TimothyTiah.com

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. 


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How I used social media in my journey as an entrepreneur…

One of my friends is a guy named Jonathan Quek. He’s a professional speaker who makes a living giving seminars that people pay to attend just to learn from what he knows.

Sometime a few months ago he sat across me at The Barn and wanted to know more about my social media experience. How I had used social media in entrepreneurship to help level the game when it came to  business. So I told him whatever I knew in my past 10 years of social media experience ranging from the days of Friendster to Twitter to Plurk and well today’s Instagram and Snapchat generation.

After hearing all that he said “Why is it you have never shared this with anybody?”.

My reply was that I didn’t think anyone would be interested and besides I’m not a professional speaker. That though was precisely why he thought I should do it and why people would listen. So he asked me who else had used social media very prominently to help him in business and I named a few… one of them being Bryan Loo of Tealive.

Bryan happened to be a good friend of ours so Jonathan went to speak to him and asked him if he would be a part of a talk we would put together. Bryan happily agreed. Just like me he thought it would be fun. So this is what we put together.

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Click here to learn more or to check out more details.

I’ve used digital (not just social) media so much for business. Even when it comes to Colony. All the hype we’ve been getting, the press coverage and even the fact that we’re on the first page of Google whenever anyone searches “Coworking space KL” is no accident. The results have been really powerful. The organic effects of all this work has driven more leads and more cost efficient leads than all the ads we could buy.

But speaking about it… that’s a whole different thing altogether. I can’t help but feel somewhat nervous about it. Somewhat worried that… hey what if what I had to say wasn’t that important or meaningful after all.

Well we’re a few weeks away and at the very least I think I’ll have fun. Heck the 3 of us are friends… so at the very least it’ll be all of you guys hanging out with 3 friends.

I asked Jonathan if he could give Bryan and I a promo code so that we could give like a 50% discount for our followers and he gave this to me.

So if you want to sign up click on the link above and go ahead

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and sign up.


I wanted to bring hospitality to the office. Here’s what I’ve learned

Yep! That’s right. This article is probably the first time you’ve ever seen the words hospitality on my blog. Heck my background has been in digital media and entrepreneurship and all that but hospitality?

How did that come about?

Well a big part of what we wanted to achieve with Colony as a co-working space in KL was to bring a far better working experience to people at work. The word experience is key here because an experience is not just delivered by how nice our co-working space looks. Nope… experiences are delivered with hardware (how physically nice the space looks) to software (how the staff treat you).

That’s when it hit me. It never occurred to me before because most co-working spaces operate like motels. You wash up after yourself, clean up after your own mess, even have an honesty jar for the stuff you take from the pantry. But what I wanted the Colony experience to be like is not that of a motel but of a 5-Star hotel. It then occurred to me how far away we were from achieving that vision and how much work we had to do.

So that very weekend I committed myself to reading books about hospitality, I picked up a number of books to read… like one about how Disney creates their experiences and enhances hospitality called “Be Our Guest” or another about Ritz Carlton.

I’ve also started looking to add members to our team that come from a hospitality background. I’ve been lucky there because some of our current team already have hospitality backgrounds.

Here’s what I learned and implemented at Colony in these few weeks:

  1. I’ve learned that the words we use to refer to the people we serve influence how we treat them.

So instead of calling our tenants members, or tenants… we now refer to them as our guests. And we their cast. The term cast is something Disney uses in their resorts too to refer to their own staff. The idea of that is to get everyone used to the thinking that we are cast members in a performance aimed to create a good experience for our guests. I like that so we adopted it for Colony too.

2. I’ve learned that Disney focuses on 4 main pillars to deliver the experience they do. Setting, Cast and Process (there’s a 4th one but that’s for another day).

i) Setting refers to how the space looks like every day? Is it messy? Are some pillows on the sofas caught out of arrangement at any time of the day? What we’ve done then is that we’ve taken a lot of care about making sure everything is presented as it should be down to the music that we play in the space.

ii) Cast refers to our team members, How we dress, what kind of language we use, how do we show directions to people? Do we just point or do we take them all the way?

We’ve made revamps to that, even putting in dress code. The dress code for the team at Colony isn’t formal like hotels, but smart. Kinda like what I’m wearing here.

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iii) Process

This is important to make sure things run smoothly. When guests move in how do we make sure they get what they need fast and efficiently. How is information delivered to them so they can quickly get acquainted with the space and the surrounding areas. How do we make the most annoying things not annoying.

3. I’ve learned that people want to be serviced… but invisibly.

You know how we love the feeling of coming back to our hotel rooms to see the mess all cleaned up? What we love about it isn’t just the tidiness of the whole situation but how it all happened without us looking. It’s like magic.

