First Impressions by Ashley Tan
In his 30s....he is the CEO of CIC Holdings, a Local investment firm that owns luxury properties across Asia, a fleet of Vehicles and stakes in businesses dealing in Agriculture, Crude Oil and even Education. He comes across as a normal guy if you even bumped into him on the streets in his Levis and sleeved shirts. During the course of our interview I found the man to be humble, very humorous and extremely knowledgeable in economics and the field of Business. He is normally very media shy and quiet, we were very lucky to be granted this interview.
Mr Chia started his journey just like any typical Singaporean boy, was born to a middle class family whose mom is a professional in the medical field and to a dad who is a local and a professional involved in community development. He studied in a local boys school (Saint Andrews Junior and Secondary) and went to a local polytechnic at Temasek just like any teenager getting on with his life. He enjoys sports like gyming, sailing and running even coming in 14th position for Sundown marathon for the mens category. A totally average Joe next door kind of guy with no special advantages for beating the system.
One thing that sets apart Mr Chia from other boys his age was a combination of three very important ingredients is attributed to all successful men. Firstly while most people just talk and dream, he is a very determined, action orientated and charismatic person. He talks little and acts before even sitting to discuss his actions with anyone. While other boys in Polytechnic were busy chasing girls and having a gala teenage time, he was very much involved in experimenting with various business like selling hamsters to retail pet stores and even starting his own tuition agency which paired off parents who need tuition for the child and with teachers who have the qualities necessary to ensure a child's success in the subject he is weak in. Determination alone is useless without action. He refused to take a cent of allowance from his overburdened parents who took pains to bring him up. At this point he was 17 years of age and pulling in $2000 a month in sales generated from his business. This was back in 1996. It was a combination of all the early business experience (both success and failures) that sharpened his instinct and acumen. A diploma holder back in 1990s earned $1500 a month.
Q & A
One thing i gathered about this young man is that he possess a fierce passion for anything that is worth pursuing. Here are some questions we asked him..
Q : What advice do you have for young people who may or may not know what they want to do in life?
A : In his words he told us that, "there are many people out there expanding their energies into the wrong areas. In wrong businesses, in wrong relationships and even wrong friends. Always be honest to yourself and reflect on what you do best in life. Everyone has to be good in one area. Even young men who love computer games are making a huge bundle from uploading their review of games and recording their play on YouTube. Do in life what you do best in and you will excel and enjoy every single day of your life. Dreams can come true only if you believe in your abilities and is mentally prepared to do what it takes to get to your goals. Always formulate a plan for actions for a man without plans will only ensure you fall into someone else plan"
Q : We understand that you are the owner and shareholder of a few tuition centers in Singapore. You have also written dozens of articles for leading children magazines and as a private investor who also invested in many other assets like oil fields and luxury condominiums. We like to enquire how you first came into contact with the private teaching line and what was it about tuition that got you involved heavily in this industry?
A : Tuition always has been close to my heart as I always have a healthy respect for teachers. I started giving tuition to kids myself to supplement my tertiary education when I was 18. During those days,I had to pay an agent commission to find me a student. So I opened my own firm to match and mix assignments. Another department soon developed, and that was having lessons at my premise. In due time,I bought and opened several centers to give good quality advice and ability to beat the educational system. I select my managers only from the best. Only the best can teach your children to give the best.
Q : What advice would you give our young ones who have no advantage of being in a rich family? Yet who aspire to become financially free?
A: Youth is an asset in itself. It’s the time a man has the most energy. He feels immortal because he is so young he can afford to make mistakes and learn from it. A man who wants to achieve a financial target must set a goal in terms of dollars and cents(Eg save $2 million by 40). His goal cannot be in terms of time (Eg to retire by 40, otherwise by 40 he will find he is way off his target and he will push back his timeframe to retire by 50 and later 60 and 70). Be practical. Know how much u need to survive and save and invest your way towards it. Break a massive goal or problem into many small achievable targets.
Q : How do you select if an investment is worth buying and getting involved?
A: Every business comes with its managers. I always look at the managers. If he is motivated and determined, I will buy him regardless of the industry he is in. Thus I have been involved in things like hair salons, restaurants and lodging for foreign kids. The best resource in any business is the human resource. I am always looking for good managers may they be equities on the stock markets or a barber shop.
Q: Did you have a mentor who taught you how to do business when you were younger?
A : My parents have always instilled in me never to borrow or take loans and to buy only what you can afford. This advice has served me well but in the beginning I felt everything was so slow moving. The rewards only started coming in when I was in my 30s. I was also conditioned from young to never give up and never stop believing in yourself. It helped me completed marathons,instilled iron discipline in my life.
Various Articles we managed to "dig" up on Mr Chia.
Q : We understand that you are surrounded by staff and partners who are equally disciplined. Is it true you sign them up for marathons too?
A : it’s true that I always encourage my staff to do exercises and I choose only the most disciplined and hardened people to manage my businesses. Many have achieved multimillionaires status. I can only point a man in the right direction but he must put his feet and walk towards the promised land.
Permission by SP Media Limited to reproduce this on our site. Many thanks to Mr Chia and his media relations team for making this possible.
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