From Managing Businesses To Starting His Own

Interview with Kelvin Loh, Director & Co-Founder at Corporate BackOffice

Kelvin was introduced by my ex-investor who had worked along with him when his family’s accounting business was acquired by Boardroom China.

We met at Prata Wala in Nex for a morning prata, and I can understand how Kelvin prospers for so many years in China.

He is a highly personable person. The kind that you met for the first time, but it is as if you have been friends with him for decades.

I was shortly invited to his TGIF event (more on this below) and manage to see how broad and profound his network is.

He seems to have a mega memory and can remember everyone by their first name.

It contrasts tremendously from what I was told about him being brash and strong-headed.

I guess it was the case as you can see from his answers to #14.

Moving away from corporate culture, Kelvin had made the leap to entrepreneurship.

I manage to get some of his time to help understand why he made a move and what’s next in his pipeline.

 

1. Please share a bit about what you do.

I am an Accountant by training. I worked my way up in the corporate ladder; my last position was the CEO of Kenko Holdings.

I stepped out of the Corporate world early this year to venture out on my own with two partners, to form a Corporate Services consultancy firm.

We provide CFO services, pre-incorporation business advisory, Company Formation, Corporate Secretarial, Accounting and Taxation, Payroll and HR Admin, and Training Workshops.

 

2. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid, I aspired to be doing things.

I like to value-add and make others’ lives different for the better.

Such as sharing knowledge with others to cut short their learning and at the same time making myself more useful to the society.

 

3. What were you doing before starting this business?

I spent my first three years post graduation doing public accounting and auditing, then as Financial Heads for the next 15 years as Regional Finance Controllers and Directors of multinational companies and large family businesses.

After that, I spent two years as Managing Director of Boardroom China, a similar Corporate Services firm in China whose Head Office is listed on the Stock Exchange in Singapore.

I moved on to be the Group Chief Executive Officer of a large local enterprise in Singapore, Kenko Holding Pte Ltd, overseeing its lifestyle and Food & Beverage divisions.

I walked out of the position as Group CEO early this year, to set up my practice.

 

4. How did the idea for your business come about?

I attended a 3-day Course last September on self-discovery.

In that course, I realised the journey in my life is all about the voyage of personal experiences up till the day I leave this world.

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I suddenly realised that I had experienced quite a lot of things in life-to-date, like being a son, a husband, father, an army officer, an Auditor, an Accountant, a CFO, a Managing Director, and a CEO.

However, I have not experienced being My Own Boss, serving people with whatever knowledge and expertise which I have gained all these years, and feel good about it.

Early this year, I chanced upon the opportunity when I met my current two partners who shared the same dream and passion. So we started our practice, and never looked back.

 

5. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

I don’t say I am successful nor anywhere near success. The only sacrifice I had was moving out of the comfort zone and stable source of income I previously had.

 

6. How did you get funded?

Funded using past savings. Fortunately, we did not burn much of our capital before we see positive cash flows.

We were lucky to be surrounded and blessed by good friends who are helpful and giving us good referrals.

We treasure every business prospect, and we did our best in every assignment given to us by our client, and we exceeded their expectations.

Words begin to travel around, and friends’ friends start to look for us.

 

7. How do you go about marketing your business?

We tried traditional way of referrals and networking, and lately, we are seeking to create awareness on social media, but we are still very elementary, and we are still trying to find our ways around to get it right.

For example, I started a professional networking platform some four years ago, called “TGIF” or stands for “To Generate Important Friendship” whereby I organise a monthly gathering for professional friends who bring along their business partners or associates.

I will introduce everyone to everyone to create value.

 

8. Could you describe your first sale and how it came about?

My first successful sale was through a friend’s referral, and I am thankful till today when I am thinking of it.

This friend was a headhunter, who headhunted me for a CFO job in China some 14 years ago.

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We kept in touch all these years and became a close friend.

Upon knowing that I just set up my practice, he introduced his friend, an Architect who owns her architect practice.

She became my first client and engaged my firm to look after the corporate services need of 3 of her companies under her.

This first case gave me the needed confidence to go all out and reach out to every prospective client.

 

9. Describe/outline your typical work day?

I start the day with a simple exercise ( jogging or TRX suspension training ), then have my breakfast, before visiting my dad who is wheelchair bound after his recent fall.

I would walk with him in the neighbourhood garden, taking in the sunlight and fresh air.

I would then usually start my day by meeting prospects, business partners, clients, etc. at 10 am, all the way till 6 pm.

I shall then spend some time in office after 6 pm to finish some admin and paperwork, like Proposals and emails, chats with my partners, and plan for next day.

 

10. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?

It would be the Trust I have from my partners and business associates.

The Trust that I can do it.

This is my proudest achievement because Trust is not an easy thing to gain.

 

11. What was the lowest point for you in this business?

There were many lowest points in my business.

Such as the rejections from potential business collaborators because my firm is still small and unknown.

Or the rejections from prospect clients as they only focus on the lowest quotation.

Sometimes we get a very small turnout at workshop event we organised and even abuse by existing customers.

However, we learnt from every lowest point by understanding the root issues and refocused our attention on eliminating the underlying problems to ensure they do not recur.

 

12. What’s your revenue numbers over the past year?

We just started this year, and we are still trying to explore different streams of income.

Our ideal is to reach minimum $50k income per month to be cruising comfortably. We are not there yet.

 

13. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

Clients and past network of friends.

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Eg, Ex Shanghai Director of IE Singapore, Ex Commercial Banking Head of UOB Shanghai, Ex Deputy President of Singapore-Shanghai Business Association, ex MD of Boardroom Limited, etc

 

14. If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him?

Be Humble.

When I was younger, I was self-centered and never listened to my seniors.

As a result, I learnt the hard and longer ways.

 

15. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?

It was Investment advice, whereby I put too much of my savings into one basket.

Lost all in all nearly $300,000 in the stock market!

 

16. What’s your business focus for this year?

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As much as we would like to diversify our revenue stream from different types of service offering, we would hope to re-focus to bring in more Recurring Businesses like Bookkeeping and Payroll Processing.

 

17. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?

Always jot down what, when and how much I want to do on my smart phone calendar, and always check on it every hour to ensure I have completed them.

 

18. Is there an app or tool you can’t live without?

WhatsApp and Linkedin.

Whatsapp is a powerful communication tool, especially for project group.

Linkedin is an excellent resource to tap, make enquiries and seek help from professionals who might have similar encounters.


Keen to learn more about Kelvin or Corporate BackOffice?

Website: www.corporatebackoffice.com.sg

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/CBOinSG/

LinkedIN: https://sg.linkedin.com/in/kelvin-loh-b734b228

Networking Facebook: https://mfacebook.com/tgifsingapore/

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.