Horsepower matters to Don Cheng (you can tell from his fleet of cars), but practicality takes priority when it comes to his everyday ride. That is a key trait the CEO of engineering firm Hai Leck finds in the new INFINITI Q60 sports coupe, which he gets behind the wheel of for this photo shoot. “The Q60 is good-looking but subtle, which is great for daily use because my team and I visit our construction sites and dormitories often.”
During the interview, the 2016 Generation T lister recounts the time he had to adapt to the responsibilities of being CEO of a public listed company when he succeeded his second sister Li Chen in 2012 at age 30.
“I definitely felt the stress, but I never had it easy to begin with. I learned the ropes from my father who was very strict with me at work. So it was a steep learning curve, but I’m glad I went through it,” says Don, the youngest of five children. He might have been relatively young by industry standards when he took over the reins, but he was determined to earn the respect of his employees.
As we cruise along the secluded tree-lined road that meanders around HortPark, we settle in at a leisurely pace discussing the importance of forging strong relationships in business.
What made you decide to take on the family business?
I grew up watching my father work extremely hard to build the company to what it is today. It made me proud of his achievements, but also got me thinking of ways to help him shoulder some of the responsibilities. I have been playing golf since age 14 and had the opportunity to pursue it at college in the US. But I eventually decided against it and joined Hai Leck instead.
What are the challenges you face when working with family?
Emotions may fly and relations may be strained at times, especially when there are differences in views among the older- and younger-generation leaders. But we always listen to both sides and go with what works best. At the end of the day, when we have a meal together as a family, our bond remains strong, if not stronger.
How would you describe yourself as a leader?
I’d like to say approachable and open; one who encourages work-life balance; one who aims to do his best; one who doesn’t hold onto negative feelings; one who understands that a company’s culture starts from how he treats others; and one who encourages kindness, learning, respect and discipline. I always remember what my father once told me: to run the business the right way and with heart.
What keeps you going?
Sports—to train my perseverance and keep fit all at once. I try to swim every morning and jog around my estate regularly. I’m also a foodie and make it a point to try a new restaurant every weekend, while catching up with family and friends at the same time. It perks me up and prepares me for work in the coming week.
Photography: Chew ChenYang/Penoramic Publishing
Grooming: Zoel T
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