TAKing his company up to the next level

PHOTO: TAKing his company up to the next level
Above photo is Chairman Andrew Tan and his son Alex, the director, of TAK Products and Services.

Businessman Andrew Tan nearly lost his life and his company during the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

The laminates expert was driving and so engrossed thinking about how to keep the business afloat that his car was almost hit by a truck when turning at a junction.

Thankfully he accelerated in time and a potentially fatal collision was avoided.

"It was a near-death experience, and a good wake-up call," recalls Mr Tan, 60.

The close shave came during a crisis which he described as the "greatest challenge" for his business, TAK Products and Services.

"Cash flow became very tight. I almost lost the whole enterprise. I had to sell at a discount, pull back credit rapidly. I even borrowed money from all my children and recalled all my insurance policies."

He pulled through with the help of his family and has since built TAK into a regional player with an annual turnover of nearly $40 million.

The enterprise began in 1989 as Tan Aik Koon, selling pneumatic tackers, which use compressed air to drive giant staples into hard surfaces like wood.

In 2001, it started its own brand of laminates, Lamitak, having realised that the market had little to offer in laminate designs that appealed to Asian tastes.

 

TAK's laminates are used as decorative surfaces for furniture and wall features by contractors, carpenters and property developers.

Mr Tan says: "Without any existing database or weight of an established brand, we knocked on more than 20 doors a day to get Lamitak into our customers' offices and studios."

Much of the firm's success can be put down to family, as Mr Tan is ably aided by his three children.

Older son Alex, 39, was the first to get involved, joining TAK in 1997. He was instrumental in starting Lamitak in 2001.

Mr Tan says: "He was the driving force behind the breakthrough we achieved in designs and finishes and also in successfully penetrating into the market."

These days, Alex provides advice on design and brand matters, and is a director. He also runs VeganBurg, a four- outlet organic vegan restaurant chain.

Mr Tan's daughter Geraldine, 40, began working for TAK in 1999 and is now its executive director. Her vision to make Lamitak a global Asian brand drove the firm into expanding regionally.

Mr Tan notes: "She has been invaluable in transforming our small business into a 70-strong organisation here. She also spearheaded the company's drive to go regional." TAK now has more than 120 staff.

Mr Tan's youngest child Jansen, 33, joined in 2004 and now heads product design and development.

"He has helmed the product and design development over the last two Lamitak collections, which have been well-received by our markets," says Mr Tan. 

He adds that the key advantage of working as a family is speed: "Decisions are made very fast.

They know the vision, and have a common feel for the business and consistency in direction. It's also easier to resolve conflict."

From a business which nearly went bust in the late 1990s, TAK now enjoys more than 12 per cent growth a year and is aiming for $40 million in revenue this year.

It has regional offices in Malaysia, Thailand and China and has partnered distributors to offer Lamitak in Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar.

"The regional markets are very exciting to us right now but we're equally optimistic that the Singapore market still holds many opportunities for growth," Mr Tan notes.

 

 

 

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