In Good Company

Sylvia Lim (BBA Hons 1993)

 

af_sylvialimIt all happened behind her back – the firm decision to nominate her, the entire rigorous selection process by an independent panel from the financial industry, and finally the decision to award her “Outstanding Young Private Banker 2010” at the Private Banking International Wealth Summit. Sylvia Lim (BBA Hons 1993), Director at Standard Chartered’s Private Banking Group, was caught completely off guard by the accolade . But her win would have come as no surprise at all to those familiar with her work and life ethic which have her poised for success.

What drew you to the financial industry?

Actually, going into the financial industry was not a natural choice. It was not something that I knew I would do from day one in Business School. But I knew I liked working with people, I had some strengths in marketing, I liked writing. So I decided to follow my heart. I applied for a job in Public Affairs, which happened to be in a financial institution. But it was the job – not necessarily the organization – which attracted me. Maybe it was a bit of luck, chance or divinity.

And having experienced life in a bank, you liked it?

In my first seven years, I worked in various roles, ranging from PR, to marketing, to product management, and even to advertising manager – these were all aspects that I enjoyed, and they all happened to be within the context of banking. One of my pet projects in 2000 was to develop a debit card from scratch for a local bank. It was successfully launched and the head of Consumer Banking in that bank intuitively knew that I was looking to pursue more challenges in the banking industry, even before I realized it myself. He told me to go into wealth management. But I had zero experience – most people who do that would have progressed to that level through years of experience in retail banking and so on, but I hadn’t. However, I decided to try it, on his advice.

What gave you the impetus to make such a leap?

Well, Napoleon said, “Ability is of no account without opportunity.” You have to seize the opportunity when it does arise. An optimist turns difficulties into opportunities, whereas a pessimist turns opportunities into difficulties. After making the career move, it was not a bed of roses, but I had good mentors, and it was important for me to recognize that role they played in my life. Most were my bosses, but some were my colleagues and associates – these are life teachers. What I learnt was if you have difficulties, you can find answers – more than you imagine – through people. People have a wealth of experiences, advice, and you learn a lot by seeing things through their eyes.

What were some of the vital lessons you learnt?

Never dismiss something just because it’s small or seems insignificant. Some of my clients from Indonesia are not dealing in big brand names or luxury products, but very-basic day-to-day items or small items, like a screw. But they are successful because they do it so well and they are proud of what they do. So you should be glad to do what you do because it’s right for you, not because society puts a brand to it.

You are enjoying success in your “accidental” career. Have you had to make sacrifices?

Business School teaches you that everything has an opportunity cost. So everyone makes sacrifices, and I choose not to tell myself that I made sacrifices. Sure it’s hard being a career mum, managing home and work, juggling career and children, but others make the same sacrifices too. And I’ve had the privilege of being with women who’ve done that successfully and asking them for advice. So the “fringe benefit” of being a career person is to be in contact with all these people who inspire, and who also share their mistakes.

What is your work/life ethic?

Keep life simple. It tends to get complicated, but it can be simple. With technology today, you can take shortcuts. For example, email is as fast as lightning. But there are no shortcuts for some things in life. I still follow hardcore values such as integrity and hard work.

I also believe that if opportunity never knocks, then go and create the door. I would tell any young person today to “follow your passion, find your strength, open your heart to opportunity, and, with hard work, things will just develop”. Do what you really like and success will follow you. I am glad I didn’t begin with the end in mind. Don’t follow the trend, or do what all the others are doing because you won’t find passion or happiness in that.

What do you envision for the future, especially after this award?

I didn’t set out to win awards, and am grateful for this nomination by Standard Chartered, especially to be placed among people I admire and aspire to be like. There is a saying, “If you want to ride the boat, you have to be near the river”. With the pulse of the world in Asia today, and Singapore and Hong Kong as financial centers, we are close to the river. Being in the thick of the action is exciting for me, and this award marks my place in this exciting context. But I hope that at the end of my journey in my career, when I look back, what comes to mind would not just be about work. When you spend so many hours at work, you make friends out of your colleagues, and some of them have become my good friends. So I hope to look back on crises we have overcome, achievements we have pulled off, and things we have celebrated together.

Creating a Sea of Change in China’s Aquaculture Industry

Chen Dan (APEX-C MBA 2002)

 

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He is an outstanding alumnus of  NUS Business School APEX-C MBA 2002 and a member of the Southern China Alumni Network. He initially set up a trading company with 16 employees and about RMB 1 million. Twelve years on, he runs a large private corporation with annual production exceeding RMB 6 billion and over 10,000 employees across the industry chain. From the field to the table, he covers the complete value chain in the aquaculture industry. He was listed in New Fortune 500 in 2010. Meet Chen Dan, Chairman of Guangdong Evergreen Group Co Ltd.

Q: Within just one decade after graduation, you were established as a leader and role model in your industry. How did you transform your company, Evergreen, from a pioneer in agricultural industrialization into an industry leader?

