Meeting Their Match
A good match at the workplace is equally important as a good match in marriage. In fact, after a good day at work, we’re unlikely to bring nasty baggage home to unload on our significant other. That makes everybody happy. The Business Advisors Program (BAP) is one professional matchmaking scheme that has shaped some happy outcomes in unhappy times.
Launched in July 2009, the BAP was a response to the global economic crisis that was putting many Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) out of work. A joint initiative by the NUS Business School Alumni Association and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), the scheme matches and deploys NUS PMET alumni to SMEs run by NUS Alumni for short-term consulting assignments averaging six months.
Suzanne Ng (BArts 1991) was pleasantly surprised at how well the BAP program matched her with a local SME. As one of Asia’s leading spa consultants, Suzanne had established Conceptasia Management and Consultants Inc and opened more than 15 spas around the world, many of them having won awards. Formerly based in Hong Kong, she had moved to Singapore to deliver her daughter in February 2009. The financial crisis occurred then. With her consulting projects put on hold, she decided to respond to the BAP advertisement. Within a week, she was matched with Citibella Group, a beauty, grooming and hairstyling chain home-grown in Singapore, and run by a husband and wife team. “It was superb timing and I enjoyed the match. Ivan Lim, BAP’s Program Director, did a great job in matching us,” she enthuses.
“The beauty and wellness industry usually doesn’t have a lot of professionals from NUS, or local people with expertise in the sector. While I can’t say how big a difference I made to the whole picture, I believe I helped by giving them ideas, and standards and benchmarking data to think about”, Suzanne explains. She says that while the company was deeply focused on cash flow and sales, it also needed more attention to its operations and bottom line. So Suzanne pitched in to help. “For example, they needed to plan ahead on hiring extra resources, such as the beauticians or masseuse, to meet the sales, and I helped work out a plan,” she elaborates. “It was a good fit,” she sums up the match, saying that she is still closely involved in Citibella’s growth even though she has finished her assignment there. “I believe in continued follow-up even after finishing a project with the client.”
At PBA (S) Pte Ltd, a one-stop engineering solutions provider specializing in several sectors of the automation industry, Derrick Yap (BBA 2003), its Regional Manager, felt he needed a better logistics and warehouse management system. “We wanted to upgrade our mindset and management style to be closer to that of high-standard MNCs.”
In stepped Sunil Pradhan (MBA 2003), a supply chain and logistics professional with many years of operations and general management experience. He explains, “PBA’s requirement was a good match with my skills in managing projects and driving change, and my industry experience. The focus was to improve the logistics and supply chain processes of PBA’s Singapore and Malaysian offices.” But even a perfect match has its share of challenges. “My task involved change management and, even with top management support, getting complete buy-in at all levels was a challenge at times as it is with many organizations”. Derrick echoes the sentiment. “Our company took pains to make sure that staff warm up to the consultant. It takes both hands to clap, and change is always the hardest thing to administer. Top management paid special attention to giving the consultant the support that he required to make things move, and purposely made it very blatant that we and the consultant were on the same page”.
The effort seems to have paid off. Sunil believes “We managed to make significant process improvements to many areas of the business. We laid the ground work and started implementing projects that will carry on for the next few quarters.”
Derrick paid sterling tribute to the match. “Ivan did a really good job in matchmaking us. Other than just consulting, Sunil rolled up his sleeves and went to the warehouse to show the guys how things are done. He also conducted training for the staff so that they would have some skill sets to carry out their work. Sunil helped pave the way and opened the door to the road that we want to travel on. We are heading in the right direction, thanks to the foundation set and the transfer of skill sets”.
“It’s difficult to talk to the wall and to myself,” reveals Boey Chern Yue (NUSBSA Affiliate Member), Managing Director of THREE60 Inc Pte Ltd, an Asia-based business consultancy with core competencies in sales, marketing and channel management. So he looked for a sparring partner and found someone who “provided different perspectives when solving a problem and was a good sounding board during brainstorming. When we sit down and brainstorm, he would throw questions such as “Have you thought of this, is this the best way?’ Brainstorming is a critical aspect of our work. We need people to spar ideas with. So the challenge is to find a sparring partner now that I am running my own business”. Chern Yue is so pleased with the way things have worked out that he hopes the consultant could stay even after the BAP’s assigned duration. “I suppose it depends on whether he gets another job outside, or if he’s willing to freelance,” Chern Yue muses.
Working for SME’s in this BAP matching program has been an eye-opening experience for many PMETs. Sunil sums it up as he says, “The experience that I gained during the program has given me a good view on the challenges that SMEs face and how the dynamics of consulting in smaller companies can sometimes be rewarding”.
More Information Read about the BAP Program