TimothyTiah.com

How spending less time online is helping me be a better person

One of the things you’d notice is that my blog updates are getting less frequent. That’s due really to a couple of reasons. The first one is that with Colony’s launch just about all my spare time is taken away.

The second thing is that I’ve made it a point to spend less time online, on social media, or on anything that sucks time (even games) to things that really matter. Like spending time with my wife, my kids, doing things for them and hey spending time on myself on where it matters. I’ve been making it a point to exercise more and read more too.

Right now I’m reading a book about the founder of the Four Seasons Hotel chain. I find that the more I read, the more perspective it gives me and the more inspiration I have for it in my life and in business. Since I’ve started reading very regularly a year ago, I feel like I have changed. The way I see things have changed, the way I behave, the one I handle stress, the way I run a company… even the way I talk to my wife and kids have changed.

I think of all things that is my strength. I have this ability to look at myself and see all my weaknesses as they are without my pride or ego blinding me. Then I am able to make adjustments to it and really change my behaviour., They say people never change but I can’t say that I don’t neither can I say that there are things in me that I will never be able to change.

One of the things I’ve really changed is the way I talk to people. The way I communicate with people. I’ve learned to make people the focus of all my attention. To really listen when people talk to me as opposed to listening to respond which we often find ourselves doing because silent pauses in a conversation seem to scare us.

From that alone I have gotten so much. I’ve gotten to understand people better, to win people over and heck I’ve learned a lot more myself than I would have learned otherwise, In fact the more people I talk to the more I realise I don’t know shit. I heard some saying once that the first step of enlightenment is admitting you know nothing. Well heck I don’t know if I’m supposed to be enlightened yet but the more I read the more I realise I don’t know.

Reading has become such an addiction to me that I lost my Kindle the other day and in the couple of hours I couldn’t find it, I was driven crazy. I started looking online for how to buy a Kindle in Malaysia, cursing at Amazon for still not shipping one over. I did finally find my Kindle though. Things got better then and I fall asleep a little better at night when I have something to read. Stories to read.

I also make it a point to spend less time on feeds on my phone and more time on my kids. Properly listening to them and sometimes when I do that, they tell me the most profound things or things that I never thought of before. Just yesterday my son was looking at my old phone and asking me why it didn’t have a camera. I tried explaining that old phones didn’t have cameras on them and he kept asking why why why.

Until it became obvious that it wasn’t obvious to human beings to put cameras on phones until… well it was obvious. And now that my son had seen every phone with a camera, it’s hard to imagine one without. Or why anyone would have one without.

Well yeah this is why I haven’t really had much time to update my social platforms. I know you guys are still out there checking in on this site every day and I am really appreciative of that. I will also continue to update this blog for as long as I can see the future… although the updates may not be as frequent as one every few days.

I thought that maybe instead quantity, I should focus on quality. Writing less frequent, but better blog entries. Ones that I get inspiration to write every now and then when something thought-provoking hits me, or when I read something in a book…

Until then… I’m off to a family holiday tomorrow. A short getaway! So see you soon.


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What about dying scares me…

I want to share a story about a friend of mine. Lets call him Tom.

Tom is a friend of mine who’s in his sixties. He has a very inspiring story. Coming from a poor family, he worked his way up building a business that made him the multi-millionaire he is today. At sixty, he’s very very cheerful, loves golf and loves buying new supercars. The only other thing he’s interested in (apart from family of course) is business.

A month ago I learned that Tom has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. It’s the same type of rare cancer that got Steve Jobs and the one insurance companies are so worried that I might get because of the cyst on my pancreas. So worried that they won’t insure me anymore.

I’ve been back to see Tom in the hospital 3 times now. He’s still his very happy cheerful self as he tells me how he feels about life now.