A: In 1988, I graduated from University and found a job in Shenzhen. But I was always ambitious, so I went into the trading business. The shift from just feed trading to the feed industry occured in 1993, when I started working feed producer “Shaungfeng Feed” in Shenyang under the Shenyang Administration of Grain. In 1995, I returned to Zhanjiang, my hometown, and founded the first feed plant there, using all my savings and leveraging on my experience in Shenyang. Then I invited some professors from Renmin University of China to provide lectures on business growth planning and marketing. Those professors gave me the advice that was my launching pad. They told me that I would never get to the top of the pork feed industry; but if I turned to sea aquaculture, I would become the industry leader in three to five years, quite simply because Zhanjiang has a long coastline.

Based on their advice, the company embraced a transformation in 1997 and started to produce feed for sea shrimps. The professors’ prediction came true. In three years, Evergreen emerged as the largest shrimp feed producer in China. Currently, though Evergreen is only ranked 6th among the Top 10 Agricultural Companies in China, the performance of our aquaculture feed products has been number one for nine years in a row.

Q: What are your innovations in the industry?

A: Evergreen Group has led changes in the aquaculture business. We have worked with Guangdong Ocean University to come up with innovations which changed the industry landscape, and initiated the technology of offshore shrimp cultivation. Moreover, we pay close attention to genetic engineering and bio-engineering researches in aquaculture by collaborating with Tokyo University and Canada, and by introducing many new microbe species.

We are proud to have covered a few industry gaps in China, including the manual technique to facilitate grouper fish reproduction, patenting the manual technique to facilitate yellow croaker reproduction, and cultivating sea shrimp in freshwater. When we traveled to promote our technology in Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta, the industry players initially found our revelations to be unbelievable because they couldn’t figure out how we could cultivate sea shrimps in freshwater. In order to prove our innovation, we rented a pond there to cultivate ocean shrimps, all in freshwater. That ultimately convinced them. Today, this technology is widely used across the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta. What’s more, Evergreen Group has drafted and developed 13 national codes in relation to aquaculture industry.

Now we are focusing on the national initiative for “the Standards of Food Safety Industrialization”.

Q: What are the critical strategies that have been instrumental in Evergreen’s growth?

A: Evergreen Group follows the model of “corporation + base + culturists + standards”, At present, the group has over 4,200 contractors and culturists, involving more than 100,000 farmers. The group provides fries, feeds and technologies, while the culturists arrange for the fields. We source for, process and export their products, creating a complete value change in agricultural industrialization. So the farming population keeps growing because we help them profit and create profitable partnerships. I am more heartened by my ability to bring wealth to the farmers, much more than my own profitability.

In terms of investment, my theory is “market development first, followed by production base”. For instance, if I plan to sell my product lines in Shanghai, I will make all efforts to develop the market there first and determine the market size before building up a feed plant in Shanghai. Therefore, ever since Evergreen started its production in 1995, this division has been thriving substantially. We take seven months to build a production plant, and then make it profitable within one year.

As early as 1998, I defined the values of the corporation as “stability, optimization and strength prior to scale”. I believe that Guangdong Evergreen Group’s constant and consistent focus should be on agriculture. I was born in the countryside and we shall make our contributions to our hometowns. Although we make lower margins in agriculture, it is an industry that will continue to grow and last because it is our lifeline.

Q: Does Evergreen face any challenges today?

A: Sure. Feed production is our core business, but our upstream and downstream businesses, i.e. frying and processing, are relatively weak. According to our growth strategy, wherever there is an Evergreen feed plant, we will also have to build frying facilities and a processing plant, which will create the entire industry chain.

In addition, even though Evergreen is a major exporter, our domestic marketing and branding needs to be vastly improved. Those within the industry here know us, but we are unknown in the broader community. As we have had sufficient cash flow, our management team had not seen the need for an IPO. But having realised that we have weak brand awareness, we now believe that a public offering will greatly benefit our branding strategy. So that has been the focus of my recent efforts.

Q: You are in a hi-tech industry with low labor intensity. What’s your insight on human resources in the industry?

A: The aquaculture industry is characterized by high technology and barriers to entry, because it has strict requirements with regards to technologies and systems. In general, though talent can be recruited, it is difficult to duplicate the entire system and professional team. In the world of aquaculture, Evergreen is recognized “Huangpu Military School”, because other players have poached many of our well-trained talents. Therefore, in recent years I have developed our technical roadmap to prevent over-emphasis on learning, experience and expertise. That way, the loss of a few technicians will do no harm.

My philosophy is to maintain a low profile in both business and life. I look for a sound foundation. I always tell my people that it’s better to be a star than a meteor. We will climb up step by step and ultimately reach the peak, based on the key elements of manageability, strength and stability.

Business, Research Scholar and Community Leader

Dr Chung Tang-Fong William (Executive Program 1988)

 

DrWilliamChung

It is not common for businessmen to become academics, but Dr Chung Tang-Fong, William (钟腾芳博士) is an extraordinary example. The Chairman and Managing Director of Xi-Hong Enterprise, Dr Chung operates international trading and logistics management companies in both Singapore and China, has a Doctorate in Business Administration and is also a Research Scholar at the School of Economics at Peking University.

