Taking Charge – Teng Beng Lee

Teng Beng Lee

A major change in management style helped Teng Beng Lee steers his company out of the woods. He took charge and it made all the difference.

The amicable Teng Beng Lee learnt the hard way that trying to please everybody all the time is not good for business. He was in dire straits because of his consensus management style. Attempting to get everyone on the Management Team to agree before making major decisions contributed to delays in making decision leading to missed business opportunities and slow implementation of any much needed change. When he joined Vistage in 2002, the solutions that came from his Chair and Group were summarized in two words: Take Charge.

Teng rose from medical representative to CEO. He founded Medispec (M) Sdn Bhd, a leading wholesale distributor and marketer of pharmaceutical and healthcare products in 1985. ‘I am a pharmacist by experience,’ he states with humour, of his 32 years in this field.

Knowing the pharmaceutical industry like the back of his hand, Teng knew he could not compete with the big boys. He sought cheaper generic drugs made in neighbouring countries like Thailand and India and secured the distribution rights and proudly calls his company “The House of Generics”. Business appeared to be fine until 2002 when the company was wrongly hauled to court for trademark infringement and the company suffered almost RM6 million lost of sales overnight.

This proves to be a blessing in disguise as it forces Teng to look deeper at the operational aspect of his company. Supplier agreements, cost control, computer systems, for instance, needed change. He realized that a lot of systems were not put in place because of his consensual style of leadership.

Looking back, Teng is glad that Vistage gave him a wake-up call to take charge of his company. Though Teng has moved away from consensual style of leadership and has taken charge, the opinions of his management team are still valued. What has changed is that when a decision has to be made, Teng will take charge and make the best decision after studying the opinions of his management team. ‘All are encouraged to share their opinions and perspectives, but one guy has to make the decision’ is how he describes his new management style. As a result, the company went through an overhaul of sorts. ‘A company is like a house, it must be in a saleable condition at any one time, everything must be in place, ISO, procedures, policies…’ he explains.

Teng believes that he has become a better leader after joining Vistage. In his own words: “I am surrounded by a pool of talented and experienced fellow CEO’s that allows me to tap into their vast resources of learning and experiences. Their willingness to share their foibles and achievement as a leader in their own establishment allows me to relook at my leadership style. I begin to discard what is not good and continue to sharpen my skill as a leader in my company.

My Chair in our many one to one meetings provides me with the opportunity to have a personal tutor and mentor to guide and mould my leadership skill. He has become to me a personal mirror that I can look at and emulate and also a sounding board to bounce off my ideas with. All these have helped me to become a more capable, effective and confident leader.

Taking charge has put Medispec on firm ground. The company, with its headquarters in Penang, recorded a turnover of RM20m last year. Teng is now taking the company to the next level. He is planning to launch several new lines of products, hiring more representatives, moving to new buildings and ISO certification. ‘We are ready to roll, the company will grow by leaps and bounds,’ he proclaims.

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