By Brandon Chia
Chairman and CEO of HDI Family of Companies
Member of YPO since 2015
What drives me as an entrepreneur?
When asked this question, my immediate response is a polite smile followed by an earnest discussion about how much joy I get from sharing my knowledge and experience with others.
However, the voice inside me is really screaming, “Power, fame and fortune, of course!” Not the most politically correct answer, but over the years I’ve decided it’s okay to be upfront and honest with my feelings. Here’s my take on it.
Power and influence drives our societies today, especially when we talk about power in the context of authority and control over others. Successful entrepreneurs are, by nature, powerful people because they are natural leaders of their domain. I have come to learn, however, that the power we should pursue is not power over others but rather power over one’s self.
When I was starting out, my first job was as a lawyer-in-training at a reputable Singapore firm. I was pretty cocky and had made up my mind very early on that I didn’t wish to be just a mere employee.
While I was good at what I did, I also disappeared for breaks and took naps in the office. Once my boss caught me snoozing at my desk! Needless to say, I wasn’t retained.
I reflected on my actions and realized that while I was technically competent, my attitude was really bad, and that I wouldn’t have employed myself either. That began my lifelong journey of searching for the person I wanted to be.
My journey reached a milestone when I rebranded my organization in 2013. It was only by pursuing a path of self-mastery and finding my life’s meaning that I could truly shape the company’s vision, mission, values, purpose and legacy. This gave me consistency in my personal and business approach, allowed me to design a multi-faceted brand based on human beliefs as opposed to ideals, and helped me attract those who shared similar values.
In the process, I also learned that power should never be abused but shared among everyone. Through sharing, you discover the meaning in other’s lives and open up opportunities for yourself to walk new and unexpected paths together with them.
Many entrepreneurs start their own businesses because they see an opportunity, and want to disrupt the status quo and build something of value. I’m sure that most also relish the recognition that comes along with the success.
However, because it feels great to be loved, some end up pursing fame as a means to an end and become a slave to whatever meaning others set on your life. I don’t think fame itself is bad — it certainly helps your business when you can market yourself as a brand — but I would rather pursue fame in the context of how I would like to be remembered.
Having a meaningful legacy that truly reflects who you are is far more rewarding in the long run than the image of yourself that you try to build to impress others. In fact, when you are being yourself, things people pick up about you can be very interesting as well. For example, I’m active on Facebook and have entrepreneurs as my friends. One mentioned that he was surprised I was so close to my younger sister (who is also part of the family business). In his culture, it’s not common to be close to your siblings, but my relationship inspired him to reach out to his.
Ahh! Who can deny the desire to want to make a fortune from business? It is the measurement of our hard work, accomplishments, success and, therefore, our status in society.
The problem comes when your needs are filled and you pursue wealth for the sake of more zeros in your bank account. Such lust can often make us compromise our values or cloud our judgment.
In the past, I was all about increasing my revenue and profitability. But I had the good fortune to sit at one of our company events with Basuri Tjahaja Purnama, the brother of the Governor of Jakarta, Indonesia. He said, “It’s fine to make a fortune and, of course, everyone wants to be wealthy. But it’s how you make your fortune that is more important. If you do it with the help of others and you return the favor and give back to your community, your children will benefit from the legacy and the reputation that you leave behind. However, if you do it by stepping on people or cheating your partners, don’t forget that your children will inherit your name and they will be the ones that will suffer the consequences.”
His statement really resonated with me because today, I benefit from the reputation of my father. When I first joined the family business, employees and business partners had nothing but good things to say about him and gave me the benefit of the doubt early on and mentored me willingly because of their loyalty to him.
What drives us as entrepreneurs is a never-ending discussion. What I do know, is that we should always be mindful how our drivers affect the quality of our relationships. After all, there is little meaning in our lives if we have power, fame and fortune but no one who understands us or walks alongside us in our life’s journey.
Brandon Chia has been the Chairman and CEO of HDI Family of Companies since 2013. Born in Singapore with a degree in law from the National University in Singapore, Chia has championed consolidation, streamlining and efficiency of the various businesses within the group. He was also instrumental in driving double-digit growth of the organization’s revenue and profitability. Chia will be part of a panel discussion at YPO’s Insights ASEAN Summit 2016 in Singapore.