For a business to succeed and then maintain its good performance, it needs to be constantly calibrated and adjusted it to improve its daily processes. We need to focus on what works and eliminate what does not.
“It is better to do research on what type of business to do and what kind of products to sell, even before you start your business,” said Anne Idris, founder of My Mum’s Bakery.
In this article, we share the nuggets of wisdom from the panelists at the Women Entrepreneurs Convention, held on 29 and 30 August 2019, during the National Entrepreneurship Week 2019, at MAEPS, Serdang.
Know Your Customers
“You must know which customer groups purchase which of your products. For example, fresh mushrooms and healthy food products are suitable for all customer groups,” said Peggy Cheng, founder of GanoFarm, which focuses on cultivating edible and medicinal mushrooms, and also developing nutraceutical supplements based on edible and medicinal mushroom.
“You can start with a specific product and conduct market testing to find out what the customers like,” she added.
Passion, Determination and Perseverance
Things are not always smooth sailing. There will be challenges and problems. In the low periods and difficult times, a positive mindset and attitude can keep you going.
“I was an accidental baker. Over 37 years ago, I was a private secretary. Due to certain unforeseen circumstances, I had to leave my job to take charge of the family baking business. We started out supplying bread and pastries to schools and factories, and I myself drove the delivery van for 10 years,” said Jenny Chuang, founder of Sydney Cake House. It was a steep learning curve for her.
“We have to work very hard. The amount of effort, dedication and perseverance makes a big difference. You need to have the passion for the business,” she added.
Customisation of Products
You make your products for the mass market. People can look at your catalogue to select what they want to buy and then place orders. However, there are some companies that require customised products to suit their needs.
“Through the years, I found out that it was very important to be able to customise products for customers and specific markets. For example, we had to modify our curry puff pastry recipe to make it less crispy to supply to the airlines, so that it wouldn’t drop all over the place. This was important for the cleanliness of the aircraft,” said Jenny.
Don’t Forget to Do Your Costing
“It is important to do your costing before producing any customised or original products, especially for new customers or markets. This is to ensure that you will still make a healthy profit. For example, in Malaysia, we do not put chicken meat in our curry puffs. However, when we export to Japan, Singapore and China, we add chicken into the curry puffs, so the cost will be higher,” said Jenny.
“If you think a new product will cost RM3, make one that uses ingredients or components that cost RM3. After that, you go out and get people to try it. Market testing is important. Give a wide range of people to try. Don’t give your mother, sister and other family members to try it, because they will probably tell you it’s nice to show their support,” she added.
If the general feedback is not fantastic, then improve or modify your product, then test it again. You should do it until you get good feedback or comments.
Have an Online Presence
Nowadays, it is important for businesses to have an online presence, whether it is in the form of social media, a website, or an e-commerce platform. This is supported by the results of the 2018 e-Commerce Consumers Survey conducted by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). It found that 51% of Malaysians use e-commerce platforms to shop and sell online. In fact, Malaysia has the second highest number of e-commerce consumers in Southeast Asia, after Singapore, in terms of percentage of e-commerce users.
“My business is 100% online. It is important to have a strategy and a marketing plan. I also get testimonials from happy customers,” said Anne. Testimonials give confidence to new customers to try your products for the first time.
“GanoFarm has been online for 2 years. Our products can be bought online. It’s good to get more exposure so that more people know about our products. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram too,” said Peggy.
Have a System
It is important to have a systematic way of doing things. You can track everything and it makes your business more efficient and effective.
“We have been around for over three decades. We have developed our own system. I can see everything on my dashboard – how much people owe us, how much we owe people, how much we spend on purchasing, and how is sales doing, to name a few,” explained Jenny.
Having a good tracking system also lets you monitor the performance in real time, so that if any section is not performing, you can investigate what caused the problem and rectify it as soon as possible.
Get the Right People to Help You
Having the right person in the right job can help you run your business smoothly.
“Running a business can’t be a one-man show. We have a farm, factory, homestay, café and online shop. For every section, I put one person in charge and I have to trust them. I check in with them regularly to see whether they are on track and whether we are on the same page,” said Peggy.
You must also have continuous development and improvement to keep your business up to date. This includes upgrading your systems and technology, as well as sending your managers and employees for training to upskill them.
It was great to listen to the successful women entrepreneurs sharing their valuable wisdom and experiences. May their businesses continue to grow and prosper for many more decades to come.
The panel session Best Practices for SMEs was one of the session in Konvensyen Usahawan Wanita 2019 organized by SMECorp Malaysia that took place in conjunction with Minggu Usahawan Nasional 2019 on 29th August 2019 at MAEPS.