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Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
05-05-2013, 01:24 PM. (This post was last modified: 05-05-2013, 04:09 PM by Temperament.)
Post: #61
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
(05-05-2013, 12:10 PM)yeokiwi Wrote: I admire those who contribute to the society regardless of their background and their capacity.
I know there are lots of admiration for those who retire before 40, 35 or 30 but I am not the fan of this group of people, especially those specialists that the society has put in lots of resources to train them.

It is trued that they worked hard for their riches but it is not necessary trued that their hard work is the only reason that they are successful.

Ms Ng came from a well-off family. If she did not buck up, she probably would end up living off her family's riches. But she found her direction, worked hard and continue to contribute to the society.

I can understand where you are coming from.
Can you understand the poors got very little or no chance to make good even if some of them want to try very hard? i mean it is like really for them to climb Mt. Everest with very, very little help or resources. So 99.9% of the time is "No Money, No Talk".
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06-05-2013, 10:52 AM.
Post: #62
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
(05-05-2013, 12:10 PM)yeokiwi Wrote: I admire those who contribute to the society regardless of their background and their capacity.
I know there are lots of admiration for those who retire before 40, 35 or 30 but I am not the fan of this group of people, especially those specialists that the society has put in lots of resources to train them.

It is trued that they worked hard for their riches but it is not necessary trued that their hard work is the only reason that they are successful.

Ms Ng came from a well-off family. If she did not buck up, she probably would end up living off her family's riches. But she found her direction, worked hard and continue to contribute to the society.

To retire does not always mean do nothing thereafter, and the skill will no longer used.

If after retired, one can contributes his/her skill to the best of the calling, rather than to meet $ target, personal career or worst to meet boss's career vision, than I will still very admire the retirement. Big Grin
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12-05-2013, 09:45 AM.
Post: #63
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
The Straits Times
Published on May 12, 2013
Wong Kim Hoh meets... Lim Chap Huat
Developer builds on hard work

That - and destiny - helped Soilbuild founder scale the heights

As a toddler, Lim Chap Huat would tuck a pencil behind one ear and potter around his home, holding a ruler against the wall.

When his mother asked what he was doing, he would reply in Hokkien: "Wah kee chu." The phrase literally translates into: "I build house."

"Maybe it's destiny, maybe I'm fated to do this," says Mr Lim, now 59, with a shrug and a smile from an armchair in the lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel.

By "this", he means founding and running Soilbuild, a builder and developer of residential and industrial properties.

He has never done anything else. Immediately after completing national service in 1976, the polytechnic graduate put in $5,000 to start the company with three partners.

Today he is the controlling shareholder, and Soilbuild has grown from a humble contractor to a property developer which made a net profit of more than $400 million in 2011.

Its upscale residential developments include Leonie Parcview in Leonie Hill and the Meier Suites in Meyer Road; its commercial developments include Solaris at one- north and Eightrium at Changi Business Park.

Self-effacing and shy, the silver- haired corporate honcho says there is no secret to his success.

"If you work hard, you will be rewarded," he says.

He has certainly worked hard.

He is the eldest son and the third of seven children of a trishaw rider and a washerwoman. He spent the first four years of his life in a wooden shack in the compound of an old colonial bungalow in Jalan Besar before the family moved to a one-room rental flat near the old Kallang Airport

"The kitchen was just a slab of cement," recalls Mr Lim.

Theirs was a spartan lifestyle.

"I never stepped into a cinema until I was in my teens. I remember there was a school excursion to watch The Sound Of Music when I was in Primary 6 but I didn't go because I didn't have the money," says the former pupil of Guillemard Integrated Primary School.

His late father's income was erratic, not helped by the fact that he liked the occasional roadside wager.

"He spoke a bit of English, so on good days when he got tips taking angmoh tourists to the red-light district and other tourist areas, we would get bao for supper," Mr Lim recalls with a laugh.

Fortunately, his mother and grandmother supplemented the family income by washing and ironing clothes for families in the area.

From a young age, he had to help them deliver and collect laundry. Other children would often laugh at him, calling him a fugitive because he was often seen lugging a big bundle of clothes.

He worked during school holidays, from selling tickets at the National Stadium to clearing debris for $6 a day on a construction site.

The determination to get out of poverty kicked in early for Mr Lim, who completed his secondary education at Victoria School.

One catalyst was relatives who looked down on his family.

"I wanted to prove to them that even the son of a trishaw rider can make good. I also told myself that I must earn enough to take care of my mother," says Mr Lim, who gave tuition for seven years, from Secondary 1 until he finished his diploma in civil engineering at the Singapore Polytechnic, and assiduously saved all that he earned.

"Work and work and work and earn money - that was what I did during my growing-up years," he says.

The idea of becoming a contractor took root when he interned for a consultant engineer during his first-year school break at the polytechnic.

The company was a specialist in water treatment, and was involved in building works at Lower Peirce Reservoir.

"I noticed this very young contractor who wore nice clothes and drove a Volvo. He was making good money although when I started talking to him, he didn't seem to know much," he recalls with a laugh.

He felt that being a good contractor would probably afford him a better living than being a technician or senior technical officer, which was what many poly graduates ended up becoming in those days.

"I told myself if I didn't succeed after two or three years, I would go to England, get myself a degree and be happy becoming an engineer," says Mr Lim.

But fate seemed intent on marshalling him into a building career.

While he was still at the polytechnic, a clerk-of-works he knew would often pay him to work out quantities for tenders.

"I would calculate how much marble or concrete or tiles were needed for projects. I taught myself how to do it by reading up books in the National Library," he says with a grin.

He became a clerk-of-works himself while serving his national service. He suffered from anaemia, which saw him downgraded and seconded as a clerk-of-works overseeing construction projects in the army's land estate department.

"I wore civilian clothes, was a technical officer and the pay was almost like an officer's," he says.

While working on the building of a block of camps in Guillemard Road, he met contractor Fong Ying Wah, who was to become one of his partners.

The two struck up a good friendship.

"He would give me lifts in his car and I told him about my plans of becoming a contractor," he says.

After NS, he took $5,000 from his savings and teamed up with Mr Fong and two others - a subcontractor and an engineer - to set up Soilbuild. Only 22 then, he was the youngest but he ran the show.

