I went to purchase the Sept issue of Pulses magazine after reading one of SG Musicwhiz’s posts, saying that Kingsmen was featured in the magazine. Buying it turned out to be a good idea.
The article featured an interview with the founders of Kingsmen, Simon Ong and Benedict Soh. I liked a few of the points brought up in the article. I would summarise them as below and also add some of my personal views after the “–>”. My personal views may seem too optimistic to some. This may be because I’m a shareholder. So, exercise prudence when reading the post.
- Both the founders hold 24.6% of the company. –> Insider holding is great and shows that the management is interested in the company by having a substantial stake in it.
- From the beginning, Kingsmen sought to stand out through its professionalism. Mr Soh said, “In our kind of services, at the lower level, it’s a dime a dozen – and we admit that. The entry level is rather low. You don’t need a professional degree. But a lot of people claim to be designers when they are not trained”. –> This shows honesty from the management as he agrees that this industry has low barriers to entry. However, the kind of services Kingsmen provides is not at the low level anymore. Its work demands a premium nowadays. Kingsmen has now become a prominent company in the communications design and production industry and I’m sure it has more room for growth. It’s not easy for small-scale design companies to just spring up and be profitable for the long run as there are many players in this industry with Kingsmen and Pico having lots of the market share.
- Mr Soh also added that Kingsmen does not compromise on its professional standards and quality, whether in design, production or after-sale service, especially the later. “We have demonstrated to customers that we are here to stay, and this is why we promise good after-sale service no matter how small the complaint is”. –> This shows that Kingsmen is a quality company with customer satisfaction as its utmost priority. This keeps the customers coming in repeatedly and revenues locked in. 70% of Kingsmen’s revenue are from repeat customers and this shows that the customers value Kingsmen’s products. Also, this is good for Kingsmen as it’s more cost-effective to provide for repeat customers than to find new customers. Having said that, Kingsmen is still looking out for more opportunities for growth, especially in this region.
- Mr Soh singled out the Universal Studios project as being the most challenging so far. However, it accomplished the work in 16 months, about half the time that an average theme park elsewhere would have taken. –> This shows honesty and that the company recognizes its strengths and weaknesses. Even though Universal Studios project was the first of its kind and the learning curve was steep for Kingsmen, it delivered a great job beyond expectations that’s evident when one goes to USS.
- Kingsmen wants to expand in the region which offers promising markets, including China (currently has offices in Beijing and Shanghai), India and Middle East. –> Kingsmen has more room for growth and having set the track record and branding for itself, it’s poised to do well in the future.
- Kingsmen is also enjoying growing demand for its store fixtures, which it exports to its retail clients in the US and Europe. –> Companies as far as Europe and US recognize the quality work that Kingsmen does. This is heartening to hear.
- During the latest financial crisis, Kingsmen benefited from the rapid growth in some of its offices in North Asia, including China. “During tough times, clients have better choices and they will select companies which they know will not disappear”. Its repeat customers prefer to rely on Kingsmen than engage a new company –> Kingsmen is not operating in a recession-proof industry. During a crisis, companies engaging Kingsmen may cut costs to lower their expenses. But, the repeat customers know Kingsmen’s working style and they can work towards cutting a deal that is attractive to both parties (cost savings for customers but not compromising revenues for Kingsmen).
- The founders have said that their children would not be joining their companies and they are clear about that. They want to be able to attract professionals to run Kingsmen and do not want it to be treated like a family business. Mr Soh said “If you have children in, you get more of a headache”–> I’m glad that the founders are clear on who to pass on the batons to. It’s not right for a founder to pass on a business to his/her children without regards to merit. Mr Soh is 61 and Mr Ong is 57. Even though they still have a long way to go and still seem very energetic from the pictures in the magazine, they are reaching an age where they need to take a breather. I hope Kingsmen can attract talented professionals who are both honest and competent enough to run the business, enabling Kingsmen to reach greater heights.
- Mr Soh gives talks in schools and is also involved in grassroots activities. He said that contributing to society is good for the soul. He went on to add that a teacher learns twice and it’s that kind of happy thing to do.
- Staff like to work for Kingsmen as “outstanding talent is given due recognition”. “There’s no glass ceiling over here. They all have opportunities to rise to the top based on meritocracy”. “We put in a lot of effort into training”. “We have a certain culture that is very design-led, and driven by quality and service”. Someone whom Mr Ong met recently likened the group’s working culture to Apple and its competitors Microsoft. They also have their own sports club and there’s a get-together every month for 2 hours. Teamwork is emphasized in Kingsmen. Mr Soh said that he often tells the staff that if everybody holds hands, you cannot drown. He also said the team spirit at Kingsmen is very strong and the staff take pride in doing a good job for the clients. –> Teamwork and a positive company culture promotes a good working environment for all staff and the staff will be motivated to work for the company’s good. Kingsmen also has a mascot in the form of Humpty Dumpty and this shows a fun side to the company. The staff call the founders by their first name as well. This shows a relaxed atmosphere in the company.
- Next year, Kingsmen is celebrating its 35th anniversary. –> Hopefully, shareholders can get a big bonus in the form of special dividends.