TimothyTiah.com

Why it’s worth buying a super TV for our homes

This article is in collaboration with Panasonic OLED TV.

Have you ever been in a mall, standing in front of a TV shop admiring whatever big TV they have on display as it screens high definition nature videos to show off its colour?

I know I have. I would watch it for a while and imagine how beautiful it would look in my living room and fall into the temptation of checking its price. When I make eye contact with the price tag, my body would exhibit a natural jerk backwards as the words “SIAO!” would leave my mouth. I watch a lot of TV but I find it so difficult to fork out anything in the 5-digits of Ringgit to buy one.

Then just a couple of weeks ago, I got connected to Panasonic who decided to let me have one of the best (if not the best) TVs in the market now just to see if I might change my mind about how much I would spend on a TV.

The TV they got me was a 65″ Panasonic FZ-950 OLED TV. It’s this beautiful baby right here.

IMG_20180715_121021

This TV has such accurate display of colours that it is known to be used by many producers/actors/artists in Hollywood to screen their own videos.

I’m all about aesthetics so it matters to me how the TV looks. I love its super slim side profile and I love how the screen expands to the very edges of the frame. This makes it look really beautiful when I sometimes leave the TV on to look like a piece of art on my wallet than a TV like this.

IMG_20180715_120918

But okay.., beauty aside the big question is… is it worth buying what I would refer to as a “Super TV” or the current top of its class in the market. Well after using it for a few days here’s what I’ve totally underestimated.

  1. We watch a lot more TV than we used to.

I gotta admit. 5 years ago I probably hit the minimum amount of time I ever spent daily on a TV. Why? We would just watch things off our computers or phones or iPads. That has changed significantly for me.

Why? Well… a few reasons ranging from Netflix constantly coming out with binge-worthy content to dominate every free hour to technologies like Google Home and Chromecast. With Google Home if I ever wanted to watch something, I just say “Hey Google, play Friends on Netflix” and it’ll come on right on the TV and pick up where I last left off. Much much less effort than it would take me to search for it on my phone.

Then there is the Chromecast. Any video whether it’s on YouTube and all that I would have watched on my phone? I just click one button and it goes on to the TV.

Because the applications of TV have grown so much more in our lives, I find it much more worthwhile to have one good one. Also I think that the amount of innovation each new iteration of our living room TVs have gone through have largely gone unnoticed. I mean look at the apps that the newer TVs come with now, so much that my TV that’s just 5 years old really feels like a Pentium PC.

2. We spend a lot more time at home.

Another reason why we use a lot more TV apart from its expanded applications is that I find we spend much more time at home. Partly due to technology. We used to go out a lot to socialise but we do a lot of that from our phones now. We also used to have to go out to buy new clothes, groceries or sometimes that irritating one multi-plug we are short of. Well we don’t anymore. I find myself just buying everything online and staying at home much more.

This is even more compounded by the fact that we now have two kids. So it’s a lot more difficult to go out and we really really pick our trips. The rest of our time is spent at home where the kids will play with their toys or watch some TV. The things kids can watch on our TVs these days aren’t the limited options we had as kids from Cartoon Network. Now they have everything from all the Disney shows on Netflix to Ben & Holly on YouTube.

Some of the happiest times I spend at home is when our whole family of four is sitting on the sofa watching TV.

3. There is a noticeable difference with the experience of watching an “okay TV” to a “Super TV” like this Panasonic OLED one.

My mom was watching Britain’s Got Talent on YouTube on it just a few days ago and the way the screen stands out at you with the built-in sound that comes out really doesn’t make you feel like you’re just a spectator to the experience but that you’re part of it. This is one thing that I just can’t figure out how to explain in words.

But then again there is still that thing about the price. How do we justify spending so much more on a super TV?

Well… I did some math.

When the four of us (two kids included) go out for a movie, we pay RM60 for tickets on a movie that goes on for an average of say two hours. That’s about RM30 an hour.

The TV is used by 4 of us at home. I estimate that it’s on about 4 hours a day on weekdays (two hours by the kids dancing to Psy or watching Peppa Pig in the background, and about one or two hours from me and Audrey each night). But just to account for some nights that Audrey and me might go out, lets just take 3 hours as an average for a weekday.

On weekends we watch more. I estimate about 5 hours in total. So per week we watch about 25 hours of TV. That’s 1300 hours of TV a year.

This Panasonic OLED TV that I have cost about RM10,999. If I divide that by the hours I use a year it would be RM8.4 per hour and that’s if I assume I keep the TV only for a year. Realistically though TVs will last us at least 5 years. So If I take 5 years that would be about RM1.70 per hour. That’s gotta be like the cheapest form of entertainment there (minus the electricity which probably won’t be material).

Based on this, owning a “Super TV” is a great investment and I’m glad Panasonic gave me the chance to experience on before I came to this conclusion.


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


Refunding unhappy guests, renovating smoking areas and building prayer rooms: How far Colony goes for its guest experience

The Coworking Space industry is brutal. Last year there was a reported 37 coworking spaces in KL alone, this year I expect the number to be at least double of that. What makes it brutally competitive isn’t just the number of players but because of the amount of investor money pouring into the industry. In this era of cheap money, operators have the opportunity to raise a lot of money at high valuations and use that to open more outlets, spend lots of marketing and cut prices in order to gain market share.