  1. He says that he no longer takes any interest in his business. Something that used to give him so much joy and something that he would devote a lot of time to.
  2. A month after he was diagnosed with cancer, he sold off all his supercars and kept only two more normal cars for necessary usage.
  3. He can’t play golf anymore and doesn’t think about it.
  4. He has millions to his name… but he knows even all that money isn’t going to necessarily save his life.

Tom is the first close friend of mine who’s fighting cancer and his battle has really changed the way I think about things. I think about my own death. The thought of dying and going into the after world doesn’t really scare me so much. I think I’ve done good things in my life in aggregate and I don’t think I would go to hell but hey that doesn’t say a lot. Okay so the thought of dying itself and moving on to a better place doesn’t scare me as much.

What scares me now is:

  1. Who will take care of my family. My wife, my kids.

Now for this I know that they’ll find a way. My parents, my sister, my wife… heck there will be someone around to raise them and they’ve got a long line of great candidates for guardians after me and my wife.

The other thing that scares me though is:

2. That I die before I reach my full potential.

I was reading a book today written by the founder of the Four Seasons and he talked about a friend of his who died at the peak of his career. At least he reached the peak. I’m worried that I might die… before I reached my full potential.

I know it’s a little narcissistic and also naive because hey in reality.. when you die… you die. Life goes on, people eventually forget you. I always remember how Nando Parrado told the story of how he came home years after the world thought he died in a plane crash. Everything was the same. Everyone grieved at first… but eventually life goes on.

That’s a sad reality. That most of us won’t be able to leave any form of legacy that anyone else would care about. The legacy I would love to leave though isn’t for anyone else.. but for my kids. For them to see that their father was able to be successful in what he did. That he failed and failed… but alas he succeeded. What I’m worried about is that I fail… and fail… but die or get crippled by some disease before I succeed. Never reaching my full potential.

I pray God gives me time to live life. I don’t know how long I would ask for. Life expectancy these days can go to 100 and beyond but hey… maybe 75 for me? Is that too much to ask?

Why each Colony employee is authorised to spend up to RM600,000 a month on guests…

Our mission at Colony is to change the experience at work. We envision the workspace of the future to be one not of bean bags and pool tables but of one with a lot of warmth. Like a home as opposed to the common fluorescent light office of the present.

Warmth isn’t just generated by lighting or the design of the space though. Home always feels warm to us because of the people there. Our family, who we know will always be there for us and we can count on. We wanted to replicate this at Colony.

So in Colony we have a Concierge and a team of people who are focused at doing nothing else but making sure all our guests are taken care of. Imagine going to an office where you have a team of people who are looking out for your every need. That’s something you’ll never get in the traditional office.

I have never worked in a hotel, a restaurant or anything in hospitality though. So the only way I could learn about hospitality was to read. Over a matter of weeks I picked up books about Ritz Carlton, Disney and the Four Seasons. How these great hotel chains do what they do.

The one thing I learned was how difficult it was. Great hospitality is going above and beyond what a guest wants so how do you train everyone to think above and beyond their specific jobs and go the extra mile?

I learned that the Ritz Carltons of the world do it by a culture they have built over decades. How do I even start?

I started with a few principles:

1. There is never NO complaints… our job is not just to receive them but to seek them out.

Every week the team has a huddle and we reiterate our mission of changing the work experience and bringing hospitality to the workspace. Then as part of each huddle we ask for any complaints anyone has heard from their guests. If I don’t get any, then I push harder because there ALWAYS is something to complain about, something we’re not doing right because we’re not perfect.  If we don’t get these complaints, how do we know how else to improve?

2. There must always be a story to tell of how you’ve gone above and beyond for a guest in the past week.

Every single week, our Community Managers who man our Concierge are asked that one question. It’s just like the complaints, if there isn’t one, then that’s a problem. Seek them out.

3. Each Colony team member is empowered to go above and beyond.

Here’s something cool. Every single employee in Colony has an RM100 budget PER day PER guest to spend on anything they think might make a guest happy. No approvals needed.

