Moderator – Right, thanks Julian and thanks to all the founders. I am going to pose the first question for this afternoon session. As we transition right to a new normal, how do you make that right balance with your teams between working from home and working from the office? What are the positive and not so positive experiences you have encountered in the process? Perhaps I can call Agnes to take a step at answering the question before I can call the rest of the panelists to answer this question.
Agnes Lie – Thanks Patrick. I think, for us, we have signed up to all work from home for now. I think the primary reason is that everybody knows that the traffic is probably the worst. One of them we saw as a benefit or two to three hours from the time, although still to maintain productivity every morning just to make sure everyone is accountable, everyone supposed to do, or actually as, I guess the negative side of things, most probably to maintain the work-life balance.
I think I’m sure it’s not uncommon to find someone sitting in front of their laptop and they realize it’s actually nightlife. So I think one thing that was useful for us was to use the meeting options in detail on Google calendar. We just five minutes to 10 minutes earlier, depending on the schedule. And that’s before meeting them. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that this is not real in this issue, especially when we’re just at home working.
Moderator – Thank you. Anyone want to go next?
Julian Tan – I guess I can go next. We have adopted a hybrid approach. I think as a lot of the staff, I receive a lot of time, family, and you can spend the time better with your families. But at the same time, we felt that it was also good to spend some time together. And I think over the last two years it was very difficult for newcomers to come and work from the property.
You know, you’ll come and join the company, but they don’t actually get to meet people face to face. They don’t interact as much as possible. So we decided on a reason to get everyone to come back at least twice a week. So they get the best of all. I think they can organize their time to work from home, but yet at the same time, they’re able to increase interaction, and actually get to talk to people, get to know each other better and meet in the office.
Moderator – All right, thanks, Julian. Raise your thoughts on the topic.
Race Wong – I think the last two years have been very challenging for most business leaders, from this complete lockdown where we are all like on Zoom and Google Meet to transitioning and then the government says like 50% and then it’s like 80%.
And we have to be very careful with our workforce. Especially in the startups, a lot of tech guys, tech guys are like, super right, don’t like you, they just go to another place. I think it has helped us also learn to have more empathy towards what actually works best for everyone.
So as founders, I think for us, we all have the same goal. We wanted everyone to be productive. To achieve the goals together. Our goal is not to make you come to the office, right? If you come to the office and you’re wasting time, it doesn’t make sense for us either. So I think there’s this balance that we’re trying.
So currently for work at my home, it’s mostly like four days at the office, one day at home officially. But we have to go work from home maybe like three days a week and a couple teams we have to go working from home more often because of the traffic. So now as bosses, we take it into consideration. The rise in traveling costs and the time it takes to get to the office. So they can spend like three hours getting back and forth, four hours back and forth and I would rather that they get home.
Moderator – Yeah. Thanks, Race. Joel, any last thoughts?
Joel Leong – I think what’s happening is that we have to measure things a bit more precisely. Before COVID, everyone measured KPIs differently, right? When they were in office for eight hours, there was this assumption that they had been working continuously. However, I think that with hybrid work here to stay and I think there’s a shift towards being a bit more measurable, looking at it in a more measurable way. For example, let’s say how many expectations are solved by a customer service agent?
What are the inputs that from and that I think makes the old company more, I don’t know whether by choice or my circumstances, but generally I think it’s a shiftless step because you have to, because if you are and can certain market still even opening up, then actually the only way that you can direct and work together is how you measure things in a certain way that both sides agree and then if they’re able to work with that. So I think that that was a big shift in recruitment.
Moderator – Thanks, Joel. I’m glad you mentioned the word metrics because that helps me to create a question specifically to Julian. Julian, at FastJobs, you have the past of seven years, right? Starting off with just six employees, you have built this team by 10x, right? To 60 employees that span across three countries. You definitely have a world of experience building success with teams and helping other companies to do so. I wanna get your thoughts right on progressive methods, employers using progressive methods and metrics instead of the conventional ones to build a future and dynamic team in a fast paced economy. I wanna get yours on.
Julian Tan: Yeah, so for us, so conventional methods are more focused on skill sets and they see how well you perform. Looking at your CV, how you perform at interviews. Test your skills or your knowledge for certain things. But I think in today’s world, we need to go beyond that. I think we need to start hiring, or rather, we’ve been looking at a couple of characteristics, if you are very, very important.
So one is actually hiring compassion. I think gone are the days where you just hired a developer who would just come in and code from nine to five and then go home after that. For us, not only does a developer need to have good skill sets, he needs to be able to also have a passion for the vision of the company and for that our developers, not only developers but everyone in the company should have that vision. Every role that you hire for, you want everyone to be involved in the vision of the company.