Colony’s strategy isn’t to raise more money to outspend others or open more outlets. In fact in a world where other coworking space operators are targeting to open hundreds of outlets in two years. Our ambition is to just have 20 well run and profitable outlets in five years. Any time we’re in doubt about what to do, we go back to our mission of empowering life at work. To change the experience of work so that going to work no longer feels like going to the office but going instead to the Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons.

In order to do this, we need to be obsessed about our customer experience. If there’s one thing you’ll notice about Colony, is that other coworking spaces refer to their customers as tenants or members, we refer to them as guests just as hotels do. We’re less about creating a community and more about hospitality. We don’t sell desk or office spaces. We sell an experience. The Colony experience.

IMG-20180719-WA0034

Because of this we are obsessed about the guest experience. We send out quarterly surveys and track customer experience with metrics like Net Promoter Score. On top of that, every week at our huddles, our team is asked to present feedback that they have compiled from our guests, good and bad (though we tend to give priority to the bad because that means we need to act immediately).

We take extreme ownership when it comes to anything that affects a guest experience from when the time they walk into Colony to the time they leave. Apart from the great hospitality that my team puts together in terms of anticipating guest needs and always being around for them, here is an example of the things we’ve done.

  1. We killed the industry-old practice of auto-renewing client contracts

A common practice in the coworking space/serviced office industry is an “auto-renewal” term. If you rent a space for 3 months, when it comes closer to the end of your contract, the operator will send you an email reminder that unless you formally terminate the agreement, they will auto-renew your term for another 3 months, That’s great for the operators but it pisses off the customer if they forget to formally terminate because they feel cheated into going on for another 3 months. Nevertheless many just accept it because it’s all in the contract they signed.

The problem I had with that practice though is that even if we do win over the customer for another 3 months or 6 months or even 2 years, it ruins the customer (guest in our case) experience. Is an additional 3 months rental worth forever losing that customer? Since I’m trying to build a long term sustainable business though, that answer is NO. So with Colony we specifically took that term out. If your contract ends, it ends unless you tell us you want to continue. We don’t lock you in anymore beyond that.

2. We have fully refunded customers if they didn’t have a good experience

In fact at Colony we go even further. We had one guest that signed a contract to rent our space for one month. He spent two weeks working at Colony though in his second week we had a number of events going on in the space. So it was a lot noisier and crowded than he would’ve liked. He came to our front desk and vented his frustration as our team listened empathetically. The team offered as many alternatives they could think of to solve his problem but they weren’t good enough so he left angrily saying “I’ve had enough of this place”.

We take these kind of things very seriously so our team had an emergency meeting to discuss how to proceed with this. After listening to everything that happened I suggested that we should fully refund him.

I watched as eyebrows arched upwards around the room. After a few seconds, one of my colleague asked “How much?”. I said “Everything”.

“But he’s already used two weeks worth. Should we just refund him the remaining two weeks?”.

I thought about that for a moment then replied “No. Refund everything, even the first two weeks that he used the space for.”

I then went on to explain that we have to build a company with guests who are happy with what they pay for. Sure this mindset opens us up for abuse by guests who do these things just to get a freebie out of us, so we have to evaluate this case by case to see if the guest has a genuine problem or they’re just trying to take advantage of us. In this case I believed him. He had a genuine problem.

There’s an ending to this wonderful story. A few months later, this same guest came back and rented out an office for a year. He is now one of our strongest advocates for the space. What we did turned an angry customer that we would have lost forever, to a loyal one. Now the Colony team makes decisions like this on their own if they think it will create a great experience for the guest. We do a lot of things like that at the expense of short term profit sometimes.

3) We built a prayer room

In one of our guest feedback recently we were asked if we could have prayer rooms in Colony itself. Coworking spaces and serviced offices are about fully monetising every square footage of space. We worked out converting two existing offices into Suraus would cost us RM57,600 a year (not including the cost to convert one) in foregone rental but we decided to go for it anyway. Why? Because it was an important part of the guest experience.

4) We spent our own money renovating the building’s fire escape because people often hung out there to smoke.

Another thing we did? We noticed that because Colony @ KLCC doesn’t have a smoking area, a lot of our guests resorted to just going to a fire escape to smoke. The fire escape looked really bad with black walls and no light there so it was really dark.

While the fire escape isn’t part of our property, we knew that where our guests hang out (to smoke or otherwise) is part of the Colony experience. So we asked the building management if we could do up the place at our own costs and they agreed. Here is a before and after photo of the space.

IMG-20180805-WA0011

When our guests found out about our plan to renovate the fire escape so they had a nicer place to smoke, one of them said to me “The extent to which you guys go is amazing”.

If we could, I’d put a fan and some seating there but it is a fire escape after all so we can’t put anything there to block it.

Our new Colony @ Eco City though has a kickass outdoor smoking area. Here’s how it looks.

IMG-20180806-WA0010

All these things cost money, so what’s the upside? Did it help us make more money in the long run?

