Nicknamed "Dr Magnum" by his clients, SM Jegan never fails in almost every case he handles. SM Jegan has been the managing director of Kokusai Security since 1984, and led Kokusai Security to be the most established PI firm in Singapore. Contrary to many negative remarks on PIs, SM Jegan has shown himself to be a man full of integrity and ethics in his work.
Kokusai Security Pte Ltd was founded in April 1984, with their founding members comprising of public officers who have experience in police and armed forces training. They specialize in investigations, crowd control, security management and bodyguard services. The company is built on the philosophy of providing unparalleled customer service to clients. They also provide high caliber and professionally trained personnel.
SM Jegan strikes me as a man extremely passionate and full of public spiritedness, who regularly donates part of his proceeds to charity. He is also very client-oriented, and would go all out to help clients in need, for example slashing his rates. If the clients are unethical, he rejects their cases even if he is offered a million dollars.
1. What is the nature of your business?
I have 3 lines of businesses. My first business is my Private Investigation business, second is Private Security and the third is Training. In my Private Investigation business for 25 years, my job is to investigate, gather evidence and find out the hidden truth discreetly. I take pictures, videos to get the story and appear in family courts like what you see in Hong Kong drama shows. In fact, most of my clients are matrimonial-based, which makes up 90%. The other 10% are corporate cases, where I check up on crimes such as cheat, corruption, CBT (Criminal Breach of Trust) etc. I also provide pre-sales counselling and after-sales counselling. I am very transparent to my clients and I tell them what I can do and what I cannot do. I do not do those James Bond movies kind of things such as telephone tapping. I tell them the dos and don'ts, legal implications etc. Even till today, many people think PIs have connections to obtain private information by illegal means. Actually, this is largely false. What we do is we just follow, follow, and follow. We are not allowed to get confidential information that is controlled by police or other agencies. In my matrimonial cases, I would first make my clients understand what they are entering into before I take their cases. I want them to have a clear understanding before they start checking up on their other half. I stress to them that divorce must always be the last resort, especially if they have children. I want them to know the repercussions of knowing the truth before they engage my service. And after we get the truth, we counsel them and still try to find the way where they can hold on to their marriage. In my Security business, I train and provide security guards for companies and agencies that require security personnel. I have a training centre certified by Workforce Development Agency for private security. I provide training for those who want to work in the security industry.
2. When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur / take over your family business? NOTE: If it is not a family business, ask: Do your parents have their own businesses too? Have they inspired you in one way or another? (Select appropriate question according to the entrepreneur being interviewed.)
My father passed away when I was very young, and my mum made cakes for a living and I helped her sell cakes when I was young. I played the role of a father to my young siblings since I was 14. I always wanted to do something for the community, to do something that is "impossible", and something that nobody is doing. I felt I could not achieve this goal in any other profession. I saw so many broken marriages in Singapore, and I wanted to do something. I spoke to my mum when I was in 20s of my passion in doing something for the community, and creating my own business out of it. My mum has been very proud of me and she always had a photograph of me in my police uniform in her wallet when she was alive. She knew my qualities and my passion for my community. So she gave me her blessings. With her blessings, I started to come out on my own, to start up my own business. I am married to a Japanese, and like all Japanese, I am a workaholic till today. As the saying goes, "behind every successful man, there is a woman behind him", my wife indeed played a huge part in my success, and she even paid for my PhD studies majoring in Security and Fire Safety.
3. What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
I wanted very badly to help the community, to do something for my country since I was young. During the 80s, I saw a lot of broken marriages, but I did not see any proper self-help groups then. I saw this need, this underserved need in the community. Life was not as comfortable like today, and there were a lot of wife-beating cases, a lot of sufferings, especially the children of the broken marriages. I knew many Singaporeans are working very hard to make ends meet. They work very late, spend little time for each other, and grow suspicious of each other. I felt a motivation, a push to mend those marriages and save the children. Even though I was only in my 20s then, I looked ahead, and I knew that if I can save those marriages, I am saving the children also and therefore saving Singapore future. In business terms, you could say that helping broken marriages is indeed a big market which was largely underserved in the 80s, and continued to be underserved till today. I also looked around, and realised the private investigators then were largely not complying with the law and were unethical. There were a lot of PIs who are getting involved sexually with their clients, getting information by illegal means, illegally tapping telephone lines, and did anything just to make money. They were definitely not interested in helping the community. Therefore, I started my PI business with the vision and passion to help the community, to be ethical and to follow the framework of the law at all times. I was confident that as long as I am sincere in helping people, money would come. Money is just a natural consequence and I do not need to worry very much about it. I know money is very important, but I am confident of killing 2 birds in one stone. I find the truth to help marriages, to counsel the straying husbands or wives, to save the children, while at the same time earning money. Although I faced a lot of problems where I had to work like a bull, 24 hours/7 days a week and had to endure long stretch of hunger, till today, 25 years on, I have not looked back. I have saved countless number of marriages, and I have created a bond with so many of my clients that I believe they would remember me for life. I believe when I were to pass on one day, they would shed tears for me. This business is not just a business for me. It is my calling and my mission in this world.
