For medical entrepreneur Beng Teck Liang, 48, taking the road less travelled nearly two decades ago has made a difference.
Dr Beng began his career as a medical officer with Singapore's Ministry of Health in 1996, after graduating from the UK's University of Manchester Medical School.
"Although I was trained as a doctor, I wanted something more, so I decided to take a different path from my peers, and move from medicine to business," said the chief executive officer of healthcare services provider Singapore Medical Group (SMG), which is listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX).
So he worked for a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and a general management programme from Harvard Business School.
After spending the next decade managing multibillion-dollar businesses in information technology and healthcare across the Asia-Pacific for multinational corporations Hewlett-Packard and General Electric, Dr Beng was ready to steer in a new direction again.
"I wanted to build something for myself. And when my partners and I saw the opportunity with SMG, we decided to go for it," he recalled. "We launched a takeover and general offer for the company in 2013, and the rest is, undoubtedly, a beautiful history."
However, the milestones that SMG achieved in the seven years that followed did not come easy.
"SMG had seen better days – its reputation was marred by controversy, business was shrinking, and we were months away from going broke. The stakes were really high at the time," he recalled. "We had to reorganise teams, cut costs, retrench or fire staff, before we could grow again. During the first year, I was constantly asking myself, What did I get myself into? Am I really going to make this work?"
Determination and discipline, as well as biting several bullets, eventually yielded results. "We managed to turn around, slowly but surely, and looking back now, there's a tremendous sense of satisfaction."
Today, SMG has a market capitalisation of more than $120 million, up sixfold from its value of about $20 million before the takeover.
Incorporated in 2005 and listed on the SGX in 2009, SMG is a private specialist healthcare provider, with 36 clinics islandwide. It offers aesthetics, cardiology, dentistry, medical oncology, obstetrics and gynaecology and paediatrics services, as well as plastic and reconstruction surgery.
Dr Beng's vision for SMG was crystal-clear from the start: Export the Singapore brand of healthcare beyond local shores. "Apart from the biggest players in this space, like Parkway Pantai and Raffles Medical Group, there are no small and medium companies which have a significant pan-Asian presence."
Today, it has an expanding footprint in Indonesia, a network of clinics in Vietnam, and an in-vitro fertilisation business in Australia. "We were ahead of our peers in terms of taking that leap and targeting the markets, which are traditional sources of medical tourists in the region," Dr Beng said.
"Singapore's share of the region's medical tourism pie has been declining – we knew it would end at some point – so our goal was to bring the best-quality healthcare over to these countries. And I think we Read More – Source