Yvonne Swim School Pte Ltd – Ms Yvonne Lim, The Aqua-Lady

We reached the office of Yvonne Swim School Pte Ltd in Yishun, Singapore, on an overcast morning with rain threatening to gush forth at any moment. But any sense of gloom was immediately dispelled as Ms Yvonne Lim walked in, bringing with her an aura of positive vibe and energy. It is as if the Sun shines upon the space she occupies and bring warmth to everyone within close vicinity of her.

Yvonne Swim School is Ms Yvonne Lim’s brainchild and beloved project which she has painstakingly built over more than 2 decades. From a solo operation in the early days to currently hiring 5 ful time staff supported by countless freelancers and part-timers.

Do not mistake this organization as one that just provide fun of the mill swimming lessons in public pools, what they offer are much more than that. They are a full service aquatic management platform specializing in building competitive swim teams from scratch. Their clients include the various country clubs and schools dotting our island nation. Recently, they have also branched out into providing aqua fitness programmes such as Aquabiking, AcquaPole, AquaJump and water-sports related merchandise suitable for all segments of the market from children swimwear, training aids, up to professional competition swim gear.

Beginnings

Ms Yvonne Lim is a well-lnown figure in the swimming world today. Her fame is not restricted to Singapore and she is known as far as the United States, United Kingdom and Middle East

She was among the pioneer batch of students of the School of Physical Education in 1984 and upon graduation was deployed to what was then known as the Vocational and Industrial Training Board Schools as a Physical Education Teacher specializing in Swimming. It was there that Ms Lim created an entire system and syllabus of developing top notch competitive swimmers.

After seven years with the VITB school and perfecting her system there, Ms Lim was head hunted by ex-Olympian and renowned national swimmer Mr Ang Peng Siong to be his assistant at the Singapore Island Country Club. She was tasked with building a team there and was the one running the day to day operations, she was so important to the daily operations that it was almost impossible to have an off day in the five years she worked there. At the end of her tenure, she was feeling exhausted and was thinking of taking a break to further her studies, but fate had other plans for her.

Offers started to come in for Ms Lim to help clubs rebuild their swim teams and revamp their aquatic programs once they found out that she had left her previous job, she had to shelf her plans for further education and put her vast talents to use rebuilding teams and introducing systems for the many clients that were desperately seeking her help and expertise.

At first it was just Ms LIm alone running the projects on a freelance basis, then it became a sole proprietorship and as more and more clients sought her out, she had to hire extra hands to help her handle the workload and Yvonne Swim School was incorporated as a Private Limited Company in 2005. The rest, as they say, is history.

Challenges

The main challenge Ms Lim faced as an entrepreneur has been the same since day one as it is today. The issue of manpower is always a constant problem. It is not for a lack of talents, we are, after all, an island nation surrounded by water and we are known regionally as a swimming powerhouse.

Getting the best talents is not a problem. The problem lies in getting the right people. People who share the same vision of providing the best quality swim coaching experience, the vision of providing the best value to the clients, the vision of doing the best they can for the clients.

While skills can be coached, mindsets are harder to change. Getting the right people with the right mindset into the team is a challenge that Ms Lim is grappling with even today.

Other smaller challenges include the fast changing market and a new generation of clients who are savvier and understand value more than before.

Students also come in different forms and have different characters, especially when dealing with children and young students. There is no one size fits all approach to coaching and education. Extra efforts have to be put in to understanding underlying reasons for progress bottlenecks and optimize coaching efficiencies to as to bring out the full potential of every student.

Differentiation

When you attend a swim class conducted by Yvonne Swim School, you will immediately notice the small class size. While typical swim classes conducted elsewhere will usually handle around 10 or more students, Yvonne Swim School’s classes usually only take in between four to six students per class

This is to ensure that the instructors can maximize their contact time with each individual student and provide better personalized coaching. Ms Lim is adamant about providing the best coaching possible to ensure that students can progress at the optimal rates.

