#Asia To be honest, the real boss in the company is numbers: Shopback Co-founder Joel Leong


Leong says the hardest part of being a Founder are two sides of the same coin; hiring employees, and bidding farewell

Mr. Joel Leong FINAL

If the collective mindset of Singaporeans begins to view cashback rewards as a potential deal — and not a ploy by credit card companies to lure in naive customers — the city may have to thank Shopback.

If with hundreds of merchants on board, user log into the site before checking-out and can sometimes receive savings of up to 30 per cent.

In a January profile on e27, Co-founder Joel Leong explained the skepticism around cashback campaigns was not viewed as a deterrent, but rather as an opportunity.

Also Read: The best ‘F word’ is not Founders or Funding

Today, Shopback is the current Singapore market leader in the industry, so we wanted to hear from Leong about his, and the company’s, startup journey.

What made you embark on the path of entrepreneurship? Are there days where you wished you took a cushier path

The funny thing is – I did take a ‘cushier path’ immediately after graduation. I went straight to work for the government on an economic board. After spending a short time there, I realised that I was not a good fit for the working environment.

I left to join the ZALORA team. It was a good nurturing ground. The learning curve was steep but that is exactly what I was looking for. That’s where I met the other male founder (Henry Chan) and sparks flew.

After close to two years in ZALORA, I left to start ShopBack with him as well as the other four Co-Founders. The learning curve has been exceedingly steep and the problems to solve never stop increasing.

However at the end of the day, I am always glad that I took the step to start something.

What were the hardest decisions you had to make as a Founder?

I think the toughest decisions for me are at opposite poles – hiring and bidding farewell.

Hiring the right fit is always difficult. Nobody is perfect and we have to weigh the pros and cons of each candidate. The hardest part about hiring is to be disciplined to not hire if the fit is not right, even though time is running out or the candidate has the right skills for the job.

Bidding farewell is coming to terms with the fact that we as founders have to take the blame for hiring a wrong fit. The easiest part is to let go of poor performers because it is obvious to all. The hardest part is to let go of team members that were just ‘good enough’.

I always remember this quote and believe that it’s attributed to Jon Soberg: “If you entrust important decisions to someone who is just ‘good enough’, you will watch the opportunities pass”.

What do you look for in a hire? Is a culture fit important, and what kind of employee would gel well at ShopBack?

Personally, we look out for passion in the form of both words and actions. If someone is passionate about something, they will work hard and most likely excel in it.

Passion is also contagious, so it is important that we hire the right fit so that the culture spreads.

How do you, as a boss, manage conflict within your employees?

To be honest, the real boss in the company is numbers. So in most conflicts, we always bring it back to what our numbers tell us. I think we have no qualms about our team members pointing out that we are wrong because numbers are factual and non-debatable.

For more subjective matters, we take a call and move quick with it. Hindsight is always 20/20 but we try to make the best decision at that point of time (with all the available information).

What are some of the ‘trials by fire’ every Founder must go through, and how did you personally overcome those obstacles?

Start-ups are like roller coasters. It is normal to have many ups and downs. At the start, we were worried about everything, but many of them will just pass in the bigger scheme of things.

Looking back we sometimes wonder, “Why were we so worried about a non-issue at that point of time?”

Also Read: This team of Avengers offers you cashback for online purchases

So personally, I try to make a call at that point of the obstacle and move on with it. I try to focus on things within my control, as there is no point worrying about things you can not control.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs on the verge of giving up?

What do you do when the going gets tough or when things go south?

I’m no Jack Ma, so I shall deal out my favourite quote of his – “Today is cruel, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be beautiful”. So persevere and press on to see the beautiful day after tomorrow.

I use the same strategy expounded in the previous question – take a call based on all the available information and move on with it.

Want to hear more from Joel Leong? Don’t forget to secure your tickets to Echelon Asia Summit 2016 this June 15-16 at Singapore EXPO! e27 fans only: Enjoy an extra 20% off with promo code*SUMMIT20*!

Photo courtesy of Shopback


The post To be honest, the real boss in the company is numbers: Shopback Co-founder Joel Leong appeared first on e27.

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