Be patient, resilient – and learn continuously

IN THIS week’s Success: The Insight Story column, Central Global Bhd group managing director Chew Hian Tat tells SunBiz that one should remain humble and maintain a learning mindset.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I’ve been fortunate to have been in leadership roles since a young age. As early as 27 years old, I co-founded a few companies in the international trading space. Being an entrepreneur has not been smooth sailing. Growing my businesses has allowed me to experience numerous ups and downs that have shaped me into the leader that I am today.

Through various challenges and hardships, I’ve learned resilience, adaptability, and empathy. I’ve learned how to stay composed under pressure, developed a higher tolerance for ambiguity, and harnessed my ability to nurture relationships with the people and communities around me.

What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?

When selecting talent, I prioritise traits like passion, adaptability, creativity, and strong work ethics. Passionate employees energise the people around them. It’s such a joy to watch their commitment to work fuel and electrify everyone around them.

On top of that, I also look for team players, those whose values are aligned with the organisation’s culture and values as harmony and efficiency within the team are crucial.

How do you think the industry you are in will evolve?

I believe the construction industry will continue to evolve rapidly. Currently, the industry is undergoing a profound transformation, propelled by technological advancements, changing demographics and a growing emphasis on sustainability. As we look ahead, it is evident that the construction industry is about to undergo a remarkable evolution, revolutionising how we design and build for the future as well as interact with our environment.

What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business?

My advice is to be patient and resilient. The road to success will be bumpy, and you will be required to learn continuously. You may encounter more downs than ups, you may encounter more detractors than supporters and you will be demotivated but remember why you’re doing this. Don’t give up, don’t take anything personally, and don’t take no for an answer; you never know what you’re going to learn along the way.

What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?

In the next five years, I hope to make significant strides in my industry, continually enhance my skill set, and make substantial contributions to my organisation's growth.

Best piece of advice you ever received on your career.

One of the best career advice I've received is to remain humble and maintain a learning mindset. Regardless of circumstances, staying open to learning and growth, while respecting and caring for others, is essential.

Most-admired business leader? Why?

One of the business leaders I admire most is Elon Musk. He is an excellent example of dynamic entrepreneurship. His visionary thinking and relentless pursuit of innovation have made him an influential leader, constantly challenging norms and driving technological and business advancements. His commitment to purpose and passion for achieving his goals is a powerful motivation and he is proof that any dream is possible if you have the passion and courage to follow it.

How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?

I stay updated on industry issues and trends by regularly reading industry reports and research, attending conferences and seminars, networking with peers, and through professional social media platforms.

If you could have an hour with any thought leader in the world, whom would it be and why?

If given the chance, I would love to pick Warren Buffett’s brain. As a business magnate, investor and philanthropist, he’s revered for not only his incredible wealth but also his unique investment philosophy and principles. He has consistently displayed exceptional business acumen and a long-term vision, allowing him to consistently grow the value of his company – Berkshire Hathaway – and generate substantial returns for his shareholders.

Not only that but despite his immense wealth, what makes him truly remarkable is his humility and ability to connect with people across all walks of life. I believe I can learn a great deal from him.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced? And what did you learn from it?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered is maintaining a sustainable business during economic downturns. Facing an unexpected downturn, like earth-shaking events such as the Covid-19 pandemic or the global financial crash of 2008, is always dreaded but they are a fact of life. Events such as these have taught me to stay calm and employ creative thinking to keep my business stable and sustainable. They also taught me to stay laser-focused to remember my goals and to always remember that behind every cloud, there is always a silver lining.

What was the weirdest business proposal you have ever heard of?

One of the weirdest business proposals I've heard involved bottling fresh air from various locations and selling it as a luxury product.

What man-made innovation astonishes you?

One of the most astonishing man-made innovations to me is the invention of the internet. It has fundamentally transformed how people live and work, connecting the world and offering unprecedented convenience and opportunities.

Malaysia’s greatest brand?

One of Malaysia's greatest brands is Petronas, the national oil and gas company. As a symbol of Malaysia, it holds significant influence domestically and internationally, contributing significantly to the country's economic development.

A must-read for every business owner/manager is ....

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by James Collins examines what it takes for ordinary companies to become great and outperform their competitors. It’s a compelling read for budding entrepreneurs especially as the book explores the processes involved and the time it takes for a company to transition from average to great.

How do you expect policies on climate change to impact businesses in the future?

These policies may lead to stricter environmental regulations and standards, prompting increased investments in sustainability and higher expectations from stakeholders and consumers. On top of that, I also believe that climate change and the transition to a net-zero future could create new industries and new growth opportunities for business, which will subsequently bring new jobs and could revitalise economies.

What are the top three factors you would attribute your success to?

The top factors I attribute my success to include perseverance, continuous learning and self-improvement, and building strong relationships and networks.