Way Fengshui Group: Staying Relevant In The Traditional Industry
Family-run businesses in Singapore have been hit by the toll of market conditions. In 2016, a report by PwC cited that average sales growth of Singapore family businesses was down 30% compared to 2014. But what’s to blame — intergenerational expectations or a lack of strategic succession planning? According to the same report, only 12% of such companies prioritized innovation over the next five years while 47% had a strategy for the “digital age”.
The transition to a new boss isn’t always easy, but Mark Tan — second generation business owner and CEO of Way Fengshui Group (WFG) — took the challenge head-on to modernise the family’s traditional business. We recently sat down with him to find out more about how he did it and why he deems innovation as the key to a company’s long term success.
Hi Mark! For starters, could you tell us more about Way Fengshui Group?
The Way Fengshui Group, is one of Singapore’s leading feng shui consultancies. Founded by my father, Grand Master Tan Khoon Yong, in 1984, WFG was formally known as the Way Geomancy Centre. Today, we continue to provide the same high-quality feng shui consultancy service in addition to the Way Fengshui Academy, where we train tomorrow’s feng shui masters, and Way Fengshui Lifestyle, where we sell feng shui wearables to our clients.
However, what really sets us apart, is that we’ve implemented modern business reporting processes which companies have come to expect of service providers from any other industry. Not only do we provide a comprehensive feng shui analysis for our clients, but we do so through a systematic process. We pride ourselves for not only innovating our own services, but raising the bar in terms of industry standards.
What was one of the challenges you faced after taking over from your father?
Traditional businesses tend to be led by traditional people. For me, my biggest challenge was counteracting the company’s resistance to change.
When I first joined WFG, it was difficult to introduce new practices and implement strategies because was an internal sentiment that innovation was not necessary. After all, the company had done well for the past 25 to 30 years. I spent time and effort to share more about changing business trends and the importance of keeping up with them, and soon others began opening up.
Turnover was another big problem and the norm was employees leaving after two years at WFG. We were lacking a larger mandate for them to believe in and work towards. Fixing this issue became one of my top priorities. I started giving WFG’s staff more autonomy and the freedom to practice decision making in their roles. We provided a platform for them to voice opinions and ideas in terms of the company’s direction. The results were extremely positive — engaging the team more encouraged them to be genuinely interested in their work and they progressively adopted the company’s vision as their own.
What are some of the other innovation practices you introduced to your company?
Personally, I believe that for change to happen, certain things need to be given up. For instance, letting go of old practices; being willing to unlearn and relearn. I also encourage my employees to challenge me if they feel that they might have a better alternative solution.
In many ways, I’ve introduced my staff to the startup culture. Like in any other startups, I create scenarios where my staff would have to work with no clients, no resources, or capital, in attempting to solve a real-life problem. I’m constantly challenging them to think beyond a single solution to find one that’s even better.
Innovation looks different from business to business but should ultimately stem from the owner’s vision. At WFG, it required us to break the industry mold and pioneer new business mindsets in order to lead the company to the next frontier… introducing technology was just the means to do it.
This article was published by FundedHere. FundedHere was founded in Singapore in 2015 and is the first homegrown Singapore-based platform to offer equity and debt-based crowdfunding. For more information, please go to www.fundedhere.com