Fostering closer ties between China and NUS Business School

After completing the NUS Business School’s Executive Education “Modern Management Course” in 1988, Dr Chung and his batch of classmates decided that an alumni association would be beneficial to everyone concerned, strengthening links between the school, lecturers, and students. The NUS Business School Mandarin Alumni was inaugurated four years later.

Since its founding in 1992, Dr Chung has served the alumni association in a number of capacities and was elected as its President twice between 2008 and 2012.

Apart from helping to set up the alumni association, Dr Chung also personally launched several fund-raising activities that raised more than S$350,000 for the “Mandarin Alumni MBA Gold Medal” in 1997, the “Mandarin Alumni International MBA Leadership Award” in 2005, and the “Mandarin Alumni Undergraduate Bursary” in 2009. These awards and grants continue to be given every year to outstanding MBA students and Business School undergraduates.

Dr Chung has also been active in promoting NUS Business School in China. In 2010, he persuaded NUS Business School to hold forums entitled “China in the Post-Crisis Global Economy” and the “NUS Business School South China Summit”, as well as other activities at Foshan City, China.

He was also responsibility for setting up the groundwork behind the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the People’s Government of Nanhai District, Foshan City, and NUS Business School. Thanks to his MOU, more than 50 business executives and high-ranking officials from the People’s Government of Nanhai District attended the Chinese Executive Management and Executive MBA courses at NUS Business School.

A continuous quest for knowledge

Dr Chung has always been a big believer in the importance of education. “One must sharpen his tools in order to do a great job – this is the philosophy that I strongly believe in, as a business leader,” said Dr Chung.

He worked for 10 years before going back to the school to continue his education at an advanced level, where he could “earn” and “learn” at the same time. This was within his career plan to fulfill the key objectives of increasing his knowledge and building his network. Keeping this in mind, he focused on choosing the right school with the right course, as attending a school for the “knowledge” instead of the “certificate” is what is important.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Administration from Ottawa University, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management from Temasek Polytechnic, a Master of Business in International Marketing from Curtin University, and a Doctorate in Business Administration from Victoria University. He was admitted as a Fellow in the Chartered Management Institute, UK and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, UK. Two years ago, he successfully completed his Post-Doctoral Professional Studies with Harper Adams University College in Shropshire, UK.

In 1998, he was also awarded a scholarship from the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship (AOTS), which was supported by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to study in Yokohama, Japan. Dr Chung was elected as President of the AOTS Alumni Society of Singapore from 2006 to 2012, and was conferred the Japan Foreign Minister’s Commendation (Group) by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan in 2011.

In recognition of his dedication to continuous learning and improvement, Dr Chung received the Singapore Workforce Development Agency’s “Lifelong Learner Award” from His Excellency, S.R. Nathan, then-President of Singapore in 2006.

Looking at similarities instead of differences

It is obvious that China looms large in Dr Chung’s thinking. “At present, the US, EU, Japan and other countries are experiencing uncertain economic conditions,” noted Dr Chung. “China is the new force overtaking Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, just after US. It is a country with large developmental space, full of vigor and business opportunities are everywhere,” believes Dr Chung.

“Seventy-five percent of the population in Singapore is Chinese, our languages, cultures, customs, and other traits are fairly similar and interlinked to China. This government of both countries have also established a good partnership. Personally, I feel that Singaporean companies will enjoy a lot of benefits if they expand their business into China,” relates Dr Chung.

Serving the community in many ways

Apart from his business activities, Dr Chung is also an active community leader. He is also a Licensed Solemnizer cum Deputy Registrar of Marriages. It is a job that Dr Chung takes very seriously. “I think it is a supremely divine mission to be able to witness the happiness of others. In the past nine years, I have performed nuptials and blessed over one thousand couples,” acknowledges Dr Chung.

Volunteer solemnizers typically receive a “red packet” as a token of appreciation for their efforts. Dr Chung donated over S$60,000 from all the red packets he has received to communities, schools, and medical institutions to help those in need.

Dr Chung believes that giving back to the community is very important. As a beneficiary of bursaries, skill development funds, and scholarships, he recognizes that if he had not received the “love” and “care” from society, a poor child like him would be unable to get to where he is today. It is with a grateful heart that I hope to do my part for the society and others in different areas,” reflects Dr Chung.

He was awarded the Public Service Medal (PBM) in 2004 and the Public Service Star (BBM) in 2008. He was also conferred with the “Youwei” Award for Outstanding Achievement (南海有为奖) by the People’s Government of Nanhai, Foshan City, China in 2010.

To learn more about Dr William Chung, click on the following link:
mms://live-vip-49.nus.edu.sg/ALL_NMG/0000271d/80/00/25/23.wmv

Different Strokes

Know a meek executive who is the authority figure at home? Or the loving mother and doting wife who whips everyone into shape at work? Do people really have different sides for work and leisure? Alumni share their secrets.

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Megha Mittal (MBA 2010):

I am quite different at work and at leisure. I like to plan our team’s work in advance and be the decision-maker; whereas during holidays, I mostly leave the decisions to my friends and go with the wind. Also, work requires me to be more in control and be a strong decision-maker, whereas I like to make my friends happy when I’m with them, so I would usually do what they like. What matters to other people is whether they benefit from your attitude at any given time. If they benefit from you being the strong personality at work, they will like it. Similarly, if you take care of your friends when with them, they like it too.

