Cover Story: 5 Second Generation Frontliners On Leadership & Legacy
- Natalie Cheng, Executive Director, Parkson HoldingsNatalie Cheng, Executive Director, Parkson Holdings
- Melissa Sin, Executive Director, SKB ShuttersMelissa Sin, Executive Director, SKB Shutters
- Garvy Beh, IT Vice President, BP Healthcare Group, & CEO, Doctor2UGarvy Beh, IT Vice President, BP Healthcare Group, & CEO, Doctor2U
- Melissa Tan, CEO, GethaMelissa Tan, CEO, Getha
- Jim Tan, Group Chief Operating Officer, T7 GlobalJim Tan, Group Chief Operating Officer, T7 Global
Managing a family corporation can be a roller-coaster ride but Natalie Cheng, Melissa Sin, Garvy Beh, Melissa Tan and Jim Tan are handling it with aplomb. They reflect on what it takes to lead, innovate and keep their legacies alive, all at the same time.
Natalie Cheng, Executive Director, Parkson Holdings
I wish to continue our parents’ legacy of improving the lives of others.
The eldest daughter of Tan Sri William Cheng and Puan Sri Chelsea Cheng grew up watching her father in action as the executive chairman of Lion Group and chairman of Parkson Group. Even today, she shares that he still has an admirable gumption in exploring new ideas for the business despite being in his 70s.
In an age where e-commerce is changing the way we purchase products, Natalie and her team knew that they needed to switch things up to remain relevant in the market. Her advice is: "Never stop learning. Popular trends today will become outdated. Don’t dwell on the past, make changes when it’s necessary. Also, stay humble. You may be the market leader today, but not forever."
Her mother, a charitable tour de force, inspired Natalie to continue giving back to society. Through the Lion-Parkson Foundation by the Lion Group established in 1985, Natalie intends to disburse the funds for education and charitable causes. “My parents have been very involved in charity for as long as I can remember. Together with my siblings, I wish to continue our parents’ legacy of contributing to improve the lives of others.”
Melissa Sin, Executive Director, SKB Shutters
I adhere to Bruce Lee’s famous 'Be Water' quote in the challenge of innovating a family business—be fluid so we can adapt with the times.
"I try to make a point to be at least 5 minutes early for my appointments," says this bubbly yet introspective young lady, who arrived 15 minutes early to our shoot despite being hospitalised for a chest infection the day before. She picked up this affinity for punctuality from her father and managing director of SKB Shutters, Danny Sin.
Having previously worked for KPMG for four years, Melissa's first responsibility at her family's racking system manufacturing company was to solve the corporate inefficiencies within the company. With major teamwork, Melissa managed to achieve this task with a lot of patience. "I adhere to Bruce Lee’s famous 'Be Water' quote in the challenge of innovating a family business—be fluid so we can adapt with the times,” she expressed.
On how she keeps herself motivated, she says: "Always remind yourself why you have decided to commit to the family business. If it is positive, it should encourage you to persevere. If it is negative, ask yourself why you are still there. There’s no right or wrong—but you should always give your best in what you choose to do.”
When she is not engaging with new clients and partnerships for SKB Shutters, Melissa attends to The Bag Atelier, her own boutique accessories brand.
Garvy Beh, IT Vice President, BP Healthcare Group, & CEO, Doctor2U
It is rare for a business to last more than 3 generations. Therefore, the second generation must focus on maintaining a sustainable company by having a vision.
Scrolling through his Instagram feed, Garvy Beh shows us a short clip of him mounted on a horse as he rode across a snowy field during the World Snow Polo 2017 tournament. "My father told me that he can sense how my siblings and I would excel in our profession based on how we play polo." Dato' Beh Chun Chuan's sixth sense about his children is astonishingly accurate, especially when he identifies that his youngest son is the most patient to reap his rewards.
As the founder and CEO of Doctor2U, Garvy aims to be one step ahead in disrupting the healthcare business with progressive tech from within BP Healthcare. Launched in 2015, Doctor2U is a free mobile app platform to serve BP Healthcare’s clients and providers to update them on healthcare services. “This enables us to take our basic healthcare business to the next level,” he says.
Aside from his father, Elon Musk is another inventor who inspires and fascinates Garvy. Here, he acknowledges the need for transformation and progress in the company, even if it means going against tradition.
“It is rare for a business to last more than 3 generations. A lot of businesses die because there’s no modernisation. Therefore, the second generation must focus on maintaining a sustainable company by having a vision. What we need to do is to constantly pivot our business to maintain relevance,” he notes.
Melissa Tan, CEO, Getha
We are living in a world of 'growth or death'. We cannot afford to be complacent.
While many of us struggle to decide on what to be when we grow up during our secondary school days, Melissa Tan had already found her calling at that time in her life. "I was intrigued when I learnt about the simple theory of supply and demand, and ever since then, I have been curious about economics."
Knowing that she is expected to contribute to the family’s bedding products company, Melissa dived right in upon graduation, eager to get her hands dirty and learn the ropes. For the first few years, she rotated between different departments before settling in the Export Sales Department and eventually, her current role as CEO.
Melissa relishes the challenge that comes in leading the brand as it enters its next phase through aggressive regional expansion and the digitisation of business. “We are living in a world of ‘growth or death’. We cannot afford to be complacent,” she says.
At the same time, she believes innovation should never interfere with tradition. “I strongly believe that ideas to improve our business should make the work more efficient, but it should never replace the human touch,” opines Melissa, who is now slowly assuming more responsibilities from her parents, Vincent Tan and Yong Mei Tsin.
Jim Tan, Group Chief Operating Officer, T7 Global
More often than not, there will be a stage where you will be driven into a corner and that's when you must think outside of the box.
After serving 4 years at Toyo Engineering Corporating in Japan, Jim Tan was thrust into the role of deputy COO of his family's multi-faceted public-listed company in 2017 upon his return to Malaysia. He admits that it was not a graceful transition.
"It was difficult because I had to work on earning the respect from my senior colleagues. Plus, my hands-on father was constantly looking over my shoulders which added to the pressure!"
But the support and encouragement of his mother, Puan Sri Shirley Law, helped to keep him focused. “Her motto in life is: ‘Be decisive. After you have decided, don’t look back.’ Her advice helped me learn to live with my own mistakes,” he reveals.
On a personal note, the Tan family has a non-negotiable rule that work should never be brought home—which helps him set clear boundaries.
Now a father himself to a son named Evan, Jim thinks a lot about diversifying T7 Global to create an impact for the future. "Preserving a legacy is great, but it shouldn't be a constricting factor. We should use legacy as an enabler to achieve greater things from the ones before, instead of staying complacent."
- Content DirectionLily Ong
- PhotographyEric Chow
- StylingAndrea Kee
- Art DirectionLiew Chiaw Ching
- LocationColony Co-Working Space, Star Boulevard KLCC
- HairCentro Hair Salon
- Make-UpCat Yong, Kevin Lee and Alan Lim using Giorgio Armani Beauty
- JewelleryTiffany & Co
- Stylist's AssistantSarah Hamzah