I know what you’re thinking. Sounds like a lot of money right? Think about it. There are over a hundred people working in Colony each day now and in six months that number is expected to double to 200.

With 200 guests at RM100 per guest, each employee can spend up to RM20,000 per day. Or RM600,000 a month,

Some people ask me how we can trust our employees with this and what if it’s abused?

Well we’ve been doing this for 2 months now and I find that when you empower someone and trust someone with power, that person generally takes that power very seriously. None of our team members have spent anything outrageous.

Heck sometimes it’s travel adaptors for clients, sometimes it’s some Panadol, sometimes it’s just changing the colour of the office lights. Things that would never have been done quick enough in the name of great service if we had to go through management approvals for each one.

Sure maybe one day if we grow large enough it might be abused but we’re just going to have to deal with it then. In the mean time, the stories of great service and hospitality that Colony has brought have been amazing. Look at this for example.

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This would never have happened if we didn’t place strong importance on hospitality and it would probably wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t empower our team with the budget to make these decisions on their own.

We’re still really far away from where we want to be hospitality wise… far away from the Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons we aspire to be. Heck we often make mistakes too. But to be able to build this culture in 3 months… that amazes me in itself and it’s only possible because we’ve got such a fantastic team.

Hopefully in a few years, we’ll be known as the co-working space or serviced office in KL with unprecedented levels of service and hospitality.

How Colony set out not to build the largest coworking space, but the most profitable

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Six months ago the world was (and still is now) on coworking space fever. Everyone was looking to build a coworking space to be the next WeWork. JLL came up with a report to say that this year there are 36 coworking spaces in KL alone. That’s a lot of flexible officespace supply in one city and it doesn’t even count the big boys from the serviced offices. I won’t be surprised if it doubles next year.

Amid this fever, everyone was rushing to claim that they were the largest co-working space or the most number of outlets. One of my investors asked me what was my plan. Did I want to build the biggest? The most number of outlets?

My answer was simple. “I want to be the most profitable”.

That approach changes the way we do things. It changes the way we negotiate deals with landlords, the prices we sell, the locations we base ourselves in and the way we portray our brand. It also changes the target market for us.

Most coworking spaces take on the WeWork queue of going for freelancers and startup entrepreneurs. They talk about collaboration, community and networking. The problem with that is that it’s a niche. That selling point will sell to freelancers and startup entrepreneurs, but everyone else who isn’t (which is 99% of the workforce) don’t care about that. What Colony decided to go for isn’t the 1%, but the 99%. We wanted to change the experience of work.

Sounded like a plan but I was cautious with our investors. I told them that a typical serviced office can take 12-18 months to breakeven and that I would try to do it in 6. Even that would be a feat. We set aside money in preparation for that 6 month burn… but that didn’t come.

When I learned that we not just broke even but made a decent profit in our 3rd full month of operations, I reacted with disbelief. “No fucking way” I messaged my team over Slack.

They replied with “YES YES AND YES FUCKING WAY”.

I then combed through the P&L, Went through every figure to make sure every single expense was accounted for. That every line in revenue was real and when I couldn’t find anything wrong I sat back in my chair. I felt a sudden high rush through my blood, the joy… better than buying a new car or a watch. The joy that we’ve achieved the impossible and possibly broken a record in the coworking space and serviced office industry in Malaysia.

That feeling reminded me of why I do what I do. It’s not the money. We’ve had 2 exit opportunities in the 3 months of Colony. I’ve taken neither of them because I want to go through the painful rollercoaster journey of ups and downs and slowly building this into a great company and have a really meaningful exit for our investors.

It’s the feeling that we’ve achieved something that we ourselves once thought was impossible. That’s what I look for. That’s what I am a junkie to. That feeling.

We celebrated our achievement but we quickly got back to work. In my email to investors I said
“One month doesn’t make a quarter, and a quarter doesn’t make a year. And a year doesn’t make a business.
Only the paranoid survive. And I am paranoid”.

