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25 Quotes My Father Has Imparted on to me

You know how our parents often have a huge influence in our upbringing and hence who we are as adults. I’ve been doing some thinking about that lately and it’s so true. The lessons my Mom and my Dad have taught me growing up have really shaped who I am.

So starting with my Dad I’ve decided to compile the things that my Dad has said so that perhaps one day my kids can grow up and read these quotes. Some of these are not necessarily his exact quotes (because I may not remember them word for word) but reconstructed based on his meaning of what I remember him telling me.

Here they are:

1. On investing in Property

“There is no such thing as ‘cannot lose money in property’. I’ve seen in my lifetime many sharp property market crashes that have bankrupted people”.

2. On Banks

“Bankers only want to lend you money when you don’t need it”.

3. On Taking Things For Granted

“Never take anything in life for granted. Even your wife or your kids could leave you”.

4. On Health

“When you don’t have health, nothing else matters”.

5. On investments that sound too good to be true

“I am cursed to never successfully earn easy money in my life. So I avoid opportunities to make easy money and only focus on making it the hard way”.

6. On Kids

“When you are old and helpless and only then will you know which of your kids really love you”.

7. On reading contracts

“Always read a contract line by line 3 times before you put pen to paper”.

8. On Sports

“Always buy the most expensive equipment. So if you lose you have nothing else to blame on but yourself”.

9. On being a professional in a powerful position

“Never be cocky when you have power as a result of a job you have. For once you lose it, you will once again be a nobody but everybody will remember what an asshole you were when you were somebody”.

10. On cars

“You can tell how safe a car is by the sound the door makes when you shut it”.

11. On the money in your bank account.

“Never tell anyone how much money you have.”

12. On religion

“Believe in whatever religion you want but don’t impose it on anybody”.

13. On appearing too smart

“Remember that empty vessels make the most noise, and nobody likes a smart alec”.

14. On the value of money

“Always remember how hard it is to earn money, and how easy it is to lose it”.

15. On making decisions 

“Never make a decision when you’re emotional. It is most certainly always the wrong one”.

16. On planning something

” When planning something, always be patient. Get everything in perfect order before you strike”.

17. On the need to have a check and balance on everything

“When there is an opportunity to cheat or steal, it’s not a matter of who will do it, but when it will happen”.

18. On envy

“Never create jealousy. It will only bring harm to you”.

19. On being wronged

“When someone does you wrong, forgive but never forget”.

20. On the way to treat people around you

“Treat everyone with equal respect irregardless of who he is”.

21. On choosing an opponent

“Never pick a fight with someone with less to lose than you”.

22. On family

“Blood is thicker than water until money gets in the way”.

23. On humility

“Always treat people well on your way up, because you will see the same people on your way down.”

24. On keeping with the law

“You can do anything you want in life but never anything do illegal. It is never worth it.”

and here’s a last one

25. On Traveling

“When you travel you only need to remember to bring 3 things.  Passport, air ticket and money. Anything else you forget can be bought”. (This was from the days where we couldn’t just buy air tickets online).

I can’t believe today is the 16th of January already…

Yep. I can’t believe we’re already halfway through January and I feel a heavy level of guilt when I realise that I haven’t updated my blog in a long time.

Forgive me as I have been really busy. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  1. I’ve been traveling a lot for work.

In the first week of January I was in Jakarta on business. And then in the second week off to Shanghai for a short trip again for business. I gotta say I haven’t been back to Shanghai for almost 10 years an the city has changed so much.

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It’s so clean.. even the air (heck I remember how smoggy it used to be when I was last there). Things are so advanced and what’s amazing is that the people there are really really nice.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive there ordering food or taking taxis here and there but somehow my lousy Mandarin was good enough to almost act like a local there.

I really like Shanghai and I’m definitely going back again soon. Heck I had steamboat for dinner both nights there because it was so cold and nice.

This is me whacking the soup that was way too spicy for me but really felt soooo good.

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2. I’ve been reading

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my past few months reading books. I think I almost average a book a week now. Learning about business, self-help, biographies, all sorts of things. All in a lifelong effort to enlighten myself.I’ve been spending so much time reading I’ve even given up playing War Robots, this game I was so addicted to before. If you haven’t started playing it, don’t. It’s one of those games that you really have to pay (like spend real money) to win.

