Updates for 2007 … What’s up for 2008?

It’s been a pretty crazy work schedule the past few months as we juggled projects at IconnectE and K.C DAT since August.

In October, we finally launched as a full service providing email marketing to the SME market. We had been offering the service for customers without a proper name to it so its a good start that we were also engaged by Avocent International Pte Ltd for their “Avocent Hero” EDM campaigns as well as VivoCity Pte Ltd to assist with their recent 1st year party invites. Also on the email marketing platform, we’ve been hard at work creating a corporate eCard portal for Mapletree Investments Pte Ltd that would allow them to personalize each greeting card that gets sent by the company staff.

In November, Max Cole and On9 Systems got our heads together to plan how we could grow our businesses and in doing so, we migrated our servers to a proper rack with Viewqwest (great support from Boon Hian, Nathan and Thames). Doing this got us nice 2 x Linksys SRW2024 24-Port 10/100/1000 Gigabit Switch. It has some great features like bandwidth monitoring and throttling (a very neat feature!). Mike Veltman and Robert Roach are serious dudes into security and I’m glad to be working with them on this as we get serious about hosting. By offering Virtualization as an option to SMEs, this creates a great platform for us to create some serious applications for companies.

With December creeping into its second week and 2008 looming, our pipeline is full till the first quarter where we’ll be doing a major project utilizing Drupal as well as another project for a B2B Art Rental Store coming up too. I’m glad we’re getting a good start into 2008!


Are you ready for word-of-mouth marketing?

Imagine an organization with a proven system for 24 years, over 100,000 members worldwide in more than 37 countries, who can assist you in growing your business and open new doors to global opportunities. Raffles Chapter would like to invite you to our Visitor’s Day on 21st Sept 2007. For more details, view the slideshow below or contact me today!


On9 Systems – Blogs for Business

Received a SMS on Wednesday from a fellow BNI member that she couldn’t attend this morning’s breakfast meeting and if I minded switching over. I readily agreed before remembering that my slide desk was skewed towards customers to have an overview of the company. Spent about 3-4 hours last night improving a 4 slide version I had previously used in my flip-chart presentaton and here’s the results

Presented by 字 Concepts


Growing a small business with baby steps

Was listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast as I was moving around Singapore for customer site visits. A guy (who ran a one man consulting firm) called in to comment that he wanted to grow his business but didn’t want to walk the traditonal path of hiring a employee but instead was looking at bring on a partner. Dave gave some great advice that seemed quite logical and useful to me at the time. However, I had forgotten to make a note of the exact details and wound up fast-forwarding a few days of material before remembering it was from 1st August.

The reason why I wanted to listen again to the details was because I too didn’t want to hire just another employee as I find myself needing to grow the business. Dave’s rationale is that he hires team members while still holding 100% ownership. While not the tradtional X% shared ownership like partners, I think this is a better model for me to adopt.

The reasoning goes (figures are for example only)
If I’m making $60K, hiring an employee would most likely have to be supported by this revenue and creates a cash flow issue. The better case would be to look for someone who is willing to fight and strive to earn his own keep while at the same time looking to grow the business as much as possible since its to his benefit.

A likely scenario would be to base his output based on past experience. E.g. His target would be $40k and most importantly, he would receive a high percentage of this (e.g.80% with 20% back to the company). This way, there is an incentive for the team member to work harder and of course earn even more versus a fixed salary income that grows slowly. However, Dave also mentioned that this arrangement is best set in a fixed period of say about 3 months to a year to ensure flexibility in adjusting the allocation since the aim is really more to ensure fairness.

With this in mind, it looks set for another person to join the team. Details soon 🙂


Take action for your Business today!

Attended my first meeting at BNI-Raffles as an official member today. Almost couldn’t wake up after working on the migration of SportsKaki’s site to our servers but in the end managed to get into Geek Terminal right on time. I’m usually not a morning person but somehow meeting up at BNI always give me a buzz that lasts right throughout the business day.