The coworking space industry and serviced office industry is a competitive one. It’s not just the WeWorks of the world that are coming in but the big boys like the Regus and Servcorps who have been in this industry for decades. Neither of them are sleeping giants. Both Regus and Servcorp are very well run companies, managed by very capable management teams, armed with huge war chests and profits that would make anyone’s jaw drop.

So we keep running and we keep striving to get better. At our weekly meetings with the team, one of the things I always ask is “Tell me what complains have we had from our clients in the past week.”

Once the room was silent for a while until someone spoke up to say “None“. My response was “It can’t be none because if there’s none that means we’re running things perfectly, and I’m confident that we’re not perfect because if we are, we’re saying we can’t be better”.

Our little milestone of profitability in the first 3 months isn’t because of things we did right. Not at all.

The truth i that
“It’s because of the many things we did right, and in spite of the many things we did wrong.”

So to do better we need to keep doing more right things, and less wrong things. And we need a little luck.

Are you an extroverted introvert?

“You’re so obviously an introvert”.

5 words that I thought I’d never hear in my life… but what mattered weren’t just those words, but who it came from: My wife. Of all the people who know me in this world, nobody knows me like my wife so it really made me think when she said those words.

It’s surprising to me because I’m pretty good with people. You can put me in a group of strangers and I can strike up a conversation and 5 minutes later you’ll see us joking and laughing away. That’s exactly what I told my wife and she came back with this:

“Being able to mix with people doesn’t mean you’re an extrovert. An extrovert gets energy from being around people. When an introvert is around people though, it drains energy”.

I thought and I realized she was right. I thought about the days when I’d go out to social events and chat chat and when I came back home I felt really tired and drained. So much I would just lay on the bed and want to be left alone.

During my leisure time I realise I don’t go out of my way to make plans with friends. I rather stay at home and read my book, play my games or watch TV. This is a huge contrast to my extroverted wife who finds the need to go out every time she’s free to meet her friends and just chat. To her… the activity she gains energy from is being around people. To me… I gain energy from being around myself.

So how have I been able to fake it all this while? How have I been able to be an extroverted introvert? When I talk to people I realise I’m not the only one. There are so many. Want to spot an extroverted introvert?  That’s easy.

In groups where people are less talkative, the extroverted introvert will make an extra attempt to talk to more people, to be the life of the party. But introduce an extrovert there and the extroverted introvert enters radio silence almost relieved that he doesn’t have to talk.

An extroverted introvert loves spending time with people too sometimes but only with people within their comfort zone. They’re often also good at communicating and expressing themselves… but only to the people they love.

So what does that mean for me now that I know it?

I know that in order to get out of my comfort zone I have to force myself to go out sometimes. To call people out or to accept more invitations to hang out. Especially with the job I have. Entrepreneurs need to meet people not just for networking but also for information, perspective… all sorts of different things.

I also know that my wife is an extrovert. She needs to go out, meet friends and hang out with people. So I’m gonna have to give her the freedom to do her thing.

 

Startups grow market share, scale and raise more money. Whatever happened to building for profits?

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“Our focus in the next two years is to scale and to grow market share. We’re not focus on profits.”

That is an increasingly common line we’re hearing. Hell it’s a line that the entrepreneur in me has used before and it’s propagated by successful Silicon Valley companies like Facebook or Amazon that have had to burn truck loads of money in its earlier years in order to reach its highly profitable and defensible positions today to make abnormal profits.

Having to burn money for a number of years before seeing money is not exactly a new concept. Traditional industries like mining for example go through the same cycle and it certainly applies for certain tech models that have very significant network effects like Uber or Lazada. The problem though is that we’re beginning to apply the Uber argument of scaling first, profits later to industries that it really shouldn’t even apply to.

