Growing a business is always about making the right change
There is no easy path to success. Like many budding young entrepreneurs, I was wide-eyed and jumped at it when given the opportunity to start my own business. I quit my cushy job and started my first company with my friends to provide business consulting services. Needless to say, I was unprepared and unaware of the stress and instability that comes with entrepreneurship. With minimal experience and little money to fund our efforts, our dreams of succeeding in a matter of months quickly shattered. The company was struggling and in a desperate attempt we decided to look into digital transformation solutions with a second startup. Unfortunately, the second startup met the same fate.
Yet even after my failed attempts, this arduous journey did not intimidate me. The startup environment can be brutal and difficult if you lack the courage to continually pursue your goal in the face of setbacks and obstacles. All I had was a “just do it” mindset and keep trying. As the saying goes: failure is a springboard to success. I took these past challenges as valuable lessons that I paid to learn and build Ximple.
Unwavering determination is something many startup founders have, but ultimately the biggest challenge was being comfortable with instability and change and making tough decisions to move the business forward. Here are some of the changes I’ve had to go through and the decisions I’ve had to make to grow my startup over the past few years.
One of the main things that took consistent exploration and time was understanding the business proposition in order to carve out a place for the company in the market – I had to start exploring and focusing on a new solution business to solve market gaps or build a product to offer something different from my competitors.
The idea for Ximple was born out of a personal experience I had with tracking warranty and servicing my own home appliances. During my experience as Regional Logistics Manager at Singpost, I have witnessed different products from each company having their own return policy and process. For consumers like me, this means that different products may have different procedures for exchange or warranty service. I said to myself: why was there no single solution to solve these problems and simplify the customer experience? So I developed Ximple as a warranty management tool to solve this problem.
This time, I know I couldn’t get into another business idea without due diligence in planning and market research. When I developed Ximple, one of the first things I started working on was understanding the market. I started sharing ideas on the issue of warranty tracking and maintenance based on my personal experience as a consumer. I surveyed over a hundred friends to get a general idea of the issues they face with warranties and how they deal with them. Based on my market research, I started contacting companies in the industry via LinkedIn with a simple pitch deck. Through this process, I was able to secure my first angel investor for Ximple.
Although the idea of Ximple was from the start a warranty management tool, it needs to evolve quickly to meet the changing needs and behaviors of the market. Today, Ximple has evolved into more than just a warranty management tool, but a one-stop solution and streamlined platform for consumers and businesses promoting a circular economy in the electronics market.
One of the reasons my previous startups failed was lack of proper planning and market research. A common mistake is to assume that there is a demand in the market, and all you have to do is launch your product and wait for a need for your solution. When it came to my first two companies, there was no shortage of business consulting and digital transformation solutions on the market. I couldn’t find a unique selling proposition to stand out from the already saturated market. As a business owner, being able to face the problem of business stagnation and admitting that something needs to be changed or changed is crucial. It could mean shutting down or rotating your business even though you’ve spent hours, months, and years there, only to move on to another.
One of the main reasons for previous failures was the lack of diversity on the team with relevant experience to lead the many important functions within the company. In my first two startups, the team was all from the IT profession, so we’re strong technically, but not commercially and commercially. This dynamic made me realize that there must be good people on the team with other skills such as marketing, presenting and selling the product in order to push it to market.
Diversity within the team will also help the company grow with more perspectives and greater creativity to cultivate innovative ideas. For example, at Ximple, older employees have a long-term vision and experience to strategize and guide the team, while our younger employees may be more tech savvy and in tune with current trends. This allows us to recognize and combine the advantages of different approaches, as well as to adapt to different situations.
Apart from encouraging us to see things from a different perspective, it also helps us in terms of cultural awareness as Ximple expands into another regional market. Knowing local needs, channels and preferences is key to succeeding in foreign markets. During the recent launch of Ximple in Malaysia, our overseas team accelerated our understanding of the local market, local networks and cultural nuances, while providing alternative solutions to obstacles.
When your workforce is more representative of your customer base, you gain real insight into the customer in the local context. Take for example, when our Malaysian manager from Ximple came on board, I learned from him that different cultures vary greatly in negotiation styles when dealing with local partners. Additionally, as our Singapore team needs to coordinate closely with the overseas team, we have adapted to working remotely by communicating more often online to monitor progress. At the same time, it gives us more opportunities to exchange opinions, allowing business ideas to flourish.
Changes to yourself
Constant reflection is always needed to reflect on what went right or wrong in your business. It can be talking to others or just taking time to reflect on the business and yourself. Even though I now have a strong management team to help me run the business, I’m still learning new skills as a founder. I, too, need to up my game by constantly improving myself in order to learn and know everything about how the business works.
For example, I understand that I am an introvert by nature, and not the strongest when it comes to presenting and presenting. But as a business owner, I know I needed to improve. I signed up for classes to improve my speaking and presentation skills. To understand how to run a business more efficiently, I took an accounting course to understand how to manage financial transactions. I may be a business owner and a professional in my field of IT, but at the end of the day, no one is perfect. What is important is to identify your weakness, your desire to improve it and step out of your comfort zone to learn as much.
The entrepreneurial journey isn’t just about the stress you’re willing to endure or the long hours you’re willing to sacrifice. Don’t confuse resilience with stubbornness. Resilience is about withstanding setbacks and not giving up, while stubbornness is refusing to accept contributions and changes that prevent you from learning what you need to know to grow your business in the best way possible. Always stay humble and open to new perspectives or changes.
Wong Wai Jeat is the founder and CEO of Ximple.
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