Today we have the huge privilege of interviewing Raymond Ng, my personal friend and business mentor. He is also the esteemed founder of Rise of the Small entrepreneurship series.
Raymond is the CEO of GetFunding, and has been certified by the Singaporean government as a Practising Management Consultant. In the past 10 years, he has assisted well over thousands of companies in their funding pursuits for business expansion.
Raymond shares in this interview his business insights, upcoming book, and business philosophy. Enjoy the interview!
TH: Hi Raymond! Can you tell us more about yourself and what you are doing?
Hi Wan Wei, thank you for having me!
I help companies raise funds by examining and redesigning their business models. As a background, I am a big history fan. I read a lot about Chinese, European and general world history. I am interested also in Western and Chinese philosophy.
These hobbies really help me do whatever I am doing now effectively, which can basically be described as such: Companies before they raise funding have to redesign their business model before they would be considered by the investors.
Take for example, there are now 2 restaurants. For discussion sake, let’s assume that they are both selling the same food – Chicken Rice. Food quality is basically comparable, they are just as delicious.
However, one of the restaurants has different business model. It issues loyalty cards to loyal customers. As a result, this restaurant receives hundreds of thousands of deposits in advance. This restaurant then uses this hundreds of thousands to open a new branch. When the new branch is open it can repeat the same process of receiving deposits by issuing loyalty cards to the customers.
The other restaurant that does not have the business model of issuing loyalty cards, would not be able to expand at all. As their their monthly revenue would be just sufficient to pay for their expenses plus a bit of profit. While it may be profitable now, their fate in this competitive economy may be uncertain and when there is a switch of market, it may not have enough finances to stay afloat.
Investors would be very attracted to invest in the restaurants that issue loyalty cards to expand. Their investment would then be used to duplicate this model to other countries. This loyalty card issuing restaurant would have a higher chance of scalability and listing in the stock exchange.
So there is only one difference between this loyalty card issuing business model of chicken rice and the other non loyalty card issuing business model of chicken rice – one can grow to a value of hundreds of millions while the other has a value of a million.
Business model design is crucial in defining value. So many people miss out on this step.
TH: We know that you have a keen interest towards Chinese philosophy, and the book of change. Can you tell us a little more about how this interest started?
Raymond: When I was young, actually my Chinese was not that good. Until the point of time when I liked to read Chinese comic books. I read hundreds, if not thousands, of comic books that my Chinese inevitably improved to the stage that I aced all my Chinese examinations all the way from Primary School to College level Chinese.
After I read so many Chinese comic books, the Chinese taught by schools became ridiculously simple to me. After that, I upgraded to reading Chinese literature, historical novels, historical records and incredibly sophisticated philosophical books.
I have been reading Chinese works for the past 35 years of my life. The last major work in Chinese philosophy and literature would be the Chinese Book of Changes. I could not have appreciated the work if not for my last 35 years of reading Chinese works. Chinese Book of Changes provide holism to how I think about life and about business. It shapes how I think business should be run, and therefore shapes how they should raise funding.
TH: What is the link between the Book of Change and business?
Raymond: The central concept of the Book of Changes can be summarized as follows:
What is in line with nature would be advantageous for us to do. What is not in line with nature would not be advantageous for us to do.
It taught me to look at the business from the viewpoint of what market problem is that business solving. If that business solves no market problem, there is really no point in wasting precious capital on a project that has no market need.
In the case where the market need is unknown, it is therefore crucial for us to know how best to elucidate the market need, and it often requires a very creative mind.
TH: How do you think understanding the book of change would give a businessman an edge over someone who has no understanding of the book of change?
Raymond: Using layman terms to explain this, a businessman who understands the Book of Change would achieve their aims more easily and faster. However, a businessman untrained in Book of Change, may go on a longer path to achieve the same aim.
Book of Changes has been read by Head of States to rule over their country. Surely, a businessman reading it would have advantages over someone who has yet to read it and to understand it.
TH: We know you have met a lot of clients in your funding career. Can you share with us some of the most unreasonable clients you have met?
Raymond: Well, the most unreasonable clients assume the best of their business models, and they assume that if someone has money and gets to know about their projects, they have to reasonably invest in their projects.
They assume too much and too good about their own project. They think that their projects have no flaws. When investors give a fair criticism of their business model, they flared up and got angry.
I really do not like to deal with these rude clients.
TH: How about some of the better clients?
Raymond: The better clients would listen to what I have to say about their business model. When I ask them to change, they would implement it. They would report to me about the findings of testing the new business model.
TH: We know that you are also the chair of Rise of the Small talks. What inspired you to host this talk?
Raymond: I host this talk as a means of my corporate and social responsibility. It is to make aware of the concerns of entrepreneurs and also the problems faced during fund raising.
After people understand more about it, they would have a more informed path of how to move forward.
TH: We hear about your upcoming book! Can you tell us more about it?
Raymond: The title is “Rise of the Small”. It would be a book that talks about designing business model that are in line with market need. By using some of the principles of the book, you can grow business quickly with or without investors’ funding.
The business model would be more capable of growing and at the same time can benefit further with investors’ funding.
TH: What do you think about the state of entrepreneurship in Singapore?
Raymond: I think entrepreneurs in Singapore rarely think about the bigger concerns of the world at large. In a way this affects how the capital market would react to their businesses.
They are a little lacking in holism and as a result often meet with serious problems during funds raising.
TH: On a parting note, do you have any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Raymond: Focus on the numbers (specifically revenue)–nothing beats reality check by keeping an eye on your revenue.
Big examples that raise a lot of money all have revenue. Like Uber, Dropbox, etc. Admittedly, they might be loss-making, but they do have revenue.
Revenue is a sign of market catchment, and that is instrumental in informing the investors that you deserve to receive investment.
We hope you’d enjoyed the interview with Raymond! Feel free to follow him on Facebook. Photos courtesy of Raymond.