So what we did at Colony was manage our cleaners such that they would clean the rooms (empty the thrash and all) at the end of each day and just before the guests come in the next day. So by the time you come back to your office in Colony, everything has been cleaned.

4. I’ve learned that experiences are created by frontline staff.

The Community Managers, the receptionist or anyone who faces our guests. So in order to create great experiences for our guests we need to empower them to make decisions of their own.

So what did we do at Colony? We implemented an initiative where every cast member can spend RM100 each day per guest for any reason that would make that person happy. This can be done without any approval required from management. That sounds like a lot of money because if you think about it we have like a 100 guests now in Colony each day and growing. That means if this is maxed out, our team could spend a maximum of RM100,000 A DAY.

This has been great so far though. One of our guests from overseas needed a travel adaptor and a cast member of ours was able to quickly go out and buy one. We’ve had other requests too like one wanted to change the colour of the lights in their office, or we saw one of our guests having a bad day at work so we bought her some donuts to pick her up.

The impact of these small stories here and there have been amazing and it’s only been a few weeks.

The truth is that we’re still pretty far off from where we want to be. I’ve learned that hotels like the Ritz Carlton take decades to build the culture and processes they need to deliver the service they have and it’s still evolving. So we’re definitely not there yet… but we are making progress step by step into achieving our purpose.

Imagine going to work and having a team of people at work who are just there to make your life there easier and serve your every need and want. That’s the future of office and it’s what Colony stands for.

How identifying this one passion of mine has changed my perspective of stress

I’ve been reflecting about what I enjoy doing lately. Trying to figure out what you enjoy is harder than it seems. We’re often influenced by what society tells us we should enjoy… like going for holidays, or shopping, or hanging out with friends or watching a movie. But that doesn’t mean we all enjoy these things. Some people just don’t enjoy traveling even if it’s for holidays. Some people don’t enjoy hanging out with people but rather stay at home.

So in the past few weeks I’ve been really thinking hard about what it is I enjoy and I found the best way to figure out what I enjoy is to take away the things that I thought I enjoyed from my life. So I’ve cut down on the holidays, I’ve limited my shopping to only things I need rather than things I wanted and I’ve only gone out whenever I felt like going out.

What I came to realize was that playing games (something I love), or going on holidays or retail therapy or any of these things create temporary highs that go away as fast as they come. That then creates the life that we have now… chasing one high after another. That whenever we get a bit of stress we’re tempted to feel that we should react by going for some shopping, or drinks with friends or a beach holiday.

Gaming or social media or any applications that were made to be addictive run on the same basis. They all need to be able to give you a high.. and in order to get that high, you need to have points of the game where you have your lows too. That’s why winning feels good only if it’s hard to win.. and if it comes off the back of some losses.

After some reflection, what I found I really enjoyed was learning stuff. Instead of keeping up with what my friends are doing on social media, the things I find myself doing is reading articles on Quora or Googling stuff and getting lost in the world of Wikipedia. I suddenly saw my life as a constant pursuit to learn about different things. My time on YouTube isn’t spent watching a PewDiePie or any funny Youtubers but instead watching documentaries.

I’ve found that I read a lot of books too and funny enough I realize why I enjoy my time with Shorty so much. It’s because she tends to have this natural desire too to learn about random things from the books or articles she reads and she tells me about them. She recently read a book about the evolution of human beings and how human beings were not meant to be monogamous… the studies she told me about from that book were mind blowing.

More importantly though it has changed the way I view stress. We often face stress because we are put into situations that are outside our comfort zone. Think about it though, if we’re constantly in our comfort zones then we don’t learn anything. So to be stressed… is to be learning something new.

That’s changed how I view everything. I now appreciate the stressful challenges I have in life and in business. I see it all as an opportunity to experience more… and to learn more. Suddenly with this new perspective, things aren’t as stressful as I thought they once were anymore.

Here’s what a well balanced SUV for a working family man should have

This article was written in collaboration with VW Malaysia

Some people say the car you drive tends to represent where you are in life. I can resonate with that. Looking back I found that I craved different types of cars at the different phases of life I go through.

When I was a student, any car that can fit 5 or more friends is very much appreciated. Ideally a car that isn’t too expensive to own and maintain too.

Then came the phase of the young working professional. Single, with a little bit of money to spend the cars I craved were cars that were a little flashy, sporty or both. The utility of a car took a backseat and more weightage was given to how cool a car is or what people would think of me if I drove this kind of car.

Then came the phase I am in right now. Married with kids.

Sports cars became almost totally irrelevant because they were too small or uncomfortable to fit a baby seat and stroller. Family vans became the most utilitarian car we could buy. It was high so it’s easy to load the kids into the baby seat. They had a lot of trunk space so we could keep a stroller and more and they were comfy.

