Speech by Dr Koh Poh Koon at the 23rd Business Excellence Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner

  • Date
    26 Oct 2017
  • In This Story

Professor Cham Tao Soon, Chairman, Singapore Quality Award Governing Council,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


1. Good evening. It is my pleasure to join you at the 23rd Business Excellence Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner, organised by SPRING Singapore.

2. Tonight, we celebrate the achievements of organisations in both the private and public sectors which have attained exceptional levels of business excellence. These organisations have distinguished themselves with outstanding management practices to champion innovation, bring out the best in employees, and deliver superior performance.

Enhancing Singapore’s Competitiveness Through Capability-Building And Internationalisation

3. Singapore has entered a new phase of economic development. In the past few years, we have seen subdued global growth and witnessed several structural and political shifts in various parts of the world. At the same time, rapid technological changes and tighter domestic constraints are reshaping our economic environment and redefining the playing field for local companies.

4. To adapt and compete effectively in today’s globalised digital economy, our enterprises must adopt differentiated growth strategies. They must build up strong business capabilities and extensive international networks in order to seize growth opportunities. And importantly, these two strategies are increasingly required relatively early in the company’s development. This is especially so, given the digitalisation of the global economy with increasing pervasiveness of eCommerce which allow even small companies to access international markets.

5. The formation of Enterprise Singapore, announced last month, underscores the Government’s call for companies to pursue capability development and internationalisation in tandem. By merging SPRING Singapore and IE Singapore, the new agency will consolidate support to help companies build capabilities and innovation capacities, as well as venture abroad into new markets. With this enhanced dual focus, Enterprise Singapore seeks to holistically grow stronger and more competitive local enterprises.

Business Excellence Is A Tool For Companies To Strengthen Their Fundamental Capabilities

6. Business Excellence, or BE for short, is an essential tool for companies to strengthen their capabilities and internationalise. It is thus an area that the Government has been strongly supportive of. Firstly, the BE initiative provides companies with an internal roadmap to help them build solid business fundamentals for success. Enterprises can tap on the BE framework assessment tools to identify strengths and areas for improvement, and then act on those via a systematic approach to improve business performance. Secondly, the BE initiative serves as a critical trust mark for business partners, consumers, and employees. Enterprises are able to use BE certifications to distinguish themselves as credible players, hence gaining a stronger foothold when venturing abroad to enter new markets. I will elaborate on these two aspects in turn.

7. Strong company fundamentals are critical for success in business. It is the DNA upon which companies grow. The BE framework seeks to help companies to build a strong base by strengthening business fundamentals such as leadership, customer-centricity, people development, process capabilities, and knowledge management. I am encouraged that over the past 23 years, the BE initiative has empowered 1,800 organisations from both the private and public sectors to strengthen their management systems and transform their businesses. In the last 3 years, we saw an annual average of 130 companies attaining BE certification, compared to 80 companies certified annually from 2011 to 2014. This is an increase of more than 60%.

8. To expand its reach to more companies, SPRING has enhanced the BE initiative on several occasions to accommodate the varying needs of the business community. For example, in 2015, SPRING rolled out a customised version of the BE framework – known as the Operational Excellence framework – for the precision engineering sector. Developed through industry feedback and consultation, the Operational Excellence framework seeks to build the capabilities of local PE SMEs, enabling them to compete more effectively with best-in-class manufacturing suppliers. In 2006, SPRING also launched a simplified version of the BE framework, called the SME Management Action for Results or SMART Initiative, to help SMEs conduct a quick diagnosis of their operations and identify areas for improvement. To date, more than 700 SMEs have benefitted from SMART.

9. One organisation which successfully leveraged BE to strengthen its service capabilities is real estate management company LHN Group, which operates in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand. The BE framework was instrumental in helping LHN recognise the importance of tailoring its product offerings in the area of real estate concepts, in order to meet client expectations. LHN acted on this insight to establish the necessary platforms to gather customer feedback and form a Service Excellence Committee. Although LHN is still in the early stages of implementing the changes, it has seen marked improvements in service delivery level – the organisation’s customer response time has been halved from 48 hours to 24 hours, and customer satisfaction, measured through mystery shopping, improved by two percentage points.

10. LHN is not the only company to benefit from the BE initiative’s guidance in harnessing customer-centricity as a business enabler. Over the last two years, SPRING has recognised close to 140 organisations with the Singapore Service Class certification under the BE Service niche, which encourages a customer-centric approach to support superior performance.

Business Excellence Instils Trust And Confidence, Helping Companies To Access Overseas Markets

11. Besides building strong capabilities, the BE framework also supports companies to enter new markets abroad. This stems in part from Singapore’s strong reputation as a global business hub, recognised for her quality infrastructure, safety, stability, connectedness, accessibility, and ease of doing business. It is thus not uncommon to hear foreign dignitaries praise the high calibre of our local companies, which tend to be associated with dedication to quality, commitment to delivery, and a relentless pursuit of innovation.

12. The BE initiative reinforces this with the Singapore Quality Class certification, or SQC for short. It represents the overall excellence standard, and is only awarded to organisations that have achieved standards of good performance. Hence, in the overseas context, the SQC serves as a Singapore-approved trust mark to distinguish our local enterprises from the competition, thereby easing their entry into markets that may otherwise be challenging to enter.

13. Scanteak is an example of a company that intends to leverage on its SQC certification to support its international expansion plans. Scanteak has established itself as one of the biggest furniture chain store retailers in Singapore and Taiwan, with a footprint in other countries such as Brunei, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the United States. With its attainment of the SQC certification in June this year, Scanteak will be able to provide greater assurance to its overseas partners of the quality of its products and business operations, even as it looks for further expand its footprint by opening more outlets in markets such as Japan.

14. Besides the SQC certification, another way in which BE recognition supports internationalisation efforts can be seen through Jumbo Group’s achievement of the People Excellence Award in 2015. This Award is conferred to organisations which demonstrate world-class performance in people management and a strong corporate culture of learning and development. When Jumbo expanded its operations in China recently, opening its fourth outlet in July this year, the People Excellence Award enhanced the company’s in-market reputation as a credible employer, empowering Jumbo to better attract and retain talent for its restaurant operations, while instilling confidence in its Chinese employees.

15. I am heartened by the experiences of these companies, which validate the BE initiative as a particularly relevant and supportive tool for local enterprises in the current economic environment, where it is increasingly important to undertake internationalisation and capability development as concurrent growth strategies.


16. Let me close by congratulating this year’s award winners. Your achievements are a clear demonstration of the importance of developing strong fundamentals for future growth – regardless of revenue size or industry sector. As we strive towards overcoming today’s challenges and seizing tomorrow’s opportunities, I hope the success stories of tonight’s award winners will motivate other organisations to join us on the BE journey, and leverage BE to scale and compete effectively in the future economy.

17. I wish you all the best in taking your businesses to even greater heights.

18. Thank you.