"We started with just a table in someone else's office in a shophouse in MacPherson," he recalls.

The first year was rough.

Although they were promised clients and help with suppliers by Mr Fong's old boss, none came.

A client who got them to build a workshop ran into problems halfway through the project and could not pay them.

They survived by taking on small jobs.

"I went for a whole year without salary. I even dug into my savings to help out," says Mr Lim. "But we never thought of giving up because we knew there was money to be made."

True enough, the dark clouds cleared.

Between 1977 and 1979, they worked on a lot of factories in Jurong.

"Basically we were honest, we didn't cheat on materials, we advised clients how to save and we got a lot of referrals from architects," says Mr Lim, who was soon doing well enough to buy out the engineer's share of the business when the latter dropped out.

The company hit paydirt in the construction boom of 1980 and it was then that Mr Lim made his first million dollars.

"There were so many jobs. At one stage, I was juggling eight projects."

There were, however, snags along the way. One involved a former luxury car dealer who got the firm to build a three-storey office in Sungei Kadut.

"Midway through, he added one more floor. He couldn't get a loan and when we finished, he owed us more than $1 million," he says.

"I was lucky his secretary pitied me. Every time he sold a car, the secretary would tell me so that I could go to his office and ask for my money. He even sold me his country club membership," he says, adding that the dealer eventually fled the country and disappeared.

Such bad debts set Mr Lim thinking. "It occurred to me, why should I build for other people and let people owe me? Why don't I go into property development myself?"

His first project was building two semi-detached houses on a plot of land he bought in Phillips Avenue in Serangoon. The returns after he sold them convinced him he was onto a good thing.

"I bought the land for $522,000. I sold one house to a banker for $850,000. His brother bought the other one."

He has no qualms admitting that he bumbled along as he grew his business.

"I didn't know that I could borrow from banks. I didn't know how to hire project managers, and handled many projects myself. I didn't know better, because I've never worked for other construction companies," he says.

However, he was a fast learner, and was not afraid to take calculated risks.

"My grandmother was not educated but she was wise. She used to tell me: 'Ooh yew kua yew, bo yew ka ki siu'."

The Hokkien phrase means to follow good examples and create one's own opportunities if there are none to follow.

That was what he did during the 1987 financial crisis. He seized the opportunity to buy several plots of land - at between $40 and $50 per square ft - which came up for sale in Jalan Haji Alias, off Sixth Avenue.

"One guy I bought from recommended me to other people who wanted to sell. I was in the area almost every night with my cheque book," recalls Mr Lim, who made a handsome profit developing and selling at least 50 houses in the area.

He graduated from houses to small developments before moving on to condos and later, industrial, commercial as well as business space properties. One of his company's most famous projects is Solaris, a 15-storey, state-of-the-art green building at Fusionopolis.

An IPO attempt in 2000 did not succeed because of unfavourable market conditions but Soilbuild was publicly listed five years later.

He is not afraid of making big decisions.

"If you are transparent, have no intention to cheat and treat people fairly, things will fall into place," says the entrepreneur who has never retrenched any staff or cut salaries over 40 years in business.

Soilbuild's executive director Ho Toon Bah, 49, says: "I don't think he's ever been threatened or felt fearful. It has to do with his attitude in life. He jumped into becoming his own boss, and he's learnt to figure out everything by himself."

In 2005, Soilbuild delisted itself from the Singapore Stock Exchange for a couple of reasons, one of which was its share price, which was undervalued. As a property developer, the management also felt there was no need to raise more money.

The company, however, is planning two public listings - one for its construction arm, the other a Reit for its business space properties.

Mr Lim - whose wife Jee Lin heads Soilbuild's marketing and leasing division - is not resting on his laurels. The company is expanding its presence overseas and is managing a couple of construction projects in Myanmar.

"I think I have no hobby. In my 40 years of business, I always have to find new challenges," says the father of three. His sons are aged between 21 and 27.

Those who know him will tell you differently. He has been an active grassroots leader in Chong Pang for the last 15 years.

His pet causes are the poor and the needy, especially students.

He is also one of Victoria School's most generous patrons; among other things, he started the school's tuition scheme.

Fellow alumnus Quak Hiang Whai, 50, a media adviser, says Mr Lim turns up for many of the school's events.

"More important, he is very instrumental in student and welfare development, giving generously in terms of efforts and money. When we held our 130th anniversary dinner to raise funds for the welfare of the students, he underwrote the entire 130 dinner tables."

Mr Lim explains his affection for his alma mater very simply.

"I owe a lot to the school, it helped to shape my thinking," he says. And he spouts its Latin motto: "Nil sine labore."

"It means, 'Nothing without hard work'."
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19-05-2013, 09:30 AM.
Post: #64
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
Another fast-car enthusiast! Tongue

The Straits Times
Published on May 19, 2013
Wong Kim Hoh meets... Daniel Charles
Daredevil firmly in the driver's seat

Grit, enterprise drive 26-year-old car enthusiast through bad patches to build racing business

By Wong Kim Hoh

About two weeks ago, a 50-year-old South African businessman and his 18-year-old son flew to Brussels from Johannesburg.

For the next seven days, the pair had only one thing on their mind: speed. They got behind the wheels of three super cars - a Ferrari 458, a McLaren MP4-12C and a Maserati GranTurismo - and tore down the tracks of the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, where the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix is held.

On one day, they had lessons with Sabine Smith, a TV personality and German professional motor racing driver for BMW and Porsche.

They also drove the speed machines to Nurburgring, a motor sports complex south of Cologne in Germany.

During the trip, the duo stayed in suites in swanky hotels including the Steigenberger Grandhotel in Brussels and Manoir de Lebioles, an ultra-luxurious country manor in the heart of the Ardennes forests. A helicopter ferried them to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

This ultimate bonding holiday cost more than $100,000. It was arranged by Mr Daniel Charles, a young Singaporean in the business of making dreams come true - especially those which involve tar, speed, roaring engines and the smell of burning rubber.

The 26-year-old is the founder of Global Racing Schools, which puts together exclusive driving experiences and race car training for professional and leisure drivers in more than 200 locations worldwide.

