Bryan Tay, 37, founder of Miracle Hair Expert, says his constant concern for his mane, which his mother once remarked threatened to break the mirror, led him to realise there could be people losing hair and in need of assistance. JESSIE LIM writes.
It’s said that you started working at age 10?
I came from a poor family background in Malacca. My grandparents and parents constantly advised me to study hard if I wanted to change my life. So not only did I study hard from primary and secondary school, and all through university, I also wanted to help ease my parents’ financial burden.
I decided to work to earn a little side income. I worked at a cocoa plantation plucking cocoa pods, I cleaned houses, planted trees at a tourism area and waited tables.
Low self-esteem doesn’t seem to be a problem to you. How did you overcome that?
There was a bit of that because of my background. People kept comparing me to others, and the only way to change that was to study and work hard. It’s not uncommon that when you have achieved something, people will give you the recognition. It is through the compliments and recognitions that I built my confidence.
Now, I make sure to recognise and encourage my staff for jobs well done, as I believe this helps them to perform better and feel good about themselves.
How did you get into the haircare and treatment business?
There was a time when I was selling haircare products. I didn’t think of why I wanted to sell them. All I wanted was to earn an income. But as I continued to sell, I noticed that there was actually an opportunity for the haircare business to grow because it was still a niche market back then.
Another factor was my constant concern for my hair. My mother would always tell me that the mirror would break someday because I looked at it so often. My concern for my hair has also made me realise that there could be people who were losing hair and were in need of a treatment.
What was your biggest challenge in starting the business?
Capital. I’ll admit that it’s no easy feat to sustain once you’re in the business. Every month it was difficult to cover what was spent, and within half a year I was facing problems. I was struggling to keep the business going.
What has been your formula?
I have always applied the principles of ancient warfare strategies from the Chinese drama series, The Three Kingdoms, to my business situations. How you manage the country is like how you manage the company. Your generals represent the management of the company, and your soldiers are your staff. The business capital is the food that needs to be given to the soldiers and their horses before they go to war.
In addition, I also believe that you need to have both intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ). In business, you need to constantly be able to calculate your profits and losses and analyse the figures accurately so you are able to make informed decisions. You also need to know how to deal with people – staff and customers. Take care of your staff, always motivate them and know how to manage their differences.
Make your customers happy by giving them a good experience and taking care of their needs.
What are some lessons you have learnt in business?
Problems and solving them is a part of life. Never take problem-solving as a problem because it will then take up too much of your time and energy till it hinders you from moving forward. What I’ve learnt is that your dreams need to be bigger than the problems.
Often, we perceive our problems to be bigger, which overshadows our dreams, or we place our problems right in front of us, blocking out our dreams. That’s when we fail to progress. Always make sure you don’t lose sight of your dreams.
Problems will always occur. You just need to solve them as you go along.
Also, from what I have observed, before any good thing comes there is a great challenge. And it is the challenge that will make you feel down or want to give up. But we need to face it positively, and then the outcome will be that much more rewarding.
Also remember that when a challenge comes to us, it’s a time to learn.
The pathway of an entrepreneur is like climbing a staircase. The business staircase has a lot of uneven steps unlike a real staircase. This means that in business, there are many changing situations, which is why we need to be adaptable to these situations in order to keep moving up.
Do you have one principle that you stick by?
“How to be better, and what’s next?” From experiences, I have learnt that I need to frequently ask myself this. We need to always ask ourselves how we can constantly improve, and what is going to be the next step to get closer to our goals.
Being a leader, you need to constantly motivate the people around you. What’s your source of motivation?
Dreams are what keep me going. Don’t stop, keep on expanding them. From a haircare and treatment business, we are preparing to venture into the slimming and beauty skincare line.
I also do reality checks. I look at other people who have achieved so much, to see how far they’ve come, and remind myself that if they can get there, then I can too. Last but not least, it is from within that I seek positivity. I’m always reminding myself to stay positive every day because if you’re positive, then you will attract positive things.
How do you see your competitors?
We have market leaders and also upcoming businesses. I believe Miracle Hair Expert is somewhere in between. I don’t really see the market leaders, or competitors, as competition but a benchmark for us to constantly learn from to push, grow and improve ourselves. They are good at what they do. It’s healthy competition. I don’t see them as hindrances to our growth.
What’s your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
When you start a business, make sure to operate within your means. If you have limited resources, then start small and choose a niche market. If you start in a big market, the market leaders will crowd you out as they already have a strong footing in the industry.
So get into an industry that you can focus on. Once your business is successful, then go and expand it. Being ambitious is good but don’t forget that you need to start from scratch. Be real.
Last but not least, stay positive. Obstacles, rejections and challenges may bring you down but as long as you stay positive, your mind will see possibilities for solutions and progress.
What are you afraid of?
One word that describes you: Positive.
Chicken rice balls.