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Experiences sharpen leadership traits

Mr Francis Lau: 'Difficult challenges create a learning process.'

Mr Francis Lau Choo Yew
Founder and Managing Director
LCY Development Sdn Bhd

LCY Development was established in Brunei Darussalam in 1997. The company started humbly, with a small team of five employees. Since its incorporation, the company has expanded rapidly to become an active and reputable contractor specialising in building and civil engineering projects. It has completed over 80 projects in the last 18 years.

Founder and Managing Director, Mr Francis Lau Choo Yew, 55, has steered the company well in a very competitive industry with limited projects available in the local market. Citing sufficient manpower and company-owned machinery and equipment as part of the firm's success, Mr Lau, a Brunei Permanent Resident, believes difficult challenges create a learning process as well as a platform on which a business can exercise talents and experience gained over time.

Where were you educated and what are your qualifications?

University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales - Bachelor of Building (Honours). Formal education was necessary, but I have learnt more by simply doing instead of learning to do, especially since I am very interested in the success stories of other entrepreneurs, particularly those in the building and construction industry.

What is your company's Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

There is a substantial amount of machinery and equipment that is owned by the company itself, which ensures there is always enough workforce and machinery to carry out all the projects on hand.

What were the most difficult challenges your business has faced?

We were in a competitive market where there were too many contractors after too few projects, so job creation and sustainability were difficult. It was also challenging to retain skilled and talented staff while ensuring business growth and development. Competency in financial management was a big goal. These difficult challenges created a learning process. Over time, the experience gained helped sharpen the leadership traits.

What characteristics make someone a good leader?

Dedication, persistency, consistency, ambition, impartiality, clarity and decisiveness, diligence, intelligence and smarts. Also clear communication skills, the ability to visualise a company's corporate strategy, and strong character.

What is your leadership style and how was it developed?

It was developed through time, and trial and error in carrying out new tasks. I use personal judgment and the knowledge acquired from professional training. My style is developed from both personality and education. I'm hands-on and have 'the sky is the limit' ambition, and thus I have high expectations of my people. I value consistency in work, and therefore I appreciate a person's efficiency.

How do you tackle human resource issues?

I am both hands-on and able to delegate. A good Human Resources department can be entrusted to look for employees with strong intellectual standing, as well as potential candidates who can be groomed into good future corporate leaders of the company.

As the founder, I ensure I retain diligent and skilled staff by providing good incentives/promotion schemes, rewarding staff for their productivity and working with the HR team to ensure there is no redundancy so that staff are always productive and processes are efficient.

Can good leadership be taught?

Yes. Leadership can be taught but with limitations. Leadership is 50 per cent training and 50 per cent relying on an individual's own personality/character. Stories from successful entrepreneurs and business associates have always inspired me.

Apart from doing well financially, what factors are important for a person to be considered 'successful'?

A leader needs to incorporate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into any business he leads in order to contribute to society and community.