Arriving in Singapore with no concrete plans, accountant Hans van Roosmalen took a job with a Taxi firm. Today he owns the most exclusive limousine service in the city.
When accountant Hans van Roosmalen first arrived in Singapore, he had no idea what his future would hold.
After looking for work, he finally secured employment at a taxi firm, working in their finance department, overseeing debt collection and credit control. Today, some 14 years later, he owns Wolero, the most exclusive limousine service in Singapore.
Like many good business ideas, Hans success is simply down to spotting a niche in the market, as he explained.
“I noticed that some of the drivers had their own loyal corporate customers but often experienced problems with regards to billing and payment. Their clients wanted proper invoices, with an opportunity to pay after 30 days and this, understandably, proved difficult for the drivers because of cash flow issues. So, I decided to set-up a company specifically to help them with their billing and accounting, allowing the drivers to continue operating.”
This simple solution to a problem snowballed and, before long, Hans found himself no longer just handling the drivers’ finances but taking on a much more significant role.
“Understandably, customers started coming directly to us, and we became the first point of contact for them. Also, issues arose around manpower. When you have a number of corporate customers, who all want to be picked up around the same time, a single driver cannot always accommodate them. So, we started to engage drivers ourselves and that’s when Wolero really began to take shape.”
Having spent nearly four years working at his previous firm, Hans had seen first-hand how a private car business operated. When he began Wolero, like most new company owners, he immediately implemented systems that, he believed, would improve on his rivals as well as save him money – you never stop being an accountant.
“A good deal of repetitive things should be automated,” insists Hans. “In my opinion, whatever processes can be automated should be. Whether accepting reservations, assigning and communicating with drivers or planning the jobs, our whole service is almost entirely automated. Of course, we have back-ups where there are last minute changes, such as flight cancellations, which require immediate hands-on attention, but the automation has really made a difference.”
Today, Wolero operates around 200 cars and can secure more than 500 bookings a day. Surprisingly, as important as quantity is to Hans, it is the quality of his service that he is most focused upon, as he explained.
“The majority of our customers hail from leading positions in their field and they all want, and expect, a certain standard. We, as a team, are all willing to go that extra mile. Because of the high-end market we choose to work in, it is imperative that we operate at this standard – otherwise we would not be where we are today. Simply put, all our customers require that elite level of service on every journey and we cannot afford to let them down.”
Hans is naturally interested in looking further afield and possibly breaking into new territories. However, once again, he is eager to know his market and, like any good accountant, considers the layout and opportunities before making any commitments.
“We have a certain share of the exclusive market in Singapore that would be difficult to increase,” says Hans. “We constantly consider expanding into areas such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Indonesia but every country has their own style and habits. We are a very niche operation and our business model would not necessarily work in other sectors. Large executive cars in a city like Jakarta, which is known for its terrible congestion, would not prove economically sound. In many of these countries the inhabitants, as well as their governments, prefer budget modes of transport.”
Whilst considering their overseas options, Hans and his team are forging ahead with B2C expansion in Singapore where, in a market he knows well, he believes there are ample opportunities.
“By the middle of 2019, we hope to break into another area of the marketplace. We don’t intend to take on the mass ride-sharing apps business but rather concentrate on professional individuals who want a polite, well-attired driver operating a quality, clean, vehicle.”
Hans accepts this will be a challenge, especially with the amount of competition in that sector of the business, but one can be sure he has taken everything into consideration.
As a modest, careful individual, he is not your typical entrepreneur, who might feel the need to constantly attain more success. Hans and his team pride themselves on being the best at what they do, by catering to demanding customers who expect the best and want all their needs met without fuss. Attracting this market is not that difficult, the challenge is keeping them.
It is not just about the new, quality continental vehicles or the fact that every driver has to be trained to ensure they maintain the Wolero standard of appearance, punctuality, skills and politeness. It is about not making mistakes that, in such a high profile and word of mouth business, can prove so hard to rectify.
As an accountant, Hans understands that the smallest error can cost you dearly. Operating Wolero with that kind of ethos is precisely why the business has proved so successful. The accountant’s numbers speak for themselves.