Singapore Corporate Awards 2016

'Vital statistics' that add up to a successful CEO

At the awards last night were (from left): presenter John Lim, immediate past chairman of the Singapore Institute of Directors, Best CEO winners William Liem, Lim Ee Seng and Kong Chee Min; and presenter Chew Choon Seng, chairman of Singapore Exchang
At the awards last night were (from left): presenter John Lim, immediate past chairman of the Singapore Institute of Directors, Best CEO winners William Liem, Lim Ee Seng and Kong Chee Min; and presenter Chew Choon Seng, chairman of Singapore Exchange.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Honesty, humility and trustworthiness are important factors that can affect business success, according to Frasers Centrepoint chief executive Lim Ee Seng last night.

Mr Lim's views will carry extra weight, given that he clinched the gold award for best chief executive of a company with a market capitalisation of at least $1 billion.

Mr Lim, 65, told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the Singapore Corporate Awards 2016 at Resorts World Convention Centre that capability, strategy and luck are critical as well.

"There are many factors affecting strategy, so there is luck that affects you, that can work in your favour. You don't have absolute control but you must be able to minimise risk," he added.

"As a CEO, there is a heavy responsibility as far as shareholders, staff and the public are concerned, particularly for listed companies, as you need to have tangible results which the company can achieve, adding value to not just shareholders, but also contributing to the public, to industry and to the environment for us in the real estate industry."

The key challenge he has faced in his 40 years in the real estate business is the cyclical nature of the sector. "Whatever goes up must come down; whatever goes down must come up. More importantly, you need to have faith in the country in which you are investing in," he said.

Another view of how to make a business succeed came from Mr William Liem, CEO of property developer Tuan Sing Holdings.

Mr Liem, the best CEO of a firm with a market cap between $300 million and $1 billion, said being resilient and brave in taking a chance is vital. "You have to take calculated risks from time to time to make better returns, and this is normal. Some people are so afraid, they actually end up not doing anything."

Mr Liem, 43, said a committed team is also important. "No one can work by themselves. Team members are very critical, so I pay a lot of attention in terms of recruitment and I make sure that every individual is aligned in terms of their thinking...

"As a CEO, we won't be there all the time, and our colleagues and team-mates make the critical decisions on the ground. Thus, the culture of the organisation is also important for a company."

Passion coupled with strategy is behind Mr Kong Chee Min's success as CEO of Centurion Corporation. "Strategy is important," said Mr Kong, 51, who was named best CEO of a company with a market cap up to $300 million. "I think it's key to every management, not only to the CEO but also to the board. A strategy must also be backed by a good management team."

He said it is important to evaluate issues while looking at the problems and opportunities. "We face a lot of challenges today with the economy... so we are a bit more careful about what investments we go into."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline ''Vital statistics' that add up to a successful CEO'. Print Edition | Subscribe