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Your Startup: Practical Advice For The Early Days

Your Startup: Practical Advice For The Early Days

  • 20 July 2020
  • By OCBC Business Banking
  • 2 mins read

Welcome to the third of our three-part series on ‘Starting Your First Business’. In this post, we outline practical advice you’ll need to successfully navigate your startup business through its early days.

Congratulations! You’ve made the leap into entrepreneurship and started your own business. It’s an exciting time and, while there’s still a lot of work to be done, we know you have what it takes to navigate your way to success.

To help you make sense of the first 100 days of your startup, we spoke to our panel of successful business owners, who shared with us personal insights from the early days of their business journey.

Ready to find out more? Let’s jump in.

Being Hands-On

In the beginning, it’s important for you to maintain a hands-on approach, getting involved in as many aspects of your new business as possible. This was a point that was emphasised by each of the business owners we spoke to.

Dr. Terence Tan, founder of The Pain Relief Clinic, recalled how he got his clinic off the ground. “As a startup, you have to do everything yourself. From setting appointments to renovations to marketing, I was involved in it all.”

Mr. Vincent Teoh, founder of Zoo-phonics Asia enrichment centres and the Safari House chain of pre-schools, echoed this sentiment too.

“As an entrepreneur, you must be able to rough it out. There is a need to stay hands-on, being able to handle long hours, and do the things nobody wants to do,” he explained, highlighting the need for founders to roll up their sleeves to get things done.

"As a startup, you have to do everything yourself. From setting appointments to renovations to marketing, I was involved in it all.

— Dr. Terence Tan / Founder of The Pain Relief Clinic

In Separate Company

So why is incorporating a company such a popular choice for businesses in Singapore?

One big factor is that the company is a legal entity separate and distinct from its shareholders and directors. What this means is that the shareholders and directors are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the company.

Francis Chan, Deputy Head (Disputes) of the Rajah & Tann Legal Basix Practice Group, shared the following view: “While sole proprietorships and partnerships have less compliance formalities than private limited companies and cost less to set up, you or your business partners can be sued personally and be made personally liable for the mistakes made by the business.”

Mr. Lawrence Chai, founder of 3E Accounting, also advised, “As a Sole Proprietor or Partner, the profits of your business are your personal income, of which the highest tax bracket currently is 22%. In comparison, companies are taxed at up to 17% only. Thus, incorporating as a company may save you some tax dollars in the long run.”

Permits and Licenses

Depending on the nature of your business, you will need to apply for various permits and licenses from the authorities in Singapore. While in the past, one had to apply for individual licenses from each official body, today it’s much easier with everything consolidated online through the GoBusiness portal.

Vincent shared, “For businesses like ours, you need to hire employees before you can get your permit to start operations. You also need to train them before they can start. So, make sure you have sufficient cash flow for overheads such as rental and staff in the meanwhile.”

Some businesses take up to one year to set up due to the licensing process, so it’s important to budget for enough resources to tide through the initial phase.

Setting Up Premises

On assessing suitable locations for his restaurants, Mr. Jonathan Yang—Co-Founder of Muchachos and The Daily Cut restaurants—learnt that an entrepreneur should not think that he can change consumer behaviour. Instead, he has to work with existing consumer behaviour.

“We learnt that if consumers did not gravitate towards an area physically, we should not think that, by virtue of our opening, they would just start going there.”

The merits of a good location have to be balanced against rental costs. Vincent opined that you should consider carefully if you really need an office in a prime location, if it is much cheaper to choose a location outside the CBD. He chose to set up his main office in Jurong.

Other times, sharing an office can be a cost-efficient way to get going too. Dr. Tan revealed that he started out by renting space in another clinic in Ngee Ann City. It was only after he hired his first staff member around the one-year mark that he moved into his own clinic premises.

Another key aspect to look out for when setting up is understanding the type of usage your intended location is zoned for by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). If your location is not zoned for your intended use, then you need to apply for a change of use, which is subject to approval. All of this should be kept in mind before you rush into signing any leases or tenancy agreements.

"We learnt that if consumers did not gravitate towards an area physically, we should not think that, by virtue of our opening, they would just start going there.

— Mr. Jonathan Yang / Co-Founder of Muchachos and The Daily Cut restaurants

Staying On Top of Things

As we have mentioned in previous articles, in the early days of your business, it’s important to establish your financial projections and stay on top of costs.

It is crucial to have a good accounting system or process in place early on so that you know the health of your finances. Today, there are many good cloud-based accounting and expense management apps which you can subscribe to for a small fee. You can even get these apps for free with OCBC’s Start Digital Pack.

These apps can help you generate quotations and invoices, manage expenses, review outstanding invoices and reconcile bank transactions—all highly important functions for a growing business.

Rounding Things Up

Starting your business comes with its own fair set of challenges (and rewards) but we hope that the practical advice from our panel of business owners has provided some insight and clarity on what you need to do in your new business.

As a partner for every step of your entrepreneurship journey, you can count on OCBC to continue providing knowledge and insights on making your business a success.


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Dr Terence Tan — Founder
The Pain Relief Clinic Pte. Ltd.

Dr Terence Tan — Founder
The Pain Relief Clinic Pte. Ltd.

Since starting The Pain Relief Clinic over a decade ago, Dr Tan has been introducing non-invasive treatments for joint, muscle and sports conditions. The business has grown to include clinics in both Surabaya and Jakarta as well as distribution activities in Myanmar. He is also actively working with strategic partners to spread these modern treatments internationally in Maldives, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Vincent Teoh — Executive Director & Co-Founder
Safari House Preschools and Zoo-phonics Asia

Vincent Teoh — Executive Director & Co-Founder
Safari House Preschools and Zoo-phonics Asia

Vincent has more than 15 years of financial management experience gained from working in top global financial institutions across Asia, Australia and New Zealand. He is also a member of ISCA and CAANZ. His commitment to nurturing a passion for learning in children has driven him to grow his business to 20 centres under the Zoo-phonics School, Zoo-phonics Kindergarten and Safari House Preschool branding in Singapore and Malaysia.

Jonathan Yang — Co-Founder
The Daily Cut and Muchachos

Jonathan Yang — Co-Founder
The Daily Cut and Muchachos

Jonathan wanted nothing but to make a perfect burrito. This passion project led him to leave his job as a PR professional to start Muchachos. With the success of his first restaurant, he went on to start The Daily Cut, one of the first protein-focused salad bars in the days of its establishment. Today, The Daily Cut name is synonymous with healthy eating and serves the health-conscious office crowd in three locations.


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