Profiling for Success

Saw Hai Earn - CEO Success StorySaw Hai Earn, Chief Executive, Golden Fresh Sdn Bhd

Saw Hai Earn has found success in getting the right people to run a world-class company by recruiting key staff using a professional profiling system and feng shui principles.

Saw Hai Earn, the Chief Executive behind Golden Fresh Sdn Bhd, has weathered many storms in his journey to transform an ice-factory business in Penang to a world class manufacturer of value-added seafood products. His ‘can do’ mindset, leadership skills and good human capital management were the ingredients for success. Golden Fresh, established in 1989, is equipped with state-of-the-art processing facilities that creates 46 types of products. Its delicious seafood, from tempura prawns to salt and pepper soft-shell crabs are served in restaurants around the world. With offices in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, the group has chalked up revenue of over RM400m in 2008.

Like many family business owners, Hai Earn joined Vistage in 1997 as he needed someone to talk to on business issues. Over the years, Saw says he not only managed to bounce off his ideas, but also learnt and ‘unlearnt’ many lessons.

‘ I was taught to say yes to impossibilities,’ he reveals. He was referring to the time when he thought it was not possible for a company in a developing country to succeed overseas and to manage offices manned by foreigners in advanced countries. This mindset does not exist anymore as Saw now finds himself adept at doing business with Western counterparts, regardless of nationalities.

On leadership skills, Saw recalls that he had to ‘unlearn’ bad habits picked up in a traditional Chinese business setting. ‘Leadership is a two-way street. While we demand and expect performance from our managers, we must also go the extra mile to take care of them, and reward good work,’ he explains. This was contrary to his earlier business exposure where employees were expected to perform because they were paid a salary. Today, Saw appreciates his team and rewards outstanding achievements with special celebrations and champagne.

Hai Earn is fortunate to have found a special formula to get the right team. Part of this came from a recommendation by Vistage to conduct professional profiling when recruiting people. He reveals that he used the Adizes profiling system (management styles using the PAEI Model) and found it effective. The company’s profile was checked while all his senior managers and executives underwent individual profiling in a 3-day exercise. ‘Thank goodness, the CEO profile was spot on,’ he confides with laughter. Other key executives were re-arranged in the company’s organisational chart if their profiles did not match their job functions.

The other part of the formula centres on feng shui. During recruitment and the first interview, the biodata of candidates are checked based on feng shui principles. If shortlisted, they will be profiled with the Azides method. ‘There is no need for a 3-month probation period,’ Hai Earn declares, if the profile and feng shui assessment are acceptable. He confirms that this formula is ‘90% spot on’. While in the company, all key staff are seated in locations in the office that follows feng shui alignments. Even Golden Fresh’s production facilities are aligned based on prevailing good feng shui elements.

With effective key executives in different regions of the world in place, Hai Earn is now concentrating on strategic issues related to sustainable fish sources, marketing to end-users and consumer education to chart future growth.