4. How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing, advertising, etc.
I wanted to do something that is very tough, that not everyone can do well. I am willing to put my life and blood for this challenge. I found that PI business is a line that not everyone can do. This is a job that does not need education, apart from knowing simple reading and writing. It however requires you to be extremely street smart and to have the luck. When I give evidences, I collate all my pictures and videos that I obtained through my investigation, put them together, with the dates and time, make it into film and tell a story. It is very interesting to work like a film director. I never realised this is my calling until I found that I keep meeting unexplainable coincidences over the years. I discovered that evidence comes to me and I never failed in all my assignments. I may follow and miss a person 10 times, but I somehow be back on his trail 10 times on. My staff can come back negative from following a subject (target), but I always come back positive. Somehow the targets come to me. For example I have a case when an old man openly told his wife that he wants to divorce her and live with a China girl. When I took this case, I met with many problems. First, I discovered that the China girl was not the same girl shown in the photo, and whatever information the wife gave me were therefore invalid. Next, the old man and his China girl were shuttling to another province after they met in Guangzhou province airport. How am I going to find out which province they are going? In China, you cannot say you are a Private Investigator, because you will get into big trouble if you say so. Furthermore, the environment, culture and language are unfamiliar to me. I also do not know anybody there. How am I going to keep up the chase? All the factors are against me. I also have another case when the husband came to me in the morning, telling me that his wife was leaving in the afternoon for another country, he totally did not know where is his wife was going. There was no information given to me, except that he knew that his wife was cheating on him. How do you tackle these cases? I managed to solve these 2 cases and give my clients what they needed. I have to say, apart from my investigative skills, I have the luck. I have the help from God. For example, some police officers lack investigative skill, but they are able to solve many crimes because these crimes "happened in front of them". Similarly, you can say my target would "appear" mysteriously in front of me when I focused on them. That is why mine is the only PI firm that has been strong for more than 20 years. In fact, almost all my so-called competitors over the years are my ex-employees. They wanted to know the concepts, so they worked for me and tried to learn from me. However, there are many things I cannot teach them other than law and investigative techniques. You need more than this. You need to have the calling, the talent. Otherwise you cannot survive in this business. More importantly, I am very glad that I am able to do something for the country and community. A lot of clients have problems, come to my office and cry their hearts out, and I provide support for them.
5. How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing, advertising, etc.
When I first started, I was alone, and only had a motorcycle. I did not have capital. I was the boss and the worker. I used typewriter. I typed every report myself. I did the quotation myself. I met the clients myself. Everything I did myself. I started employing workers when I had enough money. I have a counsellor whom I employed not long after I started up. We try to make the clients realise the importance of marriage, the repercussions of broken marriages, the suffering of children, and so on. Our stance is that divorce should be the last resort. We were the first to provide counselling service in this industry then, and our name spread fast. Years went by and I become better known. Now I do not need to advertise. People who need such help naturally come to see me. I have not been serious about marketing and advertising in the media for quite some time. Being always on the field, I also ensure I keep my body fit and healthy. So far in this market, I am the only one who has been actively involved in this business, thriving for 25 years. I follow the principles of the Chinese then. In the 80s, there was a chain of coffee shop with a Chinese owner who had 3 sons. Even though he had children helping his coffee shops, he ensured he was in the shop everyday, and was even doing menial tasks like washing dishes. His principle was, if you are running any business, you must be in it everyday, and you must also be a good role model. I adopted his philosophy. When I started, I did not have staff, so I did everything myself. When I had employees, even though I delegate, I still closely monitor their work. When I delegate, I make sure they deliver. If they do not, I make sure I personally do the job. I am a very client-oriented. I delegate, but at the end of the day, I check, and if necessary, I re-do it myself. Both my children are studying in good schools. I never ever dreamt that I would have what I have today. I thank God for giving me a good family and good employees, and blessing me with the ability to successfully close all my cases.
