20 Inspirational Stories To Commemorate SBF’s 20th Anniversary

SBF invites 20 business leaders across diverse sectors to share their insights on leadership, resilience, and partnerships for growth. 

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and Future Economy Council (FEC) jointly launched the “20 Conversations” commemorative book on 11 November 2022. Close to 100 business leaders attended the event that was graced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, and Chairman of the Future Economy Council (FEC) and National Research Foundation.

DPM Heng called the 20 Conversations project, which commemorates SBF’s 20th anniversary, “an important milestonein SBF’s history”.

He expressed his hopes that this book will inspire others in the business community to do more and to do better. On the broader front, DPM Heng noted that Singapore’s economic growth owes much to the dynamism and fortitude of our business community and the strong tripartite partnership between industry and the Labour Movement. This has allowed the country to weather major crises, including the Global Financial Crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launching the 20 Conversations book jointly with DPM Heng, SBF Chairman Mr Lim Ming Yan said that the Singapore business community has shown tremendous tenacity, even amidst a global pandemic, and continues to thrive in an uncertain business climate. He added, “As we emerge stronger together, there are stories to tell, to remember, and to inspire.”

Mr Lim is confident that these 20 conversations will instil confidence and encourage the Singapore business community to remain resilient and nimble in the pursuit of new growth opportunities, even in the face of future uncertainties and emerging challenges.

At the launch event, DPM Heng also participated in a fireside chat titled ‘Emerging Opportunities for Growth, Leadership and Innovation for a Thriving Singapore in a Changing World’ moderated by SBF Council Member Ms Lisa Liaw. During the fireside chat, DPM Heng shared his views about macroeconomic trends impacting businesses and how businesses can leverage talent development and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategies to thrive. He also noted that the business landscape continued to change rapidly, and business leaders must have both foresight and fortitude to steer their businesses to achieve resilience and success.

The 20 Conversations book is a compilation of real-life experiences and stories from these Singapore business leaders. Hear what some of them had to say.

Sharing successful strategies

Mr Goh Choon Phong, CEO of Singapore Airlines, shared how the company grew through the COVID-19 crisis and some of the lessons he had learnt in navigating through the challenges faced as an airline company.

The pandemic demonstrated how SIA was able to count on its dedicated employees and wide network of partners and friends to stay the course. “It created a lot of resilience, because we now know more about the how-tos and ways to go about it, who to reach out for, what are the instruments to use, and how to ensure we can raise money in a crisis”, he said . Having to grapple with limitations such as having a small domestic market, the company continued to identify new growth engines and market opportunities. This had led to the formation of deep partnerships and joint-ventures which has contributed to the airline company’s success.

Mr Amos Leong, President and CEO of Univac Precision Engineering, said of identifying and grooming talent, “If someone has passion and wants to delve deep, let’s encourage them. When you’re younger, it’s a lot easier to learn and make mistakes; try more broad-based industries, then discover where is your flair.” Mr Leong hopes to continue to invest in new blood to drive innovation. ”I welcome younger leadership because I think they have a longer runway. Some are 20 years younger than me and have 30 to 40 years ahead of them – we should invest in them”, he said. He also shared the importance of hiring employees with diverse skillsets and people who think a bit differently. According to Mr Leong, this is what he believes is the right way to build a dynamic team, one that can complement one another.

Ms Bay Yanming, CEO of Safety Innovators International Pte Ltd, shared the challenges of leading a traditional marine safety equipment company into the digital age of Industry 4.0.  She advises, “ The problem with change, with innovation and the move to digitalisation is that somebody needs to focus on it; if not change won’t be properly managed and you’ll lose track of the process.” As with many businesses, change management can be challenging due to a natural comfort level with the tried and tested way of doing things. However, she believes that this can be managed by adopting an effective change management strategy. “I think as long as you have your long-term objectives clearly defined and if you are moving in that direction, it will work out”, she said.

CEO of Oceanus Group, Mr Peter Koh, shared his vision for the company. He said, “Business is secondary; friendship and compassion are more important. We must connect well with our staff and our business partners.” Once on the brink of collapse, Mr Koh stepped up to become the Chief Executive Officer of Oceanus Group to steer the towards recovery and now, growth. One of the keys to his success was staying nimble and adaptable. “Adaptability has also become a very valuable trait one must have to find solution to challenges”, he said.

For more insights and other inspiring stories, check out the “20 Conversations” here. Click here for a recap of what happened behind-the-scenes during the book launch.