(Feature Picture of Dr. Patrick Liew. Source.)
Yay! Today we have the huge, huge pleasure of interviewing Dr. Patrick Liew.
Dr. Patrick Liew (or Uncle Liew as I like to affectionately call him) is a philanthropist with a big heart for entrepreneurs and the younger Singaporeans. He’s always very generous with sharing his vast experiences and knowledge as well!
An award-winning rags-to-riches self-made millionaire, Uncle Liew has also taken 3 companies to public listing on various global stock exchange.
Enjoy the interview! Feel free to regularly check out Uncle Liew’s website too.
TH: Hello Uncle Liew! Can you tell us more about yourself and what you are doing?
Dr Patrick Liew: That’s a profound philosophical question. There are moments when I wish I know who I am and what I am doing. Hahaha!
I’m just an ordinary guy who grew up in poverty, struggled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and faced many other challenges. As a result of these wonderful ‘blessings’, I am compelled to learn and improve myself. These are also the same reasons why I’m driven to pay it backward by helping other fellow travelers in life.
I’m grateful to have a fruitful career, rising from being an apprentice to becoming Chairman of the region for a multinational company. As an entrepreneur, I’m thankful to be given the opportunity to help list three companies in three different securities exchanges in USA, Australia and Singapore. In the near future, I’ll be helping to list the fourth company.
Currently, I’m focusing on strengthening my business, financial and property investments. I am also helping entrepreneurs transform their business models, list their companies, grow through mergers and acquisitions, and tap the capital markets.
My time is also spent on planning, leading, organising and managing some charity, professional,philanthropic and humanitarian non-governmental organisations.
TH: You have been so resilient and successful in your career. Can you share with us the motivation behind what you do?
Dr. Patrick Liew: I believe life is short and it doesn’t have any rehearsal. There’s also no chance to rewind, replay and redesign the past.
Therefore, I subscribe to an aspirational value: Anything worth doing is worth doing with passion and excellence.
This value statement embodies 5 key factors: Disciplined mindset and choices; Purposeful lifestyle;Focus on priorities; Living with passion; and Pursuit of excellence.
TH: Can you tell us what is the lowest moment in your life, and how you found the strength to move on?
Dr. Patrick Liew: The lowest point in my life happened during the SARS crisis in 2003. At that point, the economy took a nose dive. Property market crashed.
My business was at the brink of bankruptcy. I was carrying liabilities to the tune of millions of dollars. Damaging rumours were floating around in the public. I was mentally and emotionally torn.
I looked up and sought divine assurance and guidance. Strange as it may sound, I found a deep sense of peace and inspiration to press on and keep pressing on to turn the tide.
The SARS crisis drove us to re-imagine our future, redesign our business model, re-engineer our corporate culture, refresh our leadership and talents, revitalise our operations, and refocus on strategic markets and opportunities. We were also inspired to build a culture of love – to bring out the best from our people and help them live a meaningful, exciting and fulfilling life.
Through the darkest hour of my life, I learned that you may not be able to change a situation, however, you can change your response to it. You can rise above the situation and shape its purpose and significance to your life.
Whatever has happened in your life may not be the best. However, you can make the best of whatever has happened. I found that our Creator has given us a powerful gift – the gift of choice. We have a tremendous amount of potential to turn failures from being a pitfall to being a platform for success.
TH: What is the one popular misconception that people have of you, which is far from the truth?
Dr. Patrick Liew: Perhaps because of my past achievements, completion of a doctorate degree, and track record for helping many to succeed, many people think I should be wise and an accomplished leader.
Deep in my heart, I know I’m just a lifelong student who has to struggle with many personal downsides and challenges in life. There’s a lot more to learn, improve, do and achieve in the days ahead.
TH: Do you think Singaporeans lack role models? If yes, how do you think younger Singaporeans can overcome this?
Dr. Patrick Liew: I don’t believe there’s a lack of heroes: from time past to present, young to old, male to female, and people from all walks of life that can be our models, mentors, pacesetters, and inspirations for success.
Young people should continue to be humble and have an open mind to learn, improve and strive for better results.
One good way to achieve success is to walk on footsteps of giants and improve on the footsteps. By doing so, they can reach the same and if not, a better destination.
TH: Do you think Singaporeans still suffer from the colonial mentality of thinking that everything American/ European is superior to us? How do you think we can overcome this?
Dr. Patrick Liew: If there’s such a mentality, it’s probably affecting only a remnant of society, including some people who seem to believe that western-style liberal democracy is the best possible panacea for societal ills and unrests.
The world is at the brink of a new era. The advancement of technology and collapse of the information float, coupled with globalisation and flattening of the new economy are developing new landscapes. At the same time, it is disrupting, disintermediating, and devaluing many current structures, systems and processes to create unprecedented opportunities.
We stand at the inflection point where a flux of deep changes and how we respond to these changes will determine our next phase of prosperity and progress.
Therefore, by all means, we should learn from the West and for that matter, from other countries. Just as importantly, we need to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn attitude, knowledge and skills. We need to creatively “destroy” and rebuild ourselves and our teams so as to achieve radical breakthroughs in a disruptive world.
TH: What do you think about the state of entrepreneurship in Singapore? If there are flaws, how do you think Singaporeans can overcome them?