He has been hell-bent on entering the racing business since he was 12. "The adrenaline and controlled danger that motor sports offer are unlike anything else you can experience," he says.

If he sounds like a daredevil, that's because he is a daredevil. He built Global Racing Schools in 2007 from scratch and through trial and error; he had neither formal business training nor investors or mentors.

"A big-time entrepreneur once said that to enter an industry, you begin by sticking one finger in. Before you know it, you will have one hand in, and then an arm in and then a foot in," says Mr Charles.

Lanky and articulate, he is the elder of two sons of an oil rig diver and an accountant. "My parents got divorced before I was five. He just left a note on the table which said, 'I'm gone'. My mum was stuck with two kids," he recalls. He has not seen his father since.

Because she had to work, his mother entrusted her two boys to the care of two of her sisters. "I went to live with one aunt in Yishun, my brother went to another aunt in Jurong. I saw my mother only at night. She struggled a lot. She had to work, attend night classes because she had only O levels then, and help me with my homework. But she eventually became an accountant," he says.

When he was 15, his mother got married again, to an Australian IT professional whose surname he took.

Although he gave no trouble at Peiying Primary School, he turned rebellious at Sembawang Secondary. "I was hanging out with bad company. My friends were in gangs, they were smoking, stealing stuff," he says.

With a grimace, he admits he did the same on a couple of occasions. "I was not a full-fledged gangster. I guess I was looking for my identity and trying to fit in," he says. "But I almost got expelled. I was caught vandalising, pouring acid into fish tanks. I did months of detention and cleaning in school. It was epic."

Fortunately he straightened out, helped by a teacher who never gave up on him. "She would make me stay back after class to talk to me and she made me write papers after school. I was resentful then but she really helped me a lot. Her name is Madam Azwiza," he says.

He developed his racing obsession at 12, after an uncle took him to a go-karting track in Jurong. "I was obsessed after that. The smell of sweaty helmets and the fumes from the vehicles, I loved it so much."

He would hit the track every week, just for a 10-minute session which cost $30 then. Funding the habit required a lot of scrimping and saving, and innovative entrepreneurial schemes.

"Students would always forget to bring art paper during art lessons. But I always brought stacks, and would sell each piece for 50 cents. A stack cost me only $2.50 so I was making 500 per cent profit."

He also rented out ties on days when students were required to wear one. "I had several, picked up from school fields or the canteen. I rented them out for $1 a day," he recalls with a grin.

Grand plans to build his own go-kart track started brewing in his head, and led to some zany behaviour. Together with his cousin Andrew Gan, a year younger, he would read up on the business.

"We would do research, come up with layouts of our track, look at land prices, weigh the pros and cons of regional locations. We even called up go-karting operators in the United States, telling them we were interested in bringing their concept over to Asia," he says with infectious enthusiasm. "We were kids, what did we know? But we just wanted to know, so that if and when the day came, we would be ready. We just needed one lucky break."

Not surprisingly, his O-level results suffered.

"I got 38 points," he says, referring to the aggregate for his best five subjects. "I took it again as a private candidate the next year, and scored nine points."

He went on to study marketing at Nanyang Polytechnic.

His mother and friends thought he was mad.

"Marketing was a 19-pointer course. With nine points, I could have qualified for better courses like bio-science but I told myself I needed to know marketing if I wanted to do business. Moreover, the Formula One was all about marketing anyway," he says.

By then, he had already started his first racing business, DNA Mo-torsports, with his cousin. The company distributed racing products, from engines to suits and helmets.

"I decided I needed a well- known name so I found out what the top three brands in the industry were. Two were already in Singapore. I wrote to CRG, the one which was not, and said: 'You can either remain in this market with no dealer or you can appoint me until a better guy comes along.' There was no tie-in contract, so they gave it a go," he says.

"All that I asked was that they put my name down as distributor on their website."

The first order - for a $15,000 go-kart and engine - came very soon after. "The guy could have ordered it directly from Italy but he did it through me, a 16-year-old kid," he says.

But everything that could go wrong went wrong. Not only was the shipment delayed, it also ended up in South Africa. And when it finally arrived, certain parts were missing.

"When I opened the package, I got a shock. They were just parts and there was no instruction manual on how to assemble them. They assumed you knew how to put it together," he says.

He had to call a competitor to help him assemble it.

"It was awful. It's like you are the Ferrari dealer and you have to get the Lamborghini guy to fix your engine," he says. "Fortunately my customer was a forgiving guy. He actually ordered another engine for me just to have spare parts."

The episode, he says, was hard to live down. "The industry remembered me as the guy who did not know how to fix a go-kart," he says.

But he refused to give up. He built himself a website and started stocking other motor sports products. "At one time, I was stocking 7,000 different types of products - from helmets to gloves."

DNA lasted two years. It did not, he candidly says, make much money.

"It wasn't something we did for money, it was fun. We did everything blind, learnt everything the hard way and followed what business books said we should do. We'd turn up at go-kart tracks in suits because we wanted to create a good impression but people were laughing at us."

But the experience taught him a lot, made him a lot of friends and got him a wide network of business contacts. It also laid the groundwork for Global Racing Schools which he set up six years ago.

One of his customers asked him if he knew where his child could get training to be a professional racer. It set him thinking.

"The idea was to link up people who wanted to be race drivers to racing schools overseas," he says, adding that he negotiated with these foreign schools for a commission each time he sent clients their way.

"My first client was a Singaporean. He was going to be in Germany on a business trip so we assigned him a racing driver and a car at the Nurburgring," he recalls.

The business took quite a while to take off.

"We'd get maybe one enquiry a month, and a client once every three or four months," he says. "We didn't make money for three years. Fortunately, we had no overheads."

National service made things more complicated. Made a technician, he had no access to the Internet during the day so he brought in a partner to help him run the company.

He would spend nights answering e-mail and doing night classes for a marketing degree from Curtin University in Australia.

His cousin, Mr Gan, 26, says: "He basically survived on four hours of sleep every day. I remember him going to the pasar malam to buy four alarm clocks so that he could wake up in the morning. But it also shows how determined and dedicated he was."

