Grow With IP: In Conversation With FT Consulting CEO, Winston Chan

Posted on 08 Jul, 2024
By IPOS International

Based in Singapore, FT Consulting is a leader in business consulting that leverages its expertise to empower enterprises to become trailblazers of their industries. With a focus on innovation, the firm delivers tailored solutions in branding, franchising, licensing and IP management, ensuring businesses meet their goals with sustainable growth and impact.

At the helm of FT Consulting is Winston Chan, Chief Executive Officer, and distinguished Board Director at IPOS International. Awarded the Rotary Singapore - ASME Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2024, Winston is an ardent advocate of IP and a thought leader in innovation and strategic growth. Since 2018, he has been consistently recognised in the international “IAM Strategy 300: The World’s Leading IP Strategists”. With over two decades of experience, Winston actively advises global businesses on franchising, technology transfer, strategic planning, branding, innovation and IP management. Join us as we delve into the mind of a leader who guides enterprises with forward-thinking strategies.

Congratulations on winning the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year Award! Can you tell us what this recognition means to you, and what you attribute this success to?

Winston: First and foremost, thank you for having me. Winning the Entrepreneur of the Year Award is truly an honour – it validates our successful evolution of the 3-decade old FT Consulting over the past five years, following my management buyout with our Chairman in 2018.

The transformation journey has not been easy. Shortly after we held the reins, COVID-19 struck. On top of having to keep the ship afloat, we were determined to also transform the company. And our efforts bore fruit; while the consulting industry was one of the hardest hit at the time, we managed to remain profitable throughout – and we’re thankful for that.

This award is a true testament to our team’s innovation, creativity, and grit. Our success is made possible by everyone in the company, whose dedication and ingenuity have been instrumental amid challenging times.

Read: Pivot Your Business With Intangible Assets In Challenging Times

Your career has been one incredible journey thus far – going from asset manager at CapitaLand, to IP policy making at IPOS, and now CEO of FT Consulting after a milestone management buyout. Could you walk us through your experience in becoming a business owner, and how it has shaped your approach to leadership and management today?

Winston: My career has been one unique irony – I prefer the balance and perspective that comes with being a supporting number two, yet I always have this other side of me that is entrepreneurial; I constantly find myself having ways of looking at things differently, connecting the dots, and bringing value to any situation I’m faced with.

The management buyout was a pivotal moment where I made the conscious shift from intrapreneur (i.e. entrepreneurship within the capacity of an employee), to fully embrace being a business owner and CEO. This has afforded me greater autonomy and agility; to innovate swiftly to meet ever-changing market demands and needs. Aside from leveraging my own entrepreneurial capabilities, I now have the privilege and responsibility to tap the collective creativity of my team in addressing the interests of our shareholders, clients, and employees.

You’ve also been consistently listed in the “IAM Strategy 300: The World’s Leading IP Strategists” since 2018. As a strong advocate of intangible assets (IA) and intellectual property (IP), could you share with us how IA/IP has been transformative for your business? How do you stay ahead of the curve in terms of IA/IP strategy?

Winston: I’m honoured to have been listed in the IAM Strategy 300 since 2018, and I hope to continue contributing to the IA/IP space going forward.

At FT Consulting, IA such as know-how and branding are crucial to our success. To harness these assets, we foster creative collaboration to optimise client solutions, and leverage our brand superiority in markets that we operate in. We have strategies and management processes in place to systematically create, capture, and commercialise our innovations. We’ve also adopted a robust customer and information management system to guide the team towards a structured project management approach, ensuring timely delivery of quality work.

Looking ahead, we will continue to actively harness talent, adapt our consulting solutions to meet market needs, and invest in practical technological solutions such as AI to bring even greater value to our clients. We will also continue to transfer our know-how and technology solutions in Singapore to our offices in Southeast Asia and Japan, to localise our capabilities regionally in our expansion.

Watch: Episode 4 - Going Global (Moodware)

In your 20+ years of experience helping businesses with major activities such as franchising, branding, IP management and more, what do you believe are some key IA/IP challenges that businesses face today?

Winston: One of the main challenges that many businesses face is not recognising their IA/IP’s potential for value creation. They often view intellectual assets purely from a legal perspective, focusing on just protection and thus, as a cost to their business.

At FT Consulting, we help clients uncover inherent IA and leverage these assets through a tested, structured approach. We first identify the client’s aspirations and pain points, then address them with suitable strategies, including IP strategy. For instance, if a company struggles with expansion, we’ll devise a business growth plan that may include branding, channel development, technology and IP strategies. This way, IA isn’t standalone but instead becomes woven into their overall business strategy.

As a champion of innovation in business, how does your company foster innovation and adapt to new trends? What emerging trends do you foresee shaping the future of IA/IP management and business growth?

Winston: IA strategy, and its strategic deployment to generate value, is one that stands the test of time. While the fundamentals remain consistent, we need to move with evolving trends and technologies. One of our recent adaptations is applying traditional franchising principles to the digital realm. Franchising typically focuses on brick-and-mortar businesses, but we’ve developed a “Digital Franchise” programme to replicate business models online. A key part of our programme addresses unique IP challenges, such as demarcating territories in the digital space.

We had successfully piloted this “Digital Franchise” programme with a renowned, forward-looking lifestyle furniture company in Singapore. Now, they can recruit both physical and virtual franchisees concurrently, multiplying the commercial value potential of their IA.

Looking ahead, I foresee trends like digital transformation and artificial intelligence will continue to significantly shape the future of IA/IP management. These developments will offer new ways to protect, manage, and leverage IA to drive business growth in very innovative directions.

Read: Learning How to Protect Your Intellectual Property in an Evolving Landscape

What are some ambitious goals you’ve set for FT Consulting in the way forward, and what role do you see your company playing in the innovation ecosystem?

Winston: We have a robust three-year plan to position the FT Consulting Group as the key innovation partner in our clients’ growth through IA and IP. Our strategy involves three main pillars:

With FT Academy, we prepare our clients for growth and internationalisation. We collaborate with established subject-matter institutions (such as the IP Academy and the Franchise & Licensing Association Singapore) and leading industry bodies to deliver best-in-class and time-relevant courses to our clients.

At FT Consulting, we work with clients to refresh their business strategies to stay relevant in today’s business environment. Our goal is to help them achieve their desired growth by adapting to and thriving amid current demands and challenges.

Last but not least, First Tree Capital helps clients secure resources crucial for sustainable expansion, such as talent, funding and international networks. Growth resources are not one-size-fits-all, and we tailor our support to our clients’ diverse needs.

By integrating these three pillars – FT Academy, FT Consulting, and First Tree Capital – we offer holistic, long-term, consultant-client partnerships to guide our clients throughout their innovation and business journeys.

Our ‘Grow With IP’ series brings you fresh, actionable insights on intangible assets (IA) and intellectual property (IP), straight from the C-suite.

Get inspired by reading our conversations with the CEOs of mycelium leather start-up, MYCL, and energy AI start-up, EverComm.

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