Sunny Tan set up mathsHeuristics™ after being stumped by the maths syllabus in schools. mathsHeuristics™ embraces technology thus staying relevant to today’s students.

What’s your story?
I was a mathematics teacher in Singapore since 1997 but realised that the mathematics syllabus taught in schools often left the average student stumped. I saw daily, how students were inundated with mathematical heuristics, a fact they were oblivious to. This was because these techniques were embedded in different topics and not taught as self-contained chapters. What ensued was a generation of students who were required to apply heuristics but only had a smattering of it.
Seeing this gap in the market, I left my comfortable job as a teacher in 2008 and set up my own mathematics coaching centre called mathsHeuristics™ which was set up to help students achieve breakthroughs in their study of mathematics.
I am proud to say that while many of such centres come and go in Singapore, our company has been growing, culminating with the launch of Singapore’s first “total learning solution” for mathematics. This is where we offer a suite of learning tools – classes, guidebooks, mobile app, soon-to-be-launched web videos and upcoming virtual classrooms. With students becoming digital natives, this was something that helps us stay relevant to today’s students. Additionally, by embracing technology, we give students, parents and educators 24/7 access to our expertise.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me is that Singapore’s education system is moving away from rewarding students based on memorisation towards a more holistic education. Additionally, with the clear move towards going digital, the challenge is for academic coaching centres such as ourselves to find innovative ways to keep up with these changes.
At mathsHeuristics, this is something we watch closely, continuously evolving our curriculum and teaching ecosystem in order to keep pace with the times and ensure our students learn in a way that fits them. The launch of our mobile app and virtual classrooms are a testimony to that.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a true blue Singaporean. However, I have travelled to various parts of Asia and have had the privilege to experience the unique culture that each country brings. Having also interacted with various businessmen across Asia, it is fascinating to see how each nation has its own unique business culture yet so many similar underlying principles that makes us all truly “Asian.”

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
As much as this might sound clichéd, there is no place like home. Having been a part of various startups since I started mathsHeuristics, Singapore has been undoubtedly the easiest and most efficient place to do business. Beyond the networks that I have built here, Singapore has built an entire eco-system that has been beneficial to business owners. Additionally, it has also built in regulations that have made it easy to start, maintain and build a thriving business. For example, it takes about 2 to 3 days to start a new business in Singapore, something unheard of in other parts of the world. This is just one of the many things that both Singaporeans and foreigners coming into Singapore rave about.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Simplicity is the key to success.”
In order to achieve simplicity, it is not the absence of complexity but an in-depth understanding of the situation or topic which allows it to be so.

Who inspires you?
The late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, one of Singapore’s modern founders. It says a lot when his death triggered an international outpouring of grief not just in Asia but globally. His leadership, strategic mind and tenacity as a leader in my opinion is unmatched.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I attended a seminar recently, and a speaker quoted this fascinating statement, “In today’s market, you do not build a company to last, but you build one to change.”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would focus on building strong communications with my business partners. This is because I have had bad experiences where the lack of clear communication has led to the breakdown of relationships. This is something I truly regret in my early days as a businessman and something I put a lot of emphasis on now.

How do you unwind?
I jog and do weight training at least three times a week. In my free time, I go boating with friends and my business partner.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Shameless plug for your business:
From my humble beginnings as a teacher, I have been able to build multiple strong businesses. Besides the success of mathsHeuristics (www.mathsheuristics.com) which has become one of Singapore’s leading primary school Mathematics coaching centres, I have also been successful in the food and beverage industry. I am a partner in BBQ House (www.bbqhouse.com.sg) , a one-stop solution for barbequed food in Singapore and also one of the biggest in Singapore.
However, we also had our fair share of failures in business. My first business was a renovation company and closed it after 3 years of operation due to our inexperience in project management and poor cash flow management. We have also ventured into the leisure boat rental business. Also due to a lack of experience and network in the marine industry, the boat we purchased sank and we were unable to claim insurance for the boat. The business was forced to close down 2 years later.

How can people connect with you?
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 62555941 (Office)

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

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Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is a partner in the Private Equity firm Unity-Group. Co-founder and non-exec director of The Marketing Group PLC and is CEO of Key Person of Influence (Asia). He is author of 'Progressive Partnerships'.

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