Having corporate experience helps with the job, says Lim Kee's next-gen leader

HAVING corporate experience helps with the job, says Ang Khim Wee, who - with two sisters - is part of the next generation helping to run the family's business, Lim Kee Food Manufacturing. 

"Join the corporate world, where people will not, and need not, give you any face," advises Mr Ang, who was last with government agency Spring Singapore (now Enterprise Singapore) - where he was involved in helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) build business capabilities - before officially joining Lim Kee in 2014. "Face the harsh reality, but appreciate and understand why things happen."

The experience will make one humble and realistic, he adds, and that will "make life easy" for both leaders and employees. 

Even so, there's still much to be learnt for Mr Ang, as Lim Kee itself has evolved from a small business selling Chinese bao (pau) or steamed buns with filling, to one of Singapore's largest bao distributors over the roughly three decades it's been in business. 

Today, Lim Kee exports its products to China, Thailand, Hong Kong and Australia. It has also set its sights on establishing a presence in Europe. 

Mr Ang's father, Ang He Siong, still heads the company as managing director. 

Mr Ang, who is Lim Kee's head of business development, shares about the challenges of running an SME and his ambitions for the company. 

 

How did you start out in the company?

My first role was with the logistics team, where I tagged along with colleagues out in the field (drivers, merchandisers, technicians and the sales force). The objective was to deepen my knowledge of their roles and responsibilities, and job expectations. It was also to learn about the various challenges they faced.

Later, I joined the operations and business services team to gain more knowledge of production and customer service. 

What are some of the skills that you have had to develop and that you think are most crucial to your role? 

There are numerous skills to develop - product knowledge, operations optimisation, process management, business sustainability and people engagement.

But the most crucial skill, both for my role and as a next-generation leader, would definitely be people engagement. As my boss always says, Lim Kee is a people business serving pau, not a pau business serving people.

What ambitions do you and your siblings have for Lim Kee?

To spread our love for pau, ensuring that this humble snack continues to stay relevant in the fast-changing business and consumer landscape. We also hope that quality pau can be served at every home, everywhere. 

What do you think was your worst bet for the company?

There’s no worst bet for the company. As a small company, every decision has been made with good consideration, recognising the available resources and challenges at that time. There may be some missteps along the way, but the refinement of all these steps is what makes the difference.

And your best?

It would be when we challenged ourselves to shift towards a five to six-day workweek. Previously, we worked almost every day, including Sundays and public holidays. But it was not ideal, especially when our employees started families or grew older.

Till today, it's one of the biggest but best bets the company took in moving towards a more sustainable business model.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far?

The most rewarding moment, or moments, would be during Lim Kee’s annual dinner and dance, where all our stakeholders - from employees to suppliers and partners - come together to celebrate the company’s achievements for the year. It's a good opportunity to celebrate the various small wins together. 

What is one challenge you face as an SME, and how do you overcome it? 

Limited resources! Lim Kee doesn't have as much resources - like finances, processes or knowledge - as larger firms or multinationals.

One way to overcome this challenge is through partnership; we strongly believe in open innovation and work with like-minded partners with the objective of creating greater value for all stakeholders. Putting it simply, we believe that one plus one gives more than two. 

When you are not working hard in the office, where are you to be found?

One upside of my work is that I'm seldom in the office, as I could be catching up with potential partners, customers or vendors. Such face-to-face meetings are very important as they show our commitment to maintaining the business partnerships. 

That said, when I'm not at work, you’ll most likely find me out of Singapore! I love travelling as it allows me to better appreciate people’s lifestyles, cultures, and most importantly, widen my perspective. It also allows me to spend time with my supportive wife and two little princesses.