Mr Charles focused all his energies on building Global Racing Schools after completing his national service.

Along the way, he went through some pretty bad patches.

His partner pulled out, one of the cars he had arranged for a client got damaged and cost him $120,000 in repairs, a company in the United States sued him for copying its business concept, some suppliers did not want to pay him his commission.

"It was a low period. I was in over my head," he says with a sigh.

But he refused to throw in the towel.

"You just press on. I was willing to do anything to make sure that the business survived. Anyway, I've always believed there's a thin line between genius and insanity."

Mr Gan, who has just completed his mechanical engineering degree at Nanyang Technological University, says of his cousin: "We all have doubts but Daniel has an uncanny ability to see past the doubts. He had a very clear vision of where he wanted the company to go."

The turning point came when Mr Charles started to tailor programmes instead of using those offered by schools.

"Very few do what we do. We can offer clients endless possibilities," he says.

Corporate clients started knocking on his door, and helped to get the company into the black two years ago.

Today, Global's clients fall into two categories: corporations and individuals looking for unique driving experiences; and aspiring professional racers looking for training and management advice.

Mr Charles has staff in seven countries including Australia, Belgium, France, the US and Vietnam servicing between 30 and 50 clients a month. Programmes start from $99 for three laps in a Ferrari around a race track to $3,000 for a Formula One driving experience. And if you want to stay in a presidential suite and take a few spins around the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in eastern Germany in a supercar - as a Swedish tycoon recently did - Mr Charles and his team can arrange that too. Just be prepared to pay $20,000 a day.

The young entrepreneur reckons his experiences have made him a lot more prudent and careful.

He has also become a lot more savvy, getting in professionals to teach him how he should control and invest his money.

He wants to scale greater heights.

"We're just scratching the surface with the business. People are willing to spend a lot of money doing this. My dream is to have an office in every major city," says Mr Charles, who lives with his mother, stepfather, younger brother and stepsister in a Yio Chu Kang condominium and gallivants around town in a Ssangyong Musso.

Meanwhile, he has long given up that dream of building a go-kart track.

"It's just not profitable at all."
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19-05-2013, 11:15 AM.
Post: #65
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
Motor sports is perfectly fine. But isn't he a bit too early to receive an interview like this? He is not a Mark Zuckerberg who created something with a massive social impact and wealth. Also, I wonder how he did all this when national service should be a big disruptor.
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19-05-2013, 11:22 AM. (This post was last modified: 19-05-2013, 11:23 AM by CY09.)
Post: #66
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
(19-05-2013, 11:15 AM)LionFlyer Wrote: Motor sports is perfectly fine. But isn't he a bit too early to receive an interview like this? He is not a Mark Zuckerberg who created something with a massive social impact and wealth. Also, I wonder how he did all this when national service should be a big disruptor.

"National service made things more complicated. Made a technician, he had no access to the Internet during the day so he brought in a partner to help him run the company."
Also, technician vocation tends to be day job with no stay in, so it is possible he returns to his company in the evenings to see how things have progressed. Possibly showing his grit and will to succeed in his venture

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28-05-2013, 02:04 PM.
Post: #67
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
Once again, sorry for posting this late, but better late than never! Big Grin

The Straits Times
Published on May 26, 2013
Wong Kim Hoh meets... Calsia Lee
Abandoned kid crafts own success

Calm, articulate and self-deprecating, furniture firm boss was given away as a baby

Calsia Lee has a gentle voice, lilting and well modulated, and a fluid command of the English language.

It is not a long stretch to assume that she was educated in a top-tier school.

But that, she will have you know, could not be further from the truth.

She was a foul-mouthed, trouble-making teenage delinquent, and barely scraped through her O levels in a neighbourhood school.

Her vocabulary of Hokkien vulgarities, she assures you, is truly impressive.

"Just get me mad on a worksite," says the founder and managing director of Mudian, a company which specialises in custom-made kitchens and wardrobes.

The polished diction is the result of two years spent in a girls' home run by Catholic nuns during her teens, and a two-year relationship with an older Englishman when she was barely 20.

Articulate and self-deprecating, Ms Lee, 44, has the calm and expansive personality often possessed by individuals who have gone through turbulence, tamed their wild side and found their bearings.

And hers has been a colourful life: she was an abandoned baby who grew into a rebellious teen and later a gutsy entrepreneur in the male-dominated industry of furniture manufacturing. Besides Mudian which has an annual turnover of $4 million, she is also a partner in several other businesses, from interior design to outdoor furniture and renovations.

She was born out of wedlock and her mother entrusted her to the care of a babysitter.

"After a month, money for milk powder ran out so my babysitter took me to see my mother, who said: 'I don't want the child. Why don't you go and look for her father?'"

And so the babysitter did. But the infant's father - who already had a family - did not want her either.

The babysitter decided to adopt the baby herself. A hawker, she was a single parent with a son who was then 10 years old.

"She got my father to sign a transfer paper. I still have it, it says, 'Transfer of child from this person to this other person.' It's rather sad."

She grew up in a kampung in the East Coast with her adoptive mother, brother, grandmother, uncle and aunt.

She attended the former Bedok Primary School and was a happy but unruly kid who forged her mother's signature on report cards which had more red marks than blue.

"I was a handful. I wouldn't go home because I was busy catching spiders, playing marbles and beating up boys," she says.

She was a savvy little money maker as well, often peddling kueh her mother could not sell at her Siglap stall.

"When opera troupes performed at the kampung during the Hungry Ghost month, I'd ask my grandmother for a couple of dollars to buy a few tins of canned pineapples. I'd add water, sugar and ice to make drinks, and could earn about $20."

Then there were the tikam scams she ran. Popular in the 1960s and 1970s, tikam was a game where children bought slips of numbered paper hoping to win prizes, ranging from sweets to toys.

"I charged five cents a ticket. There were no prizes, but nobody knew," she says with a grin.

That she was adopted was no secret. She had to drop in regularly at a social service centre in Pearl's Centre.

"The social workers would ask me the same thing over and over again. Basically it was to ensure that I was not being tortured by the family although in my case, it was probably the other way around," she says, breaking into a guffaw.

