Take on new challenges, says PUC group MD Cheong

THIS week, SunBiz gets the thoughts and views of PUC Bhd group managing director and CEO Cheong Chia Chou.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I was fortunate to be born in Malaysia, a truly multiracial country that carries the "Malaysia Boleh" spirit. My further studies in Singapore has also widened my view of the world, enabling me to appreciate life values and the people around me.

For my business ventures, I got to travel a lot within Southeast Asia during the first few years, and this led to me seeing the world outside of Asia too (where I had set up offices in more than 10 countries).

All these life experiences has enabled me to understand and appreciate different aspects of cultures and thinking, which enabled me to close the gap, localise operations, as well as grow my business and talent.

What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?

Firstly, what matters to me most is attitude – with qualities that show a real eagerness to learn and dedicate time and exercise patience in what one does. Some call this passion.

As a company grows, I realise that the willingness to learn is not enough. It needs to be supported with the ability to contribute to the team and the company. Lastly, one needs to appreciate the company and its people – this is what will make one continue to stay with the group for the long term.

These trio of qualities is key and also other factors, such as upbringing, environment and the peers you surround yourself with, add to the mix as well.

How do you think the industry you are in will evolve in the future?

I believe computer programming is a subset of what we know as technology, which is so powerful that it helps make human life simpler, better and happier.

Technology is not meant to confuse or complicate matters. If applied negatively, I often joke that we will experience how technology comes to take over and become a master of our lives like what you see in the Terminator movies.

On a more serious note, technology is indispensable and if done the right way, can improve every aspect of one's life. It is the adaptability of people and willingness to learn that will allow us to make the most out of the technology we have and how we will enhance it in the future.

What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business?

For those who are seeking a new career, always have an open mind and do not assume that things should work in the usual way. Be creative and be open to new opinions.

For those who are starting your own business, do not start if you cannot commit. Setting up a company, registering your business, renting an office space and hiring people is easy, but all of that comes with responsibilities. There is no quick rule to success and you can see that when you look at the big and multinational companies today (that have been in the business for 10 or more years). They must be doing something right, otherwise, they would not be what they are today.

Commitment to the business requires more than your commitment to your family, because as the business grows, every single decision you make affects the income and wellbeing of hundreds, if not thousands, of households.

We all know about the industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution? Your thoughts.

Technology is merely a tool. It is harmless and not something to be afraid of. So, we should constantly embrace and look out for new technologies that can help better our life or business.

In today's digital age, we need to challenge ourselves to step out of our traditional comfort zones, because the next thing you know, technology is always ahead and is the catalyst that changes societal behaviour and the ways in which people do business.

If businesses do not stay ahead of the curve, they will lose out in the long run. For example, we are now so used to taking digital photos without necessarily having printouts or getting a ride with a ride-hailing app.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional life?

I once heard from a friend who said, "Everyone (especially entrepreneurs) needs a mentor". I think he is right and I am fortunate enough to have more than one mentor in my life. One characteristic of mine is that I am a person who likes to bounce new ideas with friends and listen to what they think and have to say about these ideas.

Their input and feedback is invaluable, helping me to understand what possible concerns there could be and what are the good points – this provides me a platform to rethink, reshape or strengthen my ideas.

Many a time, this has resulted in better, more solid ideas as you have more thinking caps than just one.
I am very thankful to all my mentors, and I very much hope to be able to contribute and give back to the society one day including providing useful mentorship.

What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?

I hope to bring PUC and its subsidiaries to the next level of growth with a solid team to support our development as a leading digital services provider in Malaysia. I also hope to be able to contribute positively to the society.

Best piece of advice you ever got on your career.

The best advice I have received is that "You can lose everything including money, but you cannot lose trust". What this means essentially is that reputation is the most important asset of a company and how you preserve it is reflected in everything that you do – however big or small.

To me, it is important to fulfill your promises. It is as simple as when you say that you will respond to someone by the end of the day, make sure you do it. Even if you do not have an answer, an acknowledgement or an explanation on measures you have taken thus far, should be made. It is also important not to be defensive or give excuses.

How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?

I read quite a bit, listen to the radio and watch the news to keep up-to-date. It is important to be in the know and even more crucial to be positive, especially as a company leader, as this keeps you moving and allows you to be forward-thinking.

Life is never a straight line, there will always be ups and downs. Surprises could be both good and bad. This is where a good mindset can guide you through the opportunities and challenges your industry has in store for you.

Malaysia's greatest brand.

AirAsia. It is amazing to see the evolution of how AirAsia started and how it became one of the largest airlines in Asia.

The management team has done a wonderful job and every Malaysian should be proud of this homegrown brand. Being a frequent flyer myself, I also have high respect for the quality of onboard services provided by the crew.

What are the top three factors you would attribute to your success?

The daringness to change and take on new challenges. The drive to always give it a try and never give up.

This comes with not being afraid of failure, as the learning you gain along the way are the building blocks to success. Being always prepared, planning well and putting in the hard work every time.