Well Colony @ KLCC is surrounded by other coworking spaces that are cheaper to rent. So far we haven’t lost an existing guest to another coworking space yet even though our average prices have gone up by 25% in the past 12 months. Sure we’re bound to lose some eventually but I believe that if we keep improving on our guest experience, we’ll have a strong retention rate and be able to deliver consistent earnings.

We have a long way to go though, hospitality and service is about consistency and we still have lapses in our service levels every now and then.

Dear TV

This article is in collaboration with Panasonic OLED TV

Welcome to our home. I know lots about you. I know you’re a Panasonic 65” OLED TV of Japan Quality.

IMG_20180715_121014

I know you’re OLED which means you produce some of the most beautiful colours with pictures so sharp producers and filmmakers in Hollywood use you for viewings of their own work. I know you’re a really smart TV with all sorts of features and apps built in and I know that Panasonic wirelessly beams updates to you every now and then.

You probably don’t know much about me and my home so let me start.

First let me introduce the two most important people in the house.

The one on the left is my 5 year old son Fighter and the one on the right is my 3 year old daughter Penny.

IMG_20180511_151617

Fighter’s real name is Jude but we call him Fighter because he was a premature baby who had to fight for his life when he was born weighing only 1.1 KG. He’s a people person, very warm, loving and caring. When you first arrived at our home, Fighter was the most excited, rushing to you and caressing the box you sat in. He’s that loving to anyone who comes to the house.

IMG_20180712_134200

On the flip side Fighter can sometimes be easily scared by the unknown. He once got really scared while watching Coco hiding behind me in the cinema and saying he doesn’t want to watch it again. It’s hard to pin down a trend of things he finds scary because sometimes it can be the really random things. On one occasion he saw an army officer on TV and he got so scared he ran all the way upstairs to mommy.

Fighter is Psy’s biggest fan. So if you ever want to keep him happy, just play some New Face or Gentleman by Psy and he’ll jump for joy like his daddy just bought a toy store. He will likely ask you to max the volume when Psy comes on the TV which you may oblige.

IMG_20180715_121147

Do watch out for him though as he tends to dance along with Psy’s videos he’s a little clumsy so he might knock a thing or two over.

Next is Penny. Penny is a loveable 3 year old girl who loves Mommy and her elder brother Fighter, and occassionally loves Daddy depending on her moods. She generally likes girls… not boys so her favourite shows on TV are Super Girl, or any music videos with pretty girls. Girls’ Generation music videos would suffice in most cases.

My wife always says that Penny’s default emotion is “Anger”. Let me illustrate what that means. If you give Fighter a Tic Tac and then you tell him just one is enough, he’ll be sad but he’ll accept it. Penny on the other hand might skip the “being sad” part and go straight to being angry.

Penny is also fiercely competitive. Her purpose in life seems to be to win, no matter how trivial the game. If you play a game with her and she wins, she’s happy. If she loses… well… you got it… she gets angry.

 

Next up is my wife Audrey, also known as popular blogger Fourfeetnine. Sometimes I get referred to as “Fourfeetnine’s husband” though now increasingly she gets referred to as “Fighter’s mom”.

2018-07-19_02-30-07

Audrey is the love of my life. She’s good with people, never afraid to laugh at herself and for that reason I find her very cute. Perhaps that’s why I married her. She’s a very principled person so she gets very offended when injustice takes place and finds the need to do something about it. For example she was really unhappy with how our ex-PM was running the country and beyond just fearlessly blogging or posting about her thoughts on social media, she went out to be a Polling AND Counting agent on election day. She woke up at 5AM that day and came home about 9 or 10PM.

When she’s not out there fighting injustice or taking care of the kids, she’s watching her favourite TV shows with me on our late nights. Her current favourite is Handmaid’s Tale, but Westworld, Unbreakeable Kimmy Schmidt and the likes come close. Her all-time favourite TV show though? Friends. She loves Ross Gellar and you can turn it on at any time of the day and she’ll sit down to watch it the umpteenth time.

Lastly there’s me. My friends call me Tim, though my old school friends call me Tiam (after my Chinese name). I’m the luckiest person in the family, to be able to have Audrey as my wife and Fighter and Penny as my kids. I work during the days and sometimes at night. When I have time I try to read but TV to me is more than just entertainment. It’s the way I bond with my kids and my wife. Some of the best moments for me are sitting down on the living room couch watching something with the whole family.

So you see my Dear TV, you’re not just some other electrical appliance in our home. You are the glue that keeps us all together and helps us grow as a family. It’s for that reason I think it’s fitting that you’re placed in the most prominent place of our home, the living room.

Welcome to our family and please… make yourself at home.

Your new owner,
Tim

The story of how I cured myself from worrying about everything

Have you ever gotten into these worrying fits where you worry about something so much that all you can do is think about it all the time that it paralyses you from doing anything else?

Like if  it’s a health related problem, you end up spending a long time on Google trying to find out all the possible causes and symptoms even if deep inside you know it’s most likely nothing?

Well that was me for all my life apart from maybe the past year or so. My mom knows it, my friends know it, heck everyone I work with know that I was a chronic worrier. This is the story of how I went from a chronic worrier, to someone who does not worry at all.

Early last year I was going through a period of self-reflection to analyse all my flaws and one of those flaws was this chronic worrying habit I had. I read all sorts of books to get over it. From tips to think of the worst case scenario so that you know it might not be so bad to meditation. None of those worked for me.

