Content in this article is based on the Cut the BS podcast by Found8, episode 1: Michelle Yong – A wife, a mom, a serial entrepreneur, and our boss.
In the public eye, Google Michelle Yong and you’ll see various news and lifestyle articles addressing her identity as the 4th generation family business leader of the Woh Hup group and the Director at Aurum Land. She’s best known for taking the reins of Aurum Land and growing it into a successful boutique residential subsidiary and real estate company.
To people who don’t know her, Michelle humbly introduces herself as first and foremost – a wife and a mother of four young children, as well as a serial entrepreneur and a family business leader. You’ll most likely hear this version of her at one of her children’s playdates and non-business settings.
Being a part of a four generation family-owned business can bear great challenges. From facing the pressure to perform, inescapable business talks at home, to managing expectations, these are some things that are unavoidable for family businesses and it was no different for Michelle.
Undeterred by “third-generation curses” and a prior lack of experience in the construction industry, Michelle showed tenacity and persistence in her will to diversify and bring value to the lineup of family businesses. We invited her on our podcast Cut the BS by Found8 for an intimate interview session to find out how she juggles between four young kids and three businesses – you can say, seven babies in total!
1. Creating Growth & Opportunities
Michelle believes in being the creator of growth and opportunities for her children and also her team at work who she considers extended family. One of the key driving forces behind why she started so many businesses is to provide opportunities for them when they grow up. Should they want to join the family business, they would be able to take on one of these businesses and make it their own.
Learning from her father, she relishes in the opportunity given to her 14 years ago to join the Aurum Land board of members, and worked hard to grow the business into what it is today – winner of multiple awards and recognised as the Best Boutique Developer Asia 2020. To have such opportunities to create and add value is what she believes in passing on to her children.
2. Earning Her Stripes
The fact that Michelle was granddaughter and daughter of the company’s directors made it harder for her to earn the trust and respect of them at the table. Working doubly hard, she picked up technical skills of the trade through a part-time masters in real-estate evening classes and weekend coursework. Apart from being self-taught on coordination and master programs, she relentlessly asked her architect uncle questions for help.
Clearly, she felt the need to prove her worth and attain a seat she deserved with the rest of the decision makers. Running her own businesses now, Michelle takes on a kinder approach in trusting the people joining her team. Towards new people, she always gives them the benefit of the doubt, but they can also lose her trust fast when they don’t perform up to standards.
3. Building Ideal Team Dynamics
Helming three businesses, there is definitely a need to have structure and great team dynamics for operations to run smoothly and for employees to feel a sense of belonging. Michelle leads her companies by deliberately building a flat-hierarchy and hands-on culture.
Although she holds the view that “a boss shouldn’t be friends with their employees”, it’s mainly considering how it would be difficult for the boss who needs to make firm decisions in terms of performance and management matters or improvements. If you care too much like Michelle does, it becomes difficult to be upfront when employees have dropped the ball and ultimately results in you being less effective as a boss.
Being part of a team, Michelle emphasises the importance of willingness to chip in to do whatever it takes for the business and not draw too strict boundaries on what’s in your job scope and what’s not. In that sense, she absolutely walks the talk, playing a hands-on role in all projects.
“Whatever the team needs and what the business needs, there’s no job too big or too small for me to contribute to.”
– Michelle Yong
4. Choosing Values that Matter to You
In setting up the foundations of every business, Michelle sets clear visions and values with her team. When there’s a clear purpose and value to your business, things become much clearer and every team member can be aligned to work towards the same goals.
Michelle’s advice: follow the 3Hs
Heart – visions and values alignment
Head – intellect or aptitude
Hands – learning necessary skills easily with the right heart and head
These values will serve to guide you when you’re faced with having to make difficult decisions, and gives you the confidence to do so.
To all aspiring entrepreneurs,
“If you don’t try, you’ll never know. If you have a new idea and you can’t stop thinking about it, just do it. Go find out. The worst decision is no decision.”
– Michelle Yong
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