I have met people who lead and plan very well in work situations, but like to be led at fun. I think this is very powerful as it coneys a message that these people can manage themselves well and adjust their attitudes to the needs of the situation and people around them.

Ng Pheck Choo (BBA 1984):

I always make sure I clear all my deadlines at work – working more than 12 hours a day is quite common – and tend to get impatient with people who procrastinate. But when it comes to leisure, I’m totally the opposite. After a hard day’s work, I would literally be quite laid back and relaxed – it’s a good way to de-stress; why be so hard on yourself? I usually hang out with my friends, not colleagues; and my friends are also very much like me – we all work very long hours, so leisure is for de-stressing.

I tend to take charge and be the one making decisions at work; but when it comes to leisure, I prefer to let others take the lead and make the decision for me.

 

ADAPT TO THE GAME

Adi Hartono (MBA 2010):

I am personally aggressive both at work and at play, especially in games. Playing games, I usually manage to win. At work, I do my best. However, the occasional lack of motivation may get the better of me. It all depends on the spirit and motivation – when I feel energetic, I can be very enthusiastic and hardworking; but when I’m all done with my assignments, I enter a slow mode which may impact performance temporarily. Generally, motivation and compliments encourage me to deliver my best.

At work, I tend to keep a “space” between people who don’t really have a direct connection with me. The people who don’t really know me would think that I am cold on first impression, but they see that I am actually friendly beyond that. My close friends will say that I’m talkative and friendly.

Of course, at work I need to present myself so that people will see my intelligence, seriousness, and hard work. At play and leisure, even though I usually use tactics to win at games, the fun aspect is much more prominent. If I think that the person already knows my competencies and qualities, I will then show my fun side to make people feel comfortable working with me.

Deepika Singh (MBA 2008):

I am not completely different at work and at play, but I have adapted myself to flex my style to meet business demands. I do not like numbers in my personal life and happily leave all accounting to my better half. However, at work, when needed, I diligently look at number and am adept at compiling 100-page comparative analyses. I have not encountered extreme reactions, but some folks have at times expressed surprise when I share with them how I don’t enjoy planning or how I am not a numbers person.

Another example, I would not want to go on a planned tour of a city in my leisure; however when at work, I often plan city tours and team recreational activities for our training sessions.

I have had numerous opportunities to interact with folks who are just different all the time, and I have mixed reactions. At times, I am amused; on other occasions, I take it in my stride by adapting to the change. But occasionally, I have also experienced frustration and mistrust to such rapid-changing personalities.

Ivy Ang (BBA 1998):

I am usually the same at work and at play. I like to make things happen. At work, I know the objectives, timelines and goals, and I go for it. In life, I have a mental idea of what I want, and I go for it. But in life, you are only accountable to yourself. Whereas, at work, there are other stakeholders, so the degree of being a goal-getter is different – there is more give and take in my personal life.

If someone is different at work and at play, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have different personalities. Their objectives could be the same, but they are using a different approach. If you are laid back at home, it may be because you want to empower the others and make them feel good so that they get the job done.

 

ONE AND THE SAME

Kim Chun Keen (MSc 2003):

I am quite the same person whether at play or work. At play, I need to be focused when doing certain things, such as my running routine, my squash fixtures, etc. But it’s to a lesser degree compared to work. Yet, dealing with tough opponents at sports, trying to seek their weaknesses, or strategizing how to win in a match against them, are similar to sizing up your competitors in the real business world. At work, needless to say, concentration is paramount. On the flip side, however, I am generally a “fun” person who always injects pleasurable elements into work. Work cannot be all serious, otherwise it would be hard to go on with life as we work so many hours a day.

Work and play are sometimes two different worlds because of the stakes involved. At play, example, even in a competition, should you not win, so what? That’s life! There is only one winner or one gold medalist. You didn’t lose that much. At work however, each time we slacken, we may end up losing a lot in financial terms, the organization may face failure, or fall foul of the authorities. Such downsides can affect many people and circumstances. Hence, while I play hard and work hard, the way I work hard would be quite a different dimension from playing hard.

Amy Cheok (Master of International Business 2004):

At work, I am aggressive when the situation calls for it, and I always meet my deadlines. But I make leisure part of my life. For instance, I exercise four times a week after work. While some think that is hard work. it’s part of my routine, just like brushing my teeth. You could say I am disciplined at both work and play.

I think between my family and I, my friends and I, and my colleagues and I, there is mutual respect and understanding for one another, and there are no different sides of me for people to reach differently to. I am pretty much the same person both at the office and at leisure time – my sense of humor is always with me wherever I am. However, there is a time for light-heartedness and a time to get dead serious, depending on the circumstances. For example, I am a tough negotiator when it comes to business because my company’s interests are foremost. But when I buy, say, something of value such as jewellery for myself from my merchant friend, I tend to be more forgiving in the negotiating process. In both scenarios, I have been told, my sense of humor has helped to defuse many a tense moment.