To solve this problem I first had to figure out what was the root of my worries or stress.

What is stress?

There are 3 main types of things that cause us stress:

  1. Fear that reality won’t meet expectations. Whether it’s not doing as well in an exam, or winning a competition, or even that you expect justice from harm done to you but you don’t get it.
  2. Fear that we might lose something be it money, someone that we care about, or our health.
  3. Fear of humiliation. That we might be in a position that people will think poorly of us.

These 3 things cover about 95% of all the stress or things we worry about. How do we get over them? Well the first thing we have to accept is this.

STRESS IS NOT NECESSARILY BAD. STRESS IS GOOD!

Why? Well my answer on the first point explains it.

  1. How to overcome the fear that reality won’t meet expectations

The only way in life where reality will consistently meet expectations is if our expectations are always low. If we never try to succeed, we won’t stress about failing will we? But is that a good thing? If we want to succeed in life we have to consistently push our boundaries, do things that put us into uncomfortable situations so that we can grow. So that we can do better things.

Avoiding stress would mean staying within our comfort zone all the time. Never taking any risk. Never achieving what we could be fully capable of. Is that a reality that we’re willing to accept? It’s a choice we have to make. Live a happy life without stress and not feel pressured to achieve anything… or live a stressful life and die knowing what you are really capable of.

2. How to overcome the fear that we might lose something.

I borrow a Buddhism teaching on this one.

“Suffering arises from attachment to desires. Suffering ceases when attachment to desires ceases”.

We feel attached to our money, our homes, our possessions and losing them causes us “suffering” or stress. What if we accept that nothing we own is really ours, but just borrowed for a certain period of time. To be general on this one, lets just refer to money here. Even if we lose it today, we could possible earn it back tomorrow.

I know I know it sounds nuts but I feel better about losing money these days not because I take money for granted, but because I feel I have a chance to earn it back since I’m still young and able. Plus we humans have this amazing ability to adapt. History has shown that even when humans are thrown into concentration camps we have the ability to find a way to survive. So in our very 1st world problem world, even if we have less money, we’ll still survive.

Now there are some attachments that I think are worthy of stress. Attachments to our family, our kids and heck life. I don’t ever underestimate the stress losing any of these things might bring but hey if we can just manage our stress when it comes to money or material things that’s a huge chunk of stress we’re eliminating.

3. How to overcome the fear of humiliation

Humiliation comes from something that happens that is the opposite of how we want other people to perceive us. We worry about what people might say about us, or what our reputations might be.

Well…this is something I’ve said before but I’ll say it again. Modern society brings us up to believe that each and every one of us is special. We’re unique. Well… guess what… we’re not.

Human beings have existed on this earth for 350,000 years. Our lives which may span 100 years accounts for about 0.029% of all human history. We are one dot in the timeline of the entire human race and even if we compare ourselves to all the 6 billion living humans today… who are we?

How full of ourselves must we be to think that anyone really gives a flying f*ck about who we are or what we do? People are driven by self-interest and the only interest people are going to have in us is if we offer something that serves their self-interest be it something funny, or a juicy scandal or something… and even then it’s only worth a short period of entertainment value at the water cooler. Notice how even the most viral scandals die off after a few days and people move on?

That’s because unless you’re someone everyone should give a f*ck about because you affect them (like if you’re the President of the USA)… nobody is going to care after a while.

So why do we care so much about what people think about us? Sure if it’s something that affects your integrity like stealing money from a sovereign wealth fund (like 1MDB) or being found guilty for stealing or misappropriating money from a company then that’s much harder to come back from… but anything else about what people might think of us? Don’t sweat it.

I know I don’t. I detach myself from social media only going in to post and hardly to browse or read comments. I don’t know what people are saying about me… it could be good it could be bad… but all I know is that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter because I am nobody.

So once I learned how to overcome the above, the last remaining piece of the puzzle I needed to understand was this.

Stress is a muscle. The more stress we expose ourselves to the higher our stress threshold becomes.

I knew personally that I wanted to at least try to achieve things in my life so it’s not an option for me to live a stress free life. Instead I needed to drastically raise by tolerance threshold for stress. So what I did in the past year was to go out to get more stress. If I found something new that stressed me out I would load myself up with even more of that one thing until I was numb to it.

The first time I took on a heavy lease commitment for Colony I was worried. Then I went on to take 3 more. Now I have 4 and it doesn’t stress me out anymore. In the past if anyone ever threatens any legal action on me I’d worry about it. Now I embrace it and I’ve actually learned to appreciate the process. I was afraid about the cyst I had in my pancreas and whether it might be dangerous, so instead I went on to read about all the other diseases and sickness I could die from and poof I stopped worrying.

My pain threshold for stress has gone up a lot in the past year and it has really improved my life. I can’t remember a recent night that I couldn’t sleep because of stress. I sleep well every night and if I ever can’t sleep it’s more because my mind is active thinking about what I’m going to do the next day or other things rather than stress.

I am also a lot more calmer when shit hits the fan, preventing myself from making emotional decisions and allowing me to make very calculated calls. Heck I used to make emotional or knee jerk reactions all the time… but now I don’t and I think that has helped Colony grow so well to what it is today in such a short time.

