Treating people right is the key behind Home Success’ success.
Contributed By Jeremy Chua
Our homes play a big part in ensuring our peace of mind; it is thus no wonder that people are eager to put their stamp on their “castles”, and make their house a home they can be proud of.
Oftentimes, however, a concept or idea for a home is just not enough; execution is also key to turning a house into a home—this is where interior design firms step in. Having been in the business for over 15 years, Home Success has built a reputation that precedes itself.
Simon Goh, the youthful-looking managing director of Home Success shares about how he got started in the industry. “I am not design-trained at all, I was just interested in interior design,” he says. Starting off as a door-to-door salesman after completing his National Service, Goh says of his first full-time job, “It was tough, but it taught me a lot about salesmanship and learning how to deal with rejection—soft skills that I find applicable to what I do today.”
At that time, Goh was interested in the advertising industry as well. “There was more business to be made as a door-to-door salesman at night, so in the day I was selling advertising in trade magazines for the interior design industry. I got to interact with the owners of these businesses, and was eventually head-hunted by someone in this line of work,” Goh shares. It was the first step of his journey in interior design.
Then, tragedy struck. His brother, who had started his own interior design company, passed away in an unfortunate accident, and Goh decided to take over the company, Home Success. The beginning days were no doubt challenging for Goh, as he had to handle most of the administrative and accounting load on his own to reduce costs. He also had to contend with the fact that he did not have a HDB licence to operate as an interior design firm at that point.
Instead of following conventions, Goh decided to blaze his own path, and pursued something unprecedented at that time, the ISO 9001 certification. “At that point, it was quite a big thing in the industry, as we were the first to do so. I am merely an O-level graduate, and don’t know much about the documentation and administrative aspects of running a business but striving for the ISO certification gave me a new picture about running my business,” Goh says. “It was a lot of work but it was worth it. We received a lot of media coverage for that, and it was a great marketing tool!”
After obtaining the ISO certification, business boomed, riding on the wave of the publicity that was generated. Goh began to expand his business aggressively, expanding to six branches island-wide by 2003. He was also involved in glitzy projects such as the Celebrity Dream Homes for Zoe Tay, and also the fifth and sixth Spring Home Exhibition for fictional contractor Phua Chu Kang.
Then, in 2003, the economy took a downturn, and coupled with the SARS epidemic, Home Success started to face challenges. “My strategy for my business remained the same; I thought that quantity would bring in the profits, but it came to a point where I lost contact with my staff on the ground, overheads and costs were too high, and my staff could not fully exploit the business my aggressive marketing brought in. I also mistook quantity for quality of staff,” Goh recalls.
Hit hard by all these converging factors, Goh had to re-evaluate his business strategy in 2004. “I was facing a decision; to either cut costs and consolidate, or close down. I had to make the tough decision to close down a number of shops, and that was also the first time that I had to deal with staff retrenchment.” This was especially hard for Goh as he firmly believed in developing his staff. “I tell my staff, ‘When you come to work for me, it is my duty to take care of you,” he shares.
At the lowest point of his business, Goh had already been in City Harvest Church for more than a year. What started out as merely finding a place for his children to spend their time during the weekend turned out to be a life-changing experience; he was baptized soon after joining the church. “Looking back, I am thankful that I was already in church when my crisis happened. I was depressed, and even angry at God, but it was the advice and counsel of my cell group members that helped me a lot. I realized that while people in the world may give you advice, the advice of people in the church is usually the correct one.”
They say that behind every successful man is an even more successful woman, and for Goh, that was the case. “My wife took over a shop front I had in Jurong, and set up a beauty business. Strangely enough, I forgot to cancel the Internet subscription we had there, and whenever my wife was free, she logged in and listen to sermons from the church. That gave her the strength to continue on,” Goh recalls. In retrospect, Goh admits that it was his wife who inspired him. “I experienced a lot of fear and anxiety every day, but I made myself listen to sermons, pray and seek God to get strength. I also realized that the church will accept you no matter what, as opposed to the rejection and judgement the world tends to dish out.”
Through sheer tenacity, the counsel of the wise and the grace of God, along with practical steps of coming up with a new business strategy, Goh managed to survive the crisis. How Goh’s business managed to recover and even flourish from the crisis is perhaps a testament of his business philosophy. His motto has always been to put people first, be they customers or staff members. “As for my customers, I believe that no job is too small. If you ask me to do a S$10 job of installing a pane of glass, I will still do it.” Goh stated. “I believe in connecting with people, not just meeting people. For my staff, I take pleasure in mentoring them, and helping them with their lives and their work. The name ‘Home Success’ has taken on new meaning for me over the years; it is not just about the customers, but also having my business as one in which my staff can succeed. When they succeed, they are empowered to help my customers succeed, and this is a good kind of cycle,” Goh reveals.
“Knowing my staff on a deeper level also allows me to know when to admonish them, and when to protect them when there are complaints.” Goh spends time connecting with his staff through mandatory meetings every Thursday for two hours, and even outdoor meetings once every month.
With this attitude, it is no wonder that people whom Goh worked with, including his subcontractors and staff, rallied around him when his business was flagging. “I was so touched when my staff put aside their own personal gains to support me through that period, and when my contractors came all the way down to meet me, not to demand payment from me, but to encourage me to keep on keeping on,” Goh remembers. “I learned that it is how you treat people that matters.”
Goh also promotes a culture of family and showing appreciation by celebrating his staff’s birthdays and praising them for a job well done in public. “I learned all these from church! I want to show my staff as long as you do your best, you will be appreciated. I want them to have good memories of working at Home Success, no matter what their future holds for them,” says Goh. It is with this attitude that one can sense Home Success is built to succeed. “Family is very important to me; I can fail at any business, at anything, but I can’t fail at family.”