Think out of the box; learn to approach situations and challenges from different angles to create solutions
It was never his goal to become a property developer.
But as providence would have it, this is exactly what Dr Tan Chin Yong is today, a successful entrepreneur who has commendably established and developed his own property development company which is making a statement not only within his specific industry but also in the business world in general.
Born in Brunei to parents who were school teachers, the seed of entrepreneurship was planted when his parents started a convenience store. Dr Tan remembers doing his schoolwork while helping to mind the shop after school hours. Little did he realise then that this first taste of entrepreneurship would take him down the road to where he is today.
Effectively working since the tender age of 13, the good work ethic instilled in him carried him through his university days where he climbed the ladder of academia to graduate with a PhD in Engineering from Cambridge at a tender age of 25, backed by a Bachelor of Science (First Class Honours) in Computer Science from the Edinburgh University.
In his 25 year career to-date, he has worked as a senior R&D Engineer, co-founded a technology start-up company designing infrared wireless communication devices and successfully pulled what is today an internationally recognized a company, back from the brink of bankruptcy, placing it on the road to being a globally-recognised brand today.
Looking back, each and every role he played was an invaluable learning experience. The 2 years as a senior R&D engineer with Hewlett-Packard in Singapore, his first job, taught him best management practices and exposed him to the global working environment, while his first business venture at Parallax Research, Singapore taught him entrepreneurial, marketing and people skills. And turning around the Swiss company Revox from the brink of bankruptcy, with no financial, marketing or management background was “akin to taking up an intensive MBA programme.”
Dr Tan’s entry into the property sector was actually a “stumble” as it were. Married to the daughter of a conglomerate tycoon, a voiced out opinion on some project plans earned him the recognition of his father-in-law and soon after he found himself thrust into the CEO’s chair of Kinta Properties Group Sdn Bhd. Once again, it was the case of having to turn a company around and, rising brilliantly to the challenge, he turned Kinta Properties into one of the largest property companies in Perak, by virtue of sales figures.
Bringing in fresh ideas and new concepts for both marketing and business development, he turned the company around within five years, gaining the respect and admiration of his team with his tenacity and his open-door management approach. His pet project, the Meru Valley Riverside Residence not only is today one of the sought-after residential areas of Ipoh but it also won the CNBC Best Property Award in its category in 2008.
Today Dr Tan sits at the helm of his own property development company – the Kaizen Group – through which he creates homes of quality and excellence.
In its short six years, Kaizen has grown from strength to strength, accurately personifying its very fitting name. The group today has a diverse portfolio of property projects in Ipoh and Melaka, mining explorations in Kelantan, a real-estate agency in Ipoh and investments in a Nasdaq-listed mineral processing outfit. Supported by a staff of 40 dedicated and loyal personnel, Kaizen’s revenue for the year 2014 clocked in at RM40 million compared to the RM1.5 million in its first year of operations. The rapid growth and development of the company also won it the “SME 100 Malaysia Fastest Growing Companies Award” in 2013.
Dr Tan’s sharp business acumen and his fine instincts for identifying viable projects and trustworthy business partners are most certainly factors which have contributed to the success of his company. As the co-owner of his company, his wife Lim Pui San being the other founder, he is able to take a more conservative approach in the growth and development of the company, picking and choosing projects which he feels would benefit both the company and his purchasers.
His keen insight and high analytical skills are a perfect marriage to his innovative and positive outlook while his open door leadership which invites and values input from every employee distinguishes him as a true leader who not merely manages but is able to draw out the best of his team and grow leaders. “A leader does not need to know everything; instead he needs to be open-minded and humble enough to accept the valuable ideas and opinions of his team and to work together with them.”
Humbly acknowledging mistakes and accepting criticism as a way of learning and moving forward, he is well-loved and respected by his staff and all those who know him. His respect for the talents and skills of those he works with is much appreciated and one of the most heard lines from him is “You are the expert, tell me what to do”. This has greatly contributed toward many of his successes throughout his career, especially so as much of what he set out to do has been, for all intents and purposes, things he had no experience with.
The mark of a true leader is not accomplishing things alone but by successfully drawing out the talents, skills and knowledge of others.
He also credits much of his sound business decisions to Pui San, who is his confidant, sounding board cheerleader and source of encouragement and strength.
Like a general of ancient times who shares the spoils of war with his comrades, Dr. Tan firmly believes that business must be a win-win arrangement. And so, for his purchasers he creates homes of value and distinction, offering the best of designs and prices. For his invaluable staff, he is diligently creating an atmosphere where they can prosper and grow, financially as well as personally and he aspires to see his senior management taking on larger leadership roles within the company.
At home, he values the time spent with his two boys, aged 12 and 15 and also with other family members. A man with quiet charm, a brilliant mind and a passion for his work, Dr Tan keeps cool and calm through the challenges of business through yoga and meditation and a focus on the spiritual.
As for his legacy, “I hope people will remember me for what they have received from me rather than what I demanded of them.”