Yvonne Swim School takes a holistic approach to swim coaching and will spend the time to discover underlying issues when students hit a bottleneck or are progressing at a rate that they should be issues might not always be physical or visible, sometimes it might be a mindset or something psychological that might be holding a student back. Ms Lim and her team of coaches will strive to solve the underlying issues to ensure optimal performance from the students

The culture that Ms Lim has built into her lessons are condensed into three simple words. Friendly, Focused, Fun. She makes sure that every class the school runs meet the three criteria. The coaches are friendly and builds a good rapport with students and their parents or guardians, they are focused on getting optimal results and always strive to over-deliver on their promises and last but not least, the atmosphere is always kept fun. Serious training does not mean that classes should not be fun for the students and coaches alike.

These same three words are also the basis of the company culture she has built over the decades, and one can instantly feel the cordial and relaxed atmosphere when one steps into their office.

Future

Having already built a thriving business with a great culture, Ms Lim is not resting on her laurels. Yvonne Swim School has just become the main brand distributor for Aropec from Taiwan and Mad Wave from Russia. The former produces mainly casual swimwear while the later produces FINA certified professional competitive swim gear and training equipment. Plans are already in place to set up retail outlets to serve all segments of the total swim market as we speak.

Also in the works are events and competitions for the swimmers that bridge and covers the gap between grassroots and professional levels. Ms Lim feels that it is a segment of the swimming community that has been underserved for too long and she intends to change that.

Offers have been coming in form overseas asking for Yvonne Swim School to set up branches and offer its services in their countries, so far the offer from Johor Malaysia is being looked into seriously and we should expect to see a Yvonne Swim School in the Iskandar region in the not too distant future.

Internally, Ms Lim is actively grooming leaders from her rank of coaches and hope to one day be able to help them run their own branches using her system and syllabus. It is Ms Lim’s hope that they will form the core of the next generation of leaders in the community to carry on the legacy and cultural developed at Yvonne Swim School.

Sacrifice and Motivation

As with every other serious entrepreneur out there, the biggest sacrifice Ms Yvonne Lim has had to make is in terms of her personal and family time. She spends an average of 16 hours per day, seven days a week coaching and handling the admin work of the business. Even with a 28 day work month system implemented at the school, the remaining two to three open days a month are used to catch up on paperwork and miscellaneous duties, but she is not complaining.

She takes pride in the progess of her students and clients, she enjoys the interactions, and gets a sense of fulfillment and achievement through her teaching and coaching. She feels an extra sense of pride when she can help a student push through a previously thought impossible limit and spur them on the greater heights

All these positive outcomes and the notes of appreciation from her students motivates her and inspires her to get to work every day provide even more value to those who engage her services. It is also this tireless work ethic that has helped built her sterling reputation over the years. By providing great value to her students, they reward her with positive affirmations which spur her on to doing better for the people around her. It is a never ending cycle of positive energy that drives Yvonne Swim School to ever more excellence.

Principles

Ms Lim has a personal motto that she sticks to. Abbreviated to P.U.S.H, it stands for ‘Persevere Until Something Happens’

It is a true reference to her grit and never-say-die attitude towards life and business. When she meets an obstacle or problem, she will keep persevering and pushing until she finds an answer or solution. When a student hits a bottleneck, she will look at all angles trying to find the underlying reason and she never gives up until she finds the answer. When the business hits a snag, she will keep trying different approaches until a solution is found.

True to her motto, she will keep persevering until something happens and will never give up before that.

Success

Ms Lim would only consider herself a success when the name Yvonne Lim and Yvonne Swim School Pte Ltd is synonymous with the term ‘Good Value’.

It is something she has given more than 20 years of her life to achieve. Positive recognition and a high level of trust between the school and its clients is something she has strived to attain and pass down through the company culture she has built.

She is always thinking about how to provide better value to her clients and students and the one and only greatest fear she has in running the swim school is under-delivering on her services or being unable to meet the expectations of the clients that place their full faith and trust in her and the school.

Advice

To any young aspiring entrepreneurs out there, Ms Lim has these few gems to share.

‘Be a lifelong learner, don’t ever stop learning and upgrading yourselves. Be focused and be brave to take action. Don’t be afraid of hard work and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.. Keep grinding and take care of your team, their success is what determines your success and the success of your organization.. Be the hardest worker in your team and lead by example. And always think about how you can provide value to everyone around you.’

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