StorHub Self Storage Chief Operating Officer Luigi La Tona discusses how businesses and unions can work together to boost market recovery and why Singapore is still a great place to do business.
By Luigi La Tona
Unions in Singapore play a unique role in a tripartite relationship with industry, management and the government. While representing workers and furthering their position with management, unions in Singapore are unique in ensuring that employees remain competitive, skilled, and cognizant of macro issues affecting the industry, nation and individual companies.
By representing workers in an equitable manner, they get to participate in conversations at the top table, privy to management and policy thinking and motivations. This knowledge then translates into programmes that they can run to help their members “skill up”, adjust to changing market conditions and manage crises in a structured and organised manner.
This mature and structured approach to representing workers enables all parties to find common ground for success and ensure fair and realistic outcomes for all parties. Learning and re-skilling are the top-of-the-agenda items in enabling workers to support businesses, especially SMEs and with their influence and clout, the unions can be powerful proponents for change and continuous learning. StorHub works with the Singapore Industrial & Services Employees’ Union (SISEU) to ensure our employees, particularly those in mid-career, have every opportunity to upgrade their skills.
As businesses struggle with the pandemic and take on cost-cutting measures, StorHub Self Storage has chosen to get on the front foot by focusing on growing our business. As product awareness for self storage is low, we have aggressively marketed the StorHub Self Storage product and through this, have been able to grow through the pandemic. This has enabled us to actually increase staffing and continue to provide business to our loyal partners and suppliers.
With most of our back-end staff working from home, we hold regular video conferences within the company to make sure productivity is up to par to keep the business going and also to provide support from one another. Some steps we have taken to support our business growth includes constant engagement with our customer, which has helped us understand their concerns and issues, training our staff to be more responsive to customer concerns, and offering discounts and extensions on storage space facilities, transport services etc.
Singapore is still a hotspot for businesses to thrive and there are plenty of opportunities, especially SMEs to thrive post-pandemic. It is a wealthy city and its residents will continue consuming all manner of goods and services to support their lifestyle.
As the country is geographically and economically strategic and important to the global and regional economies. Apart from geography, the legal structure and ease of doing business, together with its well-educated, multi-lingual population, make Singapore an ideal place to base a regional business.
The government has acted fast to cushion the fall-out from the Circuit Breaker, and today the government as well as the trade associations are working closely with businesses to re-shape and guide the economy and encourage Singaporeans to adopt and implement the Smart Nation initiatives.
Our business has been similarly influenced with the implementation of an increasing array of technology applications and solutions to improve the customer experience, inventory management, operations etc. At StorHub we recognise that technology along with re-skilling and hiring for the digital (hybrid) future is key to our success. This is the new normal and Singapore’s future way of life. SMEs that embrace this vision and implement it will succeed and grow.
While Singapore is among the more competitive Asian economies, it is also one of the easiest places to do business. Organisations can benefit from Singapore’s wide network of trade agreements and ease of business communications. As for the self storage space industry, I personally do not think that the industry here is too saturated, though there are catchments that are currently well served. Singaporeans live in a space-scarce country – the majority of the population lives in apartments, where space is a constraint.
The Circuit Breaker allowed Singaporeans to pause and think about alternative options as they try to regain control over the space at home. In the current Covid-driven environment, storage customers are carefully managing their storage requirements. This may mean that the overall market may shrink for a time – though we feel that this would only be short term.
There are also many new policies and financial support that the government has initiated to support pandemic-hit businesses. Also, low-cost or even free marketing will allow SMEs to reach out to potential customers and grow revenue. Partnerships are also an opportunity.
Companies should look to partner up with other good operators who can do things that you can’t, to offer a more comprehensive product or service, splitting the cost and the revenue.
Now is also a great to make use of technology and software to automate processes and be ready to cope with a surge in activity as the economy recovers.
(Ed. Image by Photographer Dio Hasbi Saniskoro.)