The problem with vans though is that when I’m not going out with the family and going on my own, it’s a little bulky and the driving experience of a van isn’t exactly to die for. So came the SUVs or what I call the mini-SUVs. They have all the benefits of a van albeit being a little smaller but was still fun to drive around when I’m on my own.

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The tricky part is finding the right car of this category and this week I’ve had the chance to drive this around.

The new VW Tiguan.

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I’ve had it for a few days now at the time of writing and I gotta say I love it. As how I always review cars I’m not going to go into the technicalities of things but rather on why it’s great from a lifestyle perspective. Here’s why:

1) It comfortably fits two baby seats at the back and because it’s higher than a regular sedan car it makes it easier to get them in and out.

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2) It has lots of trunk space.

3) It’s a fantastic car to drive. Powerful enough to excite you when you hit the accelerator and stable enough to not make you feel insecure when you’re traveling at a high speed.

4) It is safe. This is a big thing for me when it comes to family cars and I have this impression that VW cars generally feel solid and have a good number of safety features, airbags and all.

5) It is affordable. With all of the above what I couldn’t believe was what the price tag was.

Then there are all the other tech features. The dashboard is purely digital.

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It gives you a lot of little information you never had before like every time I turn off the engine it tells me how far I’ve driven and for how long. It has censors all around it and has this safety feature that would have the car automatically stop if it senses it was going to knock something while parking or otherwise.

Oh and the car’s Bluetooth seamlessly connects with my phone and allows me to play Spotify from it into the car speakers. I can’t describe how important this is and how few cars actually do this really well.

The car also comes with a lot of other things. If you want to look at the specs, pricing or more pictures you can look here.

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I’d recommend this car if you’re in the phase of life where I am. Family man but at the same time want a nice cool car to drive around on your own that isn’t too big. It’s no surprise there’s a bit of a waiting list for it.

Thoughts on marriage

Last night Shorty asked me “What if one day you fall in love with someone else?’.

My answer was almost a reflex: “I won’t”.

When she dug deeper on why I explained how even though I’ve had a decent number of girlfriends in the past, what I have with Shorty is something that I’ve never experienced before. We have been married for 5 years now, together for 9… and till today I always look forward to spending time with Shorty. Even if it’s just following her home on a car ride and talking to her.

So the thought of falling in love with someone else is really foreign to me.

“Still.. you could change…”.

I guess I can’t ever deny the possibility that things in life might change but even then I’m not sure how much of an impact it will have on our marriage. The way I see it, once we have a family, our relationship is more than just us. It’s our kids. We owe it not just to ourselves but our kids to keep a good healthy relationship running. Even if I do fall in love with someone else, I don’t know if I can be the one breaking off our marriage and letting our kids grow up in a broken marriage. No matter how many times I try to convince myself that maybe it’s better that way, rather than letting them grow up in an unhappy marriage.

Because that’s not the point. When I say we owe it to each other, we owe it to each other to find a way to be happy in our marriage no matter how unhappy  we are. It’s something of course that works only if both sides are happy to work on it and I guess it becomes really challenging if only one side is trying hard.

My marriage with Shorty has reached a new phase though. Now that she’s also my business partner in Colony, I feel that I see her in a new light. No more the blogger, influencer, mom or wife… but a businesswoman. When I look at what she’s done with Colony I can’t help but pause for a while in admiration. It’s amazing and a part of me is still looking forward to what she’s going to do next.

Why am I writing this here? I guess writing about this helps me crystallise my thoughts. It helps me mind map my thoughts on marriage. Marriage is a long journey, and it’s something that will constantly grow, evolve and change so it’s good to lock in a memory of what my thoughts are on marriage at this particular point of my life.

The Launch of our Colony Co-working Space

What would we do for our launch of Colony?

We toyed with all the conventional ideas for a launch. Lion dance, a press conference, cut ribbon… all those kind of things. At the end of it the Colony team sat down and we thought about what the purpose was for the launch.

The purpose was just to show case Colony as it was. As how it would look on a normal day. Plus we thought about what made launch events fun. What made them fun wasn’t the launch gambits and all these things. Nobody liked speeches or launch gambits. What made it fun was just the company.

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So for our launch we just prepared the food and invited all the people we knew.

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We initially prepared ourselves for 100 people but over 150 came including almost 20 journalists from different publications.

It was an amazing event. I gave a short speech and the rest of the time was just for everyone to sit, chill, drink and chat. We had everyone from our friends to our investors.

One particular investor of mine came for the first time and jokingly (or maybe not jokingly) said “Tim… you know when I invested in you right I mentally wrote off the investment liao. Now I see how it looks I think can write half back”.