I happen to exist in an industry now that is a perfect example of this: The Co-working Space Industry. Here’s how the typical co-working space pitch is like:

  1. The workforce is changing. There are more freelancers and startups today than anytime in history and that is going to grow even more.
  2. Millennials want a work environment that is community based for networking and collaboration.

If these two lines sound familiar it’s because this is WeWork’s pitch. Then it goes on.

3. Look at WeWork. It’s worth over $20 billion and is the 5th largest startup in the world. We want to be the WeWork of <Insert geographical region here>.

4. We have opened one, two or three locations now and they’re all at over 80% occupancy in a matter of months.

5. We’re not making money yet at 80% occupancy but that’s because we’re giving heavily discounted rates and free seats to first build the community and scale. Just like Uber. Once we’ve scaled we can raise our rates and we’ll make abnormal profits. Oh and we’ll probably sell to WeWork or URWork.

It’s with this (oversimplified) pitch that the co-working space industry is raising millions on and heck as a player in this space I’ve been tempted to sing the same song and serve the same fluff. There’s one problem though. This pitch, this approach and chase for occupancy gets in the way of building a sustainable business.

Here’s why:

Co-working spaces sell leases for office space it has. Selling leases isn’t like selling coffee. Not everybody needs a lease today or right now. Some might need it now, some next month, some next year. So the sales process is slow. You don’t just get 100% occupancy within a few months of launch. A typical service office takes at least 12 months to sign up enough leases to hit a monthly breakeven. After that every new lease for workstations that they sign goes into profits for them.

The only way to realistically achieve 80-100% occupancy in a matter of months is to sell seats at heavily discounted rates. Rates so discounted that people are willing to break their previous leases and pay the penalty. Or give away free seats to bloggers or influencers or… well anyone so that it makes the place look full.

The problem with that strategy though is that if you heavily discount your product, say if people are used to paying RM500 per head for an office with your co-working space, it’s going to be hard to get them to pay RM1,000 ever. So while that gives you short term occupancy, it totally kills the medium to long term profit potential of your business and location.

So here’s our strategy with Colony to make sure we’re putting in the building blocks to build a sustainable and very profitable business for the future.

  1. We make sure our product is good. The design of our space has to WOW (so far it does) and our location has to be PRIME (so far it is). We also have a huge focus on service levels and hospitality (this one we’re not there yet. I’ve been reading books on hospitality and learned that the Ritz Carltons of the world take decades to build the hospitality culture they have today).
  2. With a good product we can charge a high price. Our average price per work station in Colony is RM1,000. We don’t give heavy discounts and have had to turn away many potential customers because of that.
  3. With a good price, we get good people. The kind of companies in Colony are very professional and pay their rent on time so we don’t have a problem with receivables and they’re all great growing companies that are willing to pay for a great office.
  4. With a good price, we break even at even very low occupancy. We launched in 28th July 2017. In September we had about 30-40% in actual paid occupancy and believe it or not, with help from ancillary revenues we just about broke even (and this includes paying our full rent… not some rent-free months from the landlord). In our second month of operation. October our occupancy has grown to 40-50% and assuming our ancillary revenues keep up we’ll be in the money.
  5. When we make money we can afford to continuously reinvest in our product. In Malaysia we can sometimes build beautiful things but we don’t maintain them well. With Colony we’re constantly reinvesting even in the small things like maintenance. Last week for example, just two months after launch we got painters to come repaint some parts of the walls that had scruffs on them.
  6. When we first launched Colony I was asked by the press when I intend to reach full occupancy. My answer was that my target was 60% by December and that I would be worried if occupancy grew quicker than that because I fear not being able to scale my service levels proportionately in such a short period of time.

The truth is that I didn’t come to all this on my own. I’m a newcomer in the co-working space and service office industry. I’ve been fortunate though to speak to a lot of veterans in the service office industry and they’ve passed on the values I need to build a profitable Colony.

