PREVIOUS POSITION: Managing Director, Saint-Gobain Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore.
YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY: 14 years in the construction industry, and 12 years in FMCG.
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Commerce (Economics) from The Australian National University. PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATION: Australian Chartered Accountant.
MANAGEMENT QUALIFICATION: MIT Sloan Advanced Management Programme.
FAVOURITE QUOTATION: “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.” – By Nelson Mandela.
FAVOURITE PASTIME: Golf, tennis, running and watching movies.
Looking back, what do you consider the defining moments in your first 100 days in this position?
I would count my first 100 days with KONE Malaysia as one of the most challenging periods in my corporate career! In addition to being new to the industry and KONE, I found development areas that needed to be addressed right away. It was critical for me to jump right into action, drive changes and adopt new ways of doing things. Fortunately, I had inherited an experienced management team and together, we worked through my first 100 days fire-fighting critical issues, while, at the same time, crafting a change management plan to help us build a solid operating platform, before embarking on a more sustainable business strategy. I am pleased to share that we have solidified our foundation and, in line with KONE’s newly launched corporate strategy in 2017, we can now focus and forge stronger partnerships by ‘Winning with Customers’.
What are the crucial factors for you to stay on top of your game?
Passion! Passion for my job, for the company to do well and, most importantly, for the people who drive the business. Passion is the deep internal drive to be the best, do the best and give the best. Passion motivates me to achieve above and beyond expectations and to drive the people working with me to meet and exceed their own expectations.
What do you foresee are the game-changing challenges facing your industry?
The challenges I see are new technologies (both sustaining and disruptive). As a leading player in the People Flow business, KONE has put together the brightest minds in exploring new technologies relentlessly. New technologies are not only confined to the elevator and escalator industry, but the entire building construction industry. Already we see advanced materials and construction methods allowing for ever taller buildings as well as unconventionally shaped ones. Any new challenge presents new opportunity. KONE is constantly on the cutting edge of these new technologies; we are not just reacting to changes but driving them as well.
Single out a leader in the corporate world you wish to emulate.
Jack Ma. He has proven that, in a socialist society, an entrepreneur can succeed despite starting his work life as an English-speaking tour guide. He encountered many setbacks in early life in studies and job applications, but he never gave up. He was gutsy in taking big risks and always ready to step out of his comfort zone. He’s inspiring, visionary and totally unique. Jack’s inimitable approach to things makes him stand out. His humility at accepting mistakes and learning from others is a big lesson to all aspiring entrepreneurs. Three of his many quotes that resonate most with me are:
- “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”
- “You need the right people with you, not the best people.”
- “Opportunity lies in the place where the complaints are.”
As Managing Director, what excites and worries you the most?
The opportunity to be an inspiring leader is what excites me most. A leader needs to see the big picture, motivate employees to work hard together, and develop team members who have potential to become leaders in their own right and guide them to success. There is no written rule on how to be an inspiring leader and it is definitely an exciting opportunity and challenge for me.
Employee safety is my main concern and chief worry. It is always heart-wrenching and devastating to learn that a colleague has been involved in an accident, either at work or on the road. This is why, at KONE, we greatly emphasise ‘Safety Awareness’ through many events and activities. Stressing the importance of safety is not just a goal at KONE but one of our core values.
How do you evaluate the performance of your team when benchmarked against the competition?
Looking back at KONE’s 100-year history, when there has been significant change, we have performed well. This is because we have been able to capture the opportunities brought by change, something we are determined to continue to do. We are at the age where customer experience is the most important differentiator. Our strategy is completely designed to serve each customer’s individual needs in the best way. The way we work is being geared completely around helping our customers – this is one of the most important ways we differentiate. It’s much more than only customer service, or responding in a timely manner. These are important, but our strategy, Winning with Customers, means being inquisitive about their needs and what makes them successful. It means taking a customer’s point of view when resolving a problem or designing products, and showing how we can bring value.
There are also ways we can differentiate through technologies. I have spoken about safety, so let me give you a couple of examples from sustainability, and how we can improve energy efficiency and environmental impact:
- LED lighting can reduce energy consumption by up to 80 per cent compared to halogen lighting and lasts 10 times longer.
- Standby solutions power down the equipment, when the elevator or escalator is not in use, providing substantial energy savings.
- KONE’s destination control system optimises traffic and people flow, reducing the size and number of elevators needed in a building.
- Our new high-rise solution, KONE UltraRope, cuts the energy consumption of a 500m elevator ride by 15 per cent.
Share with us advice you received from your mentors that still inspires you today.
I was fortunate to be mentored by not just one but three great people. I learned a lot from them about leadership. Two lessons, in particular, have helped to shape me as a leader. It is important for a leader to be surrounded by good people, and we should invest our time managing assets and not liabilities. The other is, it is important for a leader to empower his people (as we all know), but a great leader would know ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘how much’ to empower.
TEXT MICHAEL OH (chair and CEO Coach of Vistage International Malaysia)
PHOTOGRAPHY ROBIN LIEW