6. In your opinion, what are the traits that make you and your staff such successful Private Investigators?
Honesty all along is my best policy, because to survive long in this business, you must be honest, ethical and transparent. I also uphold the 4 precepts in my life. I don't smoke, don't drink, don't womanize and don't gamble. These are the foundation of my success in this industry. I highly encourage all my staff to adhere to this principle. A good PI must have the following technical skills. First, he must be able to blend into the crowd. For example, I am able to dress to fit the appropriate occasion. I can easily pass off as anyone, for example a "Stone Cold", or any disguise that is required. We must also be able to follow the target discreetly, take pictures and videos without anyone knowing, like Candid Camera. We must also strictly follow the framework of the law. A lot of bad PIs have been creating bad press. Honey trapping, creating fake evidences, phone tapping, obtaining information illegally, blackmailing, and getting sexually involved with clients are some examples. Not only they bring a bad name to the industry by trying to be "James Bond", they also do not last long. I am proud that throughout these 25 years, my staff and I have been clean, and we strictly follow the framework of the law and our principles.
7. You mentioned about the unseen force that is helping you. Did you have this force with you all the while, or you developed it throughout these years?
While I had this force helping me when I was young, I thought, by continually doing good helps build up this gift, this spiritual strength. I remain focused in helping people, and kept my four precepts, namely, no smoking, no womanizing, no gambling and no drinking. Whatever I have, I shared with my family, friends, employees and charitable organizations. I run my business without debts. Most importantly, I have a strong passion to be in this industry. I think all these helped in keeping the fire alive in me. Today, I am able to assess quite accurately whether the case is positive or negative during my interview with my clients. It is meaningful, because I am able to help my client save time and money. On my side, it helps me save time and resources. I am also able to let my clients better understand what they are entering into, let them understand the implications, and to prepare them psychologically. This enables me to fully utilize my time to work efficiently on all my cases.
8. You mentioned a lot about marriages. In your opinion, what do you think a proper marriage should be?
To me, marriage is a lifetime commitment. A successful marriage is a closely bonded nucleus of the husband, wife and their children. There are people who marry to "follow the crowd", that is, "people marry I also marry" mentality. There are people who marry to legally enjoy their sexual relationship, and people who marry because of shotgun romance. To me, romance may not last, but a proper marriage last because it is a lifetime commitment. Your poor children are looking up to you for their future. And here you are so selfish, thinking only for yourself when you commit such an irresponsible and shameless act. You brought your children to this world and you are responsible for their future. Be responsible, and uphold your lifetime commitment to your spouse and family.
9. What are some interesting stories you can share with me in your business journey? For example, when you first started?
It was in the 80s. One of my first few clients was a very rich female. She dressed up like a man, and even had a male IC. She paid me $1000 deposit to follow a woman to establish her address. I discovered that the woman (target) was intimately involved with a man. The client was very jealous and she confessed to me that she went for sex-change operation. Later on, she told me to go to her house to do something and promised me a cash cheque of $70,000 which was a very big sum in the 80s, to provide a service to an old man in her house. When I reached her house, I realize what she wanted me to do in her house was to lie to her father, who was paralyzed, that I was her husband-to-be. However, despite needing her cash badly, I could not go against my principles, and told the father that I was not her husband-to-be, but someone engaged by her to lie to him. She was extremely angry about it. But I am very grateful for my mother, who had brought us up with strong moral guiding principles. Once when I was a teenager, I lost my wallet and had no money. I chose to walk back home than to borrow 10 cents from my friends, although it was 3 miles away. In another case, a young woman called me at 3am. Her husband ran away from her without leaving her any money, and she just delivered a baby. Her mother was very old and sick and she had neither father nor siblings. She was in serious financial need. She called another PI to find her husband and that PI quoted her $25,000. The PI told her to trust him because he was an ex-police officer with many credentials. Obviously, she was unable to afford. She called me, cried and told me she was very poor, no money, but needed my help badly. She was on the verge of jumping down to kill herself together with her baby. She badly wanted her husband to know that she had just delivered his baby. I told her to be rational, to listen to me slowly, and I assured her that help was coming, and she did not need to take out a single cent to look for her husband. When I met her, I advised her to go to family court, seek help from legal aid, and in the meantime, I promised her to trace her husband whereabouts. I later traced her husband and followed him from the workplace. I discovered that the husband was with another woman, and that he was not willing to come back or give money to her. I encouraged her to bring the case to the family court, and the court gave her a favourable judgement. There was also another case. It