Paul Yap did not set out become the president of MBA Alumni – NUS. It happened quite by accident. Paul ran for the post of vice-president and got it, as did his friend, who ran for the presidency. However, six months later, his friend decided to move to Australia and Paul stepped up to the plate.
“I was left holding the baby, and I held the baby for 12 years”, he recalled.
He may not have sought the top job initially but there is no question that the group flourished under his leadership. Between 1986 and 1998, MBA Alumni – NUS was considered the most active alumni association on campus.
He attributes the success of the association to the fact that a lot of work went into it. “We invested a lot of time in building up the MBA Alumni,” he said. It helped that everyone worked closely together. “There was a lot of fellowship.”
One of the guiding principles of the association was that it should not be loss-making. Said Paul: “My group went in with the mantra that we should not lose any money. After all, we were MBA graduates.”
“We focused on what the market needed. We did an annual seminar series focusing on topical issues of the day. We invited the public and we charged them for entry.”
The other major project was the annual dinner that provided fellowship for alumni and money for the alumni association.
Armed with the money from these activities, the collegial committee was able to organize activities that kept the association alive and vibrant.
The success of the association is all the more remarkable when you consider that its officeholders were all working professionals bus with their own careers. Paul, for example, was building his career in the food industry, first at Cold Storage, then later at QAF and Auric Pacific.
At the time, he wasn’t merely the breadwinner of the family, he was the breadmaker as well. At QAF, he was responsible for Gardenia, starting first as managing director of the brand, before eventually becoming managing director (marketing) of QAF. At Auric Pacific, he was responsible for the success of Sunshine Bakeries. He was eventually promoted to the post of Executive Director of Auric Pacific Food Industries.
After stepping down from the presidency of the MBA Alumni, Paul sought out other distractions and decided to take up running instead and soon progressed to the stage he started to think about running marathons. He ran his first marathon in 1999. So far, he has run five full marathons, six half-marathons and taken part in seven navy biathlons.
Apart from running marathons, he is also busy running his own management consultancy, Ideaction and exploring his more spiritual side. This is not about being religious, he hastened to clarify. “Being religious is living by a code of conduct, trying to be righteous,” he said. The danger, however, is that people run the risk of being self-righteous. Being spiritual, on the other hand, is about being connected to things beyond self, and hence connecting with and understanding people and the environment. That, he said, is the better path.
Eminent Business Alumni Service Award Winners
Paul Yap (centre left) and Robin Ng (centre right) with GOH S. Dhanabalan, Chairman of Temasek Holdings & NUS Business School Management Advisory Board (left) and Dean Prof Bernard Yeung (right), at the award ceremony dinner on 12 November 2010