Her adoptive mother would also threaten to send her back to her natural parents whenever she became too much to handle.

"When you're a nine- or 10-year-old, it doesn't mean anything. I was thinking: 'What are you talking about, you're my real mum.' It wasn't something which bothered me."

Things changed when her adoptive mother died. She was 13 and all hell broke loose - nobody could control her.

She started stealing from provision shops and relatives. She skipped school often to play mahjong.

"I was defiant and there were just no outlets for me to release that aggression," she says.

Fortunately, she did not succumb to the more insidious temptations around her.

"There were a lot of drugs in our kampung. It was common to see addicts shooting up, sniffing glue in alleys, but that didn't interest me."

It got to a point when teachers from Siglap Secondary School started calling her neighbour's home.

"We didn't have a phone at home. They told my grandmother that I'd not been going to school. I was given a terrible caning by my uncle," she says.

When her uncle and his wife decided she was too much to handle, they sent her to a girls' home.

"I was not their child and they didn't want to deal with it. I understand it now although it was an issue then," says Ms Lee, who ended up in the Marymount Vocational Centre, a home for juvenile delinquents and girls with family problems.

The two-year stint did her good.

"We were looked after by nuns. For once, I learnt discipline. I had to do chores, like chop vegetables and fry fish and eggs for 40 people. I did all my own washing. I became a lot milder and calmer. It was probably one of the best things my adoptive family did for me," says Ms Lee, who was transferred to Whitley Secondary School where she completed her O levels.

Her English improved as she was forced to speak it at the home. She also made several good friends she sees regularly even today.

After two years, she went back to live with her uncle and his family. By then, the family had moved to a Housing Board flat in Hougang.

Her O level results were nothing to shout about. Her grandmother tried to persuade her to continue her studies but she had already made up her mind to start working because she was desperate to move out of her uncle's home.

"I was not in control of my life. I could bear not having food but I could not bear not having the freedom to do the things I wanted to do," she says.

Hankering to travel for free, she applied to become an air stewardess but at 1.59m, she failed to meet the height requirement of 1.6m.

"I went for the interview and the first thing that they did was to measure my height. I remember the person telling me, 'Miss, can you relax and not stretch your neck?'"

She became a receptionist in a construction firm instead, a job she held for two years.

Her next job was selling ad space in an advertising agency. She worked hard, and could pull in a handsome $3,000 each month.

"After a couple of years, I managed to save $10,000 which I thought was big money so I told myself, 'Hey, I'll stop working and take a year off and lepak,'" she says, using the Malay word that means idling.

By that time she was sharing an apartment in Grange Road with some friends. She ended up mostly staying indoors, watching television.

But a few months later, a friend asked her to help out at her interior design company.

She started as a receptionist but ended up a partner in the business. In 1997, the two started Mudian with less than $80,000.

"She came out with the bulk of it," Ms Lee says. "But over the years, both of us pumped in money."

The idea was to start a woodwork business, making everything from shelves to doors and cupboards, to complement the interior design company.

They hired six carpenters, and began operations with a couple of tables in a small space in Toa Payoh.

The first few years were a steep learning curve for Ms Lee, who was a novice at managing a manufacturing business.

Among other things, she was ripped off by suppliers and given the run-around by carpenters who told her certain designs could not be executed.

"It was frustrating. I could tell them how to construct a piece of furniture but I couldn't physically do it so I had workers and carpenters and contractors twirling me around their little fingers and telling me things could not be done. Clients would then say: 'You designed this and now you're telling me it cannot be done?'" recalls Ms Lee.

One client almost turned her away when she arrived at his home to take measurements for a renovation job.

"He asked where my boss was and why he'd sent a girl. I told him I was the boss," she says.

There were contractors who even told her and her partner to pack up, stay home and wash and cook instead.

Adding to her woes was the fact that she ran ahead of herself and expanded the business faster than she should.

"It got to a point where I'd be crying every end of the month worrying where I would get money to pay workers and suppliers," says Ms Lee, remembering a time when the company was more than $600,000 in debt.

To cope, she did not draw any salary for a few months and also took credit lines from banks to settle payments.

"I didn't tell my business partner because it was like admitting that I was not managing the business well. Anyway, it was not fair on her because she was busy making money from her interior design business to cover this company," she says.

The turning point came when she decided to scale down the business and took a loan to invest in some sophisticated equipment to cut down her reliance on labour.

"One of the workers, who is still working with us, said: 'You're stupid to be investing in this. This is going to be a white elephant.' I said it would cut man hours and increase production time."

It did.

Over time, things got better and the business turned profitable. Today, Mudian - which has a factory in Sungei Kadut and a brand new showroom in Ubi - has a staff strength of 32, and an annual turnover of more than $4 million.

Meanwhile, staff, clients and contractors no longer give her short shrift.

"We proved ourselves after a year or two. I could sit down, draw designs, tell them how wide or how thick the wood should be and how it should be constructed. And I know how to operate all our machines," she says.

Production manager Raymond Tay, 41, started work as a carpenter at Mudian 12 years ago.

"I was quite surprised to find a woman boss when I first started. But she can do everything. She rolls up her sleeves and drives lorries to make deliveries when she needs to. When she sees a problem, she takes care of it. She is very straight, and means what she says. She has a lot of courage."

Asked how she runs her business, Ms Lee, who lives in a beautifully furnished detached house in Mimosa Crescent, in Yio Chu Kang, says: "There are two things I drill into any staff we hire. First, no politics. Second, nobody is indispensable, including me.

"I tell them that if I drop dead tomorrow, the company will still go on."

The single woman is proud that all her employees kept their jobs despite the company's troubles. Three of the six carpenters who started out with her are still in her employ; the others have retired.

Human resource and finance manager Kiang Tan, 46, became friends with Ms Lee 30 years ago when both were at Marymount Vocational Centre. "It was obvious even then that she was not a quitter. She is a very strong woman. Look at her now. She is an expert at what she does, and she learnt everything from scratch."
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28-05-2013, 02:37 PM. (This post was last modified: 28-05-2013, 05:24 PM by Temperament.)
Post: #68
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
Quote:"There are two things I drill into any staff we hire. First, no politics. Second, nobody is indispensable, including me.

