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….


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.


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.

Subscribe to the mailing list to get updates on new articles and giveaways that I may get from brands. I promise no spam!

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.



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


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?


“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!