However, it is not uncommon for some people to vary their personas according to the social environment they are in. Using the office as an example, there are likely to be some stern and unfriendly workers who adopt a relaxed posture the minute they clock out. Maybe this group of people feel tensed or stressed in an official setting; or believe it is safer to let their hair down outside the office. without superiors watching over their shoulders and when the lid on the pressure cooker is off.

A-Team Dynamics

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They say that in any situation, you are only as good as your weakest link. But the fact remains that without good leadership, a team, no matter how good, will not get very far and its potential will be depleted along the way without proper guidance and direction. Find out how you can forge your team members, good or bad, into an A-team.

“In every team, someone has to take up the task of creating a set of common goals. That is the role of the team leader,” says Stella Wong (BBA 1986), Head of Human Resources at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited.

Many of us today would be required, at some point, to head projects and deliver results. And, very often, these would have some implications on our career path, a rite of passage of sorts. Or it would be part of our job scope as we rise up the management ladder to take on more and more responsibility in heading teams and leading initiatives.

Therein lies the challenge; people need to be led and managed, so as to get the best out of them when they work in a team. This, it would appear, is very different from when they work on their own.

Converging Different Personalities within a Team

According to Stella, even good and capable individual workers can have a counter-productive effect on team members within certain team dynamics. This is where good leadership becomes absolutely vital. Stella recalls an incident where this occurred and the head of the team had to step in and steer the team in the right direction. “Very often we inherit a team, we don’t form one from scratch. So it is about how we develop the team to do what is required,” she explains. “If certain behaviors within the team are not acceptable, then it is your right as a team leader to put a stop to it,” she advises. “When you do so, you have to take an objective approach by focusing on changing the behavior, and avoid an bias or pre-conceptions toward the person,” she cautions.

In that particular instance that Stella was recounting, the leader pulled the team together in three basic steps. Foremost was to make it very clear to the team what their collective purpose was. It had to be explicit to everyone. The next step, after having set the purpose, was for the leader to establish the values that the team needs to embrace and accept. The leader had a long discussion with the team to determine what their shared value system should be. Even though the leader had entered the meeting with a predetermined set of values, it was put up for discussion, It took almost four hours to finally arrive at something that everyone agreed with; but because everyone had a vested interest in the decision, it was more acceptable. “Even the leader eventually acceded that the final outcome of the group discussion was better than the leader’s original ideas,” Stella recalls. Finally, the leader determined what would be considered acceptable behavior within the team. “The leader highlighted certain behavior and conduct that would no longer be tolerated,” Stella explained. The outcome of all these was that the team began to function much more efficiently, and the leader was able to achieve results more smoothly and with less resistance. What was more heartening was that “the original detractors in the group later admitted that they preferred the new working style,” recalls Stella.

Finding Right Fit in an Unorthodox Way

When forming a team from scratch, Stella’s advice is ” to pick the right people, who may not necessarily be candidates that have the most working experience”. She explains that “even if a candidate has a wealth of experience, he would not be helpful to the team if he is unable to fit well into the role that he is supposed to play within the team”. Her experience has taught her that “sometimes the right people for the team may not conform to the standard requirements of the job at first glance. However, they may have the right skill sets that are just waiting to be tapped”. She recalls a position she had to recruit people for. “I picked someone who had never been in that role, but her CV showed that she had been functioning in a way that showed she had an aptitude for the job. She was swimming along marvelously in the job within one month.”

It is also important, when recruiting for a position, not to miss the woods for trees. Stella related what transpired when a company decided to change their specifications for a design engineer’s job. We used to take fresh graduates in, and put them through an intensive 2-year training program formulated specifically for design engineers. When they graduate from the program, one of their roles would include presenting the design concepts to customers. At one juncture, management decided they wanted to hire extroverted people as their design engineers because those personality profiles would be better suites for sales,” she relates. However, when an extrovert was recruited for the job of design engineer, he quit the job after three months. At the exit interview, he told Stella, “This job is killing me.” He went on to becomes a sales engineer elsewhere. “The company didn’t realize that they had allowed the one percent requirement for an extrovert to perform the sales function to override the ninety-nine percent personality profile required for a design engineer’s role.” explained Stella.

Rising to the Role of Rallying Your Potential A-team

The role of a team leader is not easy, but it seems to come with the turf as people gain seniority in their jobs. As Stella explains, “The majority of leaders today are managerial leaders; it’s part of their job and they want to do it right. During leadership training, we remind them that leadership is a choice; they have asked for that position – as in vying for that promotion – and they have obtained it. Subsequently and consequently, it is their job to accomplish their team’s objectives.”

Stella reveals that an informal leader might often emerge in a team. “These are the stronger personalities, who could exert influence over the rest. Or they would be more experienced so the others may naturally defer to them,” Stella explains. She advises, “A good team leader would bring the quieter members out of their sell, and ensure that the strong personalities don’t become disruptive.”

“Never put people in a team just because they are available. They should have an interest in the project and the ability to contribute effectively and constructively,” Stella advises.