"I tell them that if I drop dead tomorrow, the company will still go on."
Ha! Ha!
By the above, i will like her quite a lot?
i think i will say the same thing to my employees. i hate politics at the work place especially the ('crafty, sneaky and casual-looking") back stabbing types of remarks that say it in front of the Boss. i had witnessed it many times. And was a victim myself many times until i had to resign no matter how much effort i put into my work.

Yes! If i am a Boss now, i will adopt her policy for all new employees. No back-stabbings are allowed. Of course politics for the good of everybody are encouraged. We are political animals after all.

Alas! i am too old already to start a company.
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1) Rule # 1, do not lose money.
2) Rule # 2, refer to # 1.
3) Not until you can manage your emotions, you can manage your money.

Truism of Investments.
A) Buying a security is buying RISK not Return
B) You can control RISK (to a certain level, hopefully only.) But definitely not the outcome of the Return.

My signature is meant for psychoing myself. No offence to anyone. i am trying not to lose money unnecessary anymore.

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02-06-2013, 09:40 AM.
Post: #69
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
The Straits Times
Published on Jun 02, 2013
Wong Kim Hoh meets... Vincent Chin
Small town boy learnt to dream big

Boston Consulting Group chief talks about how he took 'two steps back to take a step forward'

In writer Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, a bunch of pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything from a giant computer Deep Thought. After 7.5 million years pondering this, Deep Thought solemnly pronounces: 42.

There is just one snag: The beings do not quite know what the question is.

In the last three decades since Adams' "trilogy of five books" was first published, geeks and readers have devoted an inordinate amount of time grappling with this, and the other poser: Why 42?

Avid fan Vincent Chin, 46, decided to frame his own ultimate question to the ultimate answer.

It is: "At what age does one stop taking and start giving?"

"Coincidentally, just earlier this week the average lifespan of a Singaporean was estimated to be 84, so 42 is exactly midpoint," he says with a grin.

At 42, he started writing a column in a Malaysian business weekly, posing questions about economics, education and governance.

The senior partner and managing director of The Boston Consulting Group also decided that one of the best ways he could give back was to help others move forward and make them successful.

"When you make others successful, you become all the more successful yourself. It means you have the ability to bring the best out in people and that leadership trait is very well-prized," he says.

The corporate honcho, who started out in life as a poor boy from Malacca, says he is just emulating the mentors who played a big role in his success.

He is the eldest of four children. His father, a street urchin who was picked up by a missionary and educated at St Francis Institution in Malacca, taught mathematics; his mother was a kindergarten teacher.

"Without sounding immodest, I scored 100 per cent across every subject in Primary 1. My teacher was astounded; my parents did not believe it because I would come home and not do my homework. But they probably realised later that their son had a bit of brains," says Mr Chin, who was consistently one of the top students at Bandar Hilir Primary and the Malacca High School.

Mr Chin realised very early on that he had the courage to challenge convention.

He cites the time when he defied school rules which required Chinese schoolboys to wear shorts while their Malay counterparts could wear long pants to school.

"When the discipline master hauled me up, I was quite prepared to take him on. I asked him what was the difference between my legs and those of the Malay boys. I also said, 'Who am I offending by wearing long pants? Am I offending you?'"

The argument did not impress the discipline master, who punished him with two strokes of the cane.

"I wore my shorts the next day but soon reverted to long pants. Nowadays, every student wears long pants. Maybe I helped to change that," he says with a guffaw.

Like many feisty individuals, he delighted in going off the beaten track.

"I'd say I spent the first part of my life, up till the age of 21, breaking barriers."

As leader of his school's scout troop, he proved doubters wrong when he pulled off a rare trip to Singapore.

He organised the visit with very little money.

"I just wrote to Raffles Institution and they hosted us by allowing us to sleep in the gym," says Mr Chin, who adds that he has never let critics or the lack of money stop him from pursuing his dreams.

He left Malacca for Singapore after completing his O levels.

"No matter what, I wanted to be here," says Mr Chin, who was convinced his ticket to a brighter future lay in continuing his studies in English, instead of Malay.

He completed his A levels at National Junior College on an Asean scholarship.

Bowled over by life in a new city and a new independence, he suffered the first blip in his life.

"All through primary and secondary school, I never really had to work that hard. I realised I had to work harder for my As but I didn't," he says.

The straight As he was hoping would get him into the law faculty at the National University of Singapore eluded him.

He had to settle for his second choice: computer science.

"I made it through but I didn't like it. Computer science was very rule-bound and I've never lived my life by rules," he says.

But he did achieve something else while at university. Although not musically trained, he wrote and staged a musical.

"It was about a small town boy who met a sophisticated girl, sort of like Grease reversed," he says, referring to the musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. "I wrote the script, as well as the music and lyrics to eight songs."

After graduation he joined Singapore Airlines as a management trainee. Postings first to Bangkok and later Ho Chi Minh City followed.

After four years he developed an itch to get out of operations and into the commercial side of business. But just after he decided to accept a job with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), the airline offered him the post of station manager in Zurich.

"After two years working in one of the poorest cities in the world, to be told you are going to live in Zurich, in one of the richest countries in the world... that was very hard to resist," he says.

It was a good expatriate life for a newly married young man; his perks included a nice apartment and a company car.

"As an Asian in Zurich, you become an ambassador. People kept asking me about Singapore and Malaysia and talking about the boom in Asia.

"I realised that I had to experience the Asian Miracle, the Asian Tiger story for myself. I also realised that I had lost touch with Malaysia," he says.

He decided it was time for the second phase of his life. And he was going to live this phase by turning Lenin's maxim of One Step Forward, Two Steps Back on its head.

"I was prepared to take two steps back to take a step forward."

He decided to move to Kuala Lumpur and join Andersen Consulting - which had kept the job open for him - even though it meant a 50 per cent pay cut. It was not an easy decision, especially since the first of his two children - who are now aged 13 and 16 - was on the way.

In Kuala Lumpur, he drove his father's old and battered Datsun 120Y.

"He had just bought himself a Proton and was going to sell his old car but I told him to let me have it," he says.

