By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
It was never his goal to become a property developer. And being awarded the Most Promising Entrepreneurship Award at the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards (APEA) – the most prestigious award for entrepreneurship in Asia & the Pacific region, clinched that designation for Dr Tan Chin Yong, CEO of Ipoh-based property development company – the Kaizen Group. The accolade which is awarded to business leaders for outstanding leadership and entrepreneurial excellence is a feather in the cap for this relatively young company which saw Kaizen’s revenue for the year 2014 shooting through the roof compared to the RM1.5 million in its first year of operations six years ago. The rapid growth and development of the company also won it the “SME 100 Malaysia Fastest Growing Companies Award” in 2012.
“Think out of the box; learn to approach situations and challenges from different angles to create solutions.”
Born in Brunei to parents who were school teachers, the seed of entrepreneurship was planted when his parents started a convenience store. Chin Yong remembers doing his schoolwork while helping to mind the shop after school hours. Little did he realise then that this first taste of entrepreneurship would take him down the road to where he is today.
Effectively working since the tender age of 13, the good work ethic instilled in him carried him through his university days where he climbed the ladder of academia to graduate with a PhD in Engineering from Cambridge University at a tender age of 25, backed by a Bachelor of Science (First Class Honours) in Computer Science from Edinburgh University.
In his 25-year career to date, he has worked as a senior R&D Engineer, co-founded a technology start-up company designing infrared wireless communication devices and successfully pulled what is today an internationally recognized company, back from the brink of bankruptcy, placing it on the road to being a globally-recognised brand today.
Stumbling into Property Development
Chin Yong’s entry into the property sector was actually a “stumble” as it were. Married to the daughter of a conglomerate tycoon, voicing an opinion on some project plans earned him the recognition of his father-in-law and soon after he found himself thrust into the CEO’s chair of Kinta Properties Group Sdn Bhd. As was the case with Revox, a Swiss company manufacturing high-end audio equipment, it was the case of having to turn a company around and, rising brilliantly to the challenge, he helped turn Kinta Properties into one of the largest property companies in Perak, by virtue of sales figures, in a matter of five years. By bringing in fresh ideas and new concepts for both marketing and business development, he gained the respect and admiration of his team with his tenacity and his open-door management approach. His pet project, the Meru Valley Riverside Residence, not only is today one of the sought-after residential areas of Ipoh but it also won the CNBC Best Property Award in its category in 2008.
Practice of Continuous Improvement
Today Chin Yong sits at the helm of his own property development company – the Kaizen Group – through which he creates homes of quality and excellence. In its short six years, Kaizen has grown from strength to strength, accurately personifying its very fitting name. Kaizen which is the practice of continuous improvement, was originally introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai in his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success in 1986. Today Kaizen is recognised worldwide as an important pillar of an organisation’s long-term competitive strategy.
The group today has a diverse portfolio of property projects in Ipoh and Melaka, mining explorations in Kelantan, a real-estate agency in Ipoh and investments in a Nasdaq-listed mineral processing outfit.
Chin Yong’s sharp business acumen and his fine instincts for identifying viable projects and trustworthy business partners are most certainly factors which have contributed to the success of his company. With the co-owner of his company, his wife Lim Pui San being the other founder, he is able to take a more conservative approach in the growth and development of the company, picking and choosing projects which he feels would benefit both the company and his purchasers.
His latest project, which was launched recently, is a residential offering of 14 exclusive 3-story semi-detached homes set within a perfect location with unobstructed views of the golf courses of the Royal Perak Golf Club. Positioned within a stone’s throw of the Ipoh Swimming Club with the conveniences of the city within easy reach, the GolfView Residence is a guarded neighbourhood which includes a guard house, high perimeter fencing, CCTVs and round-the-clock security patrols integrated within a centralized security monitoring system. Set on 99 years leasehold land, these delightful homes have 4,600 sq. ft. built up area and sit on land sizes ranging from 35’x100’ to 35’x120’.
What makes these homes particularly attractive are the built-in all-glass personal lifts which provide easy access to the upper floors and their panoramic views. The perfect home for those with elderly parents or for younger couples preparing for their eventual old age. Priced from RM1.5 million onwards with a current early bird special of RM30,000 rebate, free 2 years maintenance fee, free 2 years lift maintenance and free legal fee on transfer, these homes are certainly value for money and aligned with Chin Yong’s philosophy in business, which like a general of ancient times who shares the spoils of war with his comrades, Chin Yong firmly believes that business must be a win-win arrangement. And so, for his purchasers he creates homes of value and distinction, offering the best of designs and prices.
The company’s first offering in Ipoh was the gated and guarded homes of Somerset @ Thomson in 2010 which was a sell-out. Dorset Place, a 188-unit mixed development project located in Taman Song Choon is scheduled for delivery later this year. It has also three larger mixed development projects on-going in Melaka, in Taman Bukit Emas 342 units (last phase); Taman Cheng Setia 66 units (completed) and Bandar Baru Tasek Emas 402 units (phase 1 launching end 2014), with total acreage of more than 100.
A sister company, PWP is the sales and marketing arm of the Kaizen group. This is a mutually beneficial set-up between Kaizen and other 3rd party sales as Kaizen has a ready team of highly motivated sales staff with wide ranging contacts in the property marketplace, while PWP has a steady supply of project properties to sell. Any conflict is avoided by not taking on a project that competes directly with Kaizen.
Well Loved by Staff
Chin Yong’s keen insight and high analytical skills are a perfect marriage to his innovative and positive outlook while his open door leadership which invites and values input from every employee distinguishes him as a true leader who not merely manages but is able to draw out the best of his team and grow leaders.
Humbly acknowledging mistakes and accepting criticism as a way of learning and moving forward, he is well-loved and respected by his staff and all those who know him. His respect for the talents and skills of those he works with is much appreciated and one of the most heard lines from him is: “You are the expert, tell me what to do”. This has greatly contributed towards many of his successes throughout his career, especially so as much of what he set out to do has been, for all intents and purposes, things he had no experience with.
Chin Yong firmly believes that the mark of a true leader is not accomplishing things alone but by successfully drawing out the talents, skills and knowledge of others. He also credits much of his sound business decisions to Pui San, who is his confidante, sounding board, cheerleader and source of encouragement and strength.
At home, he values the time spent with his two boys and also with other family members. A man with quiet charm, a brilliant mind and a passion for his work, Chin Yong keeps cool and calm through the challenges of business through yoga and meditation and a focus on the spiritual.
As for his legacy, “I hope people will remember me for what they have received from me rather than what I demanded of them.”
“For more info on Kaizen Properties visit: http://kaizen.com.my/ or call Stephanie Chang 012 508 7238, 05 241 8863.