Just last year, a thunderstorm ravaged parts of Bukit Jalil and sent fellow Malaysians into a state of shock.
I’ve always felt that Malaysia was getting hotter and hotter as years go by. In fact, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded since modern recordkeeping began in 1880.
I began to contemplate my purpose in this world as an entrepreneur. In Christmas 2016, we made the conscious decision to appoint the Picha Project as our caterer. They are a social enterprise. The food was prepared by refugees from war-stricken countries who were seeking refuge in Malaysia. This deliberate decision not only brought food to our table but helps to support refugees who were unable to provide for themselves.
This spurred me into building a social enterprise. A business that serves the people, saves the planet and provides profit at the same time.
And so the story started to unfold after a conversation with Calvin Ngai, a friend who is a veteran in the accommodation management industry.
I’m passionate about education while he is passionate about hospitality. How do we combine two seemingly polar opposite interests?
We thought of combining our strengths to create a hotel that stands for what we believe in. We created Artisan Eco Hotel, an environmental-friendly hotel based on the concept of upcycling. The hotel will feature upcycling elements in the hotel. Travelers and adventurers will be educated on how to turn trash to treasure in a stylish manner.
Upcycling is the clever reuse of discarded objects or materials. It is aimed at creating a product of higher quality or value than the original.
An example of upcycling would be the Artisan Eco Hotel logo, built entirely from discarded wine corks.
There are even more upcycling examples I’d like to show you. But I’ll leave it as a surprise at the launch of Artisan Eco Hotel.
According to a survey by TripAdvisor.com conducted with 1,300 U.S. travelers,
62% often or always consider the environment when choosing hotels, transportation and meals.
69% say they plan to make even more eco-friendly choices in the next 12 months.
64% of respondents said that they rarely or never feel informed about whether hotels are truly eco-friendly.
Calvin called me in January 2017 and told me that he found an ideal location.
It is located just a mere 250 metres away from Sunway Lagoon.
Within close proximity to Sunway Pyramid and Sunway Convention Centre.
In 2015, Sunway Lagoon recorded 1.5 million visitors,
and is expecting double digit growth from the Greater China market.
His existing 3-star hotel venture is Resort Suites at Bandar Sunway. It is just within walking distance from the proposed location.
Considering all of the above, we figured that this was the perfect place to kickstart our new enterprise!
We started speaking to friends who are interested in the idea of co-owning a hotel. Friends with similar core values that wanted to contribute to this business. Eventually, people within our circle started to get involved. Artisan Eco Hotel made upcycling easy, accessible and convenient for everyone.
We brought in other partners to build this idea together.
One day, Calvin posted this on his Facebook.
We are excited to look out for like-minded partners to join us as we see our social enterprise come to live. Individuals or companies who are into upcycling, environmental awareness and green governance – we want to work with you!
If you’re interested to joint venture with us in our future projects, please drop us a call at +6012-6728073.
According to the 2016 report from Forbes, the world’s most valuable football clubs are Real Madrid (current value of USD36.5 bil with revenue of USD694 mil) and Barcelona (current value of USD3.56 bil with revenue of USD675 mil). Manchester United comes in third, followed by Bayern Munich and other Premier League clubs rounding up the Top Ten.
Although recent lists have Man United climbing back to the top, for instance a KPMG study that takes “enterprise value” into account (which includes broadcasting, merchandising, and commercial operations), the two Spanish clubs still stand out very strongly from the rest. In terms of indebtedness, both Real Madrid and Barcelona have very low debt as percentage of its value (around 2-3% only), compared to Man United which is highly geared at 24%. In fact, it carries the highest debt in the Top Ten according to Forbes.
Unlike most football clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona are completely owned and run by their loyal fans! These fans, known as “socios” are club supporters. They form an assembly of members that govern the club and elect its president. This is just like what you expect from a fan club. These “socios” literally number in the dozens of thousands. They pay an annual membership fee that provides them with perks such as discounted season tickets and merchandise, free access to stadium tours, meet-and-greets, and open training passes.
