As YTK Management Consultants’s Managing Partner, Yeo Teck Keng has seen the company grow from its 2010 roots as a boutique accounting firm into a its current incarnation as a one-stop business solution provider across incorporation, accounting, tax and business valuation.
Privatizing in 2013 just prior to the company’s rapid expansion, which Keng says kicked off in earnest between 2015 and 2017, YTK made a string of strategic partnerships with lawyers, enabling them to provide a one-stop solution for clients. These were primarily businesses setting up investment holding companies in Singapore.
Over the next few years its client base grew to encompass new industries, including boutiques, hotels and small to medium-size enterprises.
We came from a traditional accounting business background, but we knew that it would not be sustainable moving forward.
The moves were in part a reaction to the changes YTK was seeing in its clients’ needs.
"We found that we were providing more and more advisory across tax, incorporation and financial management, and sensed the market in Singapore had changed to require more of the advisory side and market access," he tells The CEO Magazine.
Around this time, YTK’s partners were traveling overseas to establish networks with accountants and lawyers. They quickly found themselves providing market access advisory to clients in Singapore as a result, with clients asking for help with contacts for expanding businesses overseas.
"We provided analysis and advice on the tax and the business structure, and how goods and services should be delivered in each country," he says. "They would then use this information to make a decision on which country they would expand into, and we’d then assist with incorporating the company there and provide professional linkups and assist in business matching."
Doing this well requires paying close attention to the needs of both sides of the partnership before brokering introductions, Keng says, noting that there are four main areas they look at with clients.
"We look at what the best business structure would be, how they be financing the venture overseas – for example, equity or debt financing – how to ensure the transaction flow will be effective, and how they should price their goods. This last point makes having a partner that understands the local market in the jurisdiction extremely important," he says.
And when it comes to overseas expansion, Keng says any given client will typically find they need the help of three professionals.
"First they need accountants in that jurisdiction, then a lawyer and a banker to ensure a successful launch of their business in that jurisdiction," he explains. "This means YTK needs to have professionals in each category, in each country in which we work. Being part of a professional business networking group such as CorporateConnections and Cross Border Business Consultants (CBBC) helps in finding the right partners to work with."
He recalls that the partners traveled across most of the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region in 2017 to short list accountants, lawyers and professionals they wanted to work with.
"In 2019, we traveled to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Switzerland and Australia to find our partners," he says.
Selecting partners is a process the team takes very seriously, with Keng saying they employ a very stringent selection process, beginning with a business matching exercise both in Singapore and overseas. This has helped the company establish an important connection with Hong Kong-based Kenswick CPA among others.
"Ultimately, we want to make sure that we link our clients up with the correct connection so that they can carry out their business or their business venture in the overseas jurisdiction more effectively," Keng says.
New business model
Moving into the expansion advisory space is not the only arm of the business undergoing serious growth and attention.
The company is also embarking on a reinvention of its business model, launching a YTK franchise program which is set to go live later this year.
"We want to do what we do best: provide advisory to our clients, but to also reach out to aspiring accountants that have been in the trade for quite some time and want to start their own accounting practice – but lack the know-how and manpower," he says.
YTK is comfortable with embracing change, Keng says, and that it is what will set it apart.
Our franchise program will educate the next generation of aspiring accounting entrepreneurs on how they can provide the advisory services that we provide to clients.
"We came from a traditional accounting business background, but we knew that it would not be sustainable moving forward. We need to change our business model to set us apart from our competitors," he says.
With the resources this will require in the future, training team members who will help the franchisees to kickstart their consulting business is a priority area.
"We’re seeing more and more accountants and auditors in our industry, and they want a work–life balance as well as being more involved in the ‘advisory’ role rather than the ‘compliance’ role," he explains.
"Our franchise program will educate the next generation of aspiring accounting entrepreneurs on how they can provide the advisory services that we provide to clients. Currently, these consulting skills are passed down verbally and, frankly, haphazardly in the industry."
The current focus is aimed at senior and management staff, training them to be the trainers of the future.
"We will be focusing on the quality of our education, because we want to make sure the franchisee partners get the knowledge and skills they need to bring their business to the next level," he says. "So all the preparation behind the scenes is something that we are focusing on right now."