3. I have however been playing another game.

I’ve been playing SimCity. I started it because Fighter has this huge interest in buildings and cities so I thought hey maybe we could play it together. We started it and well.. now I’m so addicted to it I play it on my own (and Fighter gets upset when he catches me playing it without him).

4. I’ve been spending time with friends.

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I’ve made sure to spend some of my time catching up with friends too. Like throwing a last minute birthday lunch for this fella.

5. Most importantly I’ve been spending time with family.

The good thing is that the Shanghai trip gave me another short escape with Shorty so we got to spend time together then.

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But with the kids… well I try to come home a little early from work and now I try to wake up extra early just to see them before they go to school. One morning when Shorty didn’t have enough sleep the night before I had the privilege of sending Fighter to school too.

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Ah such a joy.

So that’s why I’ve been off the blog for a while. Fret not… while I may have sparse updates every now and then… I will always come back to update this. After all this is a journal of my life that I want to keep not just for myself but perhaps for my kids one day to read to know what their Dad is or was like.

Overall work at Colony has been great too. Really fulfilling. We’re working on the design of a new location and some other stuff that I hope to be able to announce in the next couple of months.

How is everyone’s New Year coming along?

My 2017 Year In Review

Two days left till the end of the year and I still can’t believe how this year has been for me. As covered in my previous post, I actually expected this year to be a terrible year for me but it turned out to be one of the best years of my life.

It’s a great year not because of a number of big achievements or anything like that but because of all the small small things I’ve been lucky to have throughout the year. But if I had to pin down the major events in 2017 this would be it:

  1. I lost one of my best friends

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Earlier this year we all met for dinner at my friend Thanee’s restaurant and took this picture. Not long after this dinner he would realise he had Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and in a matter of months I would attend his wake.

I’ve lost people in my life before. My grandfather, my grandmother, my uncles and aunty or even a cousin. But this is the first time I lost someone that I was really really close to. Close to like I knew almost everything about him and he too about me. I miss him dearly and for the first time in my life it crossed my mind that hey the bright side of dying one day would be getting to meet up with him in Heaven.

2. I moved into a new home.

Earlier this year we made the decision to move into another home. Shorty led the renovation progress and I was indifferent to how the house would look. I told Shorty that I was happy with our previous apartment that we had stayed in for years and I would be happy to live there for the rest of my life. So it didn’t really matter to me how our new home looked.

All that mattered to me was that we Feng Shui’ed it up which she did. (Oh and that the cost of renovation didn’t go above out budget which it did.)

The day we moved in though I began to feel the difference. We now spend a lot more time at home compared to before. We have friends over more often now and entertain more often and more importantly my wife seems happy. And you know what they say happy wife happy life.

The lesson I learned here was that I totally underestimated the effect on our lives our homes would have. I’m glad that Shorty did a great job with the place because if it went the other way… man I’m gonna regret not getting involved.

3. I started a new business that seems to be doing really well

It’s hard to believe that just 6 months ago the now famed black and white marbled tile corridor of Colony that has found its way into many many Instagram feeds looked like this.

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It now looks like this

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It was tough starting a business again from scratch. From being used to have a PA or admin team that would help me with all the minor administrative stuff from incorporating companies to starting bank accounts, I had to do everything on my own.

I’ve also had to venture into a new business and industry in which I had no experience in. Here’s the funny part though… that because of the success of Colony, now many people come to me for advice as an expert in the coworking space or serviced office industry. Looking back, this time last year I had completely no experience. I’ve learned experience isn’t always about how much time we spend on something sometimes but about we spend that time and what we experience.

I am very blessed and grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given with Colony Coworking Space. With the team that has given me a chance and worked with me, to our investors, our customers and our vendors.

4. I used to think it’s crazy to run a Full Marathon of 42KMs… 

I did it in June this year and after having done it I can safely say that… I STILL THINK IT’S FUCKING CRAZY!

I remember my marathon. After all that training I was making really good time all the way up till 30ish KM. The last few KM though was when I started feeling my ankle, my knees and my legs breaking down. I’ve read a lot of articles about how full marathons are bad for the body, cause temporary kidney damage and all but I’ve also experienced what it really does to the body.

So I think I might give full marathons a pass in future.

I’ve now in my life cycled a 160KM century ride and done a 42KM run. Some say that hey just add a swim and I can do a Full Iron Man. Let me just say that after my 160KM bike ride or my full marathon, I was limping around like I had just been shot in the leg. I highly doubt I would be able to do one after the other. Throw in a swim too and I might actually drown.