Despite the ownership structure, it may be surprising to some that both these clubs are extremely well-run, very profitable, and richly capitalized. In fact, they stand on par if not better than their well-heeled English cousins. They are often known for poaching star players with ridiculous amounts of money. Unlike a public company which has to give out dividends to shareholders on regular basis and meet market expectations, all profits stay within the club which makes it a more stable, driven, long-term focused, and productive business entity.
It is even more impressive if you look at their credentials. Real Madrid has won 11 European Cups, 32 La Liga Trophies, and 19 Copa Del Rey; while Barcelona holds 5 European Cups, 24 La Liga Trophies and 28 Copa Del Rey. Combined, they have conquered 56 out of 85 available La Liga titles. They take up almost 50% of all TV money available to Spanish clubs!
Note: Man United is owned by the public, by virtue of it being listed on the NYSE. It is not owned exclusively by fans. Five years on after listing, its share price performance has been underwhelming. It even lost USD1 bil in value at one point this year due to its failures on the pitch.
The success of a football club is not just a function of the manager, calibre of players, and right factors of field and weather. The fans who become co-owners of the club are the fourth dimension to this success story. They feel involved, are passionate, and have a sense of ownership. This creates a “social value” for the club. The club as a whole coalesces together and becomes a community with a higher purpose than just individual investor interests.
There are intrinsic challenges of being privately owned by fans. They are not able to raise capital from shares, and have to rely solely on incomes generated from the club. Supporters argue that this makes them even more prudent and accountable. Also, less prone to financial excesses and massive debt burdens like the public listed clubs do.
It is worth noting that the German Bundesliga has a hybrid model of the Spanish La Liga. It adopts a 50+1 rule, giving the majority of club shares to fans. The rest is to be purchased by investors. This gives fans a direct involvement in how the club is run and financially managed while still being open to outside investments as well.
This “socio” ownership of football clubs represent a new breed of venture building for entrepreneurs. It is what I call “influence investing”. Founders and investors with common influence come together and enlarge their circle of influence collectively. They all share the same business vision and purpose. They ally their influences to grow the investments through their passionate support, expansive networks, and positive word-of-mouth. Rather than a typical annual general meeting (AGM) for shareholders, it could be a communion of fan club members.
This will be an Owners Circle, just like our namesake.
Do visit www.OwnersCircle.asia to explore opportunities to join our community of business owners who shares and manages businesses together.
A month ago, Candice called me one night to request for me to conduct training for our dearest friend, Chor Siong, who happens to be the Group CEO of Cuscapi Bhd, Asia’s leading F&B business management solutions provider.
I agreed without knowing what I got myself into. The inconvenient truth is… I’ve never trained in a multi national corporation in the IT solutions industry!
I must admit that the beginning of this training was extremely challenging as I had 20 leaders from 5 different nations who barely knows each other sitting in my room.
To cut the long story short… What truly touches my organizing team and I was seeing what started with a hard cold, awkward room ended with everyone from different nations hugging and giving each other high fives!
As we ended the session, I felt truly blessed that the years invested by Candice and myself to build a culture of personal excellence has surprised us with the gift to empower other organizations to build similar culture as well.
For those who have not heard of this program, this is the entrepreneurs convention that made it into The Malaysia Book of Records as Malaysia’s Largest Entrepreneur Convention in 2016 with over 2,500 entrepreneurs under one roof!
Dato KK and I agreed to create a forum on bringing entrepreneurs to share their journey of hyper-growth and exit through merger and acquisition. I thought that this would be an interested topic that would add tremendous value to the crowd.
So, I called 3 of my very good friends who agreed immediately to be featured in this forum.
Who are they?
First, I had George Ang, founder of Revenue Valley who owns Manhattan Fish Market, New York Steak Shack, master franchise of Tony Roma’s, Fire Grill and Popeyes Lousiana Kitchen. In 2012, Ekuinas, the government-linked private equity fund paid RM64.7 million for a 85.76% stake in Revenue Valley Group.
Second the on the list?
