Today’s Business Movers: Lessons On Running A Small Business

By FedEx | May 13, 2021

In our new series ‘Today’s Business Movers’, we take a look at some of the real-life lessons from local business owners in Asia – and how participation in a FedEx-sponsored youth entrepreneurship contest helped them on their way.

At FedEx, we’ve been running a youth competition in partnership with Junior Achievement for school students in Asia Pacific for 14 years. Since then, hundreds of young finalists have risen through the academic and business ranks to become successful SMEs and start-ups. We dive into their stories to find out how today’s entrepreneurs are doing business – and the trends that SMEs can look to for inspiration.

Name: Dickey Tang, Managing Director/Founder

Business Sector: Communications and PR

Company Size: Small – 4 partners, 10 employees

Expertise: Storytelling and brand-building especially for ‘Gen Y’ aka millennials

Advising other companies and brands on their strategy and development – and building a business around it – is nothing new. Advisors and consultants to private businesses and governments have been in existence for centuries.

However, the recent upsurge in digital-first communication has led many businesses to seek advice on branding, digital marketing and more. Dickey Tang, a student competitor in the JA ITC competition in 2008, has founded his own Hong Kong-based PR firm - AGAIN Communications Ltd - and developed an entrepreneur training center called The Zone. After a decade in the business, he shares some compelling tips that small businesses can benefit from:
Lesson 1: Make the most of resources available.

Any new start-up or small business has an advantage over businesses gone by – free information.

One of Dickey’s tried and trusted tools for success? The internet. There is an overwhelming volume of free data – in the form of trend analysis, audience insights, consumer data and research - available online for free. For businesses looking to reach new international markets, this data can help you develop your business model, forecast and make projections, as well as help you decide who you want to target.

But according to Dickey, data isn’t everything: “Critical thinking and your organization’s ability to interpret data and use it your advantage is essential. After all, your competitors have access to the same information.”
Lesson 2: Stay primed for change.

Tang believes COVID-19 has caused disruption, but also created opportunity.

That meant pivoting to new services as quickly as possible. With regular business operations such as media relations and event planning no longer viable, his company moved to invest in digital marketing services and online events, employing video producers to offer content creation services to other businesses. One of the biggest business growth areas for his industry is support for virtual events and online meetings. Most new clients onboarded are now in the fast-growing e-commerce sector.

SMEs often have to make up their minds quickly, which isn’t easy. For Tang, smaller companies lack the ‘confidence cushion’ of bigger organizations supported by professional business consultants and a boards of advisors. That’s why he believes it’s important that management – however low in headcount - stand by their decisions and remain united in the face of risk or change.
Lesson 3: Don’t take talent for granted.

In Asia, businesses in mega-markets like China and India often have access to huge resources of manpower, and competition for roles can be fierce.

But smaller economies such as Singapore and Hong Kong are inundated with thousands of new companies registering each year – all with roles to fill.

Tang believes employing the right talent should be taken seriously. “More and more, employees are considering which company to join not on salary alone, but on the strength of company vision, potential business development, the people and workplace culture.”

To retain real talent, SME owners must be responsible for innovating to ensure their enterprise isn’t left behind in the sector or market. In Tang’s experience, employees leave when they see no future or growth potential.
Lesson 4: Partnerships are key to success in modern business.

Tang has seen a growing trend in business collaborations, platform and resource sharing and cross-border co-operation.

“After 13 years in the industry, I can tell the market is changing. From mass market to a smaller segmentation, no single company can own the heart of all audiences in the market.”

“It’s impossible for one company to capture all audience or market share. Through partnership and cooperation, two or more companies can share their skillset, experiences and market data to generate a bigger profit for all parties. Leveraging each other’s strengths saves a lot of time investment on technology, training and promotion.”

Looking to expand your cross-border business? Relying on partners in other markets can be the most effective way to succeed in a region that’s not your own.

Tang shares an example: “If you’re based in Hong Kong and trying to open a restaurant in Malaysia, doing research, recruitment, training, setup, promotion and graphic design from afar is really challenging.”

Working with a locally-based partner lowers your risk profile, but it’s not only about time and money. “Local culture and context can affect your business model – and sometimes can’t be understood by outsiders.”

One thing’s for sure: whether you’re starting or expanding your business, timely and right information and tools are essential. For the practical advice for stage of SME growth, why not check out the FedEx Small Business Center? And to access small business tips and COVID-19 business solutions, visit the FedEx dedicated SME trends section here.
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