Through the use of robots Jonathan Quek is transforming the cleaning industry whilst raising the status of the workers.
What’s your story?
I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve always loved to try out new things, create something from scratch, even in unfamiliar domains which I find interesting. One of such businesses is in the cleaning industry — an industry plagued by constant manpower crunch, where laborious cleaning is often performed by elderly cleaners. This sobering paradox was what I hoped to address through the introduction of robotic automation. That’s how I came to be doing what I am doing now, disrupting and transforming the hitherto labour-intensive cleaning industry with cleaning robots and innovative tools.
What excites you most about your industry?
People tend to perceive the cleaning industry as unexciting, unglamorous, even backward and inferior. But through technology and up-skilling, we can change people’s mindsets, upgrade the value of workers in the industry (whether through improved pay, better working conditions, more challenging tasks, high socio-economic status), and at the end of the day clean the world more productively, efficiently and safely. The significance of the cleaning industry can’t be overstated, especially in the face of recurrent epidemics and pandemics. What excites me is that I am in the midst of this industry transformation and making a difference with my contributions.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
Firstly, I need to know that I’m making a difference, a meaningful impact on people in the industry. Secondly, my love for creating something out of nothing and seeing it grow and thrive feeds my thirst for achievement. Coming from a non-technical background, there were many obstacles to overcome to excel in this field. My journey as a know-nothing newbie to a market leader in robotic cleaning, even developing customised robots for existing customers, is a particularly thrilling and satisfying experience. Especially since I started out as a one-man show, and now have my own team of engineers.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
Perseverance. Grit-my-teeth-and-push-on perseverance. I tripped and fell umpteen times. It came to a point where I blew all of my savings on a venture, fell into depression, pulled and dragged myself out of it to start this new robotic business. Even then, stakes were stacked high against me — me with zero technical know-hows. On top of it, I had to wear multiple hats — salesman, deliveryman, technician, customer service person, etc. Many a time, I found myself squeezing in a total of 4 hours of sleep over 2 nights. So without perseverance, I wouldn’t have pulled through till now.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be patient. In a world of instant gratification, I need to school myself to work and wait. Results may not show instantly; results could be accumulated over time. There was this major customer account that I worked on for 2 years, trialling the robots over and over again at the same place, and just when I was at the brink of losing heart, it was my wife who reminded me to be patient and focus on doing, rather than the results. Eventually the hard work paid off when I won the multi-million contract.
Who inspires you?
My father, who is a successful entrepreneur. He started from a poor background and learnt many trades from scratch to reach where he is today. From young, I’ve been exposed to many aspects of business through him. Even though some of our values and take on things may differ, he remains a role model for me. Whenever an issue turns up, I would simply ask myself what he would do and that has guided me through my thinking and decision processes.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
Artificial Intelligence. There are many things that we can do with AI. With AI, robots can be taught facial recognition, detect unattended objects on the floor, look out for suspicious activities, etc. Given all these capabilities, robots can be multi-functional. So this essentially means that a cleaning robot need not be one-dimensional, performing only cleaning capabilities. Equipped with AI, its capabilities are virtually limitless.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m a task-oriented person, more focused on getting down to do the work. As such, I’ve not spent as much time as I like on socialising and developing connections with others. But over time, I’ve come to realise that in every human connection lies an opportunity. So if I could redo things, I would have networked more.
How do you unwind?
Spend time with my kids — I’ll just lounge in my kids’ room, chat about whatnot with them, crack jokes and play games together. Being with them helps to reaffirm my priorities in life.. Reading — the quietude calms me down, not to mention that reading gives me ideas and inspiration. Exercise — it keeps me disciplined and focused.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
The realisation that I can’t do everything by myself. Relinquishing control doesn’t come naturally to me. I had to learn to delegate jobs to competent staff, trust them to deliver the results, while maintaining some semblance of overall control. Oftentimes, the help of a good team produces results quicker and better than if I have to do it all by myself.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Your Next Five Moves: Master The Art Of Business Strategy” by Patrick Bet-David.
This book is essentially about taking the vision and mindset of a chess master and applying it to business. And no, you need not know how to play chess to understand the pivotal lesson: Business is a game of thinking several moves ahead. For an entrepreneur, this means critical thinking, adopting a patient and strategic approach with a view to winning the long game.
Shameless plug for your business:
Globotix is the first mover in supplying and deploying cleaning robots on a big scale in Singapore. Our innovative robots can be found in all the various industries in Singapore, and our customers span the gamut from small-medium enterprises to multi-national corporations. We set and ARE the absolute gold standard in efficient, productive and safe robotic deployment in the cleaning sector that customers can always count on. Not only do we have the most experience, we have the best equipment and the best support team.
How can people connect with you?
Social Media Links?
Facebook for Globotix: https://www.facebook.com/globotix.sg
LinkedIn for Globotix: https://www.linkedin.com/company/73829136
LinkedIn for Mr. Jonathan Quek: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathan-quek-92423121
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.