It’s ironic that my cure to chronic worrying isn’t to take myself away from stress but to embrace it and take on more stress. I don’t think I’ve totally mastered it yet, but I’ve seen a significant change in myself and I hope my experiences here help other people out of it to.

It’s no fun being a chronic worrier. I would know. I was one.

How telling our biggest investor about how I’ve fucked up made him double his investment in Colony

A few months ago, I was sitting in our big boardroom in Colony across from ODV, our biggest investor in our seed round. J who was the CEO of the fund was in KL for the first time in years to visit Colony after his team told him that he had to come to experience Colony to really understand what they were investing in.

I watched him happily nod as I presented our business performance. The business was doing way better than expected and we were growing rapidly in all four of our key metrics: Revenues, Profits, Occupancy and Price per workstation (which affects margins). At the same time we were getting offers from other investors who were keen to buy a stake in the company at more than four times the valuation ODV had invested in six months before.

Things were looking good until I paused the presentation and said “If you look at all our business metrics, everything is looking good. But I think it’s important that I show you what’s under the hood… and we do have some serious problems”.

I explained to them how revenues, profits, occupancy, price and even financial statements are all “lagging indicators”. Meaning they’re numbers based on past performance and are no guarantee of future performance. My job as CEO though isn’t to celebrate past success but to look at problems I’ll have in the future and fix them before they happen. For those I need to look at “leading indicators”. Numbers that will tell me something is wrong before they actually lead to bad financial results.

There are a number of leading indicators I set up early this year. For sales it’s just pipeline, number of tours, number of leads etc etc. That’s easy and common. But I needed a way to measure future customer retention (no point winning customers if we can’t retain them) and because I believe happy employees lead to better business performance I needed to measure employee happiness too.

My solution for this was to adopt what we call a Net Promoter Score. Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation of that score.

The Net Promoter Score is calculated based on responses to a single question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? The scoring for this answer is most often based on a 0 to 10 scale.[4]

Those who respond with a score of 9 to 10 are called Promoters, and are considered likely to exhibit value-creating behaviors, such as buying more, remaining customers for longer, and making more positive referrals to other potential customers. Those who respond with a score of 0 to 6 are labeled Detractors, and they are believed to be less likely to exhibit the value-creating behaviors. Responses of 7 and 8 are labeled Passives, and their behavior falls between Promoters and Detractors.[4]:51 The Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage of customers who are Promoters. For purposes of calculating a Net Promoter Score, Passives count toward the total number of respondents, thus decreasing the percentage of detractors and promoters and pushing the net score toward 0.[5]

In Asia it’s particularly hard to get a positive Net Promoter Score because we’re more conservative. To us if we were asked “How likely are you to refer <brand> to a friend?”, giving a score of 7 or 8 would be us giving a good score. But in NPS surveys, that’s a passive (neutral) score. Not a promoter. In any case it’s not just the score that matters but the feedback we get later on why we got those scores that give us a good insight about what we need to improve.

I took the time to explain all this to J and then pulled out a slide to show him what our NPS for customers and employees are. On a score of -100 being the worst, to 100 being the best, our customers rated us -6. For employees? We got a -44, a disaster for me since I have every intention to build a company that puts employees first. I thought everyone was happy but the data says I was wrong.

I went on to say that these were worrying numbers to me and if I did not fix this soon, it will eventually lead to declining business performance (Those 4 metrics? Yeah they’ll be going down). After I finished I sat back down on my seat and waited for J to give it to me but he didn’t. He just nodded. We ended the meeting shortly after and I went back to work while the ODV team stayed in the room to discuss other matters.

A couple hours later I went back to see if they were ready for me to bring them out to dinner. As I walked into the room, J asked if he could bounce an idea off me.

He then explained how whatever he has invested in Colony so far is already at the limit of his fund’s mandate so he didn’t come to KL with any expectation nor intention to further invest in Colony. But after listening to my presentation, he found that Colony was a very good business and he appreciated how honest I was about our shortcomings.

He explained

“You know… we’ve invested in many companies and very rarely are the CEOs so forthcoming and honest with the problems of the business. Your honesty tells me that you really value your relationship with your investors”.

I replied that to be fair, it’s really to my own self-interest because I could hide the mess under the hood or fluff things up, but how long can I hide it for? 3 months? 6 months? Sooner or later it’s all going to catch up to me.

“That’s true. But not many people think that”,

J replied.

He went on

“Anyway… I’m going to tell you that we’ve never done this before for any one company but what would you say if we doubled our investment in Colony?”.

I let those words sink for a while and I thought about it. It’s a good thing to have our investors want to put in more into Colony but I had one worry. If I took this extra money there would be a significant oversubscription to the round I intended to raise. Which means I’d dilute my stake more and I intended to give a chunk of my personal stake to key employees of Colony so they could all own a part of it. I’m not greedy for economic rights of the shares I own. What I do care about is control of the company because I’ve had ventures in the past that have failed because I didn’t have control of the company and couldn’t do things the way I thought was best.

If I diluted too much, I would fall below 51% voting rights of Colony. I conveyed these worries to J and he said

“Do the math. If you end up with less than 51% voting rights, you can have our voting rights”.