Alan Lim, the man who founded MediaBanc and went into a merger with Media Monitors which later on went listed on the Australian stock exchange in 2014 at market capitalization of AUD440 million (RM1.2 billion)
Tham Lih Chung, co-founder of Rhombus Connexion Group, a F&B ecosystem company. Within a short span of 2 years, Rhombus Connexion now owns 19 home-grown brands which include, among others, Wondermama, Rama V, Dancing Fish, The Morning After, The Beer Factory, and Suzie Wong. The group currently has 49 outlets across 4 countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Myanmar.
I was learning so much being a moderator. What I’ve learnt through this forum is entrepreneurs must have the skill to sell a grand vision and most importantly, the capability to manage expectations of all stakeholders and investors!
After the forum, I also invited all 3 panelist to be featured in Owners Circle’s upcoming education programs where I’ll continue to interact with them to share their strategies, tools and tactics that they have applied as entrepreneurs to build and scale their business with the most up-to-date case studies!
We ended our evening at Malaysian Entrepreneurs Convention 2017 with a bang!
That evening, our team Owners Circle rushed to get our costume as we made our way to The Barn’s 2nd year anniversary party at 1Mont Kiara.
As we were celebrating The Barn’s amazing feat to grow into 3 outlets in less than 2 years, we were also celebrating the fact that exactly a year ago, Owners Circle registered itself as a company.
Thanks to my team for walking through thick and thin together. You guys are amazing!
2 years ago, George Ang asked if I would like to join his board in EO Malaysia Chapter as a board member. Initially, I thought I was going to play a role to spread EO’s entrepreneurship spirit among university students and I agreed. However, after being on board, I was assigned as the Mentorship Chair.
As a mentorship chair, I had the duty to ensure that EO mentors and mentees will be paired according to the suitability and relevance.
Being a EO member for 3 years plus, I’ve never truly experienced how EO is like as a global organization until I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Conference where I had the opportunity to meet EO members from all over the world.
Raymond and I took the stage to have some fun at Global Leadership Conference.
The Malaysia contingent at Global Leadership Conference.
To kickstart my year, I had to organize a Mentorship Bootcamp for mentors and mentees to meet. During this bootcamp, I had the support of Stephen Liu, a regional representative and George Gan, a global representative to conduct the program. Both Stephen and George has been instrumental to the Mentorship Program in EO Global and both of them happen to be from Malaysia too!
In the blink of an eye, the entire program has ran for a year!
At the end of the one year program, we brought together mentors and mentees for an Appreciation Dinner.
During this dinner, I had the amazing opportunity to present my mentor of the year, Gan Te-Shen a 1oz Superman .9999 silver coin. Throughout my experience being a mentee, I have learnt the importance of having a mentor in business. A mentor is like a GPS. They are constantly pointing you to the right direction especially when you’re swaying away!
Thanks Te-Shen for being the brain to pick, ear to listen, and for constantly pushing me in the right direction!
And lastly, I want to express my appreciation for Ryan Loo for agreeing to be my co-chair for the entire year. It has been a pleasure working closely with you!
Thanks EO for the amazing experience! This is a definitely must-join organization for all entrepreneurs!
Learning and growing has always been among the top of my values and I have instilled this values among my team members in Owners Circle. Therefore, every quarter of the year, I make the effort to organize trips for my fellow comrades to attend to learn and grow as a team.
Recently, we have been truly blessed to have Phng Li Kheng hosting and facilitating an Inner Peace Retreat for us at Kechara Forest Retreat (KFR).
For a good 3 days, my team and I did some of the best things we have done this year. I had the opportunity to bring my parents along for this trip too!
No meat for 3 days? No problem! The vegetarian food served by KFR was simply delicious!
Waking up at 5.30am every morning. Walking up the hills to meditate while experiencing sunrise. Reconnecting with nature like never before.
We got to experience how is it like to be kids again. We were artists and painters. Unleashing our creativities.
Through this trip, I’ve the opportunity to not only know my team members better but also knowing myself better. At the end of the day, we are just a bunch of young people who wants to do purposeful, profitable missionary work that we are passionate about.
