapore will be our brain centre.
16) In your opinion, what is a good and ethical business?
Clients’ objectives and expectations have to be fulfilled – this is the most basic objective of a good business. When you set out to do what you promised for your clients, it should be good enough.
17) How will you describe your working relationship with your customers, suppliers and service providers?
We are very friendly to our suppliers and clients. As mentioned earlier, we operate like a family. However, when the time comes to be professional, I will make strict hard decisions if I need to, and will not hesitate to do so.
18) How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
Our business is unique as we do not manufacture anything or do anything too specific. We are system integrators. We put together different technologies for clients. We allow others to invent a better light bulb; what we do is take the products, put it together and package it for the clients. This is also part of our consultancy services. As far as I know there are no company like us. I believe the one-stop hub will be prevalent in the future, as customers prefer to go to one person than deal with 10 contractors.
Firstly we are afraid of competitors as it is good for the market. We are lucky to have a first-mover advantage. The price floor and price ceiling is already set, thus if another competitor comes along, they will most likely not survive if they decide to compete on price.
19) How do you think your business have made a positive impact or contribute to the community that you serve?
We are literally saving the environment everyday. Our green products are more beneficial and friendly for the environment.
We also conduct programmes from primary school to university levels. I used to be very sceptical about talks, thus we have chosen to do it with a more hands-on approach. For example, we will bring the students for an energy audit of their own schools. They would then go to an old folk’s home for energy auditing, analyse the data collected and do a public presentation. This cements the teachings and learning for the student.
20) What does entrepreneurship mean to you? What does it mean to have the “spirit of enterprise”?
There was once I was making a co-presentation with Kingsmen Creative, and I will always remember the CEO saying this: Entrepreneurship is about literally entering and taking charge of a company. The Spirit of Entrepreneurship is to believe in something, a dream or a goal, and choosing to pursue it. Dedicate your time and commitment to it.
21) What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you have which has helped you come this far?
I am very stubborn person. Put in a more positive tone, I am a very determined person. I listen to people’s advice but when I set my target on a goal, wanting to do something, I will do it no matter how difficult it gets. If it was easy, then everyone else would have been doing it already. This determination and stubbornness has has helped me in this entrepreneurship journey.
22) Who or what motivates and inspires you?
I am not a tree hugger but I am one who is responsible for my consumption of resources. It is not about the money that motivates me, but rather having an idea and crystallising it, to make it become something you have always wanted it to be. If you put money first, it is almost impossible to do well in it.
23) What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down to others, particularly the younger generation?
Discipline to stay focused on the goal; responsibility to be accountable to your clients and employees; and tenacity to keep going even when the tough times come knocking.
24) 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?
I think that it is easier to start a business now, but it might be harder to do well in it. This is because information and knowledge is widely available, and you can go onto Google you can find anything you want. Knowledge is money, and if knowledge is so easily available to everyone then the barriers of competitiveness is much lesser. Hence, you need to innovate.
25) What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
Do all your planning first. Be prepared to know it is going to be tough, then then just decide to do it. Sometimes, we will think too much and end up not doing it.