Busy start for Teo Ser Luck as private citizen

After more than 10 years in public service, Mr Teo Ser Luck stepped down as Minister of State for Manpower on June 30. He plans to venture into the tech business while continuing to be an MP of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
Mr Teo Ser Luck will continue to be an MP for the Sengkang Central ward in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
Mr Teo Ser Luck will continue to be an MP for the Sengkang Central ward in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Former minister of state for manpower brimming with ideas for business ventures

The move from private citizen to public official in 2006 was a lifestyle change moment for Mr Teo Ser Luck. Weekends were no longer planned around time with his wife and two young children, but around constituency events.

But one aspect of his life remained unchanged: a daily run and workout at 5am.

He credits the early morning habit for keeping him clear- headed in the hectic world of politics for 11 years, as he juggled the demands of serving residents and of being an office-holder, as well as mayor of North East District for eight years.

"Apart from helping me keep fit, the morning runs and workouts also give me a sense of control and get me in the right frame of mind for the day,'' the 49-year-old told The Sunday Times last month, as he prepared to give up his public office and step back into the world of business.

The last day of June was his final day as Minister of State for Manpower. But the genial former junior minister will continue to be an MP for the Sengkang Central ward in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, the constituency he has represented since 2006.

Before taking up public office, he was general manager of DHL Express Singapore.

 

He now brims with entrepreneurial ideas for ventures he believes in. And he is raring to go.

Yesterday, as most people wound down for the weekend, Mr Teo made a string of phone calls and met various people to talk business.

His plan is to have equity in some ventures, and play an advisory role or sit on the board in others.

But their products and services must sell on their own merit, he emphasised. "I don't want to value-add by just lending my name."

Sitting in the free workspace he set up at Sengkang Community Club this year, he said the ventures must also strive to go global.

For now, the five-time Ironman triathlete is developing a fitness-related venture. It started from an online fitness company co-founded by Mr Alvin Ho, 34, who approached Mr Teo after reading the news that on retiring from public office, he intended to help start-ups.

Mr Ho was drawn to Mr Teo's affinity for health and fitness, while the former minister was inspired by Mr Ho's hard work and dedication to the project. Mr Ho said: "Mr Teo has been inspirational and motivational... He has this innate ability to think out of the box."

The new-look venture will be larger, have a greater variety of services, and have beefed-up technological capabilities as well.

The companies that enthuse Mr Teo tend to be technology-related or want to be more tech-focused. Besides the new venture, he is involved in e-commerce and developing artificial intelligence technology in the finance, commodities, food, education and other sectors.

He is also keen on traditional businesses, especially preserving heartland shops and lending them a hand to transform and grow.

He sees his years in helping formulate public policies as invaluable in giving him confidence to handle different aspects of companies he wants to help.

Mr Teo held portfolios in the former Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), as well as in Transport, and Trade and Industry, before he became Minister of State for Manpower, where he oversaw the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme, which promotes the use of technology in companies to be more productive.

He said it was a privilege to serve in the Government and he is grateful to all his colleagues, especially Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who was helming MCYS, where Mr Teo held his first public office as Parliamentary Secretary. Then 37, he was the youngest office-bearer.

Dr Balakrishnan was very patient, he said. "I was 'blur like sotong' but he helped me understand how the system worked."

In his eight years as mayor, he shuttled between offices at the district and ministries.Now, his office is an iPad and a notebook on which he scribbles flowcharts and ideas.

His family supports his decision, he said. His wife Jenny Law, also 49, is a director in an IT multinational company and they have a son, 17, and a daughter, 15. His children tease him about wanting to accomplish many things at once, but he hopes his new work life will give him more flexible hours to spend with his family.

He will also continue his weekly Sunday morning football games with Sengkang residents.

One programme that he feels has made a difference is his district's Community Employment Programme. It gives residents transition jobs, such as manning mobile library kiosks or the reception desk at the community club, while they search for long-term employment.

Age should not be a barrier to trying new things, and to those who feel entrepreneurship is something they want to try but have been putting off, he said: "Do it, if you want to do it, (so) you live your life with no regrets."

"YOLO," he adds, an abbreviation for "you only live once".

Moving through life is like running - one has to constantly review the direction one has chosen, said Mr Teo."You want to move at a pace where you're happy and energised, and while you're running, you may find new paths," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 02, 2017, with the headline 'Busy start for Ser Luck as private citizen'. Print Edition | Subscribe