We had a great session today with our mentor Leonard Song from Business Oasis International giving a great motivational speech on the key elements to a successful chapter. He concentrated on 3 main points, 1) OWNERSHIP, 2) TEAMWORK and lastly 3) TAKING ACTION!


Leonard reminded us that being business owners, we are truly the only people who can take control of how we want to grow our own company. This also applies to how we want to grow the chapter. Having this mindset will help to cultivate the right approach by showing commitment to the team


An example that was brought up that stuck particularly with me was that geese fly in a V-formation to reduce drag and fly more efficiently. Similarly in a team, by working together, we will grow faster and better. We were also reminded that the guy (top bird) in front has a tough job and showing support is always a good thing.


The last point was that we should all take action to improve or examine how we do things now and make sure each member knew what the other was doing. The power of word-of-mouth marketing and referrals is that by engaging our members on what we do and similarly learning what the other party offers, we can start connecting opportunities in our daily work.

A good example was how immediately after the meeting, Kelly from Power Laser International dropped me a mail titled “How to find the right referral for Power Laser?“. I was immediately intrigued and read through the details. Some key points about Power Laser that immediately gets stuck in my mind for customers with office supplies needs.

– cost saving on cartridges without compromising on the print quality
– enjoy unlimited on-site printer maintenance and servicing
– enjoy free part replacement for printer
– enjoy free temporary printer loan to tie over the downtime

I look forward to putting the 3 points into action and getting to know each member of Raffles Chapter better. Ang from Bio Life Marketing gave a great quote to end the meeting.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford


Moving from WebCollab to activeCollab for project management

Project and tasks management is very important to small teams so having a web based tool that can allow all members (including clients) to have an overview of what are the milestones and tasks as well as a central repository of documents helps a lot. Had been using WebCollab for the past 3 years and while I’ve found it to be quite sufficient for my needs, customers often complain that it isn’t the most user-friendly tool.

Seeing as how BaseCamp has been wildly successful in its attempt to be a project management tool for the masses, I thought I would try it too. However, the costs associated with it on a monthly basis isn’t the most attractive option.

Thinking I would have stick to WebCollab and its green/red tasks indicators, I’m glad I came upon RedMine and spent quite a few hours getting the CentOS + Plesk 8.1 server ready for Ruby. However, after spending some time with it, I realise although its a great project planning tool, it seems more suited for developers rather than end-customers.

Again I went searching until activeCollab came up during my Google Reader scans. This time the requirement for PHP5 gave me a little problem since Linux server is still on PHP4. Luckily Windows server is able to toggle between PHP4 and 5 and I managed to get it installed and tested out creating projects and clients. It has a straightforward interface that allows for creating of projects, assigning clients to it as well as milestones (deadlines) with its associated tasks list. Looks like I’ll soon be migrating all the projects currently being managed to activeCollab since it looks simple enough for end-users to use too.


Finally joined BNI Singapore – Raffles Chapter

Raffles Chapter - BNI Singapore

It took me a longer route than usual, first a breakfast visit to Abundance in March 2005 where I got to know Glynis Koh (very friendly propety agent who found me my flat and whom I later introduced another deal) and Alex Siew (who helped me and another friend do our ROM and AD photography). Soon after, Asis-T Solutions joined/started BNI-Excellence through Aik Boon‘s participation and where I got to substitute and get to know more about “Word-of-mouth” Marketing from BNI members.

Since then, I’ve on-and-off participated but didn’t really get into the spirit of BNI since I’m usually on the project side of things. Moving forward with On9 Systems, I plan to be more active in the sales/marketing aspect of the business and have joined Raffles Chapter (got approval today from VP!). The aspect of getting up early (VERY hard for me but shall strive to change) and meeting at 7.30am each week without fail will probably make most people squirm at the commitment. You’ve gotta respect the folks at each chapter who commit to making their business their concern and work hard to make new friends and refer businesses each week.

