Mr Lim credits his success to his ability to identify a niche market and trends, and keep ahead of the competition. 'I don't believe in keeping one step ahead, but at least a few steps,' he says. -- ST PHOTO: DELON HO
NEWLY listed Kitchen Culture has this tip for budding companies chasing the same listing dream: Get your business fundamentals right first.
Mr Lim Wee Li, its chairman and chief executive, said: 'Focus on your core business and build from the ground up... It's crucial to the success of every business. Get your brand positioning right and make sure that (you) deliver good customer (service).'
In an interview with The Straits Times, the 45-year-old dished out the secrets of his success as a luxury kitchen supplier. The Singaporean drew experiences from his company's journey from a small and medium-sized enterprise to a listed company.
Mr Lim achieved the goal last year when he launched an initial public offering (IPO) with an offer of 17 million shares at 30 cents apiece, raising net proceeds of $3.7 million.
The home-grown brand specialises in selling and distributing premium imported kitchen systems, appliances, wardrobe systems, household furniture and accessories from Europe and the United States. It has also fitted such systems in several new upmarket condominiums.
Its set-ups are tailored to fit customers' lifestyles, and can cost anything from $10,000 to more than $1 million.
On why he wanted the company to be listed, Mr Lim said: 'It allows us to expand quickly... to source more suppliers, offering more to our clients.'
Being listed also gives added confidence to clients, he said.
The capital raised from the IPO has also allowed the company to recruit more talented staff such as designers. About 40 staff were hired after the listing.
'This allows us to be very departmentalised... we have a very strong service team to provide very good customer service, a strong marketing team that takes care of branding... something smaller competitors may not have,' Mr Lim explained.
The company is looking to expand into Hong Kong and China.
But the road to getting listed was not always smooth, Mr Lim said, recalling cash-flow and project financing issues. Also, negotiating with banks was not easy as the company was small.
From a one-man show in 1991 at the start, Kitchen Culture now has a market capitalisation of about $28 million and over 100 staff. It has four showrooms in Singapore, one in Kuala Lumpur and offices in Hong Kong.
Before listing, the company already had a string of accolades - including the Singapore Tourism Board's Singapore Service Star and The Business Times and KPMG's Enterprise 50.
Mr Lim, who is married to a spa owner, credits his success to his ability to identify a niche market and trends, and keep ahead of the competition. 'I don't believe in keeping one step ahead, but at least a few steps,' he said.
Maintaining good working relationships with clients, and training staff to improve service, efficiency and product knowledge, also contributed to his success.
'You need to have pride and passion in order to be inspired to grow your brand,' he added.