The Consummate Organizer

gano-nov10-af-robinRobin Ng (Exec Program 1981)

Robin Ng has a talent for bringing people together. He managed to do it in his business, and he managed to do it with the Mandarin Alumni.

In his business, he was able to bring competitors together to become shareholders in a pioneering venture, Automobile Megamart Limited, a place with a capacity of 2,000 cars where the automobile industry could sell their cars.

It was no mean feat bringing rivals together for a $100 million dollar project.

For the 71 shareholders in the company, to obtain a loan and to have the same thoughts and move in the same direction to complete this project is not easy because everyone has different levels of understanding and different needs and opinions,” he noted.

Getting financing was a challenge as well because there were 71 shareholders but no key shareholders. However, they succeeded and proved their critics wrong.

We completed the project and we repaid our loan of $41 million to the bank within two years.

He brought that same talent for organizing to the Mandarin Alumni, where he was the founding president. Here the challenge was not in getting the people together. Instead, there were different obstacles. In setting up the association, he had to persuade the university that there was value in forming an alumni group for people who had completed the Executive MBA program. It was only in 1992, some 10 years after he graduated, that they finally got approval from the university and the Mandarin Alumni was set up.

After it was set-up, there were additional problems. The groups struggled to find a place for meetings and they could not find a good full-time administrator initially. He generously offered his office premises for meeting and his staff to help do the administrative work required.

One of his biggest achievements was helping to put together a list of contacts of alumni so that people could get in touch with one another.

When it was formed, the Mandarin Alumni had less than 50 members. Today, it has more than 800 local and overseas members from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Thailand and South Africa. Its members are successful entrepreneurs and senior managers in the hotel, banking, manufacturing and shipping industries.

That Robin is a talented businessman and entrepreneur is not in doubt. He is involved in auto-financing, car rentals, property development, healthcare, hospitality, ship-building and marine services. However among all his businesses, one in particular stands out.

In 2001, he opened United Medicare Centre, Singapore’s first purpose-built 250 bedded private nursing and rehabilitation home. This home provides a full range of quality nursing and rehabilitation care, catering to both the needs of in-house patients and the neighboring community.

We don’t call it a business. We call it a social commitment.

He decided to go into the business because of a visit he and his wife had paid to a nursing home. “We found the nursing home, the environment, the cross ventilation, the lighting, to be not very good. There was a lot of smell and the elderly were not really being taken care of.

His wife thus prodded him into going into the nursing home business and when the opportunity came up to bid for land for a nursing home, he jumped in.

After he got the bid, the problems started. Because he did not know very much about the industry, he had to educate himself on nursing homes, and he had to find qualified people to run the home. These all proved challenging. However, he eventually succeeded and today, United Medicare Centre is a success and a showcase. “Every now and then, we have visitors from China, from Japan and from the region who go to the Ministry of Health, and ask for a visit to a proper healthcare for the elderly. The ministry always refers them to us.

Robin Ng is a businessman with a heart and an alumnus that the university is proud to claim.

 

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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

Read about the Eminent Business Alumni Awards 2010

The Accidental President

gano-nov10-af-paul

PAUL YAP (BBA 1973, MBA 1985)

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.

 

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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

Read about the Eminent Business Alumni Awards 2010

Creating A Giving Society

LAURENCE LIEN (MBA 2000)

gano-nov10-af-laurenceLaurence Lien used to have a high-flying job in Singapore’s Administrative Service. At a relatively young age, he was given tremendous responsibility. For example, when he was at the Ministry of Finance, he was given the job of working out the Generally Accepted Principles and Practices for sovereign wealth funds.

However, he put that all aside in 2008 to become the Chief Executive of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, which was set up to promote volunteerism and philanthropy in Singapore.

For him though, the change was not a drastic one, but almost a logical one given his background and interests.

“Having gone through different postings in government, I’d seen different aspects of Singapore whether it’s more economic ones, at the Ministry of Finance or educational ones at the Ministry of Education,” said Laurence. “The posting I enjoyed the most was MCYS or the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. I was exposed to the sector quite a lot.”

At the time, he was also brought in to lead the Lien Foundation, his family foundation, which also gave him exposure to the social work sector.

That interest began when he was very young, thanks to his religious upbringing.“I was part of a church. I was a cradle Catholic and I have been going to church since I was born. Being Catholic, the sense of social mission was there.”

In that sense, that makes him the perfect person to lead NVPC. Currently, the organization is aimed at trying to turn Singapore into a giving nation, where giving is a way of life. According to Laurence, there is still some way to go. “I think for many Singaporeans, giving is still incidental, something you do with your spare change or spare time. It’s not an integral part of a person.”

The sector is short of talented people so the NVPC is focused on building capacity for non-profit organizations. It also wants people to consider jobs in non-profits as a career. Said Laurence: “The non-profit world is challenging. You are dealing with complex issues and complex problems. Solutions are not so straightforward as there are multiple stakeholders. 

“With the challenge there is a greater sense of purpose, fulfillment and enjoyment.”

