Alvin and I met slightly more than two years ago.
We were invited to a coffee session by Entrepreneurs’ Organization to learn more about it and the application criteria.
I was drawn by the name of his company and in typically kay-poh fashion, did a quick google about his business the minute we said goodbye at coffee club.
Since then, I have been following him closely on Facebook and is impressed at the things he has been involved with since.
From online educational products to conducting his premium training, to become a player in the competitive health supplements industry, he is bringing success (no pun intended) into everything he sets his mind on.
Obviously, it wasn’t an ability he has in his DNA. It took many hard knocks and wrong turns for him to reach where he is today:
1. Please share a bit about what you do.
I’m the CEO and co-founder of SuccessVantage. We specialise in selling products online.
We mainly sell two types of products, educational “How To” kind of information products in the form of ebooks, audio or video training.
And in the last two years, we’ve expanded into manufacturing and selling our brand of health supplements.
With 95% of our clients come from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
I’m also the proud father of my 11-month-old daughter.
A simple man, my life just revolves around SuccessVantage and my family, with these 2 taking up virtually 99% of my time.
2. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Interestingly enough. I’ve always wanted to be a business person.
I remember looking at those skyscrapers and watching shows as a kid about those big businesses and people in suits.
And how I wished I would own a big building one day.
So I count myself very lucky to be doing what I wanted to do.
However, am still working towards having SuccessVantage own a building. 😉
3. What were you doing before starting this business?
I was still studying at Singapore Management University(SMU) when I started this business.
I had to juggle both school and business. Business was more exciting and hence my grades were significantly affected.
After graduating, I went all in and started hiring and building my team.
4. How did the idea for your business come about?
It was during my 2nd year in SMU that it all happened.
I was looking after an ex-girlfriend as she was sick and just surfing the internet in the middle of night.
I read about how others could use the internet actually to make money.
I was hooked. I bought an ebook that taught me how to make money selling stuff on eBay.
I followed the steps and was fortunate to earn $2000-3000 every month after that.
That got me hooked, and I started dabbling more and explored new ways to scale it up.
And eventually, the steps and systems evolved to be what SuccessVantage is today.
5. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Firstly I would not say I am successful entrepreneur yet.
In the grand scheme of things, we are but a mere ant in the industry.
Financially yes I am comfortable.
But I know there is still a long way to go, and there are much greater heights I would love to scale.
During the early years long hours were put in to make the business work and more profitable.
I remember 18 hour days and overnighters at the office. We hustled like mad; eat, sleep and breathed the office.
Some strained personal relationships with friends and loved ones.
To be good at your craft, you need to put in the hours practising.
But I’m glad I put in those sacrifices in the early years because now I do enjoy some of the fruit.
I believe in balance now, and while I am all about performance, I also ensure that I spend both quality and a good quantity of time with my family and loved ones.
After all, what is the point of business success if there are no loved ones or family to enjoy it with.
[Tweet “What is the point of business success if there are no loved ones to enjoy it with – Alvin Huang”]
6. How did you get funded?
Because of the nature of my business, no huge capital was required, and I was self-funded right from the start.
I used the profits I made while still studying to finance and grow the company.
7. How do you go about marketing your business?
We market our products in 2 ways.
One is using an affiliate marketplace platform called Clickbank.
We place our products on Clickbank, and this allows other people to promote our products as an affiliate and earn a commission.
We have been relatively successful with this and affiliates make up a good 40% of the revenue that we receive.
We also buy advertising from Facebook and other websites.
A lot of our efforts is geared towards lead generation as we prefer to look long term and cultivate the prospects over a period for better conversion.
8. Could you describe your first sale?
The system I learnt back then was all about buying licenses to ebooks to resell them.
And listing it on eBay (Those days you could, now you can’t) to sell.
I bought a pack of 10 licenses. Placed it on eBay and made my first sale of US$3.99.
It wasn’t much. But it validated that the system worked, and I realised it was just a numbers game from there on.
List more products, get more exposure on eBay and end up selling more.
9. Describe/outline your typical work day?
I wake up at 6 am and head for my daily jog/workout. I get back and then plan out the to-do list for the day.