So the vision for FastJobs is to create equal access and job opportunities for everyone. So what does that mean? So we need our people to really understand and empathize with job seekers. So, for example, when we have organized a job fair or when we have shows, we have to get everyone down, you know, on ground to actually interact with the job seekers, to interact with the employers to actually understand the needs of both sides.
So even though we were not able to do this for a while now, recently, in Malaysia we managed to get all job seekers to find out how we can do better in helping them to look for jobs. So that’s the first thing – passion. The second thing which I feel is very important as well is the team dynamics and hiring people who can work as a team and not the individual contributor. So for us, what we do is that as part of the whole interview process, we will actually get the candidate to be involved in a workshop with the rest of the prospective team members.
So for example, we’re hiring for a developer, we would throw the person into a workshop together with a product team. So the product manager would be there, the developers would be there as well as the designer. We throw them a problem to solve and we would then see how the candidate interacts with the rest of the team to see whether you know the person has good back thinking as well as also to see whether the person knows how to work with the rest of the team.
So Chemistry is also something that is very very important because you can hire the best coder in the world but if he can’t work with others then I think he won’t be able to create the kind of products that we want. And finally, the other important thing is the cultural feat. So for startups especially, if you’re looking for people with not even passion, but also someone who’s very adaptable because I think everyone feels involved in that. There’s still a lot of messiness, a lot of things that, yeah. We have to be very very flexible and dynamic as we go along.
So for me personally, I would think about myself to actually interview every single hire that you recruit to ensure that the person is the right cultural fit for the company.
Moderator – All right! Thanks Julian. I’m gonna move on very quickly to Race. You’re the co-founder as well as the chief Product Officer of Ohmyhome, so what does the current team structure look like?
Which are the teams within your company that are responsible for driving growth and how do you enable the teams, those teams and the people within those teams to succeed in that role?
Race Wong – Currently the team structure, definitely we have, you know, from front to back, which is, our sales team, the operations team, marketing team, and then the tech team.
So for every single country that we’re in, we’ll have the sales, marketing and operations, which are separate. And then the tech team is like, it covers all territories and of course like every single department, they have their own team guys to meet, capacity model. So for example, for our sales team, to give you some context, like we have 30,000 agents in Singapore, but every single year there are only about 40,000 transactions for sale.
So that means every single agent will only have 1.2 deals per year. So when we first started out per agent, they were closing like 10 deals a year and 30 deals, 60 deals, and now it’s 82 deals per year. So we have a really small team of eleven agents in Singapore and each agent is closing 82.
So this model is actually unseen, of course, because of technology or how we improve this efficiency. So that’s an example of how every single team has their growth target to reach. But I think that the other way that is very effective for us is, is more like a top down approach where we look at up goal.
So as staff always teach you faster, 2025, we wanna be there. And to get us there, there are like four ways to get there, right? Firstly, platform traffic. Secondly, in more markets, thirdly, customer lifetime value, how do you have this customer come back again and again, spend on different things? And then lastly, how can we better, you know, engage and ensure that our products and services are of higher customer satisfaction.
So with these in mind, then we have these product managers that are really driving the growth. You know you can have a lot of these town halls where you share about what the company’s doing. But really it’s always down to the products that’s able to drive growth and then the product manager must be the one that’s always reporting and chasing everyone.
Moderator – Yeah, right. Thank you, Race. Not sure if any of the panelists would like to add into what Race has shared. Agnes, anything to add in?
Agnes Lie: I guess it is quite different for us because I, being a new operator, am just trying to get from zero to one, and I, I do agree with phrases to us to just setting the vision. The second vision, this is the world that we’re supposed to achieve, but for us, this growth is not over product, and group isn’t really a function for us, but rather mindset, everyone have to work toward and deliver. I guess there’s some similarities, but some differences as well.
Moderator – Okay. Joel, anything to add?
Joel Leong – I think once everyone gets together as a team, it helps a lot. I think outside that we try to use it from the vision to the execution somewhere like sometimes there.
And like the times where we were 15 men, that was like the best time because we would just walk over and say. “Hey, sorry, you know what, what you mention just now and then agree or not and then move forward and now it’s like eight and you across different markets. And then, and that makes it much harder, right?”
I think what we are trying to do is like bring up some estimation points that you know like “Hey, we want resources here. So there’s this gap, like what I’m gonna do to fill this gap.” And I noticed that with that mechanism that helped us reach the goal, all I needed.
Moderator – Okay, good. Can I just follow up with what you just said and connect our question to you. Right. As a cofounder of ShopBack. From the early days to today, how has the team evolved? As long as the company grows, there’s a lot of expectations on efficiency and streamlining. How did the team change to adapt to it?
