This week SunBiz gets the thoughts and views of Trinity Group Sdn Bhd founder and managing director Datuk Neoh Soo Keat.
SUCCESS: THE INSIGHT STORY
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I am a product of the "school of hard knocks". At 11 years old, I was selling vegetables at the Kuantan wet market to help my family make ends meet, while juggling my studies at the same time. I also tried to earn extra pocket money by selling my mother's fried noodles in school to my friends. In those days, every "sen" mattered and I tried to do whatever I could to help ease my family's financial burdens.
The struggle and hardship that I endured as a young boy actually instilled in me a lot of grit and perseverance, as well as tremendous mental fortitude. It also helped me develop an entrepreneurial mindset from a very young age.
I remember that when the local authorities started campaigning for Malaysians to use plastic bags in their rubbish bins, I quickly seized the opportunity to start a small-scale business trading in disposable plastic bags. I bought plastic bags from my friend's father, who was a businessman in the industry, and sold it to neighbours at a lower price than the local supermarkets. I was only 13 then, but I was determined to make full use of every opportunity available to me.
What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?
Among the most important qualities are having the right mindset and the willingness to learn. Of course, the right skill set for the job is important, but skills alone do not guarantee one's ability to perform or excel at the job.
It is important that the talent, whether at entry level or senior management, has an inquisitive mind and is eager to make the most out of every opportunity that comes their way. They must see the opportunity in every challenge and have the passion for the work that they do. Ultimately, I think the "never say die" attitude (and perseverance) is crucial for anyone to succeed in their careers.
How do you think the industry you are in will evolve in the future?
Digital technology or property technology will disrupt the local real estate industry, revolutionising the way we view, buy, sell and rent properties as well as how we manage them in the near future. With the use of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, future properties can provide a 360-viewing experience as well as detailed information about its structure and parts to the potential buyer. Ideally, "prop-tech" will allow the entire process of buying and selling properties to take place online and deliver end-to-end services for the property purchasing process.
New technologies will not only streamline the property buying process and allow for a less stressful transaction process, but also create more online platforms where homeowners can market their own properties and negotiate with the buyers directly, with end-to-end services included.
Because of Malaysia's growing aging population, I believe the property industry also needs to start prioritising the needs and demands of senior citizens when it comes to developing new properties. "Retirement villages" which are common in many developed countries, is still a relatively new concept in Malaysia, and a trend that I foresee growing in the coming years. Unlike nursing homes, retirement villages cater for independent senior citizens, with the necessary facilities and amenities conveniently available to cater to their needs.
What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business?
There are no limits to one's dreams. You must always dream big, and do not be afraid of failure. One of the toughest periods of my life was in 1986 when I was sitting for my Lower Certificate Examinations (SRP). I failed my Bahasa Malaysia paper, which basically meant I had failed the whole exam and had to repeat my Form 3. Around that time, my paternal grandmother also passed away, my father lost his job and my family was asked to evict our rented house.
I felt that I had hit rock bottom and was ready to give up. But it was my father who helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He emptied our family savings of RM50,000 - a huge sum in those days - and offered me a choice: to use the amount to pursue a full-time business, or to continue with my studies. After some soul-searching, I decided to continue with my education and vowed to devote more time to school. I not only passed my SRP the second time around but became one of the top students in my school in Form 5. I then entered UTM to pursue a degree in urban and regional planning. I made sure that my failure did not hold me back but served as an impetus to drive me forward.
In business, failure is part and parcel of the journey. No successful business is born overnight. I believe that those who have failed big can also succeed big. So, strengthen your resolve and don't give up. Every cloud has a silver lining.
What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
Richard Branson has said that innovation has been the key to some of humanity's greatest successes. Innovation has certainly been a central feature in all our key residential developments, which highlight distinct features like floating gardens and exotic sky decks, as well as floor-to-ceiling all-glass facades. I hope to be able to constantly push the boundaries as a property developer to find more innovative ways to create a leap in value for our customers as well as for Trinity Group.
At Trinity, we see ourselves as more than just property developers. We aspire to create wholesome, comfortable and secure communities and townships with each of our developments to enrich the lives of its residents, in line with our motto: "Building Communities, Enriching Lives". We emphasise on the importance of value creation to enhance the capital appreciation of all our projects and cater to the needs of the people.
Most-admired business leader? Why?
Robert Kuok, for his immense passion for what he does. He remains one of the most astute businessmen at 94 years old.
Malaysia's greatest brand.
Shangri-La hotels, Jimmy Choo.
A must-read for every business owner/ manager is...
Robert Kuok: A Memoir
How do you expect policies on climate change to impact businesses in the future?
Climate change is likely to create many new business opportunities for the green economy. We can choose to view climate change as a threat or an opportunity, and I prefer to see it as an opportunity for us (the industry) to implement more diligent and stringent regulations on our developments. Of course, the challenge will be to gather the required support from all parties in order to effectively enforce and uphold these new policies and regulations.
What are the top three factors you would attribute your success to?
- The willingness to take risks
- Passionate and talented team members
- Innovation and creativity in creating value for our customers