From securing government funding to running much publicized events such as Singapore's first zombie run, Celebrity Trainer is on a good run. Its founder Brandon Lee shares his views on building a business and new relationships with potential partners.
Can you tell us a bit about how you started the business?
Lee: While I was writing music and recording an album, I trained as a freelance personal trainer in my spare time. I realised there was space for a business to help people look for trainers online and I managed to get SG$15,000 in funding from the Singapore government to set it up. We’ve since moved away from matching trainers to potential clients towards events management. We established Singapore’s first zombie run in 2013, which was a big success. We now organize sports events such as 5K runs as well as other non-sport events since, such as product activations for brands such as Desperados beer. We also run web design and development businesses to support the main business and take on new clients. These businesses are both self-sustaining now.
What aims do you have for the businesses?
Lee: I’m hoping to get someone in to manage the business day-to-day. I don’t aspire for it to grow to become a giant company though. I want to diversify the business too.
What challenges does the company face as it grows?
Lee: Getting the right people on our team is important. When you’re small and starting out you can’t afford to make many mistakes. So we are careful about recruitment. We give people a trial to see if they fit and put them on a three-month probation after that. Cash flow is a challenge too. Clients pay us on intervals of 30, 60 or 90 days but we need money up front. To avoid having to take out loans we’ve created our own ticketed events to keep money coming in so we can fund the next event. We also charge clients event management fees.
What is your approach to networking? And how would you prefer a potential business partner to approach you?
Lee: We tend to do business through recommendations and often opportunities will come via emails. I don’t do a lot of networking. Sometimes a client will invite me to events but I think the best way to get new business is to keep the clients you have by doing a great job and by getting recommendations as a result. At the back of my mind I tend to think of networking as something where people have an agenda and that makes them a bit more guarded.
What is your most effective tip for driving sales?
Lee: I prefer not to do a hard sell, to be as honest and genuine as possible and simply do the best job I can for the client. The aim is to be in a situation where you need them and they need you. It also means knowing when to say ‘no’. If we can’t properly carry out a job I will be honest and tell them so.
What is your most effective tip for improving your productivity?
Lee: We use project management called Asana, which is really useful. We use it to sign up customers and keep track of all the deadlines.
What do you think of business card management services such as Sansan?
Lee: It sounds interesting. At the moment we collect name cards and put them in a holder. It would be interesting to see how the service works.