Salvo Global is a Singapore startup in the business of providing business intelligence through well-researched masterclasses, conferences, and summits. Despite the intense competition, the company has established a strong position in the B2B events industry, with market presence in Asia Pacific (APAC), Africa, and the Middle East. In line with Salvo’s sixth birthday celebration in July this year, directors Gale Ong and Felicia Kaw share six lessons from Salvo’s journey with our readers and aspiring entrepreneurs:
Lesson 1: Know your value proposition.
You should not set up a business without knowing clearly what your value proposition is. We truly believe in what Salvo has to offer, we know this is something meaningful and that we are making a difference. This is what keeps us going.
Lesson 2: There is opportunity in every adversity.
Salvo was badly hit by the financial crisis in 2008 when clients either tightened training budgets or cut them out altogether. Many of our smaller competitors were forced to exit and it became so bad at one point that we nearly had to fold up the business too. At that time, we were only running APAC events so we decided to seek opportunities elsewhere. That was when Salvo ventured into Africa.
When we first started running events in Africa, nobody wanted to sell them. We had to persuade and take turns to stay late together with the sales team. Now the reverse is true. This shows that all it takes is a change in mindset. There is opportunity in every adversity, but you must be open to finding it.
Lesson 3: Entrepreneurship is a long-term commitment.
The key difference between being an employer and an employee is that for the former, you cannot simply fold up the business when you feel like it because there are people are depending on you for their livelihoods. During the 2008 crisis, there were employees preparing for the arrival of their newborn, as well as others who were getting married. It would be hard for them to find another job under those economic conditions if Salvo were to close, so we went without pay in order to pay our employees.
Lesson 4: People and their values are everything.
At Salvo, we believe that it is the people who make or break the company, especially their values. We had to ask a top salesperson to leave because he did not have the right values. On the other hand, we help employees achieve their potential and it gives us satisfaction to see their transformation, when they gain tremendous self-confidence and progress onto managerial roles within the company.
Lesson 5: You cannot afford to stay stagnant.
In this industry, we need to stay updated on the latest business trends. Moreover, the business environment is always full of risks. In fact, the company had been doing so well in 2007 that there were plans to set up another branch by the end of that year, then the crisis hit in 2008. As an entrepreneur, you need to stay vigilant and sensitive to changes in the macro-environment.
Lesson 6: See past the profits.
Aspiring entrepreneurs have to be willing to see past the profits. Your business may not (and most probably will not be) profitable from Day 1. It takes a lot of commitment, and boldness to make tough decisions. Even in profitable times, we emphasize on making sure that everyone prospers together. We would rather earn less but have happy employees. We also strongly believe in giving back to the community and we have employees spearheading these giving back initiatives.
Salvo Global plans to diversify into more markets and products, and possible setting up a second office in the near future. Here’s wishing Gale and Felicia all the best in their pursuits!