Q+A with Benjamin Yeo, Managing Director of Urban Motors Pte Ltd
The stress levels were once too much for Benjamin Yeo, managing director of pre-owned car specialist Urban Motors [read my previous post about Urban Motors here], when he was just starting out the business at the age of 22, without any help from anyone. Four years on, he is much wiser and tougher, adopting a go-getter attitude and welcoming any challenge that comes his way.
Q: Why did you decide to start your own business?
A: I’ve always liked doing business and have started different small businesses here and there prior to this.
Q: Why did you choose to go into cars?
A: My father is dealing with cars, hence this trade is the easiest for me to start with. I grew up listening to my father talk about cars and from the age of 10 I would visit my father’s showroom every day. That was practically my playground!
Q: Does your father help you with the business?
A: Not at all. He has his own car business and I have mine.
Q: What do you think of the car trade in Singapore?
A: Singapore has a very unique market for cars, where cars depreciate over a standard timeline.
People will be forced to change cars because of this system, hence the market will never die. Here, we can’t buy cars that last forever and people will be forced to sell or scrap their cars. A car is one of the bigger investments in our lives.
Q: What were some of the struggles and challenges in the beginning?
A: I couldn’t take the stress. On the surface the business function of car trade seems straightforward, just buy and sell, but there are a lot more things that people aren’t aware of. For example, management problems, manpower issues, breach of loyalty and other trust-related things.
One big challenge we faced was instilling consumer confidence. In 2009 when we had our first showroom that could store up to 18 cars, we only had the funds to have an inventory of six cars, making the showroom look empty and quite sad. This same reason was also why I had difficulties hiring, as there were other dealers which had 100 cars for them to sell whereas I only had six.
Q: What was the lowest point for you?
A: It was sometime in mid-2010 when all my staff members left and it was just me at the helm. It was only for a few days thankfully, before I hired someone and then it was just the two of us for the rest of 2010.
Q: How did you overcome the difficulties?
A: It takes time and faith. You have to be patient and also keep holding on to your beliefs and dreams. It’s about finding the right people as well. People are the key assets in the business. Once I had a good team, I had the confidence to expand the business.
Q: How is it like being your own boss?
A: It’s my first time being a boss and starting out was definitely not easy. I was only 22 years old when I saw the opportunity to go into this business, at the time of the economic crisis in 2008. I remember there was one occasion when I broke down and even cried, because I could not take the stress.
Q: Did you ever have any regrets?
A: Although I was facing high stress levels, I never had any regrets. I was too busy and snowed under to even think about regrets!
Q: How have all these experiences mould you?
A: All these have definitely changed me and made me stronger so as to better take the obstacles in life. Now, I welcome challenges and I make sure that I solve every problem. I emphasise on delivering customer service excellence and making every customer count.
My outlook in life has also changed. I view things differently now – instead of thinking why did I take this step, I look at it and think of how I can improve it. To me, nothing cannot be resolved and the sense of satisfaction from overcoming the hurdles is overwhelmingly good. These are important values and lessons in life that money cannot buy and people cannot teach, but for you to learn for yourself.
Urban Motors Pte Ltd
61 Ubi Avenue 2
#01-10 / #02-20
T: +65 6747 1110 / +65 6841 1110