Our founder Renee Tan had the opportunity to interview former CEO of 4Fingers Crispy Chicken (Singapore) Steen Puggaard ahead of H.E.R Asia Summit 2018, at which he will be speaking. Read his take on entrepreneurship and staying relevant in the ever-competitive food business.
Renee: Tell us about your career path. How did you get started with 4Fingers Fried Chicken?
Steen: I had spent almost 20 years in the F&B industry when I first came across 4FINGERS in 2012. At that time it was a one-outlet business and I had honestly never heard of it. The owners approached me via LinkedIn and after an initial visit I saw the potential for the 4FINGERS brand to disrupt the Quick Service Restaurant industry.
Renee: Food business is extremely competitive. How does 4Fingers Fried Chicken differentiate itself from its competitors and continues to expand and grow?
Steen: For me, it was always and only about building the 4FINGERS brand. Opening and operating chicken restaurants is an important part of achieving this, but we were always guided by our vision for the brand. It was critical to our growth and our ability to compete that we focused on what we were better at than anyone else. Rather than try to beat our competitors at their game, we focused exclusively on our own strengths. And as we grew, we nurtured and refined these strengths.
Renee: What are some of the innovations that the company has implemented that made it so successful?
Steen: There are no unique 4FINGERS innovations in the conventional meaning of the word. But we always ask ourselves what is new, better and different before we pursue a potential idea. In this day and age it is critically important to stand out on order to get noticed and I guess we can credibly claim that the 4FINGERS brand personality is rebellious and gives us a great canvas for doing things that other bigger brands can’t do.
Renee: What advice do you have for business owners in order to make a successful team?
Steen: I think it is very important for a team to have identified the “Why?” of the organisation. Buying into why an organisation does what is does is much more powerful than the “What?” and the “How?”. I also think it is very important for business owners and leaders to put together a team that has complementary skills and then give each team member the discretion to make the right decisions.
Renee: What do you think are the key skills and interests that good entrepreneurs need? What personality traits or characteristics have served you well in running the business?
Steen: Being guided by a strong inner sense of mission and purpose is extremely powerful as compared to “just” having a job. Setting out as an entrepreneur is hard work and requires extra-ordinary stamina and determination not to take no for an answer. Also, I find that having a very clear vision of what one’s destination looks like is essential to plotting the course and avoiding countless distraction along the way.
Renee: What’s your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
Steen: Be very critical of your own ideas. Being passionate is not enough – you need a realistic business plan. Find a mentor and use him/her as a sounding board. Remember: Success is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration.
Renee: What’s your passion and what do you do as your past time?
Steen: I like running, cycling and swimming as it give me great time and occasion to reflect on what occupies my mind. And intense physical activity is also great stress-relief
To meet Steen and other successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, buy your tickets to the second annual H.E.R Asia Summit on 26th September 2018. Register here.