Air Division’s Michael Toh - Business Insight - Canon Singapore

    Air Division’s Michael Toh

    Michael Toh
    Managing Director, Air Division

    “People excel in environments which make them happier.”

    Air Division is one of Singapore’s most celebrated furniture retailers.

    An idea first inspired by the desire to develop a distinctively Singaporean brand that speaks about the creativity and ingenuity that Singapore designs can offer, the company has gone on to make waves both locally and internationally. Earning it a Gold Award for Best Furniture Retailer in 2006, as well as the prestigious Red Dot Concept Award in 2006 and 2007.

    But things weren’t always smooth sailing for Air Division when the company began in 1999. “Whatever problems one encounters when starting a business, we had to overcome them all,” recalled Michael. He added, “I’m not exaggerating when I say it felt as if the whole world was against us and waiting for us to falter.”

    In spite of the challenges, Michael persevered. Firmly believing that the company’s creative designs would either make or break the company, he is glad it is the former, saying “We never gave up and persisted that this was the right way to go, and now we have started to see results.”

    Beyond this dogmatic perseverance, another factor that helped Air Division overcome its difficulties is the passion and collective vision of its team.

    “Having a team work towards a common goal certainly helped”, Michael explained. Citing that he and his team had to strive hard to develop a unique selling point for the company since most of their competitors were giants of the industry.

    One way Air Division was able to differentiate itself from others was to have consumers perceive the brand as an innovator rather than just a follower of trends. A feat that requires the team to constantly analyse changes within both local and the international furniture arenas. After all, like Michael said, “In this day and age, you have to be at forefront so as not to lag behind.”

    And when it comes to the daily running of the business, Michael doesn’t believe in going to extremes: choosing either a totally hands-off approach or making every decision on his own. Instead, opting for a unique, balanced approach.

    “There has to be a balance of both qualities. Luckily, I have good staff that understands and subscribes to the same philosophy as us (the management team). Generally, the staff do make decisions in their own area of expertise and we usually do not interfere unless it differs from our direction”, he said.

    From all of Air Division’s products, Michael is most proud of the Plank Living Collection. Made to withstand the test of time, it epitomises the company perfectly – innovative design, excellent quality and superb craftsmanship.

    For all aspiring entrepreneurs, Michael had this to share, “I think the most important thing is you have to be passionate in the business that you are doing and also believe in it.”

    Having faced all kinds of challenges to grow Air Division into what it is today, Michael’s advice comes as no surprise.