NG CHEE HUAT BRANDON
Vision and perseverance can achieve dreams. For Mr Brandon Ng,the journey to his success ' and accomplishments today, is synergised with the hard work and dedication of his team.
The key to success lies in the determination and courage found in Mr Ng's characteristics. In the face of obstacles and challenges, he has continued to steer Micro 2000 to greater heights, inspiring the people around him.
From its inception as a small IT business in 1996, Micro 2000 has grown from a two-person distribution company to over a hundred people organization. Today, it has expanded its business to include IT consultancy and integration services, support and maintenance services as well as distribution and retailing. We are currently the Authorised Service Provider for premium brands like Asus, Philips and 3M.
Key strengths of the company include dynamic leadership, committed and experienced employees and a belief in providing only the best.
Ql) What is the nature of your business?
Brandon: For Micro 2000 Technology, we provide IT integration and consultancy services. We also provide aftersales support on major consumer brands in IT and electronics.
Q2) When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur I take over your family business?
Brandon: After working for a few years in the IT industry for several companies,. there is a niche in the market to provide specialised CAD solutions and products. IT was also expanding at a tremendous rate before the dotcom burst. Henceforth, I have decided to chart my own destiny and path to embark upon.
Q3) What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
Brandon: With previous working experience in a related company, Iwas determined to build on this knowledge on IT solutions and set up my own company.
Q4) 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.
Brandon: When the company was founded, my partner and myself pooled our financial resources together to start the business. Banks and financial institutions were hesitant to provide a startup company like ours any type of loans. After which, we had to maintain our operating expenses tightly. We did everything in the beginning from sales and marketing to delivery and payment processing.
We only hired staff when our cashflow improved.
Q5) What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first few years in business?
Brandon: In 1997, we managed to secure Courts as our major customer. We had to help them provide on average 3,000 home deliveries per month for PCs and workstations. At times, we were short of manpower and we had to do the home deliveries ourselves. We also had to install the computers ourselves at customer's home which takes up an hour or so unlike today's laptops and tablets which are easier to setup.
Q6) What is your company vision and mission? How do you convey these to your company staff and team members?
Brandon: We have our mission statement "to provide our finest service based on the highest standard of excellence while keeping the customers' investment low, as we continue to pursue to the next higher level of quality service with a personal touch." So to convey this vision and mission statement, it is vital for me to lead by example. For the projects that we undertake, I will impart my skills and knowledge to the team and juniors, in order for them to excel to greater heights. And of course, through sharing my experience on handling certain challenges we faced along the way.
Q7) What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
Brandon: When we first started out, we had very little capital. It was only enough to purchase some of the products which we have identified that the market has a need for. And in order to build trust with our clients, many of them requested credit terms. As a new startup company, many of the suppliers were also not willing to extend or give credit terms to us.
Q8) How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome them
Brandon: Our cashflow was very tight so we had to minimize our expenses. We didn't pay ourselves for the first six months. Luckily, our client base grew and many clients were satisfied with our products and services. We then could take our first paycheck. To pay the suppliers, we had to borrow money from our relatives and friends to tide over and we eventually paid them back when our cash flow improved.
During the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the market was very slow and many businesses got badly hit. We were not spared as well. We needed to do something different in order to survive. That's where we hit upon the idea of doing up a service centre to provide after sales support for customers. We rented a shophouse in Syed Alwi and started to let customers know that we can service their personal laptops and desktops.
Q9) 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?
Brandon: After getting our first paycheck and finally being able to stabilise the business, we were hit by the Asian Financial Crisis. The market was almost at a dead stop and many of our customers who have been supporting us were reluctant to spend. We were at our wit's end. We thought to ourselves that we can't just close the business for good after working so hard to start the business.
Some of our customers actually approached us to service their laptops and desktops since we are in the IT business. Then we thought to ourselves, instead of referring them to other places to service, why don't we setup a service centre ourselves. We scouted around for a location and rented a small shophouse to provide after sales support and the rest is history.
Q10) Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
Brandon: No matter how tough the challenge is there is always a solution. Talk to someone whom you can trust and can share the burden with. I am very lucky to have a very capable and hardworking partner that we can brainstorm ideas to overcome the various hurdles that we faced as we run the business.
Another lesson that I have learned is to share my experiences and wisdom with my talented staff. They have bright minds and ideas and all they need is some guidance to put them on the right direction to help themselves and the company to succeed.
Qll) When was the moment you realised the business would work and support you?
Brandon: Ithink shortly after 1996, there was an untapped market in providing home delivery and installation services for consumer PCs. Many home users were not familiar with setting up their purchased PCs when Microsoft Windows 95 was launched. We decided to provide such home installation and configuration services. So we were actually one of the very few that provided such services and that was when I foresaw that the consumer needed more of such services especially when the internet era arrived.
Q12) What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
Brandon: Some of the proudest achievements include managing after sales support for premium consumer brands like Asus and Philips. We are the Authorised Service Providers for these brands. We are also providing maintenance for 3M's public library systems.
For our efforts and increased branding awareness, we were recognised by the industry recently with awards such as SME 500 and Asian Pacific Entrepreneur awards. This means that our vision and determination to give the best to our customers is worth all the hard work that my staff have put in.
Q13)Can you describe the company culture that you have? How does it contribute to the performance of your company growth?
Brandon: We can describe the company culture is more open ,everyone is willing to help each other when he/she faces challenges or difficulties in the roles or any of the projects he/she undertakes.
They can also go up to any of their superiors or managers and ask them for advices on how to overcome these challenges. So we have a very positive and sharing culture within the company itself.
(Aaron: Do you have team building or team bonding activities?)