As part of Andersen's new ventures team, he worked on several projects including Malaysia's multimedia corridor and rose through the ranks very quickly.

He remembers having breakfast by himself at the Hilton in Seoul as a pivotal moment in his life.

"I was assigned to work on a government project in Korea because of my experience of having worked on the multimedia corridor in Malaysia. For the first time, the notion of world-class became very clear in my mind. It was no longer an ephemeral world.

"I realised this boy from Malacca who went to Singapore had learnt something and acquired a skill set that was valuable anywhere in the world."

He took another step back to go forward when he left Andersen to join The Boston Consulting Group in 2000.

"I wanted to be in strategy, to be in the boardroom," says Mr Chin, who had no issues taking the lower position of consultant reporting to a manager even though he was already managing a team at Andersen.

"I was after learning," he says, adding that this thirst for learning is one of his greatest assets.

"The problem with smart, bright people is that they are not very good at learning from other people any more. But I believe there are always good mentors in every good organisation. You just must want to be mentored," he says.

He was made a partner in BCG after five years. He is now head of South-east Asia, the first home- grown talent to assume the role.

It was another pivotal moment in his life. "It is such an important milestone because to be part owner of a global business is such a big thing," he says.

The BCG, one of the largest private companies in the United States, has 78 offices in 43 countries. As head of South-east Asia, he oversees 200 consulting staff across five offices in the region.

To be successful, he says, a person needs to dream.

"One lesson I learnt is the power of aspiration: dreams only come true when at first you can dream it. I had little dreams when I was younger. Wanting to be in Singapore while a small town Malacca boy. Wanting to open new horizons for my Scout troop. At this stage the dreams were bigger, like believing I could triple my business in five years."

He says of the last goal: "When you set a goal like that, you look at the business differently. If you say you want to grow the business by 10 per cent, the moves you make, the people you hire are necessarily incremental.

"But when you have an audacious aspirational goal, you suddenly think, 'Hey, we are not hiring enough people, not investing in this and that.'"

Mr Chin - whose wife is a former consultant who now sits on the board of a Catholic charity - says matter-of-factly: "I know I have the ability to move results."

But at this stage in his life and career, he believes he needs to more than deliver results, he wants to be a leader.

Which leads us to 42 and giving back.

"I asked for leadership, and at this stage I realised it's about helping others move forward," says Mr Chin, who sits on the board of Singapore Institute of Management.

"Hence SIM, hence my column, hence my role. It's about moving forward but eventually I guess giving is also a chief lesson I draw from my mentors," he says. "The realisation that you have to give back comes only after you've achieved a bit."

A good mentor and leader, he says, must know how to help his staff get the credit, recognition and rewards they deserve.

Mr Ong Ching Fong, 39, who works for Mr Chin, has known him since both were colleagues at Andersen.

"He is a great mentor. He doesn't mince his words at times but he has really guided my career at critical junctures. He shares his credit with me, he knows how to raise my profile," says the managing director.

Asked if he has any fears, the boyish-looking Mr Chin - who often uses pop cultural references from Bruce Lee to Chow Yun Fat movies to make a point - says: "I'm very afraid of the emperor's new clothes.

"I hope people will tell me if and when I'm naked."
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14-07-2013, 10:30 AM.
Post: #70
RE: Wong Kim Hoh meets...... (Sunday Times Interview Series)
From the interview, you really get a sense that this guy is a man of integrity. It's often tempting to think of the sales/business world as one where people would do anything to get ahead. So it's really refreshing to read about guys like this.

Wong Kim Hoh meets... Yap Kok Kin

A couple of years ago, Mr Yap Kok Kin discovered that a supplier had delivered fake parts to his electronics factory in Shenzhen.
He decided to withhold payment. That riled the supplier, who dispatched nasty-looking men to stand in front of the factory and bombarded Mr Yap's e-mail and mobile phone with threatening messages.
"I decided we needed to talk. I didn't want to talk to the sales guy, so I told my men to call the owner instead," says says the 52-year-old chairman of Earns Technologies.

The owner - a big, burly chap - turned up.
"I tried to tell him what he did was wrong but he said it was common practice in the market. He said, 'Only a couple of the parts didn't work, the others did. What's wrong with you?' "
Mr Yap stood his ground and told the man to pay a penalty and write a letter of apology.
"He said, 'What is your penalty?' I replied, 'One renminbi.' My purchasing manager asked me if I meant 10,000 renminbi, I said, 'No.'"
One renminbi or yuan is about 20 Singapore cents.
After a lengthy silence, the incredulous supplier told Mr Yap he could not accede to the demand.
"He said, 'This is too degrading, I feel so ashamed.' "
The man insisted on paying 20,000 yuan instead. A few days later, Mr Yap also received a long, profusely apologetic letter.

In business, says the entrepreneur, there are no short cuts or easy ways out.
"You just have to do what's right," he says.
He should know. When the former electrical engineer decided to set up Earns in 2004, he left the running of the factory to a partner whose business practices were not the cleanest.

The business bled almost from the word go and was once in debt to the tune of more than half a million dollars.
It took a couple of years for Mr Yap - who regained control in 2007 - to clean up the mess and make Earns not just profitable but also reputable.
Today, the company - which has an office in Hong Kong - not only has cash reserves of more than US$1 million (S$1.3 million), it has also been lauded for its corporate social responsibility initiatives in Shenzhen and even earned a Caring Company Award from the Hong Kong Council of Social Service.

Decked out in a short-sleeved shirt, chinos and a pair of sensible if stodgy shoes, the soft-spoken, moustachioed man defies the flashy and self-possessed stereotype of a Chinese towkay.
He is one of eight children of a technician who worked his way up to engineer and had two wives.

"My father's first wife has five children. My mother is the second wife. I've an elder sister and a younger brother," says Mr Yap, whose mother died when he was 29.

By any yardstick, theirs was a pretty unorthodox domestic arrangement.
"We did not live together. There was probably some prior arrangement but my father always went back to his first wife at night," he recalls.
The two women did not speak to or of each other but their children get on well.

"My dad was a really good dad, not because he had two wives but because he really spent time with his children," says Mr Yap, adding that his father would take all the children on outings - usually to the beach - every weekend.

