11 Malaysian Power Couples Give Tips On Striking A Successful Work-Life Balance With Your Partner

By Tien Chew

For the second instalment of the Malaysia Tatler x Lexus Malaysia Power Series, we brought 8 dynamic couples together to discuss a highly relatable topic – being thoughtful at work and at home with your partner for a successful work-life balance. Many couples today are career-orientated, which brings its own set of advantages and challenges, especially when you add family management into the mix. The bulk of those in attendance are working together. Michele Kwok and Fred Choo of Soul Society acted as the moderators for the open dialogue, having worked together in a number of businesses they've created over 20 years. They are also outspoken about the benefits of working together. The venue for the night took place at Rama V, with beverages supplied by Macallan. Here are the essential lessons we've learnt after sitting in on such an engaging evening.

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1. R.E.S.P.E.C.T

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Above  Michele Kwok and Fred Choo | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

Universally understood yet sometimes in need of a reminder, the first nugget of wisdom from moderators Fred Choo and Michele Kwok – respect is the key to longevity when it comes to both love and business.

"Respecting each other as a person and understanding their weaknesses and strengths is really important. There's a lot of give and take," says Fred. According to him, being able to manage a relationship is crucial to ensuring that working together, whether in or out of the office, flows as well as it can.

"People make mistakes and the best thing you can do is to let them learn from those mistakes. When something goes wrong, it's important to ask 'why' instead of 'how', as it would give your partner the chance to explain themselves," he adds.


2. You're Always Going To Be Learning

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Above  Aneesha Veriah and Fariz Zain | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

"Even though it can be a very professional decision, sometimes you take things personally because you don't know how to draw the line between marriage and work," says Aneesha Veriah. She and husband Fariz Zain manage the F&B outfit, The Bowery Group.

"You'll learn how to put up your shields (during conflict) after awhile. If I'm going to be working long hours with someone, I would rather do it with somebody I love," she concluded.

Throughout the night, this was a common sentiment echoed among most couples during the dialogue. Whether you're working with your partner or not, understand that there is no limit to learning about them. It's an on-going process and doing so will benefit the both of you tremendously.


3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

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Above  Levy Li and Goh Soo Sing | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

To keep the relationship, the family and the business strong, a couple has to question themselves every now and then by examining their priorities and goals. For starters, ask yourself and each other this question: what do I (you) look forward to in my (your) partnership?

"It was natural for us to get into the business, and we question its purpose, our lives and what we want to do every phase along the way," said Goh Soo Sing. Married to Levi Li, the two run Bon Estates and The Good Co.

"It's nice that we have a similar vision and even though we came from different backgrounds (property development and F&B), we somehow merged certain values to promote our business. However, at the beginning my fear was if there would be a lot of friction working in the same place; we're still coping," he added. 

"It's easy, it's easy," Fred reassured. "Don't listen to that old saying about how you can't have two tigers in the workplace. You be the lion, let her be the tiger," he added.

"I really love knowing that although the both of us come from different upbringings, with different values, our end goal is very much aligned," said Soo Sing.

One clear advantage of working with your partner is that the both of you are always playing for the same team working towards a goal decided collectively.


4. Communication Should Never Be Sidelined

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Above  Mereen Teo and Alex Toh | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

You've heard it a million times but it's true, establishing an open and good communication habit with your partner is one of the pillars of a successful marriage, even more so when you're working together.

"To keep the relationship we need to tolerate and understand each other. Communication is key, we have to communicate first in order to have mutual understanding," says Alex Toh.

Married to his high school sweetheart Mereen Teo, the two run China Pottery, a premium tableware distributor, and they've been working together for more than 14 years.

Read also: 10 lessons for second generation business owners to succeed

5. If You Have To...Keep Business Talks At Home Short

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Above  Macallan's special cocktails for the evening – Apple & Spice and Smoked Old Fashion | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

It may be unavoidable for topics about work to seep in to your personal life with your partner at home even after working hours, but from what we've learned from these eight couples, try to keep it at a minimum. 

"You need to have house rules; everyday we have our routine and when we come home there will be some work talk but we'll have dinner and watch TV together. You know not to bring home too many things from work, to a certain extent," said Fariz Zain. 

