Nexia TS (formerly known as Tan & Sitoh Associates) was founded in 1993 by two experienced chartered accountants – Mr Henry Tan and Mr Sitoh Yih Pin. Both partners were formerly managers with KPMG before they decided to start a company on their own. During his work with KPMG, Mr Henry Tan recognized that there was a business opportunity to help small, medium enterprises (SMEs) achieve public listing. Together with Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, who is currently also a member of parliament, he established his own organization – not any accounting firm – but one which is unique in their personalized and well qualified expertise at competitive rates in Singapore and globally.
While we can all make a make a difference in whatever we do in whatever organization we join, what inspired Mr Henry Tan to start his own business is that being an entrepreneur gives one more control and allows one the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of his labour.
The beginning of his entrepreneurship journey was especially difficult. Mr Henry Tan recalled, “It was very tough and we had teething problems at the start as we started with no clients. We worked very hard for the beginning three years. The responsibility of an entrepreneur is quite heavy as we are responsible not just for our staff members but there are the impact on their respective families too as a job is a means of livelihood for each staff member.”
The company did not earn sufficient profits at the start to provide for the 2 partners. Mr Henry Tan raised the example of audit work, where contracts for work are usually agreed upon a year before. This meant that Nexia TS could only earn its revenue one year after it was engaged by clients. To raise more funds, Mr Henry turned to external sources of income. In the day, he worked in his company. At night, he taught lessons at universities and various institutions. This went on for almost 3 years and there were many times when he had no time to eat proper dinner.
The Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 taught Mr Henry Tan a valuable lesson. “Don’t follow the herd. Do not simply do what everyone else is doing” was Mr Henry Tan’s advice. At that time, many companies were focused on reducing their overheads to survive the crisis. Without evaluating his options carefully, Mr Henry Tan only increased the pay of selected individuals even though most people were due for pay increment. The result of this was that several staff left the firm. When the crisis was over, Nexia TS found itself short of staff and had to hire aggressively to increase its headcount.
“We listen to our clients and make the difficult decisions for them. Even after the initial set-up, we help steer companies towards growth, that’s what helped us get into the top ten accounting firms” Mr Henry Tan said.