Jonathan is the founder of Supreme Floors and has 20 years’ of experience in this industry. He is passionate about wood flooring and always delivers the best service to his customers. He is the driving force and the main inspiration behind his company and aims to IPO the company in 5 years’ time.
Established in 1995, Supreme Floors is Singapore's No.1 Wood Flooring Brand. They are one of the biggest names in laminate, engineered and solid wood flooring across the Asia Pacific with a global clientele.
1) What was your growing up years like?
Ans: Until 16 years old, I was an introvert with inferior complex and lack of self-confidence. At 16 years old, my life changed because my friend brought me into the sales business and I started knocking on doors to sell household products. As a door-to-door salesman, I realized that to make more money I had to come into business. So at the age of 16, I decided to be an entrepreneur.
2) Moving on, could you tell me more about the nature of your business?
Ans: The nature of my business is in wood flooring.
3) You started the business in 1995 as a 3-person outfit engaging in door-to-door sales. Are the other 2 members still with the company?
Ans: Of course. One is my wife and the other is my brother so it is a family business. We are the 3 main shareholders in the company.
4) Why do you choose to do business in this particular industry?
Ans: At that time my 4 room HDB flat was ready and my wife loves laminate flooring a lot. Therefore, I went to look for the wholesaler and ended up becoming the agent selling the wood flooring. Previously, i was in corporate gifts.
5) 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.
Ans: My strength lies in sales and leading the sales team so I took care of the sales, marketing and HR. My brother took care of the operations. My wife took care of administration, finance and etc. It was not difficult in terms of building up the business but the challenge was in managing them. The management part is a problem because when there are more people, there are a lot of relationship problems.
6) What was it like running your business in the early years? Do you remember any interesting stories or incidents?
Ans: We had a mixture of happiness, a lot commitment and hard work because we worked from morning 8am to 10pm at night every day, including weekends. It was a lot of hard work but we were also happy. At the same time, we also faced many difficulties. I would say I have mixed feelings. After year 2000, we started to take Sunday off because my first son arrived and we realized that we need to take the Sunday off. Eventually, we also had half a Saturday off. As the business got better, we got more off days.
7) What is your company's vision?
Ans: Our vision is to be a world-renowned wood-flooring leader
8) What is your company's mission?
Ans: Our mission to provide quality wood floors, deliver reliable service and mentoring
9) How do you convey these to your company staff and team members?
Ans: Since I started my company, I wanted my company to be an IPO company. I am an IPO freak so I lead my people through our vision to be world-renowned. The whole world needs to know our brand Supreme Floors. Our senior minister LKY led Singapore with great vision, so I feel that if I have to lead my company, I have to lead with great vision too because only with great vision, then we can attract capable staff and managers to join us.
10) Did you face any challenges when you first went into business?
Ans: We have quite a few challenges. Our first challenge was our business model because we had to raise capital to buy stock, keep the stock and give credit to our customers, who are the contractors and they sometimes take a while to pay us. The main contractors always bully us because we are the sub contractors. We also faced tough competition. Competitors ensure that we do not enjoy good profits. Because of the competition and the way we are bullied by the contractors, we had to generate more volume and search for better market share so that we can survive. But business is more than just survival. It is about getting better margins to expand our business.
The other challenge is about the people. Some of our sales people come out and start their own business and they become our competitors due to low entry barriers. These are the challenges we faced.
11) 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?
During the SARS period, there were times when I was quite down because we did quite badly for about half a year and many staff left the company and this hurt me a lot. That may be termed mild depression because emotionally, I felt hurt and disappointed. But I never gave up. I continue to fight on. In difficult times, we have to work harder, work smarter and motivate ourselves. That is how self-motivation comes in. As a leader, I had to go and motivate my employees so I do not have time to say give up.
12) How did you develop such positive outlook?
Ans: Through successful experiences, we can gain more self-confidence. This self-confidence also gives us strength and power. In addition, through the training programs that I have attended, I have met many gurus who gave me more skills and knowledge so this knowledge give us more confidence and power to be more positive and strong. Finally, difficult times also make us stronger. Every difficult time that we go through will make us stronger and stronger.
13) Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
Ans: First, always innovate and change your business model because your business model determines whether you can survive and make money. We have to make money because that is the basis of survival. If you do not make money, then you have to close down. We have to innovate very fast to accommodate to market conditions so the ability to change is very important.
Second, you need to have a good company system and culture. When you rely on people, people will change and what will happen if people leave the company? Leaders and companies must be good at setting up systems and company culture because these are the things that will remain even if people leave. You can imagine how good our army system is because every year people come and leave, but we still have a good army.
Lastly, the people are the ones that make a business different. You have to employ the right people for the right job and you have to train your people.
14) When was the moment you realized the business would work and support you?
Ans: At the beginning because we were already making money in our second month.
15) What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
Ans: Since 2000, we are number one in sales of wood flooring and this gives us a lot of pride and confidence to move forward towards our vision. Even 10 years ago, we have more than 20 sales people and people say I am crazy but being in the retail business is a people business so we need to have many salespeople. We also have good job references like the Marina Bay Sands, condo projects, and EC projects so these are all quite good achievements.
16) You won the Singapore prestige brand awards in 2007 and 2008. How did you build your brand so successfully?
Ans: Branding is about what we promise the customer we can deliver. We have more than 500 interior design customers and they are our customers and resellers. We take good care of them with good service and they will continue to support us because these people are the bulk of our business. Receiving brand awards is important to our B2C business because this builds customer confidence through branding.
17) Can you describe the company culture that you have? How does it contribute to the performance of your company growth?
Ans: Our hobby in attending trainings helps us to implement most of our corporate culture here. For example, since 10 years ago, we have our weekly meetings and 3 years ago, we have developed it into an hour of training for our staff every week. This has helped us cultivate a certain culture. Firstly, we have cultivated a family culture because this is like a big family. Secondly, we have cultivated a school culture because we have to do training every week. We also have the military culture because everyone must have discipline and fighting spirit. Being in the company is like fighting a war. If you cannot win sales, you cannot win confidence and that is the end. We must win. We also have a spiritual culture. Every morning we have to do a dance and recite our company mission and vision before we start work. When we do it 300 over times a year, it gets into our subconscious mind.
18) How do you promote learning within your company? What are the training opportunities that you provide your staff?
Ans: We focus mainly on our company culture, such as our vision and mission, character building of each individual as well as staff bonding.
19) What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
Ans: We will IPO our company in 5 years’ time and we will use our status and the capital we raise to expand regionally so that we are in line with our vision to be world-renowned.
20) In your opinion, what is a good and ethical business? How do you think this helps you in your company/business?
Ans: Ethics refers to a few things. First, what we promise our customers we must deliver. Non-delivery of promises is causing much consumer non-confidence in companies. Second, providing products that are environmentally friendly. We focus a lot on products that have green labels like recycled wood flooring. People wise, we also believe in personal development of people. Every employee that comes into our company goes through mentoring. Every employee, regardless of how long they have work with us, must be able to score better points when they leave the company, in terms of character and ability.
21) How will you describe your working relationship with your customers, suppliers and service providers?
Ans: We emphasize a lot on better relationships and commitments. We are committed to our customers, suppliers and all those who work with us. We emphasize good working relationships because they are the basis of long term business relationships.
22) How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide specific examples.
Ans: Recently, we focus a lot on product differentiation. This year, we launched negative ion wood flooring, which emphasizes health benefits for the consumers because we believe in the next 5 to 10 years, customers would not buy wood flooring that do not have negative ions. Eventually, customers will recognize and appreciate these health benefits and we will gain very big market share.