To maximise my time, I listen to audio books and training on the drive to the office.
That could range from 20 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the traffic.
Once in the office, I typically start off the mornings with daily huddles (Learnt from Verne’s Scaling Up book) with my management team and marketing team.
These are quick stand-up meetings where each person gives a quick update on what they are working on or list potential issues and challenges that might be hindering them from doing their job. 1 of such meetings typically takes 5-10 minutes.
They have proven to be essential and useful after we implemented them two years ago.
And then I have the other meetings with the other specific teams. Like the customer support head, traffic team or even copywriting partners overseas, etc.
The meetings typically end by 11 and then I get back to working on my to-do list.
Which is a cocktail of planning future projects, and spending time training and coaching various individuals and teams to perform better.
I’ve come to realise that I am only one person. And the better, smarter and more capable my team is, the more we can do as a company.
10. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
There hasn’t been any specific proudest moment.
But I am proud, or maybe more so happy whenever I know that I have built an environment where my team is happy to work at.
So whenever I hear that laughing and enjoying their job, I am happy.
11. What was the lowest point for you in this business?
It was early this year. I’m super aggressive by nature and when things are on a roll. I tend just to go all out.
So while I was watching the sales and revenue figures, I forgot to cover my ass. I forgot to look at our expenses.
I thought that I had a war chest that would last forever. Obviously, we all know that’s not true.
So I over expanded and miscalculated some key numbers, and we were in bad shape in January. We made a loss in January.
We never incurred a monthly loss before. And it hurt our financials, and I had to analyse and pinpoint the reason why.
I found out that the root problem was a bad partnership that we had with an overseas partner. And that had resulted in higher expenses and lower revenue for a while now.
That overseas partner was a good friend and because when times were good, we didn’t see that problem.
And when the sales numbers for that partnership came down, the truth of the reality came to light. I was blindsided and didn’t realise how disadvantageous the partnership was.
I bit the bullet and took steps to dissolve that partnership in March.
I learnt to monitor key ratios and numbers better now. I watch my expenses super carefully now.
Ground my teeth and ploughed back my energy to get us back on track. And I’m glad that within two months, we were back on top.
This further reminded me that nothing is unsolvable.
And that even in the direst of situations, we can turn the ship around. Just as long as we can stomach the medicine.
12. What’s your revenue numbers over the past year?
We did 4.9 million last year.
13. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My mother. She’s my role model in life and works ethic.
She started off working as a nurse, rose through the ranks to manage nursing homes for others. And now runs 2 of her nursing homes.
Without fail, she wakes up at 5 am every day and goes to work.
Rain or shine she’d be there attending to her patients in her nursing homes.
She’s shown me first-hand that if you put your heart and soul and work hard, you can achieve anything you want.
Plus…how despite reaching the goals she’s set for herself.
She doesn’t take it for granted. And still, puts in the heart and hours in her work.
Consistency. That’s her.
14. If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him?
Nothing. He’d be too naive and arrogant to listen.
Plus honestly, I’m glad how life panned out from then.
Sure there are ups and downs, but it has all turned out pretty well.
No regrets. Cannot have it better.
15. What’s your business focus for this year?
- Systemization to increase efficiency between my teams and lower reliance on the team leaders.
- The pursuit of low hanging fruit, basically going after projects that are synergistic with our strengths and current portfolio. It’s boring. It’s not sexy. It’s not groundbreaking. But these are projects which have a high probability of yielding profit. And almost zero probability of making a loss.
- Attract and training of talent.
16. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Mine is very simple. Always have a to-do list for the day.
Do it the night before or early in the morning. Whenever I have that, I have more direction for the day and don’t waste time thinking about what to do.
Or I don’t get sidetracked that much and end up not doing something I needed to do.
Plus the psychological effect of crossing out tasks is great.
It further reaffirms and encourages you to work on getting the rest done.
Days, where I forget to create a to-do list, are ALWAYS guaranteed to be unproductive days.
Having a to-do list for the day efficiently improves my productivity by 37%. Try it.
17. Is there an app or tool you can’t live without?
Evernote. I do a lot of planning and note taking on it across my mobile, home computer and office computer.
Ensures that I don’t miss a thought.