I was stunned. What did I do to deserve such a great investor. It turns out I had other great investors too, most of whom doubled down or more than doubled down on their initial investments. On top of that we had new investors too that contributed to the war chest we have today to expand Colony.

Still I had to fix the problems we had. So after that meeting I hunkered down to work on our NPS. I’ll explain the steps I took maybe in another article but fast forward today here’s what the team at Colony managed to pull together:

  1. We just reported a customer NPS of +40.
  2. 51% of respondents were promoters that means they gave us a 9 or 10.
  3. 37% were passives meaning they gave us a 7 or an 8 out of 10.
  4. 12% were detractors meaning they gave us 6 or below.
  5. Employee NPS also went from a -44 to +33.

Does it correspond with business performance? Hell yeah. We reported 91% increase in Profits (or more specifically EBITDA) in Q2 vs Q1 in our first location. Our second location at KL Eco City is expected to open next week and we’ve already sold 56% of the space even before opening.

This key takeaways from this is:

i) People who have millions to invest have millions for a reason. They aren’t stupid and they know when you’re trying to fluff then. It’s just a matter of whether they bother to look or not.

ii) Be radically honest with investors or shareholders. It builds trust and if business ever takes a downturn (which all businesses at some point do), trust is the currency we’re going to need the most.

iii) Being honest with the bad metrics forces you to act to fix it. Perhaps I’m the type that work better with pressure but hell did I get my ass working on fixing the NPS.

As for J? I sent the investor update with our latest results for Q2 this week and he replied

“Thanks so much for this update Tim. Looking good :)”

My Biggest Weakness

Today I just got rejected by someone. And it hurt.

My first reaction to that rejection was anger. I started thinking about why this person would not give it to me when it’s a really small thing and we were family. Then as the anger sunk down and I reflected upon myself I realised that the real problem… was me.

If I had asked a favour from a man on the street and got rejected, I wouldn’t have felt any pain nor anger. I would have just nodded in expectation and moved on. The only difference with this other person is that he’s family and that I expected him to do it for me.

Therein lies my fucking problem: Entitlement.

Here is the problem with having a sense of entitlement:

If I dig deep into my sense of entitlement, this is how I would put it in words.

I feel like people are meant to treat me a certain way because they are _____ to me or because I have done ______ for them.

The list for this goes on throughout my life. I’ve felt entitled that someone should be a good friend to me because I think I was a good friend to that person. I’ve felt entitled that a colleague should be loyal to me because I was a good boss or manager to him or her. I’ve felt entitled to the way my wife should treat me because I am a good husband to her.

The problem with that is that it puts UNREALISTIC expectations on everyone else. Why unrealistic? Because I am not the universe in which other people happen to orbit. I’m not even a star in the universe. I’m just a speck of cells on a planet that is on one of those stars.

So when I have these kind of expectations of other people, I:

1) Get hurt when they don’t respond the way I want them to respond.

2) Lose the opportunity to change because feeling entitled also means that when I don’t get what I want, it’s not because of me but it’s because of this someone else that wasn’t acting properly.

Instead here’s what I should be telling myself:

Yo Tim,

NOBODY… and I mean NOBODY owes you SHIT. Not your parents, not your wife, not your kids, definitely not your friends, or your colleagues or your business partners or even the waitress at the restaurant taking your order for a long black. NOBODY.

Why does nobody owe you shit? Because everyone else has got their own shit to look out for and your shit ain’t important to them. So nothing is yours unless you get it yourself.

Oh and fuck you Tim!

Why we spent another RM40K to improve a product that was already selling very well

I’ve made a lot of mistakes building the first Colony @ KLCC. Sure so far it’s looking like a commercial success but boy the list of things that I felt like I could have done better is long. An example would be our cafe area. I underestimated how full the cafe would get during lunch hour now that we’re at higher occupancy levels… and now the cafe gets so full, during lunch the team would sometimes just eat behind the reception.

There are some mistakes that I’ve made that are obvious and some that aren’t. The trick is trying to figure out the latter. So we relentlessly seek feedback from our guests and put them all in an action plan. Some of the things are small so it’s easy to fix, some.. not so small which made me ponder a little longer.

Here’s the story of one of those things that were expensive to fix but we did anyway.

One of the feedback we got from two of our shorter term guests was that the chairs in our reserved desk area were not ergonomic enough. Not comfortable. Here’s a picture of how the chairs were.

reserved-dedicated-desk

These chairs are common office meeting room chairs and they aren’t necessarily uncomfortable when used in meetings. But they’re not ergonomic too. I was really torn.

On one hand, I like these chairs because they’re low profile, so they look nice in our overall setting and it’s a common coworking space chair. But I agree with the feedback, it’s not great for long hours of sitting. So I had a huge debate. Do we go for something that looks nice but isn’t as good to use, or something that looks less nice but is great to use.

To make a decision I asked all our guests there about the chairs and 98% said they no problems with the chair. It was only with the 2%.

A part of me was tempted to just let it be then… and accept that I can’t satisfy everyone. Besides, the other piece of data I got was that our reserved desk area was operating at 100% occupancy. It was fully sold and we didn’t have anymore left to sell. So if it was already sold, and 98% of the people using it weren’t complaining… why change it?

