Mixing business with pleasure

Inspiration comes from the darnest places doesn’t it?

I was chatting with one of my closest friends, Pierre, on whatsapp.

Getting feedback about the content of my newly launched blog, which as you can see, I’m pretty serious about.

It is at this juncture that I would like to announce, the launch of the bossming.com loyalty program.

The person with the most likes and comments on my blog posts via NuffnangX will get to redeem this wonderful domestic device (Apologies to pierre, the likely winner, but only one model available).

Haha, anyway, the conclusion went (And I agree somewhat), that I want this blog to be more about thought leadership, than my personal life, and what I ate this morning (For that, you can refer to my instagram feed or twitter ;-p).

Pierre mentioned not mixing business with pleasure, and hence the title for my first business blog post per se!

As far as my businesses go within the Netccentric group, it is ENTIRELY about mixing business with pleasure.

I have always believed this to be the KEY reason why Netccentric has grown so much. And also integral to the future sustained growth of the company.

As such, this is a lesson for the Nuffies, Nomsters, Lollies,  as much as it is to the general reader.

It is not by accident but by design, that the status of friend and colleague takes equal standing within the company.

How do we design it? Let me count the ways.

Number 1: Take the lead

As the co-founder of the company, I try to be as accessible as I can to everybody. I  take great pains first to be their friend, and 2nd, their boss. I always want to know more about how they are doing in their personal lives. I get them to open up, and its a two way street I know, so this takes some work. Eventually they do though.

It surprises even my personal friends, when they see how I treat my staff. I just don’t look at them as staff when I do it. I always leave room for fun in our worktrips for example. And a particularly memorable trip for me was to Tokyo for the Tokyo Gift Fair. This is Maylene, showing off her camwhoring skills, and Elaine, at Disneysea.

Me and the nuffies in moses (my car)

There are of course clear boundaries, and I make it clear that I’m not afraid to have a go at them, and not be fussed about it, if they have done something wrong. Think Alex Ferguson hairdryer. If you’ve crossed that line, I go all the way.

One of the most common lines I’ve heard is that you should never do business with friends. To me, thats a bunch of hogwash, IN FACT, you should ONLY do business with friends!

What is the alternative? Doing business with your enemy!? Or doing business with somebody you are “MEH” about?

Doing business with your friends, will do one of 2 things. Make your friendship ever stronger, because just like in a relationship, you understand each other better, or completely destroy it, and you know why? Because it could not stand the true test of friendship. Life is too short to live with in betweens, and people who are only there for each other during times of leisure.

What I’m saying here is if I have an employee who takes my friendship for granted, and starts walking over me or thinking that they don’t need to deliver because they are my friend, both the friendship and work relationship are dysfunctional, and should not exist in any case.

Friends are of course tolerant to each others mistakes, and weaknesses, but there is and should be line drawn in the sand. Friends don’t take things for granted, and friends don’t let one another down, repeatedly.

If you watch Suits, you’ll know Trevor, and this is the kind of “Friend” we do not like to have in the company.

Wipe that smirk off your face boy! And mike listen to your grandma!

Number 2: Hiring the right friend

Nowadays, with our group numbers burgeoning at 160 staff regionally, we have a proper HR procedure in place. Do check out our careers page while you’re at it!

This is where I’d like to draw the attention of the HR practitioners in the company. They’ve probably heard it before, but I’m going to give it to them again.

We’ve got the standard filters for pulling people in.Things like

1) Your CV
2) Your cover letter
3) An interview questionaire
4) An interview with HR
5) An interview with a Head of Department
6) An interview with Me

Now as we, formalize these procedures, which are entirely necessary in a growing company, the one thing we can never institutionalize is your heart and your feelings.

A candidate could tick all the columns in the area of skill-sets, or experience, but do they tick the correct columns when it comes to integrity, character, and more importantly would you want them as a friend? Would the others want this person as a friend?

