Decades of experience as an international executive have equipped IPI Innovation Advisor Wong Hong Wai with the robust business acumen required to help small business owners thrive in today’s competitive market.

As the adage goes, “standing on the shoulders of giants” can offer a unique strategic vantage point—this is especially true for fledgling SMEs looking to grow. Industry veterans have much to contribute, and by seeking guidance and wisdom from them, ambitious SME leaders can gain valuable insight into the challenges and opportunities that are part and parcel of building a business.

By tapping into the expertise of industry veterans, SMEs can better navigate the intricacies of their industries, avoid common pitfalls, and drive innovation. They can be empowered to make well-informed decisions, capitalise on emerging trends and formulate effective growth tactics—all of which are particularly crucial in an increasingly crowded business landscape.

Having driven substantial change and growth across the transportation and automotive industry, both locally and internationally, IPI Innovation Advisor (IA) Wong Hong Wai is keen on helping SMEs expand and succeed by equipping them with the necessary tools to thrive in a competitive market.


Drawing upon decades of experience to boost SMEs

Recently appointed to the Board of Directors of China Yuchai International Limited (NYSE: CYD), with a career spanning over 35 years across six countries, including China, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States, Hong Wai has gained exposure to a variety of cultures. In an increasingly global and interconnected world, his wide perspective is a valuable tool for businesses to leverage.

During his 29-year tenure with General Motors (GM), Hong Wai occupied 12 distinct roles and held five corporate governance positions for various GM entities. From establishing new businesses and re-engineering existing business processes to planning diverse portfolios and managing strategic risks, his versatile skillset made him an essential catalyst for the company’s expansion and development across multiple regions. In Asia-Pacific, apart from growing GM’s core passenger business in the region, Hong Wai also spearheaded initiatives in electrification, digital ecosystem-integrated business models, telematics, aftermarket parts, and commercial vehicles to broaden the company’s reach and enhance its capabilities.

Prior to joining GM, Hong Wai was with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB). Whether engaging with business leaders, overseeing diverse portfolios or working on industry-wide initiatives like upgrading the local marine industry, Hong Wai’s role at EDB furnished him with the skills to forge strong and lasting relationships with key stakeholders. Such skills have helped him steer capability development and tackle unique roadblocks.

With a proven track record in driving business expansion and optimising efficiency, Hong Wai brings valuable insights and wisdom to his role at IPI. “Having developed broad perspectives and accumulated years of local and global experience, I now aspire to give back to our local economy and community,” shared Hong Wai. “I’ve also always retained from my time with EDB my passion for facilitating growth and success for businesses, and the IPI Innovation Advisors Programme provides a credible platform to help me achieve these objectives.”


Receptiveness is key to success

As an IPI IA, Hong Wai is a firm believer in embracing openness. SMEs, characterised by their limitations in capital, technology, human resources and experience, benefit from adopting a receptive mindset to fully harness the expertise of mentors. Their guidance can enable SMEs to access valuable insights like navigating foreign and unfamiliar markets, identifying technology trends and understanding business process discipline. With an experienced mentor, SMEs can avoid being blindsided by opportunities and risks, while benefiting from the agility and swift decision-making that comes with their small size.

Hong Wai is particularly conscious of the perils of being too conservative from a business perspective, harbouring fear of risk and failure and lacking time and resources to dedicate to new ventures. To overcome these obstacles, he emphasised the importance of cultivating relationships and trust with the leaders he works with to transform the mindset of a company.

My advice to SME leaders is to be vigilant and to maintain an open mind towards innovation, encompassing not only technology, but also business models, processes and go-to-market approaches,” added Hong Wai. “Having a mentor can be a more efficient and pragmatic approach for SMEs to learn more about these innovations. I would encourage SME leaders seeking assistance to connect with IPI as an initial step, to learn about the various services that IPI can provide to help accelerate the growth of their business.”