PME Conversation - From Bedok Boy to CEO

Photo by Lim Weixiang



    I have often been asked by my friends and business partners to join them for 9 holes at the golf course, but golf isn’t my thing. Instead, cooking is my escape during my free time. I love trying out new recipes and sampling different cuisines.

    Other people splurge on technological gadgets, or maybe new golf clubs; I go around Singapore looking for the freshest ingredients. Over the years, I have invested in a sous vide machine, pasta maker, different pots and pans and even a gas stove to help me prepare ‘Zhi Char’ style dishes. It’s a hobby I can enjoy with my family. My wife, and sometimes even my three children, will chip in to help me prepare the dishes. And after that, we will all tuck in together.

    I think my passion for cooking can be traced back to my childhood days when I used to help my mum prepare ingredients at her noodle stall in a coffee shop. I am basically a ‘Bedok Boy.’ I have lived in Bedok all my life, and right up to Junior College, the schools I attended were all in the vicinity. I started school at St Stephen’s School. My father was a school bus driver who ferried kids to and from St Stephen’s and I followed him to and back from school every day. I went to St Patrick’s Secondary School and after that Temasek Junior College. After national service, I went to Business School at the National University of Singapore.

    I started my first business when I was an undergraduate. Together with Adam Khoo and three other classmates, we operated a mobile disco business. We pooled some money for the equipment like the lights and the sound system. Adam was the deejay, I was the operations guy, handling the money and liaising with the clients. One of our partners had the use of a lorry which belonged to his dad and we would load up all our equipment on to the lorry and transport the equipment to the different venues. We usually ended just past midnight. After we packed up everything, it would be almost 2 am, and we would go for supper, the famous Bak Chor Mee at Block 85, Bedok North. By the time we got home, it would be past 3 am and we still had lectures the next day at 8 am!

    The mobile disco was profitable but we were not raking in big bucks. It gave us some pocket money to spend but the experience was invaluable because that it taught us the basics of running a business. We wound-up the company after we graduated and I started work as a management trainee at Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). I was in SPH for two years before the entrepreneurship bug bit me again, and I left to start a new business with Adam. We started out as an events management company in 2000. In 2002 we decided to diversify our business. Using capital we had accumulated from the events business, we started Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group, with Adam as the first trainer. It wasn’t easy at the start. We put in long hours, very late nights. There was a lot of troubleshooting we had to get right. But eventually the business took off, and we started growing and growing into where we are today.

    Today, our core business is in personal development. We run programmes that help people of all ages, from preschoolers to secondary school students to PMEs, maximise their potential and achieve personal excellence. Through the many training courses that we have run for different organisations and companies over the years, we have gained a good understanding of what PMEs want. And that is the starting point of our partnership with NTUC in the U Associate initiative which reaches out to PMEs through programmes that help them realise their true potential. A big part of my involvement is the annual Future Leaders Summit that enables PMEs to aim for higher heights and break their imaginary glass ceiling in order to move higher. I believe that what we are doing with NTUC is important because as the workforce becomes better educated, PMEs will likely become the rank-and-file of the future. Through this association, PMEs can benefit more by enjoying access to our programmes that help PMEs progress to become future leaders and enjoy NTUC member benefits at the same time.




This story is part of the PME Conversation book which was launched in April 2015. To read more stories, click here.






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