Li Kheng was really nice as she commented on my FB post when I shared my learnings.
Do visit Kechara Forest Retreat at http://retreat.kechara.com to get more information about this amazing experience!
What a motivating Monday as I was given the enviable opportunity to moderate a forum on funding growth which featured:
1) George Ang – Shared how he grew Revenue Valley (Manhattan Fish Market, Tony Romas, Popeyes Chicken, Hainan Kopitiam) and sold 86% of his company to Ekuinas, a sovereign investment vehicle owned by the Malaysian government.
2) Lindsay Tan – 16 years of experience in private equity in SEA. He founded Crescent Point Group that has deployed over USD600 million of capital to Asia Pacific and Middle East to consumer-focused sectors and special situation investments.
3) Tham Lih Chung – Group CEO of Rhombus, an F&B ecosystem company (quick service, full-service, restaurant-and-bar, premium concepts) founded in 2010 which grew exponen-tially from 0 to RM96 million annual sales revenue in 2 years.
4) Kent Chua – Founder of The Beer Factory and last year started Suzie Wong which is cur-rently the top business lounge in Malaysia. He is also a fellow recipient of Malaysia’s 100 Most Influential Young Entrepreneur 2016 award.
The session was truly inspiring! Being the moderator, I’ve had the chance to ask questions directly and discover how entrepreneurs, private equity and ecosystem builders create businesses from scratch with different fund raising strategies, and nurture them to exponential and sustainable growth!
The world of business growth and private business investing is revolutionizing! Opportunities beck-on those who recognize them early and are prepared to seize the ‘bull by the horns’. It was really insightful to learn so many different amazing ideas from fellow successful entrepreneurs!
Rugby is regarded as New Zealand’s national sport. The All Blacks (NZ National Team) is the most successful international rugby side of all-time. With a winning percentage of 77.1% over 552 Tests (1903-2016), they are noted as one of the most prolific teams across any sport in the world!
Three key points to take note about the Hurricanes Rugy:
• 5 of his players are currently playing for the All Blacks.
• The top player in Hurricanes, Beauden Barrett has been named World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year for 2016.
• In 2016, Hurricanes were the champions of the Investec Super Rugby!
What a pleasure it was to meet Avan Lee in person, CEO of Hurricanes Rugby. I’ve always regard-ed managing a sports team as similar to managing a business, so I asked him two burning ques-tions:
Jonathan: What was the most painful decision you had to make to build a high performance cul-ture?
Avan: A leader must have difficult conversations with your key people. At times, your objective as a leader may not be liked by many. However, if you’re single minded focus, know what you want to achieve and be true to yourself, you’re OK!
Jonathan: You have 5 players in All-Blacks and a team of young, world champions. How do you keep them humble and constantly motivated?
Avan: Whether you’re a world champion or a young player, everyone is treated equally during train-ing. All-Blacks has a very humbling culture. When they leave the changing room, irregardless of how dirty the room is with beer cans and others, the All-Blacks will clean up the room and do not leave it to the cleaners. This culture reminds them that they are ordinary people because no one is more special than anyone else.
My biggest takeaway from Avan? Always stay humble and strive for excellence! That is the winning formula. Having the right culture is truly the breakfast of champions.
Thanks to Property Insights magazine for featuring me this month as I shared my experience from my early years as a financial planner to starting SilverMalaysia and now my latest venture, Owners Circle – an Influence Investing community.
In this article, I explained how influence investing has helped me to venture into investing in a private retreat villa together with Dato Tan Su Cheng and also an environmental education hotel together with Calvin Ngai.
I personally believe that the world of business ownership is changing. As the world move towards an era of digital transformation, there is a convergence in crowdfunding and crowdsourcing to opens doors to most people to co-own and grow purposeful and profitable businesses that they are truly passionate about.
Intuition alone is not enough to enter an investment or raising capital. Having the right knowledge and applying it at the right time is power!
P.S, Just to clarify an error printed in the interview, I wasn’t a financial planner 6 months before starting Owners Circle. It was the beginning of my career before I started SilverMalaysia.