As part of our initiative to showcase more local entrepreneurs, we interviewed Yong Hong, the CEO and co-founder of Greendot, to share more about his entrepreneurship journey.
Whether you are a vegetarian or not, you would probably have heard or seen Greendot before. With over 10 outlets at major shopping malls, Greendot is one of the most well-known vegetarian brands in Singapore.
What are some of the first impression you have when you think of Greendot?
For me, words like healthy, balanced or tasty meat-free meals will pop up in my mind.
In fact, this was the vision the co-founders (Yong Hong and Justin) had when they first started in 2011. They aim to change people's perception of vegetarianism and encourage more people to go meat-free by making their meals convenient, accessible and affordable to the masses.
Meet Yong Hong: One of the co-founders behind this meaningful movement.
Behind this company comes many years of sweat and hard work. Over the years, he has worked over 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to build up Greendot. His perseverance and commitment has definitely paid off.
Despite Greendot’s success, he remains humble and maintains close-knitted relationships with his employees. He is also an inspiring leader who possesses many entrepreneurial qualities that we can learn from.
We were privileged to sit down with him to chat about his entrepreneurship journey and his key takeaways of being an entrepreneur.
His Key Takeaways
1) Executing A Vision
Having a good vision is often known as an important aspect in every business as it provides the goals and directions.
While it is essential, Yong Hong felt that execution is also important.
“Although we have a vision for Greendot, we actually did not think so much...It is more of discipline and perseverance rather than thinking about the grand plans constantly. It still boils down to the execution.”
Indeed, while many start-ups may have a great vision, their failures will often boil down to one thing: Poor execution. We should also focus on the execution process to achieve the desired outcome that we want.
It is also inevitable to face failures during the execution stage.
When dealing with failures, the mindset that we choose to adopt is also very important. For Yong Hong, the biggest quality an entrepreneur should have is the ability to take on challenges.
“There were many times during my entrepreneurship journey that I wanted to give up. But, being dejected is normal. Learn to sleep or walk it off. After that, come back and continue to do your business”, Yong Hong said.
We often see setbacks in a negative light, fearful of the consequences they could bring.
However, a change in mindset can go a long way.
We should see them as opportunities to learn as these failures will mark the stepping stones to success.
2) Culture Starts From You
If you have been to Greendot, you would notice that the friendly staff will always greet you with radiant smiles and sincere welcomes. This is a significant part of Greendot’s culture, cultivated by years of effort by Yong Hong and his team.
He believes that the type of culture you want in your company has to be championed by you: Because how you treat your staff is how they will treat your customers.
“I used to wonder why my staff never smile or greet the customers. Why do they do this or that? I realised the problem is me. When I go to the outlet, do I greet them 早上好 (good morning) or acknowledge them and smile? When they do well, do I say good job? It all boils down to me. What kind of person you are, you will attract that kind of staff.”
He believes that the most important aspect of the culture is to be authentic.
In order for the culture to work, the boss needs to genuinely care about the company values: attributes such as Kindness, Love and Care, values the company promises to uphold.
Only when the boss cares, will his employees follow suit.
“Many companies always complain why they cannot attract good staff. But good staff is not recruit or hire, but attract. You need to have the vibes and energy in your culture or organization first in order to attract the staff. I try to build the culture by becoming a better person and leader. That is when the staff will feel you and become a better person.”
He also believes that there is no right or wrong culture. Instead of trying to pursue a ‘right’, or ‘good’ culture, companies should build cultures authentic to themselves.
3) Most Importantly, Be Happy
When we asked him to use one coffee to describe himself, he chose Latte as it is as a more ‘balanced’ drink. He believes that in life, everything is about balance.
Throughout his years of hustle, there were periods where he felt unhappy and empty even though his efforts were fruitful. He came to realise that money or success means nothing to him if he is unhappy with his life.
“To have a truly happy life, you need to have your health and family first, followed by your career. A business is a lifelong thing, and should not be something you want to grow till certain stage of your life so that you can retire and enjoy after. Why not do your business and enjoy life at the same time?”
With that in mind, Yong Hong started to take some time off from work to do things that truly mattered to him: He began to pursue music, engaged a personal trainer to build on his fitness and spent more time with his family.
As he pursued his interests, he became happier and his mind became more peaceful. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his career also turned for the better.
“The most important thing in life is to be happy. Your business could do well or have business worldwide, but if you are not happy, then what is the point? We should not only be good in one area. But rather, it should be about managing and balancing different areas in our life. Ultimately, in life, it is to be happy.”
Have you been spending too much time on work and feeling drained out?
Whether you are an entrepreneur or not, we should always strive to have a balance. We tend to focus too much on our work that we neglect our overall well-being.
Only if we truly feel happy, will our journey be an enjoyable one.
4) There Is More To Material Success
Being a young entrepreneur himself, what advice would he give to other aspiring dreamers?
“First, define what does success mean to you. Does having a lot of money means that you are happy? Everyone has a different definition of success. My definition of success is that when I sleep, I have a peaceful mind.
Next, you should focus on who you are becoming rather than accumulating and become a better person. Don’t just chase all the materialistic stuff and the rest will come.”
What does success mean to you?
From placing more emphasis on execution to defining your own success, he has certainly shared many insightful takeaways from his entrepreneurship journey that we can learn from.
Many entrepreneurs look at success based on numbers or fame.
Yong Hong, on the other hand, associates these results as ‘little successes’ and remains humble. Although his definition of success is so simple, achieving it requires a lot of time and effort.
But, he is happy with his current stage in life.
This is also my biggest takeaway from this interview - the importance of defining your own success. If we simply focus on achieving what everyone’s idea of success is, we would find it meaningless and be unhappy.