The modest success we’ve had in such a short period of time, I wish I could say that it was part of my plan but it wasn’t. I told my investors that I would take at least 6 months before our first Colony will hit a monthly breakeven point, so imagine my (and their) surprise when we did it in 2. I owe all this to a lot of luck, our great customers and the awesome team we have in Colony. They’ve been through thick and thin for it.

All in all though, I know that a quarter doesn’t make a year. I’ve been in business long enough to know that hey we could be doing really well at some parts of the year and then poorly in others. Business and building a profitable company is a constant struggle and a rollercoaster ride (does anyone remember how even Sunway nearly went bust during the Asian Financial crisis?).

The good thing about building a profitable business though is that you have a lot more options. Your survivability isn’t based on whether you can close the next round of funding or not. It’s secure.. and any funding rounds that come with it is a bonus.

My ambition isn’t to build a company that is valued highly on paper based on the last investment round. My ambition is to build a company that the most traditional banks would be clamouring to lend lots of money to. That’s the real acid test because if a bank is willing to lend your company money, it means it believes you have the profits and cashflow to pay it back.

So wish me luck.. and if you’re looking for office space and resonate with our mission to change the experience at work, please book a tour at Colony.

How our lives now are actually much worse than our cavemen ancestors of the past…

I’m reading a book now called Sex at Dawn. It’s really a book about how human beings are not meant to be monogamous but more interestingly it goes deep into studies and research about us as human beings.

Here’s the shocking things I’ve learned from the book about what human beings were like in our earlier years:

  1. We shared everything. Our very early ancestors were foragers ie hunter-gatherers. We often lived nomadic lives and exist in small communities where we shared everything. In small communities, there was very little need for laws or enforcement because everyone knew each other. If someone did something that harmed another person then that person would have to deal with the shame of doing so from everyone else. So people generally don’t do these things. Compare that to the world of today… people do bad things because they don’t know the people harmed by their actions. They aren’t close enough to feel the shame.
  2. There was little reason for war or conflict because nobody owned anything and everything we needed was available around us. When you consider that nobody had the concept of owning land, or owning anything or anyone.. then there really is nothing to fight about.
  3. No leaders could oppress its people. Because everything that we needed and wanted was available around us, no leader could oppress or exert influence on everybody else because if you weren’t happy you could just leave. So people followed leaders then not because they were forced to, or it was a given right or anything.. but because that leader had gained their respect.
  4. There was no poverty. That’s right. Think about it. Poverty is man-made. Man created money, man created the social classes that have and have-nots. Man created all of that. In our early years, there wasn’t a rich or poor or middle class. Everyone had a chance to eat whatever they wanted to eat or do whatever they wanted to do. The Earth provided for everything. Nobody starved.
  5. The lives of our ancestors weren’t as bad as we think they are. There was a story in the book where European explorers visited a South American tribe at the time and took pity of their impoverished lives. They lived in little huts, they ate insects or bugs and they didn’t have nice proper clothes to wear. They decided to bring back two people from the tribe to Europe and train them how to dress, how to eat with a fork and knife and eventually brought them back to their tribe a year later to hope that they would go back and teach their tribe. After leaving the two natives for a year, they went back with disappointment to find that they had went back to their old usual lifestyles. The explorers offered to bring them back to Europe but they didn’t want to. They were happy in their tribes with their community, and what the explorers saw as poor living conditions, they saw as their way of life.
  6. There was no stress. And there was a lot of free time. Hunting for food, taking care of household chores all took only a few hours a day. Researchers found that it was very common for our ancestors to sleep 3 hours in the afternoon every day because really… there wasn’t really anything to do. There was no empire we needed to build, no legacy. We just needed to take care of ourselves and raise our kids.

After reading about all this, I began to think that HOLY SHIT! It’s entirely possible that our modern human lives are the worst possible lives in our existence as human beings., Today we worry about stress, we have a large number of the population living in poverty, crimes, wars, violence… none of these existed in the early days when we were hunter-gatherers.