"He didn't go to university but he spoke the Queen's English and was very good with his hands. He was the manager in the repair department of Philips and could repair everything in the house," he says.
Mr Yap's childhood was peripatetic: The family moved homes several times before he turned 10.

"When I was eight, we went to live with my maternal grandmother in her three-room flat in Selegie. She had six children, so including my siblings and I, there were 10 of us in the flat. I slept with one of my uncles on a mattress in the living room," says Mr Yap, who went to three primary schools, the last of which was Selegie Primary, where his grandmother ran a char kway teow stall.

He had to help his grandmother at the stall - plucking bean sprouts and shucking cockles in the mornings, and cleaning plates and washing the canteen floor with other stall holders in the afternoons.
Feisty and impulsive, he was often involved in fights.

"Once, a teacher hauled up this boy who was always harassing the other students. He told the boy, 'But there's one fellow you will never harass and that is Kok Kin. Why? Because he is a rascal also.' "
That remark did not go down well with Mr Yap, who marched up to the teacher, handed over his prefect's badge and said: "Since you think of me this way, I'm returning this badge."

Fortunately, his penchant for mischief did not get in the way of his studies. He did well enough to be admitted to Raffles Institution, where he completed his O and A levels.
In 1986, he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering at the Nanyang Technological Institute, which later became Nanyang Technological University.

He was hired as a development engineer by Dutch electronics giant Philips. Sent for training stints in the Netherlands, his job was to design features for consumer products such as irons.

"It was a really good environment to explore. Some of the things we did then are still revolutionary by today's standards," he says.
After a decade in research and development, he moved on to the company's purchasing department, where he honed his negotiation skills as he traversed Europe and China sourcing for components and closing deals.

By then, he had started dreaming of becoming his own boss.
In 1992, he and his wife - a university coursemate he married when he was 27 - invested about $20,000 to start a laundry shop with another couple in Simei.

"We did well. Within eight weeks, we were already cash-flow positive," says Mr Yap, whose wife helped to run the business while he continued working at Philips.

Encouraged by the success, the four friends pooled together $300,000 to start a bigger laundromat in Hougang six months later.

Although the business did well, issues soon cropped up. Mr Yap and his wife sold their share to the other couple about a year later.
"I guess in a business partnership, you must be equally yoked. If your expectations and mindset are different, it will be difficult," he says, adding that the couples remain friends.

The yearning to be an entrepreneur, however, did not die. In fact, it grew even stronger, bolstered by the mentoring work he did with undergraduates working on their final-year engineering projects.
"I did it on my own during weekends; we were exploring interesting things like computer-controlled lighting systems for households. It was a stepping stone to what I eventually ended up doing," he says.

He left Philips after 17 years.
"It took courage. I had a mortgage, a car loan and children," says the father of three children, aged between 12 and 19. His wife, Christina - a former insurance executive - stopped work when they decided to have a family.

Something a trainer said at a course he attended helped him take the big leap.

"He said, 'If Bill Gates had waited to perfect his Windows before he launched it, he would not be where he is.' "
With seed money from a relative, he started a lucrative business trading in electronics components. Not long after, he roped in a German designer he had worked with in Philips as a business partner.

They started designing appliance solutions for Japanese and American firms. After a year, Mr Yap and his German partner decided to set up a factory, a decision prompted by the nature of the industry.
"In this business, when a big company asks you to design, you source for someone to produce what you have done. But the big company only recognises the ones who produce, not the ones who design and will then liaise only with the producer. The bulk of the money goes to them, you only get a design fee."

He also roped in a Singaporean supplier he had known for many years. Mr Yap became the major stakeholder after putting up $400,000 of the $1 million capital to start Earns.

But just before the factory began operations, he received a phone call from a former business associate asking him to head the purchasing department of an American multinational firm in Shenzhen.
He went for the interview, thinking he would not get the job since there was a serious conflict of interest. "Whatever my factory produced, their factory also needed to buy," he recalled.

But the MNC was so keen to have him, they were willing to overlook that.
He accepted the position because he welcomed the opportunity to help set up a proper structure and system for the company.

"I went back to my partners and told them there was a line between my new company and our factory which could not be crossed. They could not expect any business from me. I even introduced my partners to the HR (human resources) department of my new company; I wanted things to be totally transparent."

The running of the company was left to his Singaporean partner, who in turn brought in two more partners.
"The agreement was they would run the show and that I would stay away from the business and not interfere for two years."

That, he says, was disastrous. The people who took charge had some bad business practices, including bribes and lavish entertainment for clients.

"The company started bleeding and ran out of money within one year. They hid a lot of information from me; I was too trusting and gullible," says Mr Yap, adding that he and his German partner had to top up their investments to keep the business afloat.

He decided to return to the business after 21/2 years to a very hostile reception from the Singaporean partners.
In a tragic twist, one of them died from colon cancer not long after. Another suffered a stroke. "The third was only too happy when I told him to go," he says.

Mr Albert Gui, 54, general manager of Compart Hi-Precision Technologies in China, has known Mr Yap for about 15 years. He says: "KK went through a lot of humiliation. It couldn't have been easy for him because it was his own company, but he took it in his stride. He's very patient, he just ploughed on."

Rebuilding the company was no easy affair.
"I prayed all the time," says Mr Yap, who is Christian.
He trimmed staff, cleaned up bad practices and established Earns as a player in LED technology and power drivers to drive motors and high-powered devices.

The factory has invested in a smart grid system to monitor energy consumption and is in the process of developing a smart lighting control system for businesses and homes.

Earns, he says, is in a good place now, having built up cash reserves of more than US$1 million.

"All our businesses are internally funded. We've never borrowed money, so we're not affected, for instance, by the crisis in Europe," he says.
He believes the key to a happy workplace is a workforce whose members feel good about themselves.

That is why he has hired a full-time pastor in his factory.
"He does not convert because everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe, but the pastor blesses the workers and their families every morning," says Mr Kan, adding the pastor also conducts counselling and character-building exercises for the staff.

His wife, a qualified family life educator, also holds parenting sessions for the staff.

Mr Yap says his approach to life is simple. "I realise I am blessed. With that realisation, I can face most challenges."

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