Running the NVPC, an organization with considerably fewer resources than the Administrative Service, has numerous challenges, but Laurence is unfazed. Apart from his 14 years in Government, he also had the benefit of a Master in Public Policy as well as his Master in Business Administration from the NUS Business School.

Laurence benefitted considerably from his MBA, which he did part-time when he was still in the Administrative Service. “A lot of the learning is directly relevant to running an organization, whether it is human resource management, accounting or corporate strategy. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the public or non-profit sector, you need good managerial skills. You need tool kits to help you get the best out of your people, to make sure you’re adopting the right strategies, that you are getting feedback that you’re on the right track and doing the right things. And all that training was extremely valuable.”

Eminent Business Young Alumni Award Winners Huynh Quang Hai (centre left) and Laurence Lien (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 Read about the Eminent Business Alumni Awards 2010 »

Eminent Business Young Alumni Award Winners
Huynh Quang Hai (centre left) and Laurence Lien (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

Businessman, Research Scholar and Community Leader

Dr Chung Tang-Fong William (Executive Program 1988)

dr_chung_tang-fong_croppedIt is not common for businessmen to become academics, but Dr Chung Tang- Fong, William (钟腾芳博士) is an extraordinary example. The Chairman and Managing Director of Xi-Hong Enterprise, Dr Chung operates international trading and logistics management companies in both Singapore and China, has a Doctorate in Business Administration and is also a Research Scholar at the School of Economics at Peking University.

Fostering closer ties between China and NUS Business School
After completing the NUS Business School’s Executive Education “Modern Management Course” in 1988, Dr Chung and his batch of classmates decided that an alumni association would be beneficial to everyone concerned, strengthening links between the school, lecturers, and students. The NUS Business School Mandarin Alumni was inaugurated four years later.

Since its founding in 1992, Dr Chung has served the alumni association in a number of capacities and was elected as its President twice between 2008 and 2012.

Apart from helping to set up the alumni association, Dr Chung also personally launched several fund-raising activities that raised more than S$350,000 for the “Mandarin Alumni MBA Gold Medal” in 1997, the “Mandarin Alumni International MBA Leadership Award” in 2005, and the “Mandarin Alumni Undergraduate Bursary” in 2009. These awards and grants continue to be given every year to outstanding MBA students and Business School undergraduates.

Dr Chung has also been active in promoting NUS Business School in China. In 2010, he persuaded NUS Business School to hold forums entitled “China in the Post-Crisis Global Economy,” and the “NUS Business School South China Summit,” as well as other activities at Foshan City, China.

He was also responsible for setting up the groundwork behind the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the People’s Government of Nanhai District, Foshan City, and NUS Business School. Thanks to this MOU, more than 50 business executives and high-ranking officials from the People’s Government of Nanhai District attended the Chinese Executive Management and Executive MBA courses at NUS Business School.

A continuous quest for knowledge
Dr Chung has always been a big believer in the importance of education. “One must sharpen his tools in order to do a good job – this is the philosophy that I strongly believe in, as a business leader,” said Dr Chung.

He worked for 10 years before going back to the school to continue his education at an advanced level, where he could “earn” and “learn” at the same time. This was within his career plan to fulfill the key objectives of increasing his knowledge and building his network. Keeping this in mind, he focused on choosing the right school with the right course, as attending a school for the “knowledge” instead of the “certificate” is what is important.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Administration from Ottawa University, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management from Temasek Polytechnic, a Master of Business in International Marketing from Curtin University, and a Doctorate in Business Administration from Victoria University. He was admitted as a Fellow in the Chartered Management Institute, UK and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, UK. Two years ago, he successfully completed his Post-Doctoral Professional Studies with Harper Adams University College in Shropshire, UK.

In 1998, he was also awarded a scholarship from the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship (AOTS), which was supported by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to study in Yokohama, Japan. Dr Chung was elected as President of the AOTS Alumni Society of Singapore from 2006 to 2012, and was conferred the Japan Foreign Minister’s Commendation (Group) by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan in 2011.

In recognition of his dedication to continuous learning and improvement, Dr Chung received the Singapore Workforce Development Agency’s “Lifelong Learner Award” from His Excellency, S.R. Nathan, then-President of Singapore in 2006.

Looking at similarities instead of differences
It is obvious that China looms large in Dr Chung’s thinking. “At present, the US, EU, Japan and other countries are experiencing uncertain economic conditions,” noted Dr Chung. “China is the new force overtaking Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, just after US. It is a country with large developmental space, full of vigor and business opportunities are everywhere,” believes Dr Chung.

“Seventy-five percent of the population in Singapore is Chinese, our languages, cultures, customs, and other traits are fairly similar and interlinked to China. The governments of both countries have also established a good partnership. Personally, I feel that Singaporean companies will enjoy a lot of benefits if they expand their business into China,” relates Dr Chung.

Serving the community in many ways
Apart from his business activities, Dr Chung is also an active community leader. He is also a Licensed Solemnizer cum Deputy Registrar of Marriages. It is a job that Dr Chung takes very seriously. “I think it is a supremely divine mission to be able to witness the happiness of others. In the past nine years, I have performed nuptials and blessed over one thousand couples,” acknowledges Dr Chung.