Yes, we usually have overseas trips for our annual D&D events with team bonding activities and games. For our last trip, we had one in Bali and almost the whole company attended in 2013.
Q14) How do you promote learning within your Company? What are the training opportunities that you provide your staff?
Brandon: We often find relevant courses and send the staffs to upgrade themselves when necessary. As Quality Service is out utmost commitment, we ensure that the staffs are well-trained to deal with possible situations that may arise in the course of their work.
(Aaron: so there will be continual upgrading programmes in the company?) Brandon: Yes, through internal training and courses by external vendors.
Q15) What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
Brandon: So Micro 2000 Technology is part of the Micro 2000 Group which was established last year. It was established because we had various subsidiaries.Other subsidiaries we have includes logistics, distributions as well as lifestyle. We also have a communication engineering subsidiary that provide voice over IP and structured cabling solutions. Besisdes providing after sales support services and IT consultation, Micro 2000 is planning to provide a total solution to our customers which will include reverse logistics. The plans for expansion will include regional expansion. So we are looking to set up businesses in the ASEAN countries like Thailand and Malaysia.
(Aaron: are they already set up?)
Brandon: We already have an office in Thailand, Bangkok, one in Kuala Lumpur as well. We were in Vietnam 5 years ago but now we leverage on our partners.
(Aaron: are they in the form of joint venture?)
Brandon: They are 100% owned by us. Of course, we always look out for any joint venture opportunities overseas.
Q16) Inyour opinion, what is a good and ethical business? How do you think this helps you in your Company/ business?
Brandon: Good and ethical business is that we continue to have good relationship with suppliers and our customers. It helps to maintain a positive reputation in the industry and retain customer loyalty.
Q17) How will you describe your working relationship with your customers, suppliers and service providers?
Brandon: Of course maintaining the strong integrity and loyalty with our customers with our suppliers as well. This is an eco-system that will help the company and vice versa.
Ql8) Can you share the working terms (e.g payment terms) that you have established with your suppliers?
Brandon: The suppliers have been working with us for many years, so we have a very healthy understanding with them. Both with their solutions and their products and their financial aspects as well. For the customers, a lot of them have been with us for the last two decades. We are also working very hard to ensure that our reputation is always highest.
Q19) How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide specific examples.
Brandon: The reason we branch out is because all these subsidiaries are complementary to our IT services and consultation. We are able to provide a total solution. For instance, a deployment
project requires an estimated total of 5000 desktops or laptops. Others may think that it is just an IT project but it is more than an IT project. It requires logistics, cloning, staging services, deployment and management. Therefore, it is more than just an IT project. We have all these skillsets in place.
That is how we stand out from other competitors.
(Aaron: In a large scale project, are temporary staffs being hired or are all the staffs from the company?)
Brandon: The management and operational team are selected from our internal company as they are experienced and trained with the necessary skillsets. If there is lack thereof, we will advise the human resource department to hire for fulltime or part-time basis. During the June and December holidays, we have projects that require one hundred or two hundred contract staffs. We conduct recruitment drives in tertiary institutes like the universities or polytechnics to engage them to help out in our projects.
(Aaron: is it in terms of internship or fulltime basis?)
Brandon: We have interns in-house from 6 months to 1year.
Q20) What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?
Brandon: One of the ideas that we have implemented was to help customers to maintain their IT operations. We have created a multi service assurance plan called AssistPak which helps customers that require comprehensive, systematic and flexible assistance for their IT needs. They can also called us for support if they meet with any difficulties which they cannot resolve on their own.
Q21} Where or who do you get your business ideas from?
Brandon: A lot of the ideas are from the 18 years of working experience and determining customers' rqeuirements as we manage their projects.
Q22} How have these business ideas impacted your Company or business? Please specify the qualitative and quantitative terms of the impact.
Brandon: It not only increases our company presence in the market but we also get to work with more customers from various industries. We are also able to diversify our operations and split into other subsidiaries to ensure that our solutions and products have a more defined structure. Year on year we have seen a healthy growth and increase in our revenue.
Q23} 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.
Brandon: As of today, Micro 2000 Technology has about 80 to 100 staff, We search for talented people who have various interests and skill sets.
Q24} What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Brandon: It is to build on- a vision and a dream, to shape the company according to our vision. Of course, entrepreneurship is building a team of people who are willing to succeed and take the company to the next higher levels of success.
Q25} What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you have which has helped you come this far?
Brandon: One requires a lot of determination to succeed because for every project or task undertaken, there will always be challenges, so one needs to be determined to overcome them. It also require to have good leadership skills to lead the team forward.
Q26} 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?
Brandon: I think technology has become so advance that it has integrated with our daily needs. Customers and consumers relie a lot on IT to obtain information. As a company, we have to be aware of such needs and hence we have branch out into other areas to serve both corporate customers and consumers.
Q27} What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
Brandon: Do not be afraid of the challenges that lies ahead, you will eventually get over them. At the same time, seek advice from people who have gone through challenges or seek advice with mentors in the entrepreneur journey. There is no better opportunity to start their own business now.
(Aaron: but there will always be some business that will emulate the business model right?)
Brandon: If you do not have the first mover advantage, then you need to think of unique selling point or ideas so that you can differentiate yourself. And maybe blue ocean strategies. If the market is big enough to accommodate 2 to 3 players having similar products. Why not? But it is the journey that is more interesting. That's why I would like to emphasize that you should not be afraid to try out. If you never try, you will never know. If you have the fears to overcome you, then you will never be able to try out, especially when one is younger, he/she has less commitments and baggage. As you grow older, you have more financial commitment, family commitment and you become more afraid.