I’m already looking forward to get to know more of the members with whom I’ve had the pleasure to know some of them before joining. Greets going out to Andrew, Ang, Ismadi, Daniel, Doris, Sally, Kuan Kuan, Ranny, Leonard, Ken, Steven, James, Thaufik, Kelly, Trecillia, Felix,  Melinda and Adrian who did one of the better presentations I’ve seen on Life Protection today.

If you’re a small business owner or interested in the world of “Word-mouth-marketing”, we’ll be meeting at Geek Terminal each Friday at 7.30am, so do let me know if you’re interested to join us for a lively chat and breakfast session. (As it so happens, I just found out that Goh at Geek Terminal is my ex-school mate!)


Thoughts on registering a business in Singapore

Claudia from limedsign recently asked for comments on registering a business in Singapore. Seeing as how some friends are recently thinking of doing the same, I thought I would pen down some experiences with it. Am certainly NOT a veteran at this having only registered 2 myself (Asis-T Solutions and On9 Systems) and 1 other for friend (Webvolutions) but this should be useful to me (and anyone reading) should I/you need to register another company again! 🙂

Step 1 : Think up a great name for your company that people will start asking you about. In current web climate, misspellings or non-English sounding names seem to go well with the crowd. Of course, something to do with what you intend to sell/offer would be great. Can check out names available at Acra’s company registry here.

Step 1a : If you intend to get an online presence, start thinking about what domain name you’ll like. Find a suitable web host and check if the name is available. It sucks to have a great name thought out, registered and realize the domain has been taken up by a squatter.

You can use and but I usually use my registrar’s domain search service

If you’re just starting up, a simple plan should suffice for web hosting but of course, it all depends on your cashflow and needs. Remember that most web hosting is paid up front annually.

Step 2 : Create a financial plan on how you’re going to make money in the 1st year, 2nd year and if you can a 5 year plan is even better. I just plug in a cashflow scenario of likely income, outflow (transport, stationary, rent?) into excel and estimate the number of customers I’ll likely need to talk to and get sales to be in the black. Don’t worry, being in the red in your first year should be pretty normal unless you sell stuff that make you 100% profit each time with zero overheads.

Sale of goods or services rendered Factor in your typical sales cycle and sales volume. Doing service based business? Categorize according to large and small projects and take a good average.
Business Licenses

Sole-proprietorship, Partnership, LLP – $65 one time
Renewal – $20 renewal

Pte Ltd – Be prepared to pay for incorporation fees and secretarial fees. Check out DP Bureau and other services at Tanjong Pagar’s International Plaza.

For home businesses, you’ll also need to apply for HDB’s Home Office Scheme (HDB).

Why the differences? Its basically about liabilities to yourself, I’m not a lawyer so can’t advise on what you should go for but take into account business type and ask around to make a decision.

Medisave, factor in $540 for minimum trade income as suggested by CPF. Its a good idea to just get it over with since you’re probably not putting in any CPF contributions for now.

Name Card I use Honesty Printing, 200pcs for $40.00

Working from home still need to pay electricity, mortgage etc

My situation:
$600+ in HDB payments for a 4 room flat shared with wife
$150+ in utilities/broadband

Transport Ulu places like Lim Chu Kang will need taxi, taking bus just takes up time and money! Have all cab companies numbers saved to your mobile for that urgent customer visit.
Mobile Get a decent plan from any telco with FREE incoming. I saved half my monthly bill by switching. Thanks M1. 
Fax Used to use Singtel’s Faxplus but without incoming fax, this just doesn’t work for me anymore so I just bought a fax modem and hooked it up to my desktop running 24/7 anyway. I save paper and get to send/receive fax anytime.

You’ll need to eat/socialize have fun also so don’t forget to give yourself some $$ to survive. I use a base of $1000.00 per person which is of course dependent on one’s lifestyle. This is of course most likely a figure for partners only. Hiring would require different figures to be plugged in. Based on my experience :

Interns – $500 – $1000
Freelance – Depends on Project
Poly – $1500 – $2500
Grad – $2200 – $4000
Masters/PhD – Not worked with them before

Banking/Checking Account

If customers don’t mind giving cash or issuing cheques in your personal name, you can try getting a UOB Cashplus account since it has no minimum opening amount and no fall-below fee. Asking for waiver of the annual fee shouldn’t be a problem also. Just remember not to issue cheques from your credit. That’s just silly.