This is the MOST important bit of HR. All respect to Bradsmart and his Topgrading formulas, which I guess have extra relevance in an organization that are too big to care, and just needs to churn those A players in, and those B and C players out.

People who have been interviewed by me, find it strange, when I start talking to them about what they do in their free time? Whether they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, what their political views are, and so on and so forth, but you know what, in those 10 minutes that I’m in with you, I’m trying to suss you out, and figure out, if you’re going to be a great addition to the team socially. You gotta be cool to join the school of rock yo.

Compromise on this and you risk diluting a culture you have taken a long time to build up. Its like adding too much water to your milo …. …. FTS.

Number 3: Conducting health checkups

In line with the point above, whilst it is important to have clear work related KPIs set and monitored, it is equally, if not even more important to have, SOCIAL KPIs checked and monitored.

There are 2 levels to this.

Number 1: Localised checkups
Number 2: Full body checkups

Lets start with number 2 first, which is typically my domain. A full body checkup looks into the sum of parts. Is the team cohesive, are they working well together, do they love one another?

Recently I called for a company BBQ. I called for it on a Friday night, and we got RSVPs in. Call me a hawk, call me a dictator. But I actually do pour over each of these RSVPs seeing who’s coming, who’s not and why not?

We don’t have these things all the time. But when we do,I do hope for a good turnout. Friday night is an important time socially for alot of us, and the fact that we are willing and also WANTING to spend time together says alot. We had a good time, and the laughter that filled the air, and the feelings milling about were genuine and true.

Localised checkups.My staff know I stalk them. And all our HR practitioners better be doing the same. Of course spotting sincerety from fakeness is also part of the job, but whenever I see something like this, I feel a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

The love is not just limited to the girls. The image above, is some true bromance going down with my technical team. Haha.

This is when Louis Armstrong’s, “Its a wonderful world” starts playing in my head, and I get to that bit, “I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do, they’re really saying, I love you.”

Of course health checkups don’t just dig up the good. They also dig up the bad. Somebody who feels they have no personal time for their colleagues for example is simply not going to fit in to our company. We bring them in to counsel them, but eventually they themselves drop out, as they just don’t understand the magic, and as such can never enjoy the benefit.

Anybody who says, “Its JUST a BBQ”, is like Peter here, saying that Porthos is “JUST” a dog in Finding Neverland. Every little initiative, every little action, every little thought goes a long way to building friendships in the workplace that last far beyond it.

What a horrible candle snuffing word! Thats like saying, thats not a diamond, its just a rock … just …”

This post has been all about forging a conducive workplace for friendships in the workplace. But why is that even important? And why do you seem to place so much emphasis on this?

Very simple, because you will fight for the person you love. If you love your colleague, the workplace that provides for you, you will fight with all your heart and soul. And you will win, when you fight for love.

The road ahead, is fraught with many challenges for our young company, but none more so that preserving this belief. As a company grows larger, its philosophy morphs into one that is uncaring, intolerant and exclusive. The baton will have to be passed, and our future leaders will need to carry it forward with equal vigour and conviction. But that is another story for another day.

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Ming’s Random Thought of the Day- The grass is greener

A funny thing happened today.

I decided to drive to the office to pick up my portable hard disk drive, as I was committed to churn out a blog post.

Its quite a challenge getting into my office on a Sunday. Its located very centrally, off Little India!

That’s when our hordes of foreign workers from the Pan Asian region come out to enjoy their rest day. But I was determined to be a good blogger, so I went ahead and drove in anyway.

With mission accomplished (And discovering a nuffie working on a sunday!), I proceeded to drive out by the big field in Farrer park, and thats when I spotted it.

My mind went into random thought mode, I did a quick check in the rear view mirror, did a little top gun reverse thrusters manoeuvre and turned into the field carpark.

What I spotted was this.

A game of Sunday cricket.

I walked in amongst the bemused crowd of foreign workers watching the game. They seemed suitably amused that a local was here watching the game too. Even more so, when I whipped out my trusty BB (Galaxy S3 battery was dead!), and started taking photos. They probably thought I was some government agent spying on their activities or something.

