Crash got sound is a wonderful Hokkien saying in Singapore.

It never really sunk in until I started work at this wonderful previous company of mine.

Let me share some of the interesting anecdotes of the company’s early years that introduced me to this not so well known management concept of Management by Stumbling Along.

The bloody chair is too big

One evening, pioneer employee X was trying to load upa wooden chair into the boot of his car to make a delivery to customer.

But it just didn’t fit into the boot or the back seat of the car. Frustrated, he sawed off the 4 legs. Now they fit!

Yup, this led to the interesting idea that if we can apply this “saw the legs off”  concept to our other furniture products, we can ask customers to transport back and assemble the furniture themselves!

One thing led to another… Resulting in tremendous savings both in transport and warehousing costs.

Just imagine how many more tables and chairs we can load on a truck and/or to store them in our warehouses if they were flat-packed and not fully assembled?

And when containerisation took off, guess who got the most savings on sea freight?

Too many customers!

Now that’s a great headache to have as a business owner!

Remember, retailing of furniture is pretty much like you shopping at Courts, Novena, or any other furniture shop today – there is someone to serve you.

Now imagine if there were too many customers, you either get lost sales or frustrated customers not happy with the waiting time…

Most management hired hands would just employ more salespersons to cope with the increased customer flow – linear thinking what?

Our pioneering Senpai (先輩) colleagues simply gave up instead.

They opened the store’s warehouse to our customers and invited them to pick the furniture themselves!?

It’s a bit like that famous Ryanair story where due to an airport porters’ strike, Ryanair were able to get volunteer passengers to load the luggages themselves so the plane can take off. Now that’s cool!

We have a similar example here in Singapore. More “senior” Singaporeans may remember a time where we don’t have to carry our own food trays when ordering from hawkers. Hawkers got stall assistants where they delivery the food to us. Remember those days?

Back to my story. This simple act of “giving up control” has resulted in us gaining a competitive advantage over our competitors – whether it be Sales Revenue / Salespersons or Sales Floor Area / Salespersons.

If you are a business owner, how not to be happy? Don’t you just love employees that offer proposals to help you earn more and/or save more?

300 over restaurants in the world

When the first store was opened, it was somewhat the equivalent of opening a furniture store at the southern tip of Johor Bahru in Malaysia.

Using this JB analogy, that means our customers will take about average 1-3 hours to drive by car from rest of West Malaysia to our location.

What’s the hospitable thing to do when receiving customers after such a long drive? Offer them some coffee and cake?

Yup! It didn’t take long before one observant employee gave birth to our restaurant-in-store concept.

How else to encourage more to make that long shopping trip? And having arrived at our store, stay longer?

Not many customers realise we are also one of the leading restaurant chains in the world. Wink.

Just make a wild guess. Did our business owner planned to be in the restaurant business?

Planning versus connecting back the dot

Crash got sound indeed.

This post is written primarily for those who are still in school and those who started their corporate careers recently.

What you’ve learned in school is goal setting, business plans, mission statements, etc.

You may think most clever corporate moves you see in the market place are done behind ivory walled offices at the corporate headquarters.

That may be.

But if you have the opportunity to talk with real business owners – not hired hands – do ask if their entrepreneur journey is one that is more synonymous with 5 year plans or more like Management by Stumbling Along….

Or you are a fan of Apple and Steve Jobs, you may want to think for yourself what Steve Jobs meant by connecting back the dots.

If you find Management by Stumbling Along too foreign a concept, you can start with Management by Walking Around first – there is academic literature here.

And for those who want to ask where to find literature on Management by Stumbling Along… I think are missing the point.

It’s more about being AWARE on the HERE and NOW.

May sound simple; it’s not.


Singapore Man of Leisure (welcome to my blog; just google it!)