Otherwise, be prepared to have an initial opening of $1000.00 onwards from various banks Corporate Accounts. I’ve use UOB  and Maybank. UOB’s Corporate Account requires $1000.00 for initial opening and to maintain a monthly average of $10,000 otherwise there is a service charge of $15/month.

Secretarial Services  For Pte Ltd Only, not very familiar with this so taking a walk around Int’l Plaza should give you some clues
Accounting  I do my own accounting using Microsoft Money to generate invoices and excel for quotes. Generally try NOT to wait too long to keep your accounts in order. During Tax time, its just one big hassle if you forget everything that happened a year ago. 
Marketing Allocate a small budget for marketing purposes. Either join a network like BNI, ASME or any other you’re comfortable with. Can also try Google AdSense if you have a website. Word-of-mouth also works great if you have a good product/service.

Step 3: BE VERY HAPPY with your plan and tell your friends about it. Most will probably balk at the idea since starting a business isn’t really the IN thing for most people who work at MNC’s. Some others will wish you good luck and wonder if they could do it but probably won’t. Some will offer your partnerships (silent) if they think you have a good idea and may want some equity. My advice? Its your life, so be happy if you decide to take the plunge and work hard for the next two years and stick to the plan. Register your business and go forth and make new friends, meet challenges and have remember to have fun at it.

* Disclaimer : I’ve done my research and most are based on personal experiences so best to ask around for opinions. Am in no way endorsing that you go ahead and register your business just because you read this. Drop me a mail if you’ve got questions. I’ll be glad to help within my means.


Are you a freelancer? Get to know more about the industry by taking a quick survey

Are you currently or have worked as a freelancer? Freelanceswitch is currently running a survey that tries to collate information that would be pretty interesting to view when it ends in August. With my roots being in freelancing about 8 years ago, I decided to to take a quick survey that asked various questions like years of experience, hourly rates and average project costs. I think most of us when faced with project pricing always wonder if we’re going too high or going too low so knowing some of the results would be great to get a bit of perspective of project work in the region.

Link to » FREELANCERS UNITE: The 2007 Global Freelancer Survey Is Here!


Wrapping up Microsoft Remix SEA 2007

Attended mostly the design tracks today since most of the Orcas and Atlas stuff can be quite easily found on the web. Was interested to listen more on the video   aspects of Silverlight.

Had been reading Lee Brimelows’s WPFBlog since having a deep dive session into WPF last year so was keen to hear him talk and also showcase some of his prototypes.

Another area of interest was PHP and IIS7 since I’m also a huge fan of developing using PHP for web applications vs ASP.Net since its just easier to have an application that can move from a LAMP to Windows platform. Virtual map showed how they could (without writing any code) just port over their applications tradtionally hosted on LAMP to Windows Server 2008 (Longhorn) and IIS7.

Beau Ambur from Metaliq also did a session on their prototype built for MIX’07 earlier in the keynote so they expanded a little more on the lessons learnt in the afternoon session. Was quite technical in how they delved into the various technicalities of video aspect ratios and bitrates.

The last panel discussion for the day was on the Social Networking scene in Singapore. I’m pretty interested in this since helping out with SportsKaki has given an addtional incentive to look out for new opportunities for social networks. Strait’s Time’s Stomp was present as well as Singtel and MediaCorp. (Had to miss this session WHEN customer called in the middle of it!! Sigh…)

Only comment was that for an event to bring designers into the Microsoft solution platform, there didn’t seem that many sessions or topics that catered to address the huge base of designers that are mainly using Adobe tools at the moment. I think for now, Adobe Photoshop CS3 would still be the prefered choice of tool for pixel pushing while Blend would slowly edge into the web RIA space currently dominated by Flash.