Richard Eu: On Success and Pushing Boundaries
Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year 2011, Richard Eu, talks to Asia Tatler about success and his vision for the future
Recently named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2011, Richard Eu, group CEO of Eu Yan Sang, talks to Melissa Gail Sing about the meaning of success and his passions outside of work.
Asia Tatler: What have you been keeping busy with lately?
Richard Eu: In terms of business, trying to see how we can expand overseas, other than in our core country markets - places like China and Australia. In terms of the medium term, how do we expand to these places? We're trying to see how far we can bring this idea. We can't do it, in the form that we have today. How do we evolve it to a form that is accessible in countries where they've never heard about it? That is the challenge.
AT: Eu Yan Sang reported healthy revenue growth for the financial year ended 2011, and continued to expand its network of retail stores and clinics. What do you attribute the success to?
RE: We're lucky in the sense that our market is more dependent on local, domestic consumption rather than on export. We're not dependent on the consumer market of the Western countries, so we are very much geared to the Asian consumer market, and that has been quite steady.
AT: And this being the digital age, are you planning to harness new technology to grow your business, perhaps even going as far as to set up an online TCM portal?
RE: Yes, it will go beyond that. Of course, going into some form of social media, this sort of thing. These are things that we'll have but if you talk about real technology, it's more in terms of our product development, harnessing modern technology and timely research to improve products and give them a unique differentiation. That's what we're looking at.
AT: You've received a lot of awards in your career, chiefly to do with your leadership. What would you say makes a successful CEO?
RE: There's no single formula for that, because how do you define ‘successful'? Is it the guy who can deliver the numbers all the time? Is it the guy who is respected by staff? Is it the guy that is respected by his peers? There are just so many aspects to this. So to be a successful all-rounder, I don't think there's one magic formula. It's probably a bit of both - who you are and how you have applied your life experiences in managing people. I don't think I am that successful. There are so many who are more successful than me.
AT: What's your philosophy in life?
RE: I live by the golden rule: do unto others as you would others do unto you. I think that's a very basic tenet for any kind of relationship, business or personal. So I think if you're not generous to people you can't expect others to be generous to you. It's a two-way street. I think that's important.
"I like to push the boundaries, see how far you can go. I'm naturally curious and this curiosity drives me to try new things"
AT: And has that approach helped in your career?
RE: I don't think there's one single factor, but it's one of several things. I mean we've had failures as well, you can't say everything has been hunky-dory. So you have to take everything into account. If you don't try, you don't succeed. I think you always have to try. I like to push the boundaries, see how far you can go. I'm naturally curious and this curiosity drives me to try new things.
AT: And what do you do outside of work?
RE: I just became chairman of the National Museum. I play a bit of tennis and I used to do watersports; I love the sea. I also travel quite a bit; I like to travel and learn about new places. I'm off to the Middle East next, to Dubai and Jordan. I used to collect paintings, but I don't do this much now, because I don't have enough wall space [laughs]. But you know, my non-business passion is really music. In July this year, I managed to put together a rock band with some friends of mine. I have two bands: I do jazz as well as rock and blues. We all come from different backgrounds, but we all have a passion for music. That's the beauty of music - it cuts across all boundaries.
AT: How often do you jam?
RE: We try to jam as often as we can. We play at various parties, but I like to play for charity. The last one was for Tanglin Music Club at the Tanglin Community Club. We all came out of the Tanglin CC Music Club so we did a charity gig to raise funds for the club, to refurbish the studios music club. I was chairman of the club at that time, and it was during my time there that the music club started. It's probably the most active music club - we have almost more than 400 members.
AT: As the year-end approaches, many people take the time to reflect upon the past year and to make their resolutions for the year ahead. What are yours?
RE: I think for the business, the main aim is to keep the business moving, keep growing the business. That's really top priority. On the personal level, getting to this age now, it's time to reflect and plan the next stage of my life and prepare for myself when I'm not working here. I don't expect that I will stop working at that time, but I need to prepare myself for what I want to do.
Photos: Benny Loh
Read more about Richard Eu in the December 2011 issue of Singapore Tatler