Persistency ● Training ● Integrity ● Trust – Lee Siew Mui
“As the saying goes “It is lonely at the top”. This stunning wake-up call best described the situation I faced,” says Ms Lee Siew Mui, CEO of Fiffy Sdn Bhd, who has been a Vistage member for over four years. She recalls her first “touching moment” she had over the years with Vistage.
“At times when I encountered a set back or bottleneck, I did not have someone around me who was able to support each other and move along together. But now I have a group of CEO peers with diverse backgrounds who can brainstorm together to open our eyes and stimulate a lot of ideas and experiences.” Realising the importance of teamwork, Lee has since been giving due attention on staff development.
Founded over four decades ago, Fiffy has evolved from a family-run factory to a well-known baby products brand. With solidarity between the management and staff, the company had gone through thick and thin. She and the company’s management treat their colleagues as “partners”. “Once a colleague told her that he was very touched to have such a boss (Fiffy Executive Chairman Lee Kiam Heng) who always asks his staff whether they have encountered any problems, complaints about the company’s products, or what are the customers’ needs. By giving staff a listening ear, he makes them feel that they are not alone in their work.”
“Listening to customers or staff is vital no matter whether what you hear is about something good or bad. We must give our due attention to their voices, look into what we have listened and act on it.” However, as the company grows, Lee feels that it is imperative for company to establish more organised systems so as to create a cohesive team.
She pointed out that her colleagues have to understand that the team’s communication is both ways. One must not merely follow what is told by his or her superior. “The idea that I constantly instil in my team is that “we are willing to listen as long as you are willing to voice it out; and we solve the problem together. This communication culture is highly effective to us.”
Lee views that a company’s management not only must add value to itself but also enhance the quality of co-workers. Therefore, she has planned and encouraged staff to participate in a variety of courses and activities to improve not only their technical skills but also spiritual self-empowerment. Given these courses and activities, she envisages staff to uplift their technical capability and widen their perspective.
“Initially, we arranged job-specific training courses for our team and encouraged them to take part as well as read more. Personnel training has never been easy.” A believer in leadership by example, she has actively participated in the courses, sports activities or even charity events such as marathon races and a hair-cutting event organised by the Starfish Foundation as an inducement to others. Her efforts have since finally paid off as she begins to see the changes in her co-workers, resulting in the company’s stronger internal cohesion.
“Now the company not only has its own training facilities, but also arranges a variety of courses and activities, including those related to environmental conservation and spiritual development. These courses and activities are also open to staff’s family members. In addition, the company has a dedicated place for staff discussion to actively deliberate its corporate development and policies.”
With over 600 outlets and 18 specialty stores in the country, Fiffy is a renowned local baby products brand. The company is now actively expanding its online market. Lee says the company has encountered numerous challenges and hurdles over the years, in particular the Financial Crisis in the 1980s when it was at the brink of closure.
“The company had a cash flow problem because the credit term then was at least six to eight months. Fortunately, we managed to turn around by a timely opportunity given to us thanks to our long-standing reputation as a company of integrity and trust.” For this reason, she always strongly believes that integrity and trustworthiness in running a company is of utmost importance.
She added that Fiffy would not have been what it is today if it had not been guided by its belief in integrity and trustworthiness. She firmly believes that “we certainly will overcome any difficult situation facing us if we are persistent in our commitment and optimism.”
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