Joel Leong – I think like when we were a new startup, like when we could change things very quickly from zero to one, it was easy. And then in between we would try out things and then fail and then we took them out along the way. So that was how it started, right?
As the team got bigger and there were different countries added on. Then I think what happened is that we now started to cover processes and things to make it more streamlined, more efficient, and make less mistakes. So that’s good, right? As you expand, you make sure to make less mistakes, you have been sharing some best practices and then how you can replicate it in different ways.
But one thing when we had the trade off was actually the early period of the zero to one, whereby we were bringing things and then doing things differently. Because there is SOP now. There are things to do and things not to do, and it’s not colorful, why are we doing this? Or why are we not doing this?
Right. So then I think one thing that we try to do to manage trade off is that, as important as a process is, make sure that there are always points and ways that you can get things done in a scalable fashion. But then I think we try to, what we try to do is do things. One is we try to have a leeway for experimentation, meaning that if you feel that, that’s fine. So when we evaluate somebody, uh, about someone when we look at it, if the person is doing his role well and he’s able to do 20% of things that are out of his region and fails and lose money and that, that’s totally okay.
So then I think it allows people to be able to experiment and do things differently. You always just want to, right? And then if you always want SOP and do what you’re supposed to do then mathematically you should be on the same type of, right? You get the uplift that you gotta do something differently. And to do that something differently, then it’s about making sure that they’re allowed to fail. And, what we try to do is either localize it, that local countries can make decisions without regional teams and the second is that if you can do your job well and, if you hit like 80% of what you are supposed to do so that’s totally fine.
And then now you can do other experiments that you don’t have to buy from us and you can do it and you can get us when you’re successful and when you feel less of the cost. That makes it much easier for things to be able to move forward and have a balance it still as well as the entrepreneurs to still have.
Moderator – I’ll say, and by the way, I’m returned to ask you and Agnes about Zero to One. Apparently, it’s also a book, the detailed, you call it Zero to one as well. So the next question has a little bit to do with Zero to one. From the time you were running growth versus growing your business down from ground zero. As to, you know, is there any difference in terms of the growth team? Right? How does it impact the structure of the team as well?
Agnes Lie – Yeah. So like I was saying earlier, it’s completely different, so to answer your question, the factor is completely different when we are zero to one, like I mentioned, it’s all the product we are building and point of which is so important, is trying to understand what value to your users. Because if you have a product and nobody uses it, there is no point there.
So I think to get that understanding of the value of our product, I personally speak to teenagers and parents every week with users and non-users, but we are just trying to find out what exactly is the point and how can we solve it and after finding those insights, who is then testing out like we were.
So I think the goal really is for small companies to just get things off that. Try and fail quickly if you have to. And then that’s iterated from there. So it is completely different to when I was four, which is a new car, which will probably have different markets but sustainable tax and growth for both companies on both sides that we will see.
Getting things and knowing while making them more efficient we can be about, but way more efficient and of course missing some of the tools that provide organizations to do optimization for the customer journeys with software like MoEngage. All those are more incremental as they start to lose something totally outside of option.
And companies, their technical, like a good growth consist of, and each of their specific, each growth area product growth would be run. Just try to optimize the, our. Growth. They probably focus more on optimizing and the other folks will focus more. We define metrics and that, so that the leadership, my organization, will be able to focus on particular metrics that actually matter.
Moderator – Right. Well said, thank you so much. And this question is going to all candidates, right? In general from creating a team in a hyper growth organization, what are your learnings and what are the potential to take shared audiences? Why don’t I get Julian to start with?
Julian Tan – Okay. So the first one is to not settle for second best. So I think a lot of us when we are recruiting, there’s time pressure to actually hire as quickly as possible to do care better, a replacement or new hire. So sometimes when we are in such a situation, we may not be able to find the right person, but because we form a walk body is better than that.
So we say, okay, we just manage our expectations and hire that. But I think this always comes back to haunt us. So I think it’s better to wait for the right person, the right candidate, and to not settle for the second best. So that’s the first lesson. I feel like you’re speaking to me.
I think we need to cut the process. So if a person is not working out for whatever reason, I think it is maybe best and even fair to go to parties rather than to try the issue as that can have a negative impact on the rest of the team.
So if after a couple of months you realize that this working relationship is not working out as planned and I think we should just cut the process and move on.
Moderator – Thanks. Agnes, do you wanna chime in?