Why was this scene so special, and why had I stopped in my tracks to watch the game?

The answer lies in this next photo, which I took off tomsyard.com via Google images.

This is parker’s piece, in Cambridge, where I spent 2 of my best years studying my A levels.

On a Sunday, one of my favourite things to do, would be to walk by here, plonk myself on the carpet grass, and watch a game I used to enjoy playing myself. I would take in the scene. And admire it.

The classy whites of the cricketers, the arch of the bowler’s form as he delivers his ball, the “thwack” of a good swing, the bustle of the field as fielders scurry to contain the damage.

It was like art. And I loved it.

What stopped me in my tracks and made me turn into the field was the realisation that I would not pass this by in Cambridge. What was making me pass it by here?

Alot of us travel overseas, and enjoy other people’s cultures. But do we even realise that we share many similarities and that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side? (Thats just my bb photo as opposed to tom yard’s SLR btw haha).

I stood there for a good 20 minutes, and throughly enjoyed my Sunday doing it. These were hardmen, I concluded, playing with bare feet on the rough and rocky surface. Even the wicket keeper did not have gloves. I shuddered slightly at the thought of a cricket ball hitting one of them in the balls or face (because both has happened to me, and I had protection!).

There was no cool spring breeze, no smooth carpet grass, or cathedrals in the background. But it was art, a piece of art that belonged to us, and I admired it.


Like the flow of the river

One thing I love about my home, is oftentimes, when I step back after a long day at work. I hear the halls filled with music.

It could be my father playing on the organ, my mum on the piano, or simply the sound of the hifi in the living room upstairs.

On some evenings, the tune is almost like a spell leading me up those spiral steps, to find out more. On one such evening, this is the song I heard. (Read on as the music plays to take in the post).

Does it not take you back through time this song?

The Japan we are all familiar with, is typically one of skyscrapers,

anime (the girl with crossed eyes reminds me of somebody :-p)

And Jpop.

This song though instantly brought me back to the trip to Kyoto I took with my family in autumn of 2010.

A fair amount of the time, I found myself wandering off, and taking in the captivating beauty around me.

Follow the lyrics, which are incredibly meaningful.

I do imagine, it was on a walk such as mine, that such a beautiful song was composed.

Kawano Nagare No Yoni.

I came walking on this long, narrow path
without knowing it
When I turn around,
my distant hometown is visible

The uneven path twists & turns
and doesn’t even have a map
So is the road of life

Ah, like the flow of the river
the era passes by leniently
Ah, like the flow of the river
the sky is just endlessly dyed at twilight

Living and taking a journey,
an endless path
Take The person I love to my side
while searching for a dream

Even if I’m rained on & the path is muddy,
someday the sunny day will come again

Ah, like the flow of the river
I want to calmly go with the flow
Ah, like the flow of the river
The changing seasons

Ah, like the flow of the river
I want to calmly go with the flow
Ah, like the flow of the river
while listening to the blue blabbling stream

I hope you enjoyed the walk with me. The photographs I took together with the music playing, is the 2nd best thing to being there in the flesh.


Ming’s Random Thought of the Day

I’ve often heard this comment about me. That my mind often seems to be in a different place from my body.

That is sometimes true, simply because this is how my thought process works.

As soon as I pick up on something, my brain starts whirring into motion and considering the surface and deeper implications of the object, occurance, or concept. And I can’t multitask, so all focus goes into pondering the matter at hand, often times leading to angry girlfriends. Haha.

I thought writing short posts about some of these random thoughts would be both fun and informative, so I’m starting this series titled rather creatively, “Ming’s random thought of the day”.

Today’s random thought comes courtesy of some double sided tape I bought from retail mecca, Mustafa.

Anybody who’s been to Mustafa knows they are bombarded by the most diverse selection of products available to humankind. So buying a simple roll of double sided tape becomes very much like choosing the pattern of your wallpaper, or the flowers at your wedding.


