Let’s face it: no matter how great the branding is, some industries will always have trouble capturing the public’s imagination.
One of those is industrial manufacturing. Whether it’s the machinery used to make the cars we all drive, or the sewing machines garment workers use to create the clothes we wear, the products that come out of industrial manufacturing are things most of us never think about.
Perhaps because of that, it’s not a field known for attracting huge numbers of young people—even though it’s competitive and, potentially, highly lucrative.
One exception to that rule is Derrick Yeo, a Millennial entrepreneur and head of Empereur Holdings, a B2B company that supplies industrial sewing machines to companies including Under Armour, Nike, and Adidas.
I spoke with Yeo recently to get his thoughts on how Millennials are bringing new energy to B2B selling, changing the face of industries like industrial manufacturing.
Shama Hyder: How do you believe Millennials are bringing new ideas and changes to traditional industries like manufacturing?
Derrick Yeo: Firstly, as a generation, I think we are more flexible. If there are problems we need to troubleshoot, we can solve them via a Zoom meeting or video call, rather than the traditional method of sending the engineer over to the country. We’ve been doing this not only because of Covid, but because it’s more efficient and saves costs on both sides.
Another unique thing about how we work with clients is that we offer bespoke services to every customer. We customize the equipment to match each company’s needs and specifications. In another word, we innovate and we stay ahead of the competition.
We’re more willing to assume positive risk than many of the other companies in our sector—specifically, we offer flexible payment models and terms. We know that to stay ahead of the game, we have to adopt some creative strategies.
Finally, we adapted to the way that Millennials want to work long before Covid forced everyone to begin working from home. Millennials and Gen Z want flexibility and independence at work, and we put ourselves at the forefront of that movement in our industry. Allowing staff to work from home makes work more interesting and motivating, which in turn has helped to stimulate creativity and productivity.
Hyder: What are a few attributes that have helped you reach success?
Yeo: I’d say one is my attitude. Being an entrepreneur, you have to adopt the Never Say Die outlook. As Rocky Balboa said, it’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.
That’s how you win—it’s about being resilient and never giving up.
My leadership style is rooted in the culture I grew up in, in Singapore, which has a strong belief in meritocracy. I always try to reward the staff who deserve to be rewarded.
Since we’re a relatively new company, I’ve adopted the Michael Dell (of Dell technology) model, which is based on streamlining and operating small. That leads to more cost savings and efficiency, while also helping us increase our productivity to the maximum.
Hyder: What tips do you have for attracting major clients when you’re a newcomer to an industry?
Yeo: It can be challenging to be young when you’re trying to make business deals with people who have more experience, and who work at some of the biggest companies in the world.
They don’t always trust what you say and think you’re too young to be there in the boardroom talking to them.
The way I overcame that was by being patient, persistent, and not giving up even when the going gets tough. Eventually, these clients started believing in me because I always deliver.
As Millennials and Gen Z begin taking the reins at companies across industries in greater numbers, we’ll continue to see more of the changes Yeo mentions, from stronger branding to more efficient operating models. And as these shifts take root, no doubt we’ll see more young people taking a harder look at careers in industries with perhaps less glamour, but a lot of potentials.