Dr. Patrick Liew: The challenge for Singaporeans is that for too long, we live in a society characterized by “kiasuism” (fear of failing and losing). We are not only afraid to fail, but we also frequently disdained failures in favour of success stories. This culture runs contrary to fostering entrepreneurship.
For example, it’s not surprising most graduating students prefer to look for jobs than to start their own businesses. The mass media are also more inclined towards reporting major foreign direct investments than brave initiatives by start-up entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship cannot be created. We can only develop an environment to foster its growth – an environment where entrepreneurship is encouraged, valued and supported.
To do so, we need to craft a national blueprint for entrepreneurship with inputs from the public, private, people, and political sectors. This blueprint should be championed and crafted by both prominent as well as struggling entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs know how to develop and more importantly, implement programmes to groom entrepreneurs.
We should start fostering entrepreneurship from young. Young people are generally not short of ideas on how to start a new business. What they need is direction on how to obtain relevant information, mentorship, and guidance.
For example, they need coaching on how to conduct feasibility studies, develop business plans, access capital and talents, and implement their ideas effectively and efficiently.
Our future needs to be supported by a continuous and growing pipeline of experienced and start-up entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs tend to be more loyal and committed to investing in their home country and creating new jobs for the people.
TH: What is the one tip you would give to Singaporeans who want to be as successful as you are?
Dr. Patrick Liew: I’m far from being successful. At best, I’m a work-in-progress with big dreams to live a full life and contribute to the people and environment around me.
Years ago, I rephrased Albert Einstein’s Law of Relativity to create a formula to help people achieve success.
The Law of Success is as follows:
E = mc4
Success is a lifelong journey to pursue excellence. To achieve success, you need to develop a synergistic mix of effective mission, commitment, character, competence and compassion.
First, you should pursue a purposeful, electrifying, significant and appealing mission. If your people do not know what you believe in and are not excited about what you’re working towards, they’ll not follow you.
Secondly, develop a character that people like, trust and respect. People will not follow you if they’re not comfortable with you and don’t look up to you.
Thirdly, commit your body, heart and soul to love your people and work effectively and efficiently to achieve the best possible results.
Along the journey, you need to continue to improve your competence, including your knowledge, attitude, skills and habits (KASH).
With continuous improvements, you will run farther and faster on the journey to success.
Last but not least, you need to demonstrate compassion, care and concern for people and the environment, including those who are forsaken and forgotten in society.
Your compassion will drive you to run extra miles to value-add to people and the environment and make our world a better home.
TH: How do you think we can collectively make Singapore a better place for all? For example, foreigners have critiqued that Singapore is a terrible place to live in, since there is lack of freedom of speech and poorer elderly have to work everday to eke out a living. What is your take on this?
Dr. Patrick Liew: If you study any credible benchmarking studies of critical factors that contribute to quality lifestyle, liveable cities, and sound economy, Singapore has done comparatively well. As a relatively young country without rich natural resources, we may not have as generous a welfare system as some other countries have in the developed world.
On the other hand, we also do not have a high-tax regime and our fiscal budget is not being overstretched to support welfare schemes for the deserving and for those who are abusing the welfare system.
Having said that, we have a sustainable financial system to support the poor and needy. Those who are not able-bodied and who cannot work to earn a living will not have to go without a roof, food, education, and medical treatment.
More importantly, we are building a society that provides platforms and opportunities to help those who have failed and fallen to rebuild their lives. Over the years, we have been improving the social support systems and schemes but we are doing it prudently without causing unnecessary burdens to future generations.
We believe in freedom of speech but it must be done with responsibility. Every person has to carry responsibility to substantiate libellous remarks as well as comments that are destructive to our communities and society, otherwise he or she may have to suffer potential liabilities and punishments.
As a result of building a culture of pragmatism, responsibility, and concern for the overall good of society, we live in a country that enjoys a relatively low crime rate. You can walk on the streets at any time of the day and night and feel safer than walking on most other streets in the developed world.
Even though most Singaporeans, at the time of independence in 1965, are of migrant stocks, we can take pride in having built a society that values and continues to build on racial and religious harmony. Our students are undergoing one of the most highly-rated educational systems. They have performed well in many international educational ratings.
Moving forward, we need to work on four major thrusts to secure our place in the brave, new and exciting world.
a. Heartware. We need to build a home where Singaporeans can have a deeper sense of rootedness and belonging. A home that we can be proud of and where we can find purpose, happiness and fulfilment on an individual, family and community level.
b. Hardware. We have to continue to develop and improve on our infrastructure and economy in order to meet changing needs and expectations from our people and from a fast-changing world.
c. Software. Our people must have the capacity, capability, agility, and tenacity to battle all odds so that we will secure our future as a vital hub for the new economy.
d. Soulware. We will continue to look out for and look after the last, the least, the lonely, and the lost, both onour land and overseas.
TH: Thank you for being so generous with your wisdom via this interview!!~ On a parting note, is there anything you wish to add?
Dr. Patrick Liew: I would like to share two of my aspirational values:
- The best way to live our lives is to live our lives for others.
- The more we reach out to bless other lives, the richer and better our lives will become.