Growing up as the eldest among his 5 siblings, Dato’ Victor Tan Jenn Chyen had always took on the role as a “leader” since young. Thus, despite the many different ambitions he had when he was younger, the idea of becoming a businessman always stuck around.
Dato’ Victor Tan went to McMaster University in Canada to complete his Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, and thereafter attained his MBA from the University Grenoble Ecole de Management in France in 2011. While studying, he often found himself reminiscing of the past when he would help out with his father’s business. It was then that he realised that he truly wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a businessman, start his entrepreneurial journey, and make a difference.
THE UNPOLISHED GEM
“My father first started out as a hardware supplier, and slowly expanded his business into different industries, eventually venturing into the bauxite mining in 2002. From the age of 16, I would often follow him to meet clients. I saw, first-hand, how he built up his empire from scratch. My father was someone who believed strongly in giving back to the society meaningfully. I learnt from my father that entrepreneurs must exercise flexibility to do what is right.”
After Dato’ Victor Tan’s graduation, he began working as a procurement engineer. It was 3 years later that Dato’ Victor Tan made the decision to leave the corporate world and join his father’s business. After a year, he decided to stick it out on his own and start a new company. He chose to do so within the bauxite mining industry because he already had significant knowledge in the industry. He strongly believed the bauxite industry, as a niche market, had the potential to grow and expand.
His journey to becoming an entrepreneur was not an easy one. Fortunately, his father and uncle was willing to loan the start-up capital to him, and from there, he could take on the next challenge of acquiring talent for his company. Then, he hired his first staff, an accountant, who was passionate and shared similar goals with him. Although her main role was to handle finance issues, she went beyond her own scope of work to help Dato’ Victor Tan with other business matters. She was one of the few pillars which supported Dato’ Victor Tan from the beginning of his journey to the success that he has achieved today with Top International Holding.
Dato’ Victor Tan had plenty to learn throughout his entrepreneurial journey. Manpower was a crucial issue and he took it very seriously. To him, having a good team is critical to a company’s success, as it is the people and the team that contribute the most to the value of the company. As such, Dato’ Victor Tan makes effort to spend a large portion of his time developing his employees and caring for their welfare. One of his goals is for Top International Holding to be imbued with a caring and positive company culture, and he strongly believes that the effort begins from himself.
MINING WITH A HEART
One of Dato’ Victor Tan’s role model is Tan Sri Robert Kuok, a Malaysian-Chinese business magnate and investor. He believes that entrepreneurs such as Tan Sri Robert Kuok have accumulated business wisdom through years of experience, and they have taken bold business moves with their strong, clear business visions. This inspires Dato’ Victor Tan to be bold while making business decisions. At the same time, it is Dato’ Victor Tan's belief to hold strong to his own personal moral values and always stay modest towards other people. Like his father, Dato’ Victor Tan believes that it is most important for a businessman to always give back to society.
"The ultimate role model to me is my own father. My entrepreneurial spirit is highly influenced by him. After getting married in 2013 and having my own family, I realised just how important the role of a father is. I want to become a good role model to my children, just like how my father was to me. I want my children to know that nothing is impossible,and that they have the right to choose who they want to become. My family is the biggest motivation for me to continue in this entrepreneurial journey.”
TOWARDS THE FUTURE
To Dato’ Victor Tan, one of the hardest aspects to handle in the business is to effectively manage the company’s relevant stakeholders. Back when Top International Holding was in its early days trying to increase its export volume in Malaysia, there were many people who were eyeing to benefit from this process. Dato’ Victor Tan recalled that he and his team had to spend a lot of time dealing with these associates, business counterparts and the respective issues.
It was not long before Dato’ Victor Tan came to realise that that was part and parcel of conducting business, and there was nothing good from harbouring negative emotions. Instead, he chose to look at the situation as a positive learning experience, one that would mould him to become a better, more efficient and effective entrepreneur moving forward. To Dato’ Victor Tan, becoming a successful entrepreneur takes up a lot of energy, freedom, and quality time that could have otherwise been spent with his family and loved ones. Hence, an entrepreneur has to be highly adaptable and optimistic when facing obstacles.
“Entrepreneurship is a life-long journey, and this is only the beginning of my journey. One of my mantra is always to hope for the best and plan for the worst. I have learnt to be unafraid of challenges as it is during those times where opportunities abound and one’s capabilities are tried, tested, and further developed. In order to succeed, one must be willing to learn and have the right attitude. I enjoy this learning process and I am sure there are more to come.”
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