The flip side about this made me think. What is it that makes us so stressed these days? What matters? What do we really need? If we were to be hunter-gatherers of our current generation, maybe that’s just the equivalent of having jobs that earned just enough for us to survive. Do we need to pursue wealth at the expense of being able to spend time doing what we loved doing.

All the stress, all the pressure we feel now. That’s all man-made and in many instances. it’s something we can choose to do or choose not to do.

That’s all food for thought for me this weekend. Maybe it might be for you too 🙂

If there is one thing you care about talks, what would it be?

Things has been really busy for me since my short staycation. It is only the 3rd day of the week, and I already feel like time is running out for me. Other than the plans that we have for the expansion of Colony is now in its development phase, I am also busy preparing for my upcoming talk that will happen tomorrow (check them out here if you haven’t already). Apart from preparing the content, I am also thinking how should we create an environment that is conducive and engaging for the audience so that it truly benefits the participants who are joining.

My team has been really helpful throughout the planning, but now that I have more control over the venue and settings, I really want to deliver that superior experience to all my guest. So I thought I could turn to all of you – if there is one aspect that you care about during talks or conferences, what would it be?

Also, we still have a few spaces left for the talk so do sign up in the link above if you haven’t already. Looking forward to see you there!


 

5 Reasons Why we should start doing more Staycations

The past few months have been taxing on Shorty and me. We’ve been really lucky that the response of our 2-month old Colony has been great. The insane growth of Colony though comes with a price. It’s been heavy on both of us work-wise and hard with her too having to juggle work and the kids.

Bogged down with the daily grind we realized we’ve hardly had time to spend with each other. We’ve thought about doing holidays together but that runs into a whole bunch of scheduling problems. Our coming weeks are so packed that we can’t put together a meaningful window for us to make a long overdue trip together. We normally go for a trip together, just the both of us at least once a year. I can’t even remember the last time we did that now.

I realized that what we needed wasn’t to go anywhere fancy or experience anything new. Both Shorty and I are fortunate to have had the chance to travel a lot in the past and another trip to Japan wasn’t going to move the needle. What we needed though was to be able to spend time together. Just me and her.

So one day after work I decided to explore the idea of a staycation. Choosing a nice hotel to spend the weekend at in KL. I looked around at a number of hotels and I found that The Majestic Hotel was the best value.

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There were a number of different rooms in the pictures I could see online though so I contacted them wanting to see what the difference was and what kind of room we were getting.

The great news was that they unexpectedly recognized my name and offered to sponsor us that weekend. They were amazing hosts and now that the staycation has come to an end, I can safely say it was a much needed break away from home and work.

Here’s why I loved the staycation experience:

  1. It takes away all the anxiety that comes with travel

We don’t have to worry so much about having to make or miss a flight, or changing to different currency or even packing. If we ever forgot to bring something we could just go home and get it. No worrying about getting a local SIM card or how much it could cost if you were to answer that roaming call. Removing all the anxiety that come with traveling allowed us to focus on the destination itself.

2. The kids are just a short car-ride away.

If you’re like us, parents who struggle to be away from their kids for more than a few days… then Staycations are perfect. Because if we ever miss them we can go back and spend time with them in the afternoon which was exactly what we did. Heck we even brought them over to enjoy the lovely suite that The Majestic team gave us.

3. Going from a world of doing many things to a world of doing nothing.

What did we do on our staycation? Well we went for a 2 and a half hour massage and scrub at the Majestic Spa which was awesome and we ate at the restaurants on property. The rest of the time we were just in the room chilling and doing whatever we wanted to do. There was no expectations about how we should or shouldn’t be spending our time. Shorty was playing a lot of candy crush and reading about this Canadian lady who tattooed her eyeballs. I on the other hand was reading my books and watching David Blaine on TV doing magic tricks in front of Hollywood Celebrities.,

It’s a liberating experience to just have time to do whatever you want. No need for any sight-seeing, no need to think about where to find food and no toddlers calling after you for immediate attention halfway reading your book.

