Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Going the extra mile pays off handsomely for SLP Int'l

This exemplary property agency does a lot more than merely bring buyer and seller together

SLP International Property Consultants Pte Ltd does something many of its ilk just don't. And it is this extra touch that has propelled the property agency into the ranks of Singapore's top SMEs.

SLP doesn't just bring buyer and seller together; it takes the trouble to find out what potential buyers want and how potential sellers can deliver.

Helmed by the husband-and-wife team of Stanley Yeo and Kain Sim, the outfit took off in 2001 with the objective of serving clients in the commercial and industrial property sectors. Notably, both of them had earlier helped developers and investors to acquire more than S$48 million worth of investment properties in Singapore; some A$383 million (S$471 million) worth of properties in Australia; and over £128 million (S$289 million) worth of properties in London.

So it carved a niche for itself by assisting developers in designing properties that meet the demands of the target market, recommending them potential land and buildings for development that have strong projected returns.

On the buyer or lessee side, SLP takes the initiative of going to them. Its marketing team visits SMEs at their premises so as to better understand their needs. This way, it can propose better facilities even before the client looks for it.

Over time, it will also be able to tell developers what sort of space will be in demand. Hence, SLP likes to work closely with developers right from the start.

The agency built its reputation right from the first project it secured, after facing its fair share of problems as a small outfit getting its first break. The job: assisting in the sale and development of a 265-unit light and clean industrial building in Bukit Batok.

The economic downturn back then, in 2001, naturally impeded the selling process. But SLP dug in and generated sufficient sales proceeds to assist the developer in funding the development. The project was completed on time without the developer suffering any major cash flow problems along the way.

Topping that, SLP managed to sell every unit over a period of 18 months for the project.

'To us, it was a very good record because back in 2001, no local industrial development of this size was able to achieve 100 per cent sale before temporary occupation permit was granted,' Ms Sim recalls.

This was also an important precursor to the many subsequent projects that SLP was to be involved in. But rising business drove the outfit into another wall: hiring people. Recruitment was a challenge because it was difficult to attract people to work for a relatively unknown company. SLP tackled the problem by offering on-the-job training to encourage people who did not have prior experience in the field to join the company. And it worked.

Having established a favourable business presence in the commercial and industrial property sectors, SLP diversified into residential property. By 2004, it was expanding beyond Singapore. Today, it has operations in Indonesia and China.

SLP has achieved many milestones. It sold out industrial office building Alexcia - where its head office is located - in just two months. Just recently, it broke the industry track record with the 100 per cent sale of Northstar, a 654-unit industrial building, within 15 months.

SLP is proud to have maintained its commitment to each project from the start till the end, regarding each project as completed only when every unit is sold. Because of that, SLP has become a well-recognised brand name for business space solutions within the industry. The confidence in SLP's expertise and dedication has brought in a continuous stream of clients, allowing the company to reinvest its earnings to fund its regional expansion.

In the residential property sector, in which SLP is a relatively new player, the company has also fared well. A living testimony of its achievement here is the recent three stunning blocks of DBSS (Design, Build and Sell Scheme) public housing apartments, Natura Loft, each standing at 40 stories high along Bishan Street 24.

Qingjian Realty Pte Ltd, one of China's leading developers, engaged SLP as its consultant in its first foray into property development in Singapore. Not only was SLP put in charge of the sale and marketing of the property but, more importantly, SLP contributed to the successful bid for the project by Qingjian, as well as the design and development of the housing project with its knowledge of the needs of the local population.

SLP's partnership with Qingjian seeks to change the local perception of public housing and property projects undertaken by mainland Chinese property developers. This partnership has also set a new benchmark in residential property value and quality.

On a walkthrough of the project's showroom with Ms Sim, we were impressed by the high quality of the materials used, the thoughtfulness of the spatial arrangements, and the environment-friendly design of the interior space and exterior landscaping.

Last November, SLP won the prestigious Enterprise 50 Award, a clear recognition of the company's successful approach to business and its strong growth potential in the coming years.

Looking ahead, SLP's owners are convinced that the only way for the company to grow is to venture into foreign lands. In 2004, it started searching actively for strategic partners locally and internationally to begin its expansion into the region, starting with the Indonesia market. Last October, SLP made its foray into the Chinese market amid the financial turmoil, beginning with the city of Shanghai.

'Despite the global financial crisis, our Shanghai office was able to break even in just two months. Now, we are in the process of opening the second branch in Shanghai,' Ms Sim says.

The founders also believe that the company is capable of fulfilling its targeted milestone of establishing 35 branches nationwide in China within the next 3-5 years.

Besides wanting to expand overseas, Mr Yeo and Ms Sim also want to grow the company from within. 'We have the vision to gradually move towards the next stage - to nurture the next generation of leaders in the company and to let key management staff become business owners,' Ms Sim says.

As a parting shot, she advises: 'You must dare to dream big dreams when starting a business. There will be plenty of setbacks and disappointments, but if you are passionate about what you are doing, you will be able to overcome the problems that come along your way.'

The writers are students of the NUS Business School

Source: Business Times, 29 Sep 2009

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