It was the time when the journalists came to my house to interview my father and I did I really begin to remember how much he has done for me. I began to realize that without my father, I would not be where I am today. He has shaped my beliefs, values and attitudes not just in business but also in the way I raise my own children today.
It was not easy for my father to raise me. I was a highly rebellious, lazy, blur and underachieving child in my earlier years. At the age of 13, my parents divorced and my mother migrated to Australia where she re-married. At that time, it was not easy for my father to bring me up as a single parent. He worked really hard to build up his business and would spend whatever time he had left with me.
In fact, when he started dating again, he made sure that he brought me along on all his dates. Even though many of his girlfriends (there were some Japanese and Ang Moh ones too) weren’t too please that I came along with him on dates and even on their romantic holidays, my dad insisted that I be there and would never dump me at home. Once he met a woman who he really liked but ended the relationship because she did not like the fact that he spent more time with me on weekends than with her. I was always my father’s first priority.
Many people who know my Dad to be a very successful businessman and accomplished industry leader often ask me if he was the responsible for helping me become a millionaire and industry leader. The answer is yes, but not in the way that many people may think.
( My father founded and managed one of the top advertising agencies in Singapore and was also the President of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents. He was also the chairman of Lasalle/SIA and a director on many listed companies and statutory boards like Sentosa Development Corporation, Primary Industries, Orchid Country Club etc…)
By seeing my father as a successful industry leader and self-made millionaire himself, I believe it shaped my beliefs that being successful was indeed possible. It was a standard he set and one that I should definitely match and even exceed one day. By growing up in a Bungalow (with a swimming pool) and being exposed to the tremendous wealth around me, it unconsciously helped me develop the attitude and mindset of a millionaire and business leader.
At the same time, the greatest gift my father gave me was the opportunity to develop my fighting spirit, self-reliance and entrepreneurship abilities. No. He never told me to start a business. In fact, he was against the idea and wanted me to take up the SAF scholarship I was offered and to go for a career in politics of civil service. No. He never gave me any business advice or lent me one-cent to start my own business. No. He never taught me about investing at all.
In fact, he did something most single parents would find very difficult to do. He purposely gave me very little money and insisted that anything I wanted to buy outside of books and food, I would have to buy myself. He kept telling me that I should not expect to inherit anything as he intended to give it all away to charity.
Most parents (especially single parents), out of guilt, give their children everything they want and more if they can afford it. They give them money, games, toys, handphones and even supplementary credit cards. My dad believed that the best way to kill a child’s hunger and motivation for success is to give them what they want. My dad had seen many of his rich friends give their children cars, money, credit cards…only to see them all squander it all away and become bums as adults.
My dad did the tough thing. He held back and refused to give me what I wanted even if it meant that making me unhappy in the short term. as a result of my father’s ‘stinginess’ (he gave me $2 a day in pocket money when my friends got $3-4 in primary school). I also got one of the lowest allowance in Secondary school and JC.
As a result, in order to get money to buy games and toys, I started working during my school holidays from the age of 14. I have worked as a waiter, salesman selling corporate stationery door to door, DJ, emcee, music technician, etc… The need for money also motivated me to start my own mobile disco business at age 15 and a training business at age 17.
It was all this part time work and entrepreneurial pursuits I did during my school holidays that really gave me the life skills that many of my other friends did not have. I learnt how to sell, how to speak in public, how to manage my own money, how to save and invest etc… It also gave me the hunger and drive to make my own money to get what I wanted.
Although my dad did not give me a single cent for any of my business ventures or give me any direct advice about business, I learnt a lot through observing how he dealt with people, how he networked and how he lead his own staff.
My dad believes in treating everyone with respect and creates a warm and family atmosphere in his company, where everyone (including the receptionist calls him by his first name…never Mr. Khoo). I now deal with people and empower people in the exact same way and I found that is one of the the success factors that have contributed to me building a team of highly motivated and empowered high-calibre individuals who work for me today.
His dedication and devotion as a father has also inspired me to be the very best father I can be to my own children, ensuring that I too do not spoil them but inspire them and instill in them the fighting spirit to make their own mark in the world. I have also recently become a member of the Father’s Action Network (FAN) committee, a workgroup of the National Family Council that aims to promote active fatherhood in Singapore. So, thank you Dad for shaping me into becoming who I am today.
For all those of you who are reading this post, I hope that you too will remember the impact that your own father has made in your life and to take this opportunity to appreciate him on this special occasion. Give your dad a call, buy him a gift, write him a note of appreciation and make this his most memorable father’s day ever!