Jimmy Wee builds a business that is the backbone of any IT infrastructure.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF JIMMY WEE|
Sheer hard work, and a few fortunate breaks, brought this cable distribution company from strength to strength. Jimmy Wee is the regional director of Emrol Systems, a structured cable distributor. The company supplies the copper or fiber optic network cables that run invisibly around offices and buildings, carrying data to the individual workstations. They also provide a complete range of networking solutions, from consultancy, cabling to network monitoring.
Wee has been in the telecommunications industry for more than 20 years. Prior to starting Emrol Systems, he was working with various multinational companies for more than 10 years. Formally trained in electrical engineering, he shares, “I had a lot of exposure in the industry. Twenty years on, I still find it interesting and a challenge.” Together with two other partners, Wee followed his entrepreneurial instincts in 2002 and started Emrol Systems.
Their clientele includes big multi-nationals and government entities such as McDonald’s, the Ministry of Home Affairs and SMRT. But things were not as rosy when they first started out. The first few years were very tough. “We had limited funds. We did not have any reserves. Our money was all spent on buying the stock we needed and waiting for payment, and then repeating the process,” he said.
But things changed when Emrol Systems won the sole distributorship of Premium Line, a brand of cables from Germany. Then, it was going into the market, working with consultants and designers to bring exposure to the brand.
During this period, Emrol Systems also clinched their biggest and most challenging client, the Ministry of Defence. The opportunity to wire up every army camp, air and naval base was tremendous. “Because of the sensitive nature of the facilities and the stringent requirements, it took us more than a year to push our product in,” Wee shares. Through persistence and fostering tight relationships, Emrol Systems now supplies cables to government appointed contractors such as National Computer Systems and Singapore Technologies.
Wee attributes his success to his faith. “God has been very good to us. Ever since I came to City Harvest Church, the business has been prospering.” Indeed, sales figures have increased more than ten-fold since 2003, from S$300,000 to S$3.2 million. Even during the recession, Emrol Systems maintained sales of S$2 million. They have also just moved into their new, 1,500 sq ft office at Midview City in December 2010.
But Wee is not resting on his laurels. He has plans to globalize the business and has already established a presence in Vietnam. About a third of their sales comes from overseas projects and he is constantly on the lookout for new products in order to diversify their offerings.
“Cables have become a common commodity. The technology has matured and there’s hardly any difference when you compare products manufactured in different countries. In fact, everything is made in China,” he says, speaking of how globalization has influenced his business. Therefore, in order to stand out from the competition, he realized it is important to differentiate on service. “We need to keep ample stock, ensure quick delivery and guarantee high quality products.”
He also has a word of advice for budding entrepreneurs, “It is important to choose business partners who have the same principles and values as you, more than just closing a deal.” Evidently, this piece of advice has worked well for Emrol Systems—throughout these seven years, the three-man team grew the business without additional staff, a feat that is impressive in this day and age.
For more information, visit www.emrol.net.