Think big, act fast: Rev Asia's Voon

THIS week we pick the brains of digital media group REV Asia managing director Voon Tze Khay

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

I've faced plenty of ups and downs during the earlier years of my life. I lived a pretty normal life with my mom, dad and older sister, until we lost my dad in my early teens. During a time when my life was falling apart, my mom overcame her own grief to become a pillar of strength for the family. She played a pivotal role in guiding me and my sister over the years to come, and is still my role model till today.

This life incident completely changed me, teaching me about independence and facing tough choices and decisions. I was also lucky enough to spend a year in Australia, graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing. My stint abroad and early work experience showed me how diversity in culture and people are some of the most important components that shape how we grow, both individually and professionally.

Furthermore, married life and being a father to 3 wonderful children has given me a greater sense of responsibility and greater meaning to inspiring the younger generation. This entire journey has taught me how to make key decisions in life, even though the outcomes may not be the ones you anticipate.

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

The attitude of the individual is probably the most important thing I look out for. The ability to be optimistic and have the courage to adapt and step in when necessary is often more important than the experience and professional accolades an individual possesses.

At REV Asia, creating an amazing culture is really important. We invest heavily in it, and over time it has proven to attract top quality talent. We put a strong emphasis on flexible practices in the spirit of transparency and diversity at REV Asia.

This in turn empowers our employees to perform, express themselves and grow individually in a competitive, fast-paced industry. We have 5 core values at REV that we live by: Go for Growth, Work faster, Communicate better, Don't (be) so serious, Do the right thing and Care.

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

With the population of Southeast Asia at just over 600m, we are strategically positioned to capitalise on this immense opportunity to engage with a large online user base. Online media consumption is growing at an exhilarating pace, especially on social platforms accessed through mobile devices.

Numerous studies have shown that consumers spend more time on social media than watching TV or reading the news. This shift has influenced the advertising and communication strategies of major brands, where marketing messages take shape as sharable "social" content rather than as interruptions.

At REV, our strategic shift started with Says.com. It was designed to place advertiser content at the center of social attention, positioning brands to effectively capture the new generation of consumers.

Programmatic advertising is also an important channel that needs to be integrated into every marketing campaign, allowing advertisers to make ad transactions more efficient and effective, through the use of data analytics. As the industry and, more importantly, consumer's content consumption behaviour evolves, media companies need to act and pivot fast to capture the emerging digital generation.

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

Don't wait ... if you like what you are doing and have a strong passion for it, the time is now. Starting a business is like drawing on a blank piece of paper. You start with a vision or dream of what it will look like, then slowly fill in the details. You need to have passion, courage and innovation – but most importantly be ready to hustle hard all the way!

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

It has already happened – technology is the main disruptor in the media and content business. Just as how social media has shaped the way we consume content and information today, technology will continue to do that in the coming years. And VR (virtual reality) will be the next big thing in the way people connect and communicate with one another.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional life?

I've had the luxury of working with the founders of REV Asia (previously called Catcha Media) at an early stage of my career. The dedication, perseverance and resilience they've demonstrated has taught and shaped a lot of what I do today and these experiences will continue to be the pillars of my growth in the coming years.

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

Professionally, I would like to see the media industry consolidate further, and have REV Asia play a big part of it. Our top priority is building a sustainable business and becoming the No.1 digital media group in Malaysia. Next on our agenda will be moving into other major markets in Southeast Asia to become a dominant online media player.

Best piece of advice you ever got on your career.

Think big, act fast and never give up!

Most admired business leader? Why?

Jack Ma. From teacher to entrepreneur and creating the largest IPO in the history of today, he's built a monstrous ecosystem–based business model.

If you could have an hour with any thought leader in the world, who would it be and why?

Sir Alex Ferguson. I want to know exactly what happens during his infamous "hairdryer" dressing room treatments he gives to some of his players at half-time, which have resulted in games where Manchester United make a complete turnaround from behind to win key matches.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced ? and what did you learn from it?

Being a Gen-X, I spent the first decade of my career in the traditional print publishing and events business.

I had to lead the transition from print to online and digital media at the end of 2011, experiencing challenges in adapting to the rapid shift in Internet media that was taking over user consumption behavior, as well as the shift in advertising spend to digital media.

I had to quickly evolve by connecting closely and learning from my younger peers, and being resilient despite experiencing some initial failures. I learnt never to give up despite the apparent obstacles, and to continue to persevere in all areas of change. These are the 2 strong principles I live by up to today.

A must-read for every business owner/manager is ...

Delivering Happiness – A path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. It's an amazing book that focuses on company culture as their #1 priority and how Zappos was acquired by Amazon at over US$1.2b (RM5.3b)! Oh and also, Ashlee Vance's biography on Elon Musk. Tesla … need I say more.

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

My lovely wife and children, my amazing mom and the great people I work with every day.