6. The Couple That Travels Together, Stays Together

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Above  Lexus' fleet of cars that chauffeured guests that evening | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

"Making a concious effort outside the business realm, like having date nights and taking holidays together, is very important," says Michele Kwok. 

Taking breaks away from work and having the chance to spend time with your family is a great way to reconnect.

Levy and Soo Sing echoes the same statement: exploring new places and getting new ideas during your travels is a great way to improve the relationship, personal and professional.

Read also: 9 exotic Asian destinations for a Insta-worthy romantic getaway

7. Make Time At Home

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Above  Carey Ng | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

No matter how dedicated you are towards work, it's crucial that spending time at home with your family is a high priority.

"We spend a lot of time at home, sometimes even working from home because of our baby," said Carey Ng. "Our family time is made convenient so that we can still talk about business as we update each other when it becomes a topic of discussion," she adds.

Also see: wedding of Carey Ng and Roen Cian Nagapan

8. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help

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Above  Roen Cian Nagapan | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

"We're taking full advantage of the fact that we have access to help, like our in-laws and parents," said Roen Cian Nagapan. Married to Carey, the two have recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl to the world and the three of them are our cover stars this February.

"My parents live with us and we get great support and advice from them," he adds. 

Having the extra help, which can come in many forms, can make a lot of difference, especially when you need some room to unwind.

9. There Should Always Be A Resolution At The End Of The Day

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Above  Sherina and Vijay Binwani | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

Compromising is a must for two disagreeing parties to reach an agreement, in marriage and in the workplace.

Vijay and Sherina Binwani have been married for 17 years and has been working together for the past 13 years at Binwani's Fashion Group. While they both come from families that run their own businesses, the two have different approaches to business.

"By character I'm more of a visionary and she (Sherina) is more of an achiever, meaning I'm more of big picture person and she's more results-driven, which can be quite challenging," said Vijay.

"I"m quite strongheaded when it comes to certain things I feel would go well and I will not listen to his opinion. That's when our fights start, but because it's mainly his family business, I have to respect the fact that they have a certain vision and that makes it a little challenging," added Sherina.

"Over the years I think that because there's a fundamental core value of trust and respect in the relationship, we've managed although we argue and fight. But at the end of the day, we know that there will be a resolution," said Vijay, displaying the benefits of tolerance and co-operation.

10. There's No One Right Way To Working Or Parenting

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Above  Dato’ Azmall Jamaluddin and Datin Rozida Othman | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

Married for 14 years and doing business together for over 8 years, Dato’ Azmall Jamaluddin and Datin Rozida Othman run an architectural and oil and gas related companies, called 3D Architecture and BIMASIA respectively. Together, they have three children.

Another key takeaway during our Power Series dialogue: there is no right way to raise kids and juggle your career, do what is best for you, your partner and your family.

"In terms of how we work together as a couple and business partners, we both have roles to play and we respect each other," said Dato' Azmall. 

"He would put the baby to sleep and continue working after," chuckled Datin Rozida. "Working together, especially during the times we have a fight, there's a thin line between the marriage, the partnership and the business and we try very hard to check ourselves at the door when we get home," adds Datin Rozida.

"There's no clear role of what a husband should do or what the wife does, likewise with Dato' Azmall and Datin Rozida, they just help the family out in whatever ways they can," Michele chimes in.

11. Don't Forget That You're Their Number One Support

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Above  Andre Shum and Sherlyn Koh | Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

While Andre Shum and Sherlyn Koh may not work together, the two run their own businesses, each with their own challenges. Married for 5 years with two kids, Andre's business is F&B group Rhombus Connection while Sherlyn runs a dancing studio called Sirocco Secrets Dancer.

"Even though she (Sherlyn) doesn't work with me, it doesn't mean that she doesn't share my challenges," said Andre. "She feels the problems that I go through. In every business, nothing is smooth and what's great is Sherlyn has stuck by me," he adds.

"We love to dine, drink, inspire and travel together. We make sure we have one date night a week and I include Andre when I work and travel overseas," said Sherlyn.

The message is clear, whether you work together or for separate businesses, face life's difficulties together at work or apart, do take the time to hear your partner out and offer an open ear or a shoulder for them to lean on from time to time.

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