One thing stopped me though, and that was acceptance of mediocrity.

I felt that if I start accepting that something less ideal was okay in Colony, where does it stop? Will we start to get complacent? Will we slack off in our standards?

So I went back to our mission as a company as a guide. Our mission is to empower life at work. To create the Ritz Carlton of the workspace.

What does that mean though? Well… in a good 5 star hotel, the bed is one of the most expensive parts of the room and it is so because it’s where a guest spends most of his time. What’s the bed equivalent of a coworking space? The chair.

We went out on a journey to seek the most ergonomic chair we could find. We tried so many and tried them over weeks until we found one that we really liked. It also happened to cost more than double than the first chairs.

When we found it, we decided to make it the standard chair for the new Colony locations too. So because we were ordering these chairs in such large quantities we could custom make it, even add our logo on the chairs.

2018-06-29_04-03-36

The new chairs arrived this week and the guests were all really excited. I watched as they adjusted headrest, armrest and the likes.

The response? They were all like “You guys didn’t have to la”… but were happy that we did.

I believe that just because a product sells well, doesn’t mean that we should stop improving it. In fact if we stop improving, then the only direction we can go is down. I found it helpful too to reflect on our mission as a company when it came to making business decisions.

Our focus is on the relentless approach to make sure our guests and/or customers are happy. Even if it takes investing more on an already fully sold product.

This year I aspire to be a better husband and father

Every June my EO forum of 7 members get together and have an important meeting that charts our next 12 months as a forum. Our forum is a place where 7 entrepreneurs get together every month to share their personal, work and family ups and downs, and presentations of any issues that we may have. One of the things on the agenda is to list what my personal goals are in the next 12 months. What I wanted to achieve.

In previous years, my goals have been very business focused. I want the business to grow this much, or to make this much money. This year though I realise that those priorities have changed. Yes… business is important but this year… my main goal is to be a better husband to my wife, and a better father to my kids. Now I’m cautious about this of course, it’s not that I’m taking for granted that Colony is doing well that I don’t have to make Colony my primary goal in life this year. It’s more that I’ve come to a self-realisation last year that there’s a lot of room for me to improve on when it comes to being a husband or father.

How? Well I’ve quite recently managed to change my mindset when it comes to doing things for my wife. I sometimes used to find it a chore to fetch her somewhere, or run errands for her. I’d still do it.. but sometimes I might grumble. Then just recently I started thinking about this. I love my wife right? Then why is it.. if i love my wife, and I want her to be happy, would I grumble about doing little or big things for her? So I’ve stopped doing that.. and I’m gonna make sure this continues.

I’ve also learned to listen to her more, to anticipate her needs and help her especially when it comes to the kids. I used to sometimes be blind to her having her hands full with the kids. Now I pay attention and when I see her struggle I automatically chip in to help.

When it comes to the kids, I look to spend more time with them. Not just playing with them or taking them out but sometimes doing things for them. Shorty used to be the one to take Fighter to the toilet every time we were out and he needed to go but now that’s because my thing with him. Every time he needed to go he would turn to me and ask.. and I would bring him. In the cubicle where he sits to pee or poo, we would often have our own little conversations.

That’s when I learned that we don’t bond with our kids from just playing with them or just with the good times. We bond with them by doing things for them. I don’t know if they know how to “appreciate” these things yet… but I do know that they get closer to me when they feel that can depend on me more on even the small every day things.

I’ve always wanted at least one more kid in my life. A family of five at least would mean we could all fit in one car and go out to the mall on weekends. I grew up in a family of six and I had great memories the four of us kids crowded at the back of the car while my parents took us to Komtar on Sunday to eat Taiwanese beef noodle.

That may not be an option for me in this life though because of Shorty’s pregnancy complications. Shorty’s pretty settled with two. I’m grateful that I’ve already got two… and now I just want to be a better father to these two.

I don’t know what my goals will be this time next year. But I hope by then I would feel that I’ve achieved this year’s goals of being a better husband and father.

I nearly signed a deal today that I would have regretted…

In the past few weeks I’ve been negotiating a number of concurrent deals at the same time for Colony. One particular deal today was due to be signed today but I decided not to do it at the 11th hour. I shouldn’t go into the details of the deal so let me just say that it was like we were going to buy something.

Here were the mechanics of the deal

  1. This was something I really wanted for Colony. I think “buying” this would have been a huge win for the company and we would have grown to be an even more profitable company in the medium to long run.
  2. The seller though knew they were in demand. They told us shortly after we showed interest that there was someone else willing to buy them for about 10% more than what we were willing to pay. Still they decided to go with us because we came first and they could settle the deal quicker.
  3. The seller sent us a binding offer letter where if we signed, we had to pay a substantial amount as a deposit. This deposit will be forfeited if we didn’t execute the final sale & purchase agreement in a month (which is a really short time for due diligence and more).
  4. Because they were in demand, the draft terms I saw in the sale & purchase agreement were really harsh and demanding. Very against our favour.