was handled by my staff. My staff told me that there was a female client who wanted to show the video and the photos of her husband intimately involved with a China girl, which we obtained, to everybody in her family, even the grandchildren, during Chinese Reunion Dinner. She wanted to shame her husband in front of her family, including children and relatives. As my staff then had taken what is more than required, I immediately took back the video, censored it, and provided only the documentary written evidences and other required evidences for court purposes. This is because the intention of the client was very unethical. I arranged for our in-house counsellor to counsel this female client. I also drilled my staff not to take evidences that are not ethical. We have also had a client who "grew up with us" since the 80s. At first, she engaged us to check on her father. Later, she also engaged us to check on her husband. Not long ago, I also checked on her son-in-law. Therefore, I served this client for 3 generations! There was another case when the client engaged us to trace where the girlfriend was residing. We followed his girlfriend and managed to establish the address where she was living with another man. My client was satisfied with that and we were happy that we were able to close the case fast. Before I release the information, I asked him his purpose of knowing the address. He then told us that he wanted to murder the girl for cheating his money, which was his lifetime savings. Upon hearing this, I immediately held back the information and instead advised him to get information from the police station. He was very angry about it. I explained to him that we cannot give him the information to commit murder.
10. What was your childhood dream? When did you decide that you would strike out on your own instead of working for someone else?
My childhood dream was to be one day like Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. I loved and adored him since I was young. But very often in our lives, we do not get what we want. Most often, you start somewhere and end somewhere. I have a passion to help the community since I was young, but then I did not know how until I came to know about this industry, and how I can leverage on this industry to help broken marriages.
11. What are some of the challenges you faced, for example when you first went into business?
The greatest challenge is running this business within the framework of the law while still getting what the clients want. The law is very strict to us. What we can do is very limited. We cannot get our targets private information like the police force does. We are not allowed to tap phones, check their family records or check their mobile phone messages. We cannot climb over the fence or enter into restricted places. We can only follow, follow and conduct surveillance work. Because I did not have capital, I had to do everything by myself. I also was sneered at during the 80s because of the bad reputation of PIs. In addition, before I obtained good reputation, clients did not believe in my abilities, especially when I told them about the restrictions. During those days, some PIs had good access to the controlled information through illegal means. In my first few years, though I had business coming in, I still had to struggle financially and go without proper meals to pay my overheads and my employees' salaries. Though I hardly met my ends meet those days, I had a full-time counsellor because of my passion and mission to contribute to help broken marriages. I always take care of my staff very well. When they or their family members are sick, I take out my money and pay their bills. But I am very strict on them. No drinking, no womanizing, no smoking, no illegal activities. I also faced a human resource challenge from the 90s till today, because many of my employees went away to form their own businesses, and became my immediate competitors.
12. How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of the action you took to overcome the challenges.
As mentioned earlier, I can lose a target 10 times, but I can still get him somehow with an unseen force helping me. This is especially helpful when I am doing overseas jobs, where I have no second chance. I can lose the target, stop surveillance and go eat breakfast, and the target appears in front of me. This kind of gift is not for everyone. My innate character also helps as I am a willing workaholic, and even till today, I am always available 24 hours/7days a week. Receiving calls in the wee hours is a norm to me. Because I am willing to work like a bull, I am able to tide through the financial and work challenges. As I mentioned earlier, I have this higher purpose in my job, to help people, to help mend broken marriages. I was never really money-driven since day one, and I am always very client-oriented. I stress to my employees the importance of helping clients, importance of giving to community, to help young children, broken families and to help these people understand value of marriage. I think this genuine passion also helped a lot in riding through the various challenges. Keeping to my precepts of no smoking, no gambling, no womanizing and no drinking always allowed me to keep a clear head and not wasting money unwisely. My diligence also helps me solve the cases despite the huge challenges by some of my competitors who could offer more, such as illegal phone tapping and staging events to create evidences. In my life, there are only a few things - my family, my employees and my work. Since young, I like to go to East Coast Park to jog and relax. When I have problems, I always will go to East Coast Park alone, sitting alone on the beach, feeling the breeze and to reflect and think for solutions to the problems. This strategy is very useful, as almost all of the times I managed to come out of solutions for the problems while relaxing in the beach.
13. Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like giving up? What happened that made you feel that way and how did you triumph over it?
I had clients who made malicious complaints and false accusations that not only seriously disrupted our operations but they also hurt our company's corporate image. We really felt very disappointed and demoralized, as our mission is to help the clients. Those clients not only did not appreciate, but also they tried to destroy us. Some of these clients are instigated by our competitors. As I can manage clients' requirements and run my business within the framework of the law, we do not need to worry about external threats.
14. Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
Really, please never give up. A good entrepreneur is someone who does not give up so easily. Persist all the way. Before that, you must also set the goal and target, and you persist in this direction. Make sure the business you are in is also your passion and more importantly, your calling. For example, I persisted in my mission to help the community, to help those that do not have money by reducing charges and allowing them to pay by instalment, or even doing for free, to have my success today.
15. When was the moment you realised the business would work and support you?
When I managed to make enough to cover my running costs, to pay my bills and to pay my employees, and started to have continual calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I knew my business would work and sustain.
16. What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
My firm was named as "one of the most established and well organized private investigation agencies in the world" by BBC and CNN in 1998. When the Caucasian reporters with huge TV cameras came to my office to report on my company, I was moved that I have come thus far. However, I should say that my proudest achievement is that I have realised my goal of helping the community. I have helped mend countless broken marriages. I have saved many children and gave them back their daddy and mummy. I have also have trained my employees to listen to my clients and to lend them a crying shoulder if they could not take the truth. I also helped a lot of young people, school dropouts and teenagers who became my employees. In fact, they are the ones who are my best people on the field. If you give them opportunity, they will be good investigators. They work really hard, and they generally seem to like investigation work. Next, I also have no debts, in the sense I do not owe anybody. I always stick to my principles, and I have a clear conscience till today, which actually is not easy. I am able to see, understand and appreciate the fragility of human life, their weaknesses. I have also built great friendships with my clients. I have countless number of clients who not only are satisfied with my services, but trust me enough to tell me many sensitive things, which they would never tell anyone. The client that I mentioned earlier who grew up with me, who engaged my service to investigate her father, husband and son-in-law, is one of examples. My firm is also the longest active Private Investigation firm, being in the industry for 25 years. I am also proud that my firm has a clean record, and we are able to adhere to the framework of the law while still maintaining our high standard of obtaining results for our clients. I am also very proud that I have a really wonderful family, and I have the best wife and best children in the world. I feel that I have achieved what I dreamt of 25 years ago.
17. How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide specific examples.
From day one, my main differentiating factors are firstly, helping the community, secondly, client-driven, thirdly adhering to my principles, and fourthly adhering to the framework of the law. Practically most of the PI agencies then, and even till today, were money-driven, and many are unethical. Many PIs tried to be James Bonds, and many ended up either brushing with troubles with the law, getting sexually involved with clients, being hated by the people which led to their downfall. Unlike these PIs, I really went out to help people, to help marriages. There were a lot of Singaporeans, even till today, who need help. My company also provides counselling to let couples have heart to heart talk, to identify problems, and learn to manage their problems. In fact, the social business is one good place to look. Do not talk about money; talk how you can serve your clients. I also found my niche in this market. There were a lot of PI agencies who shoot everywhere. I found my niche, specialize in matrimonial cases. There are also many methods to do investigation. I focus on surveillance which is my strength since day one.
18. What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?
Making my clients their own private investigators. I also managed to educate many of my clients to do the groundwork to facilitate their cases to minimize my operating cost. As such we can also charge them less. Training and retraining employees and freelancers is also a good business. To be on the field myself, to collect evidences within a short period to close the case and get fast money, and to do things what others cannot achieve, for example working irregular hours consistently, and to be always on the move 24 hours, 7 days a week. My direct telephone number "6 29 29 29 3" (which will be diverted to my handphone) is very easy to remember. I believe this strategy also gave me more customers.
19. Where or who do you get your business ideas from?
When I first started, I noticed that there was a lack of professional investigators in this market. For example, in the matrimonial industry, there were very few capable investigators specialized in family law. In addition, there is also a lack of counsellors specialized in helping broken marriages. Therefore, I combine these 2 ideas to start my company in the aim of meeting these 2 demands in the 80s.
