Low Cheong Kee
Managing Director, Home-Fix DIY Pte Ltd
In a modern globalised economy such as Singapore’s, the traditional family business is a dying breed. Whether it’s due to a lack of succession, or the difficulty of competing in today’s commercial retail scene, their days seem numbered.
However, Home-Fix DIY CEO Low Cheong Kee sees things differently. He believes that with a little adapting, traditional family businesses can still survive in this day and age. And he’s living proof of that.
Looking at his extensive range of large, spacious Home-Fix DIY outlets, you’d never have guessed that this home improvement chain has its roots in a traditional family trade.
“My parents used to run a hardware shop,” Low explained. “Before that, my grandfather ran a shop selling charcoal and fire-wood. My brother and I used to help out in the shops whenever we could.”
Having grown up in an environment where everyone was a business owner, it was no surprise that Low eventually followed in their footsteps. Being the eldest son in the family also meant that he would one day inherit his parents’ hardware shop. But it wasn’t as simple as taking over operations as they were.
As Low recalled, “When I looked at it, I thought it was kind of messy.” “There was no visual merchandising and no system in the shop; things were kept wherever my parents wanted them to be kept.”
To get everything organised the way he wanted, Low and his brother spent a year and a half tidying up and re-merchandising the shop, so as to make it easier to manage and more consumer-friendly. A shift in consumer lifestyle from his parents’ era also meant Low had to make changes to the products he carried.
“In our early days, we focused mainly on moving power tools, hammers, drills, screwdrivers and the like,” he said. “But as the consumer lifestyle evolved, we re-positioned ourselves as a solution provider. This gave us more room to expand and grow the company.”
Business expansion was an issue that Low focused on from the start. Having seen how hard his parents worked to look after their shop, he wanted to put a system in place that would allow the business to be run more effectively and more professionally. The only way to do this was to keep growing the business.
“Despite some protest from our parents, who wanted us to stop at two or three outlets as they were worried about the risks involved, we felt there was a need to grow the business even bigger,” Low said.
Now with more than 20 stores in Singapore and several others in Malaysia and Indonesia, Low has taken Home-Fix DIY far beyond anything his parents could have imagined. The company even manage to post positive growth during the recent recession; a testament of Low’s entrepreneurial mettle.
The story of Low Cheong Kee and Home-Fix DIY shows that with the right leadership, an old family trade can be transformed into a successful business. For Low, being able to grow his family’s business into what it is today gives him great satisfaction as an entrepreneur.
“I think the best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you are very much in control of your destiny – the amount of reward you reap is directly dependent on the amount of effort you put in,” he explained.
“There will always be some level of risk involved,” he added. “But with proper planning and hard work, you can solve any problem.”
Judging by his admirable track record, Low Cheong Kee certainly has a knack for fixing and improving things.