I was eager to do the deal and I shared it with our board and investors. They were willing to do it if I was up for it and I was. The one big concern I had was that once we pay the deposit, we would have a short time frame to close the deal. That would put us at a disadvantage when it came to negotiate the salient terms of the agreement because the longer we took to negotiate, the sooner time runs out and we lose our deposit. Time then works against us, and works for the other side which puts them at a strong advantage.

The precaution I took of that though was before I signed the offer letter and paid the deposit I wanted to see the first draft of the sale & purchase agreement. I only got that draft the day we were supposed to sign the deal and boy the terms were so harsh I knew we were going to take a long time to negotiate to a middle ground. A part of me had come so far and just wanted to see the deal through, but I knew I was in trouble. I wanted the deal too badly to be able to negotiate effectively.

So I took a step back and looked at the whole situation in a macro point of view. The first question I asked myself was why this seller would hold out for us, when they have another buyer willing to pay more. I thought of two likely scenarios:

  1. The seller wanted to sell quickly, by the deadline stipulated in the offer letter. So they’re willing to give up a bit of money to get the deal done sooner.
  2. There is no other buyer. It’s a bluff.

As I sat to think about this I reminded myself of one rule in a negotiation. DEADLINES ARE ALL MANMADE. When faced with deadlines we choose whether a deadline is going to be used to our disadvantage or our advantage on the negotiation table. Clearly if I had gone ahead and signed the offer letter, I would be using it to my own disadvantage.

After some thinking I came to a conclusion that if either 1) or 2) were true, then the seller wouldn’t mind me not signing the offer letter and just signing the sale & purchase agreement by the one month deadline. Because they don’t lose time either ways. Although the big assumption here is that we’re doing with a rational seller. If emotions play a bigger part of the seller than rationality then these two points above need not apply. In fact it becomes very unpredictable.

So I went back to the seller and said “Sorry we can’t sign your offer letter today because that would put us in a huge disadvantage on the negotiating table. You are free to negotiate and sell to any other party you want, but if you’re willing, we will endeavour to continue this process to negotiate the S&P terms and sign it by your initial deadline.”

After I told the seller that I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulder. I realise that I had tunnel vision for a deal I wanted closed and that really buying them would still entail a risk. We were not necessarily better off, or worse off from forgoing this deal.  I realised that I’m willing to forgo this deal altogether.

Now that I’ve accepted that I’m willing to lose this deal, I think I can negotiate better. Of course I don’t know the outcome yet… and I’ll probably know in a few weeks time. One thing I know for sure… I would have regretted doing this deal on these terms if I had signed them today.

The complication of life…

I just got home from a night out with a couple of my childhood friends. Once whom I’ve known since I was 7 years old (Gin( and another since I was 14 (Rayvin).

Rayvin and I were telling Gin about how in St Xaviers where we used to go to school, there were two table tennis tables that everyone would play every morning before class started. One of it was reserved for the school team. The other though was open to everyone. There was an unwritten system on how everyone took turns to play. There will be two queues, one on each end of the table. Each person playing will get to play until they lose one point. The winner stays and the loser goes on the back of the queue again.

Table tennis was a sport I was good at because my Dad signed me up for coaching in my earlier years. So I remember the first time I played there. I did one heck of a rally, winning each person I came across, feeling all proud of myself. My friend Rayvin was one of those really good players as well so he had the same experience as I did.

We eventually joined the school team and graduated to the school team table where we didn’t have to line up anymore. We could play full sets and we would go to school at 6.30AM just to play until the bell rung at 7.40AM. Then we would rush to class, all sweaty and go through the day all sticky but feeling like it was worth it.

“I miss school”, Rayvin said. It hit me then that I didn’t share his sentiment. For many reasons I’ve never really enjoyed my school years. In school I didn’t feel free. I felt like I had to do things that I didn’t like, study things that I didn’t like. Now in the working world though we have options. If you didn’t like your job you could find another one.

Then I looked back at my past and wondered if there was at least something I missed of my school years and there was. I missed the innocence I had. Not knowing how big the world around me was (back then I used to think Penang was the world). Life was a lot simpler then too but at the moment it didn’t feel like it. If people in school talked bad about me, it felt like a negative FB posting about me had gone viral. Yet when I think of myself as a kid I can’t help but wonder what I would have told school-going Tim.

Would I tell him the life that he was going to have ahead of him. The mistakes he was going to make, so he wouldn’t make them? Or would not making those mistakes make me a weaker person. I find life very complicated. It’s complicated because at every point in life there are always things to fix, challenges to face and issues to solve.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been blessed. Career wise Colony seems to be taking off really well and I have enough money to live a decent life. I have a wonderful family and enjoy the company of both my parents who are still healthy and well. So why is life complicated?

Life is complicated because on one hand we always want more… we want something or another to be perfect while knowing that perfection is an unattainable quest. So we chase something better. Better financial security, better house, better car, better holidays, better friends, better relationships better everything. But each time we achieve that better thing….. we realise that we need to go even better.

When do we stop? When do we stop trying to be better? Trying to outdo ourselves or anyone else around us. When do we just stop and say “I am totally okay with where I am now”. How does that feel? Is happiness achieved then?

I don’t know… and sometimes I feel like I’m afraid to find out. Afraid to find out if not going for better means I’m not getting better. And not getting better might mean that I might get worse….

Life is complicated…

Colony