5. I’ve learned what really matters in life

I can’t believe that it took me 33 years of life to figure this out but I’ve learned what really matters to me in life. That is relationships.

The relationships I have with my family, my friends, my colleagues and everyone I come into contact with every day. It’s really a simple thing but truly realising this changes the way I talk to people or treat people. I more often than before refrain from getting emotional or raising my voice on anyone that I love and when I do I often ask for forgiveness immediately.

I have also learned how to put other people in higher importance than myself.

Thank you 2017 for the wonderful year. I pray 2018 will be just as good a year.

A year ago my fortune teller told me 2017 will be a bad year for me. Here’s how it turned out..

“2017 is going to be a bad year for you in business”. I slumped in my seat at a PJ coffee shop when my fortune teller foretold of my impending terrible year. The year was 2016 and it was already a bad year for me then, I just can’t imagine a worse year.

What can I do about it? Well she explained Ba Zi plays 33% of my luck. The remaining 66% is based on personal choice and Feng Shui.. but yeah what I could really do was just deal with it. That’s life. Accept that not every year is going to be a great year for me. If there’s one thing I appreciate about my fortune teller is how upfront she is and how she doesn’t serve up any bullshit just to make you feel better.

I met the weeks after that with pessimism as the year 2017 crept closer especially since some of the other things this fortune teller friend of mine foretold turned out to be true. Then I remembered my one saying in life… that

“It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.”

If my business luck wasn’t going to be good, I’m going to have the make the remaining 66% count. I’m going to have to make sure I make the best business decisions and Feng Shui the heck out of my life.

I engaged a renowned Feng Shui consultant from India to look at both my new apartment and Colony. I then executed whatever she told me to execute (to the best I can). In random corners in Colony you’d find big glass columns of salt water and candles. In the whole floor plan she circled in red where I was supposed to sit and even which direction I was supposed to face. I followed it to the T.

In business I was very careful. In making sure I never made the mistakes I made in the past again. I decided to trust myself and only myself to lead the business. I made sure I owned a majority stake in Colony and made all the calls. But before each call I made, I carefully considered the opinions of everyone be it our team or our investors. I made decisions not entirely based on gut, but on exhaustive data that I made sure we collected before making a call.

With all this I was still very cautious. Telling the team at Colony what my fortune teller said, saying that we needed to be on our toes to make up for my lack of “luck” in the year. Sometimes I wonder if knowing my “fortune” was making me fear more than necessary, but hey only the paranoid survived.

In our first month of opening, I remember walking down the iconic black and marbled corridor of Colony lamenting to Audrey “All the data, the feedback and the enquiries we’re getting indicate that Colony is going to do well. I don’t know why my fate says otherwise”.

I was so paranoid I considered even the most remote possibilities. Maybe this location may catch on fire… maybe some regulation thing. Something….

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As I write this now I am sitting by a beach in Langkawi with a week left to 2017. Reflecting on my year. This time last year I was at one of the lowest points of my life. I had left a company I founded, unsure of the path that lay ahead. Fearing starting again from scratch and going through the pains before I can once again build a successful profitable company.

Today by some complete fluke on my behalf and with the hard work and talent of my great team, Colony has in a short time built itself up to be a valuable company. Since we launched at the end of July, we’ve seen consistent month on month growth in revenue and profits. In our 3rd full month of operation we attained profitability and it continues to grow. When showing a chart of our business performance to our lead investor, he said

“Wow… I wish all our business charts looked like this”.

We’ve since been approached 3 times by different companies, looking at potentially acquiring the company and also by investors looking to buy a stake in the company valuing it in the tens of millions. I looked at Audrey one day and said “This time last year this company didn’t exist… I can’t believe it’s worth this much now”.

As I sit on this beach now, I have now what I wish I had a year ago. A valuable, profitable company and more importantly a company that I am passionate about. Yet the irony is that in this year I’ve learned more about the other things more important than business.

I recently watched this Ted Talk on “What Makes a Good Life?”.

In summary what makes people happy isn’t money, social standing or even experiences. It’s relationships and it’s something that I feel I haven’t paid enough attention to this year. For more than a year my wife and I for example have not been on a single trip with just both of us. These escapes are so important for us because it’s the only time we get to spend time with each other without constantly being distracted by work or by Fighter and Penny fighting over a Batman Clock in the next room. This is why we squeezed this short trip to Langkawi before the year ended.