As you can see, I settled on 3M double sided tape, and the question I found myself pondering later was WHY?

After some processing, I realised there were 2 key aspects to this simple $2.80 decision.

1) Pragmatic and Practical
2) Emotional

For #1, I had decided that since I had spent so much effort, time and money on the project I was using the double sided tape for, it would be stupid to buy some china piang brand, and have my good work wasted.

For #2, the emotional part came in when I saw the big Made in USA sign. I even turned the packaging around to double check. After all, what’s made in the USA nowadays? The emotional side of me assigned quality to a USA made product, and I started seeing an American flag waving in my head.

Which led to the next thought, right before I was reaching the end of my walk back to the office.

With globalisation, I felt a certain comfort, knowing that not EVERYTHING is made in China. The fact that 3M has created a value proposition through its innovation, consistent quality and branding, means I get to enjoy a differentiated product that has given somebody in the USA a job to do.

It is one activity I hope and concluded is likely to continue, simply because I’m sure there are a fair amount of people who will not want whatever they are attaching to their important, scrapbooks or the like, to start peeling off after a while.

Thats it folks, now back to work!


The pursuit of happyness (Part 1 of an infinite series)

I am an analyzer by nature, and I analyze everything.

I guess alot of us do this.

The biggest questions I think as humans we ask ourselves is
1) Why are we here?
2) What is the point?
3) How do we fulfil our purpose?

I’ve gone back and forth on these questions myself, time and time again.

When I was in college, I remember my answer used to be, “I am here to make a mark. To make a difference. To leave a legacy that will be forever remembered.”

My collegiate ambitions thus spanned the range. Amongst them, was to be Prime Minister of Singapore, global champion Squash Player, award winnning Architect, Pulitzer Photographer, I think you get the idea.

photo above is by Pulitzer winning Patrick Farrell (And I am getting goosebumps just looking at it).

The essence of all of these ambitions lie in service not just to oneself, but to others.

I think Singaporeans often get it wrong when they think these pursuits are just all about the dollars and cents.

It is not.

There are realities the common man and woman has to face everyday. The most basic of which, is simply, how to get by? The world is about dollars and cents after all, so we do the logic that if A=B and B=C then A=B=C.

The logic holds, but so does my argument.

The 2 key words we should focus on is SACRIFICE and CHOICE.

Something has got to give.

And it is at this juncture that I should tell you, if you have not watched “The Lady” which revolves around Aung San Suu Kyi’s life, go out there, buy a copy from Poh Kim, tissue paper from NTUC, and hunker down for a cry fest (Or maybe thats just me).- SPOILER ALERT

In a nutshell summary, The Lady is based on Aung San Suu Kyi’s life. And we see her first as a mother to 2 young boys and dedicated wife to an Oxford lecturer, Michael Aris.

The family setting in Oxford is particularly poignant for me as I did my A levels in Cambridge. And you see all the usual trappings of domestic family life. Things I see now that some of my friends have started their own family units and are getting on with their lives.

Whilst ordinary life can be equally as fulfilling, when we admire greatness, we need to understand that sacrifices are a part of this.

Our daily pursuits to bring up our children with good values, within a comfortable environment, the best schools, organic food, whilst rewarding, and fulfilling in its own right, is measured against alternative choices which have consequences and results far beyond our own, and as a result, I believe deserves special admiration.

Back to the plot, it is at this point that Aung San Suu Kyi heads back to Burma to see her dying mother, and witnesses the atrocities and violence of the military regime against her people.

She decides to stay on in Burma, and it becomes evident with time, that the military is going to hardass her, and make it difficult for her as a woman. Take away her support structures. In particular access to the outside world, and her family.

These fat cats in khaki green, of course make it clear she can go at any time. And this is where CHOICE comes into the picture. And sacrifice is chosen.

Aung San could have packed up and left and continued with her life in Oxford, continued life as much of us do. But she did not, choosing instead an uncertain and possibly infinite period of loneliness and isolation. The story is as much about Aung San as it is about Michael Aris of course, who really encapsulates the ideal of love.

