Attracting quality talent and upgrading management skills have helped homegrown company Ban Choon Marketing (Pte) Ltd keep in step with its business growth.

Since it was established in 1998, importer and distributor of fresh produce Ban Choon Marketing (Pte) Ltd has grown from less than 10 staff to 140 employees today. Today, the homegrown company has expanded its operations to include an Organic Division that imports and distributes organic produce, groceries and non-food products, and will soon move into importing fine foods as well.

With its robust business growth came the need for more human resources, though like most SMEs, the company found it difficult to recruit and retain quality talent.

"The general perception among young job seekers is that SMEs cannot offer the same career advancements and opportunities that MNCs can," explains Mr Joe Tan, Ban Choon Marketing's General Manager. "But in reality, working for an SME can offer young talents a fast track up the corporate ladder. And because SMEs are smaller, employees can see the direct impact they make on the company when they contribute effort and ideas."

To attract their desired candidates to take the company to the next level, Ban Choon Marketing turned to SPRING Singapore for support for its management associate initiative that is aimed at grooming and developing the careers of promising young graduates in high-growth local SMEs. Successful applicants - who are fresh university graduates- are put through a 12-month training programme, during which the company contributes substantial efforts to train, develop and mentor them in core capabilities related to its growth plans.

So far, Ban Choon Marketing has placed four management associates and two interns in 2013. "Apart from a fast-track career path, the other advantage of working in an SME like ours is a more casual and family-oriented working environment," says Mr Tan. "Employees are also given the opportunity to travel overseas to source for new products or to seek out new business partners."

Upgrading From The Top

While fresh talent helps to bring new ideas to the table. Ban Choon Marketing's senior management also makes it a point to upgrade their business skills and capabilities in order to be better leaders. With support from SPRING, Mr Tan is in the process of attaining his MBA at Singapore Management University.

"I studied economics, but this course provides me with a strong background in topics like finance, leadership, human resources and supply chain management. I try to apply this knowledge to become a better business leader," he says.

Similarly, Ban Choon Marketing's Finance Manager Ms Tan Chew Sian is enrolled in the Berkeley Nanyang Advanced Management Programme at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. In this programme, participants learn from internationally renowned faculty members and fellow classmates from diverse professional backgrounds. Not only does this equip them with an invaluable network, it also teaches the latest knowledge and skills required for competing in the global economy. After this programme, Ms Tan's role in Ban Choon Marketing's management team will slowly evolve from an operational one to a more strategic one.

The application process, says Mr Tan, is relatively simple. "We filled in a form and wrote a business proposal that explains how the grant would help our company."

Already, this human capital upgrading has made an impact on the company's employees and HR policies and systems. "The training benefits all of us personally, but at the same time, it also helps us to play a more effective and active part in augmenting the company's growth," Mr Tan enthuses. "We all feel a sense of ownership when our efforts drive the company forward." That in itself is an excellent tool for retaining quality talent.

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