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I’ve learned that sometimes the most simple things are the best. I’ve got lots of people to thank. From the team, to Heineken and Strongbow who sponsored the beer, to Carol Yong who took these great photos to the guests, our investors, our landlord and Bold Grains and Espresso Lab, our food operators of Colony who also catered that night.

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The launch is just the beginning of course. Now the pressure is on for us to make this a sustainable business. I know we have a tough road ahead of us, but we’ve got lots to do.

I know I’ve been sparse on my updates on social media lately, even on Dayre. That’s because I’ve been so busy that I’ve even stopped playing War Robots.

At an interview with Focus Malaysia magazine today the journalist asked me what I do with my time now. If I really think about it, all I do is spend time with family, work, run and read my books. That’s about it but the most important thing is… I’m happy.

Thank you for all the people who’ve been such a wonderful part of my life.

We didn’t celebrate our 5th year wedding anniversary… Here’s what happened

Early last week Shorty and I were running around preparing for the 27th of August launch of Colony’s first co-working space. There was just so much to do. We had to finish up all the last minute renovations that we still had ongoing, to preparing for the launch event itself.

The launch turned out to be great. Something I’ll blog about on a later date once all the official photos are out.But back to the story… it was in the midst of all this planning when Shorty said

“What are we doing for our anniversary?”.

Our anniversary is on the 28th July. The one day after our launch. Now Shorty and I have a history of not celebrating Valentine’s Day or Anniversary in a fancy way but we normally try to do a dinner together or something. Not necessarily a fancy dinner, but just some time with each other.

I said we can do a dinner… but on that night an investor of Colony was in town so I probably had to take him out. After we finished dinner that night we got a call from a tenant of ours at Colony that they were having trouble with their air-con.

The weekend had just started at the end of a really busy week and before we knew it we were back at Colony on a Friday night. A major client was using the space and their air-con broke down. Shorty and I went in and relocated them to another space in Colony while trying to get someone to come fix it. Unfortunately it was the weekend so no technicians were able to come until Monday.

Saturday was spent trying to find a technician and on Saturday night Shorty and I decided to catch a movie to celebrate our post anniversary. She had wanted to watch Baby Driver. Right after our movie though we had to go back to Colony to do some stuff so there we were again working. Sunday was an almost full work day for me too since the technician managed to come in and I wanted to be around to learn what happened. I figure I need to know about all these maintenance issues.

At the end of the weekend we spent most of it together… but working. The best part though is that I loved it. Looking back at it, working with my wife has helped me look at her in a different light. At home I see her play the role of mother and wife, but at work… as this really capable woman who inspires me to work with her.

We’ve only just started working together but I feel like our relationship is moving into a new phase altogether.

Whoops okay now I gotta go… wife just finished doing some work and she wants to go for a massage. Husband duties calls!

How my wife set me up for a Gotcha on Hitz.fm

Yesterday was a big day for us at Colony. It was the launch of our new co-working space and we were all really busy preparing for everything.

The one special thing about Colony is that we’re in a building where its tenants (residents and commercial tenants like us) can pay to use the beautiful gym and swimming pool on the roof top that is operated by an independent operator. So that allows our members access to these great facilities which go well with our work life balance ethos.

One thing I’m really conscious about though is making the residents feel comfortable with us sharing the space. Even though we all pay management fees to be entitled to it, I wanna make sure we do whatever we can to make sure they’re comfortable with us being there.

Anyway on the morning of our launch I got a phone call from a “resident of the building”….. which then spoiler alert turned out to be a Gotcha call by the Hitz.FM morning crew.

Here’s how it went. Turns out my wife set me up.


Jump to minute 1.22. That’s where the call starts.

I couldn’t sleep last night because I was too excited about going to work….

I haven’t had this feeling in a long time. I can’t believe it. Every day now I’m looking forward to go to work. I dread weekends for being too long instead of took short and look forward to my weekdays.

Plus last night when I couldn’t sleep because I was too excited to go to work, it’s not because there was anything special happening today at work. Nothing. Just another normal day but I’m just super excited.

I think it’s a combination of enjoying seeing my colleagues, to enjoying the work I do… to the nice office environment that I was looking forward to go back to.  The environment. Ah yes it dawned on me then that all the articles I’ve been reading about how a great working environment makes you happy at work… that’s what I’m feeling right now.

A big part of course the satisfaction we’ve been getting from Colony. After months of hard work and solving crisis after crisis we have put together what I think is the most beautiful co-working space in KL. (Humble brag).

So I look forward every time I have to bring someone on a tour for the first time because the reaction I get each time is a “WOW” followed by a “I WANNA WORK HERE”.

That’s just amazing! Just amazing!

What really got me today was that my friend Arnold came to visit and he was like “WOW”. He then took this picture and posted it on Instagram.

 

This alone.. made my day.

I’m enjoying loving work so far!

Colony