Agnes Lie – I guess I do have one point to share. From my time starting up teams in large organizations or a company on my own. I think, probably one of the biggest things that I always do is that I have a plan. I think it’s common to fall into the pitfall of not having a plan and not having enough time because of the lack of this data.
I do think forcing yourself to just say and what are the potential issues that might come about, like helps you come up with a contingency plan. So it also helps tell them where we say that they’re working towards and it will all walk us the same direction and figure out this is not us.
Moderator – Right, thank you. Race?
Race Wong – When it comes to building teams, so just now I was talking about like we have like different teams and then inside the tech team you have like the iOS and Android and back then what team and what I learned about driving both is that there must be the cross-functional team of the collaboration.
So that the tech team understands the pain point of the ops team and the sales team because like the tech team, they’ll never, ever really see the customer. They can check all they want, but they don’t understand the customer like the front line guys. So the Crossman home team really helped us improve on our product and on the other point, on product, because I’m the cheaper officer, we’re always looking and thinking about new products to build.
But one major pitfall is that I didn’t invest enough time in one page. That’s why I’m here because initially I told them I’m not getting enough support but actually really it’s because like we really focus on it. So if you were to focus on the customer journey and to engage your customer, then you would not be spending so much money to acquire new customers.
Yeah. So I think this one, everyone can achieve that digitally. You know, a better customer journey. Yeah.
Moderator – Joel, do you have something to say?
Joel Leong – So just three points. So I think we pointed right just on, I think we gave separate types of shots that we’re looking up for. Right? So the first one would be, is that a senior role or it’s a more level role? So like if I have an entry level role, I get you, you really just need somebody that is very passionate to learn.
Then you’d be able to teach them and get them up, right? Then the other one that you think about is like a senior role that is managing groups of people, or managers. One part that I say very well would be they have done that before, so it’s less of like having to do that, but they have done that before and that makes it much easier.
Like when teams are working under them, then they expect to be guided. Right? And if you really did it before, I think the direction you can give is gonna be much more expected. Mistakes are gonna be lesser, right? Rather than a really smart person who has never done it before. They might not know, even though they’re really smart and pretty good.
So that’s the first one we gave a second tech job that you’re trying to hire for? Second one is that I think COVID has changed many types of profiles you’re looking out for, right? I think one thing I’m looking out a lot is really the state power that can be as well. State power, meaning like if you look at the past, right? Me as a person and that’s it.
Most attendees with a new role or new job every year actually like it for me minus someone, right? You hire someone, get a speed two to six months, and then that’s it quick as a two three. This period.
So actually if you, if the person here with you for a year, then actually you have the person for you to trade now for six months, work with you for some time, and then the last two months window period, right? So six plus two, that’s eight. So you get four months out a year, you get four months of that person after trading that.
So one part you look at is like really what’s the state power of that candidate, and it’s not like, like we are not saying that, let’s say someone from the past five jobs. A one year stay and then maybe faster can stay very long. That’s also possible. But I mean, we are very customers, so it’s a game.
I think there’s nothing wrong. It’s just that for us, like we wanna invest in them and have that actually, it’s not that, that’s their full right to do. So it’s just that for us, we’re trying to build a team, right? And trying to reduce stability. So actually for someone that actually might be.
Mostly power actually might at some points. So what is the magic number looking at as far as 10 years? So what is considered visible in context years, I think it’s also looking at the track record. He should, because like sometimes it’s true, you go to a job and it doesn’t make sense for you. It’s better just that if you have done three, five times then you know it’s either all the companies by probability have a problem or like, could you penalize a candidate if this candidate stays forever in one single company?
I think there’s no penalty. There’s no penalty there. More like you look at the job store, right? Let’s say you need, that let’s say it’s gonna take one year to build a product like, and then it’s gonna leave, it’s gonna be quite hard to because somehow coming here trying to understand, trying to review that.
Yeah. So I think any penalty or you stay for a long time, I think that’s fine. We’re not trying to see who stays on the floor or that within the period of time. That will be able to build a team that I think would be the second one. And last one, this. Optimism versus realism? Part of the learning from me over the years is more like, let’s say sometimes you have to do some of what we think, right?
So we say this here, but maybe you before we do, and that’s actually possible. Like we’ve seen candidates do that, but based on probability, like we cannot always. Based on that, right? So being able to be realistic on what possible also sets that up for success. Because if you’re thinking that’s gonna be, but they’re actually here, they actually, you say, no, it’s not for failure because you are really putting them on a stretch of what they can do, right?
So being able to be realistic of what you expect from them helps you. I think, maybe trying to get at the same time, also managing expectations is important. For them when they come in, don’t have unrealistic expectations of them. I think that helps you much better.
Moderator – Thank you for a very insightful sharing.