Volunteer solemnizers typically receive a “red packet” as a token of appreciation for their efforts. Dr Chung donated over S$60,000 from all the red packets he has received to communities, schools, and medical institutions to help those in need.

Dr Chung believes that giving back to the community is very important. As a beneficiary of bursaries, skill development funds, and scholarships, he recognizes that if he had not received the “love” and “care” from society, a poor child like him would be unable to get to where he is today. It is with a grateful heart that I hope to do my part for the society and others in different areas,” reflects Dr Chung.

He was awarded the Public Service Medal (PBM) in 2004 and the Public Service Star (BBM) in 2008. He was also conferred with the “Youwei” Award for Outstanding Achievement (南海有为奖) by the People’s Government of Nanhai, Foshan City, China in 2010.

To learn more about Dr William Chung, click on the following link:
mms://live-vip-49.nus.edu.sg/ALL_NMG/0000271d/80/00/25/23.wmv

Saving Lives as a Doctor-entrepreneur

Dr Yin Wei Dong (APEX-C MBA 2002)

yin_wei_dongAs a trained physician, Dr Yin Wei Dong could be saving lives one at a time. As the founder and Chief Executive Officer of vaccine producer Sinovac Biotech, Dr Yin is in the position possibly to save millions of lives. Nasdaq-listed Sinovac is a vaccine manufacturer that develops, manufactures and sells vaccines to protect against viruses such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and the swine flu.

Engaging a major health crisis
Dr Yin’s interest in vaccines began during the 1980s in the city of Tangshan, located in the Chinese province of Hebei. After graduating from medical school, he was sent to the department of public health specializing in epidemics. In the early 1980s, Hepatitis A outbreaks were very common in Tangshan, where more than 10 outbreaks a year would occur.

“Because of the situation, in some villages, no one went to harvest crops or went to school,” recalls Dr Yin.

To address the problem, he had to essentially start from scratch. This was because at the time, the authorities were unable to identify what Hepatitis strain a person was infected with, whether it was A or B.

“There were neither diagnostic facilities nor vaccines. I had to drill down into the subject in order to fight against the epidemic,” remembers Dr Yin.

Hepatitis A in China was a serious public health problem, and not just in Tangshan. During the 1980s, the incidence of Hepatitis A in China was 60–200 individuals out of every 100,000. In one particular outbreak in 1988, more than 300,000 people in Shanghai contracted the illness after eating infected clams.

Making a difference in China
In the 1990s, China began importing vaccines to fight against Hepatitis A. However, this did little to stop the outbreaks, because the vaccines were too expensive, and people could not afford them. This is where Sinovac was able to make a difference.

In 2002, the company launched its first inactivated Hepatitis A vaccine in China. Developed by Sinovac, it was cheaper than imported vaccines. The vaccine was given to tens of millions of children in China. Today, the incidence of Hepatitis A in China is now down to 1 individual in every 100,000. In major cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai, the rate is even lower than that.

Another major achievement by Sinovac is the production of a vaccine to fight against swine flu. This was developed only 87 days after the outbreak occurred in Mexico in 2009. Sinovac was the first company in the world to run clinical trials for the vaccine. Sinovac’s vaccine against swine flu allowed the Chinese government to stockpile the vaccine in the event of a major outbreak in China.

An NUS education changes his outlook
He attributes a significant amount of his success to the Executive MBA that he obtained from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Business School in 2002. He began his EMBA in 2000, a significant year in the company’s history, when the first inactivated Hepatitis A vaccine had been developed in China, and was entering its commercialization stage. Dr Yin started on his EMBA and in just three weeks, it changed his life.

Before starting his course, he was proud of the fact that he considered his company to be the best in China. “After studying at NUS Business School, I changed my mind. I started to understand what it meant to be the best in the world, and how to make it so,” relates Dr Yin. After taking the EMBA program, the company’s goal changed from “being the best in China” to “being the best in the world.”

Looking ahead
He managed to get the necessary funding to commercialize the vaccine. In 2004, he got Sinovac listed on the American Stock Market, giving him access to even more capital. In 2009, Sinovac moved over to Nasdaq.

Sinovac is not standing still of course. It is now focused on bringing new products to the market, such as a vaccine against the enterovirus type 71, which causes a severe form of hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Staying motivated for the future
He believes that the secret to Sinovac’s success is what he took away from the first three weeks of his EMBA. “In my opinion, to be successful in what you do, the most important thing is to target the best, farthest and the greatest goal,” advises Dr Yin.

Naturally, achieving such a goal is not easy, and requires great effort, focus and dedication. He believes in going all in, as his work is a part of his life, and his life is a part of his work. He does not distinguish them from each other.

“By seeking a good career, you are doing positive, inspiring, and meaningful things for the society. When you work hard, your family will back you up. When you succeed, they will share your joy and happiness. When you are home, you bring the joy, success, and reward of your career home, which in turn results in a happier family,” reflects Dr Yin.

To learn more about Dr Yin Wei Dong, click on the following link:
mms://live-vip-49.nus.edu.sg/ALL_NMG/0000271d/80/00/25/29.wmv