4. There was adventure!

Okay so I’ve been to Majestic Hotel many many times before. Every year I go there at least once for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. I’ve once attended Bryan Loo’s daughter’s birthday at Contango… but what I have never ever explored was the Majestic Wing. That is the really old colonial building that was the original Majestic Hotel that went as far back as… well I hear it was one of the earliest hotels of KL.

Instead of posting pictures of the hotel now, I’ll leave it to you to Google it.

5. It’s a lot more affordable.

For the money we save on air tickets, or airport shuttles and stuff like that we get to stay in a nicer hotel than we normally would. Not to mention we don’t have to budget for falling for tourist scams which is something I always tend to get when I go to foreign countries

All in all I am now in love with the idea of Staycations and I’d highly recommend Majestic Hotel in KL for one if you ever wanted to do one.

Do you have to be an asshole CEO to get shit done?

If you read all the best practice management books about how to manage people, they always talk about how we should treat our staff respectfully. They teach us that great leaders should never have to shout at their subordinates, nor belittle them in any way.

Yet some of the most successful tech leaders in the world be it Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Travis Kalanick and Jeff Bezos are known to be precisely like that. They don’t shy away from putting people down if they don’t get what they need done. These leaders then inspire a whole breed of CEOs who all believe that they can treat their staff poorly but not just that… that it’s a necessity in order to get shit done. People have to fear you.

My confession here is that in my earlier years as a leader I totally drank the same Kool-Aid. I believed that I had to be strict, call people out for their mistakes in a mean way… and occasionally raise my voice on issues that I wanted to stress was important.

At the end of last year though I went through a very intense phase of self-reflection. I realised that I didn’t want to be an asshole CEO and I wanted to prove to myself that I could NOT be an asshole and still get results done. Colony was my first experiment of such a thing. Ask the founding team that was with me in my Nuffnang days if they had ever seen me shout or scream and they’d all nod like an Elvis Bobble Head on the dashboard of an SUV going through cross-road terrain.

Ask my team at Colony now though and I’m pretty confident they’d say that they have never seen me lose my temper and bang tables in the manner in which I had in my earlier days of Nuffnang. That’s not necessarily because things always go right. Heck no.. things often go wrong in the day to day of Colony too but I realize that freaking out on them… is a choice. I could choose to flip out of frustration and take it out on somebody, hopefully motivating that person (out of fear) to fix that problem asap. Or I could understand that problems we face is part of the journey of business and calmly address each problem.

When talking about this recently, I was asked the big question. “Great you can be NOT an asshole… but does shit get done?”.

My response was that I only ask you to look at the results.

Today few people would deny that Colony is one of the most beautiful co-working spaces in KL (if not the most). Despite being less than two months old, we’re one of the most well-known co-working spaces in town and recently JLL, one of the largest property firms in the world referred to Colony as a “major co-working space operator” in KL. The result of where we are today isn’t because of just me or my wife. It’s because of the team we work with… and we did it… without me having to be an asshole CEO.

That’s not to say that asshole CEOs don’t drive results. Some people just prefer that kind of management style and yes it works for some but comes with some pitfalls. People normally put up with asshole bosses if they have a lot of respect for that person. Which was probably why Steve Job’s or Elon Musk’s team stuck with them. Why? Because for all the bashing, these leaders they follow help them achieve things that they would never have thought of achieving on their own.

The respect that a team would have for an asshole boss remains only as long as that boss continues to be a star. Once that boss fails to achieve results, that respect wanes and people start wondering why the fuck they’re putting up with all this shit.

So I’m not saying that being an asshole boss doesn’t get you results. I’m saying that if you’re going to be an asshole boss… you better be inventing the next iPhone or Model S.

Because if you’re not… then you’re not Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. You’re just an asshole. 

Colony