Making mistakes is inevitable. What’s important is that you learn from it. Tan Yong Meng, 26, CEO of We Build Easy, tells LIM WING HOOI, that’s how he started his company, which specialises in interior design works with pre-planned templates.
What got you interested in the interior design and construction industry?
Prior to starting my first year at university, I did an internship at a medium-sized construction company, and that’s where my interest took off. I was intrigued and fascinated by the process of seeing a home come together, as I learned under a senior supervisor.
In 2010, when I was about to complete my degree in commerce, I started a renovation company (which is still operational today) with a partner who has over 30 years of experience in the construction industry. We began by building a dog kennel and a two-and-a-half-storey house.
But things did not go well, and we have since evolved into a business that offers interior design with pre-planned design templates. For this, we established a new company called We Build Easy in November 2015.
What happened to bring about this change?
The biggest issue for any contractor would be cash flow, where you have to use the money received to start a project. If you have three projects, and you cannot recoup payment from one of them, difficulties ensue.
Clients would only pay when work was completed, and only then would suppliers get payment, so you had to be very disciplined in controlling this, ensuring all your suppliers were paid on time. However, there was a client who was not happy with the progress, and we stopped working on the project.
But we still had suppliers who had to be paid for the work that was done. The easiest way was, of course, to close down the company, but I felt we had to do it the responsible way, so we negotiated the payment terms with our suppliers in order to pay them back in stages.
What did you learn from this?
I realised the business was not sustainable. In construction, there are too many factors you can’t control, as well as changes — all of which can lead to cost overruns and delays. So I was thinking, “How can we fix it with some degree of customisation, as well as allow clients to visualise the desired changes on paper?”
We Build Easy was formed to do this, focusing only on interior design and building for the interior space. Beginning with a website (www.webuildeasy.com), we put in various interior design templates for bedrooms, kitchens, etc, except for bathrooms where there are major wet works involved.
Why do you feel there is a market for this?
Not only is our home our biggest life investment, it’s also our biggest private space where memories are made. We all deserve peace of mind when it comes to our dream home taking shape.
About 85% of homeowners are excited and can’t wait to move into their dream home, but towards the end of the renovation process, you sometimes see owners who are frustrated; tired faces who had just gone through endless hassle or nightmare.
Some of the issues they face include cost overruns, project delays, shoddy workmanship and unreliable service. I strongly feel that home design and renovation need not be an intimidating and time-consuming affair.
What is your business model?
We provide design templates for free. From the design, we allow homeowners to customise the colours of the furniture, flooring, curtains and wallpapers.
When they like what they see, they can place a fully refundable booking fee and we would send our renovation consultants to visit their home to get an accurate measurements and to run through the project checklist.
A final quotation reflective of the changes and measurements would be issued thereafter. After payment is made via our payment options, our team (which includes suppliers and other contractors in our panel) gets the project started, and there are constant updates on the online customer monitoring system.
Our future plans include allowing homeowners to drag and drop the furniture of their choice onto the design templates. In a nutshell, outfitting a property is made as simple as shopping online. We are also working on ensuring the consistency of every single project with our standardised processes and also ability to scale to expand our operational limits.
Who are your clients and what are the challenges in this business?
Our clients consist of first-time homeowners (mostly Gen Y) who have no experience in home renovation, foreigners who wish to renovate but do not know where to turn, and budget-conscious homeowners.
What do you do to relax?
I love scuba diving. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family.
What is your philosophy in life?
There are no problems that are too big to handle. Break it down into smaller bits and overcome them one by one. Remember, everything begins with the first step!