This scene is my favourite one in the movie (also because I LOVE CANON IN D), but just because you feel her isolation but the also the love that seems to transmit for her through that little radio.

Who does not harbour dreams and aspirations of true love? I certainly do, but are we willing to pay the price? As Michael Aris did?

We harbour hopes of a better tomorrow, but will we sacrifice our own for others? For perhaps just one other? Do we have that courage inside us?

I started this article wanting to write in a totally different direction that it has ended up in. It started out with a frivolous morning, in which I was shaking my booty to some 80s music, arriving in the office and switching to the Forest Gump theme song, and now listening to canon in D.

The pursuit of happyness is a never ending journey for us human beings, and thus I end this blog post letting you know there will be a second and a third, and a fourth, and perhaps more. Meanwhile ponder for a second that we sway like a feather in the wind, and life is what we make out of it.

The death of prose

It seems a little odd that I should be restarting my blog with a post titled as such, but here it is.

Somewhere along the line, in the last 6 years, I got lazy and stopped blogging. Why?

Well in one word, laziness.

One morning I woke up and said I’ll do it tomorrow, and that tomorrow stretched into a
matter of years.

I’m not proud of it, I think nobody ever is of procrastination, but you learn to forget.

So what changed? Why am I back? And how long will it continue for?

Alot has changed since I stopped blogging. The internet space evolves even more quickly than I could ever have imagined. Twitter in,  Twitter out, Plurk in, Plurk out, Facebook in, Twitter back, Foursquare in, Foursquare out, Pinterest in, Instagram in …

The evolution of social media, irregardless of which fad it has manifested into at any particular point of time has grossly shaped our lives and how we lead it.

Back on point, something dawned on me as I fell in and out of love so easily with all these new internet services that was spawning and then dying out.

They had one thing in common.

They pandered to a universal human need, and the better they did it, the quicker they succeeded. That need is:


No matter who you are, your background or circumstances, it is human to fall prey to the allure of instant gratification.

Unless you’re this guy? Who,  rather admirably has deferred that in this life for eternal gratification afterwards.

Now back to this thing about instant gratification. The internet I believe has brought out both the best and worst in us, and I’m the prime example.

I’ve always been an impatient fella. My mother always has to tell me to stop shaking my legs as I’m shaking away the wealth she says.

The internet brings out the real me. And I’m a slave to several little buttons. The first one is the easiest! Without creating, I want information, so I hit this little sucker! And depending on how deep you’re in, that itch you’ve been resisting to scratch for about 3 minutes gets satiated, at least for now.

Ahhhhhh … that feels good. Now give me more.

And so Facebook and Instagram gave me incentive, in the form of these little devils.

photo is from @marrianemixi, I took it off the web.

Thus, I tweet, instagram and tell you whats on my mind.

And even after this blog post, I’ll continue to do so, because overall the associated benefits that come with these activities, such as keeping abreast with whats going on in the world, with my friends and doing the same for them, remain.

PLUS, I get instant love from all of you.

But the question I find myself asking is … what have I actually created?

The masterpieces I admire as I walk through the museums I enjoy visiting in London or rome, took an entire lifetime to create.

The grand structures, whose walls and crevices and floors speak to me, took 2 or 3 lifetimes.

Sure, technology dictates that we should do more with less, and yet … I believe in established argument, philosophy and theorizing.

I believe that whilst it is easier to create in short form, and today we are rewarded for doing so, taking time and effort to create something and then having it appreciated in a qualitative manner demands a place in this world.

It is with this vision that I restart my blog and also launch my new service, NuffnangX, to bring power and appreciation back to long form blogging and thought leadership.

We live in a new reality, shaped by technology that is constantly evolving, and changing how and if we choose to consume media, and in what format.

NuffnangX brings prose to the mobile platform in a palatable format & relevance back to a space that was losing it.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we can avoid, the death of independent prose in the online space.