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Relationships are what make us happy and it’s something I am determined to focus on as we go into the new year. I’ve learned to be a better husband. To always help my wife whenever she needs help whether it’s just carrying that extra bag she’s carrying while holding Penny or even anticipating her needs (Do you want a glass of water?). Of course it doesn’t just start and end with my wife. With my kids too, my parents, my in laws, my family and friends. If good relationships are what makes our parents live longer, then I’m determined to have good relationships with mine.

I just hope that I will live long enough to achieve all I want to achieve in life.

I sit on this beach now happy and grateful. Grateful for my family who has always been there for me thick and thin. My colleagues and investors that gave me the opportunity to build a great company and grateful for God has given me this time on Earth.

Fortunately, contrary to my Ba Zi, 2017 has been kind to me and has been the best year I’ve had in my life. I’ve learned so much, I’ve had so much fun and I am really really happy. That doesn’t mean i don’t have problems or stress but I’ve learned to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Things that used to stress me out don’t stress me anymore… in fact I very often now look forward to the stress. I see it as an opportunity and part of a process to learn.

Back in 2016, my fortune teller also foretold that 2018 will be a bad year for me. I only hope that it will be as good a bad year, as 2017 was for me.

Why asking about your future career path in a prospect company is quickly becoming an irrelevant question

I did a job interview today with a potential candidate. After asking a lot of questions about her and what she wants, she asked me the one very valid question that lots of interviewees ask
“What’s my potential career growth in this company?”.

My reflex was to handle it the way I’ve always handled it for the past 5 years. The company is growing, we’re looking to go places, and we need leaders. There will be opportunities within the country and our future expansion countries etc etc.

But just before I started saying those words I paused and instead I told her this story:

Two weeks ago I was at a wedding dinner when I met a friend of mine who’s with a big fund management firm. I asked him how things were and he said that this was a tough year for him. Surprised I said “But I thought the stock market is booming this year”.

He nodded and said that yes they did a 10-20% return but the index went up by 30%. The big reason was because they didn’t invest in tech. The Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba and the likes. Why? Because their investors are more traditional and look at businesses based on fundamental metrics like PE or NTA or stuff like that, and in all these metrics the tech companies look insanely expensive.

He’s absolutely right. A few years ago I invested in Amazon, Netflix and Tencent. I made money on each of them, about 30% return but in hindsight I sold too early. Why did I sell? Because hey I know Tencent is huge and they have a huge moat and lead over any competitor. But heck they were a $100 billion dollar company then and by the usual fundamental metrics of PE they were expensive. How the hell would I have guessed that it could be a $500 billion dollar company today.

My learning from this is that the world has changed. If we keep evaluating opportunities the old way, we get left behind. Whether it’s investment or job opportunities. So why is the question of a future career path getting increasingly irrelevant today?

Because the answer to that question assumes that the organization chart of that company remains the same for the next decade or more.

That all the jobs all the way up to the top will still exist but the truth is that it probably won’t. Companies in almost every traditional industry are being disrupted by tech companies. Every company has to evolve and when they do so will their workforce and their organization chart. Heck with AI looking to replace jobs in the next 10 years, that change is going to be even more drastic.

So the job that we aspire to have in the next 10 years? That may not exist by the time we get there.

What matters then?

Not too long ago there were headlines about how an AI called AlphaGo beat the World Champion for Go. Then even more recently an AI went up against the world’s best Starcraft player and the Starcraft player won. Why?

Well in Go there are X many probabilities you can go for and the computer can see so many steps far ahead of a human player that he’ll never be able compete. In Starcraft, they found that although the AI had better control of its army than the human player armed with a mouse and keyboard, the human player won because of his ability to decide when to take risks. Instinct was why he won.

Perhaps one day AI will be able to replicate that and beat the Starcraft World Champion, but until then we know that the most relevant skills we can learn to be relevant in our workforce isn’t from books or exams. It’s skills like negotiation, instinct, being able to make calculated calls. Heck maybe even customer service, or dealing with people.

The workforce has changed and will continue to change. The world has changed and the longer we rely on old methods to evaluate opportunities, the faster we make ourselves irrelevant.

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.

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.