20. To succeed in business, what qualities are essential? What are some of the secrets in making a successful business?
You always have to look forward, look 10 years ahead. What is going to happen to you and your business 10 years later? Never think that you reached the summit. Because if you reach the top, the only direction after that is down. The limit is the sky. You are learning everyday. Always think how to serve your clients better. Work within the framework of the law. Find your niche and speciality. Go get whatever thing you need to be best in it. Go get your diploma, degree, masters and PhD. You must be the best in it. Go upgrade yourself. Find your calling and stick to it. Do not keep changing your profession and industry. Identify the needs, strengths and weakness of industries. For example, in my industry, you need to know the law, how to conduct surveillance within the framework of the law, know the dos and don'ts. For example, you cannot climb over the fence and take pictures or videos of the act in the room. You must know what are the evidences required. You also must be able to ride through external environmental factors such as changes in economy, inflation etc. When something happens, you must always know how and what to troubleshoot. A good businessman always knows when trouble comes and how to deal with them efficiency. For example, he would know when and what to cut down costs, and to find other means of solving problems. He knows how to tighten his belt. A good and successful businessman has the instinct to know a danger, able to focus, foresee and have the foresight to see what will happen 10 years later, to move ahead of what currently his competitors are doing in the industry.
21. Does a formal education such as an MBA help in doing business?
Education is not everything in life. There are people who have MBA but cannot do the job well in their business. You may have an MBA but it does not mean you that can run the business well. In my business, you do not need any academic educational certification. As I mentioned earlier, the better educated you are, the more unsuitable you may be in my profession. I know of taxi drivers, who can have the ability to be a better politician than our graduates, only that he does not have proper education. Similarly, in my profession, you must be intelligent and street smart. I met many graduates who couldn't perform and I had to ask them to leave. In fact, today, there are many people who are taking degrees, hoping that they do not have to work hard in the workplaces. This is a wrong mindset build up possibly by influences by the parents when they were young. They might have been told by their parents, "you study hard now, so that you do not have to work hard like a labourer". There are people who are able but not willing, and there are people who are willing but not able to perform. When you input education and knowledge to those who are willing to work, they will be the best employees. They will also be the best entrepreneurs.
22. What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
I am now bringing my clients into this business, and engage them to be their own investigators by giving them a set of instructions to do the groundwork to facilitate their investigation. This allows them to save money, and also save my time. It becomes like a consulting business. I teach them the fundamentals, and my clients do the groundwork. When he/she finds out that his/her partner is cheating on him/her, he/she should then call me. I then send my team down to "finish the job", and get the evidences they want. By doing so, we are able to charge them minimal sums, as low as $500, which includes us appearing in court if required to show the evidence. It is like a partnership with our clients. No one has come out with this strategy. At the end of the day, I can handle more clients, and clients are glad that they are able to see the results and understand the difficulty of this job and they can also save a lot of money. However, I always stress to my clients to sit down with their cheating spouses even if they get the evidence. Talk to him/her. See how they can work together. Going to family court and getting divorce must be the last resort. I am also providing training since 1986. I am the pioneer to provide these trainings, and I plan to expand this training business. I am also involved in training of security personnel, and providing security guards. I am looking to expand this also.
23. What do you think makes a good leader?
A good leader should know the way and walk the way. A good leader should be the one who sets the examples for his/her staff. In my security business, although I am the boss of the company, I actually wear the same uniform my security guards wear when I visit the sites. Bless your people if they become your competitors.
24. What are the problems you faced with your staff (both backline and frontline) and how did you overcome them? How did you source for talents to work for you? How did you retain them?
I am having real problems hiring the right people. Many of my past employees spoke more than they worked. They flaunted their certificates to impress me, but when I employed them, I realized that they couldn't perform, or they were not hard-working enough. In fact, I also have a succession problem. I can't find anyone who could fit my shoes, and that also applies to my competitors. I source for talents through advertisements in the newspaper and on my website. Before I deploy them on the field, I first train them and get clearance from the police as required by the law. I give my staff classroom training and on-the-job training. I identify their strengths and weaknesses, and provide them with my input and knowledge. My pay system is performance based, and many of my employees are paid very well.
25. What is surveillace? How do you carry out your work?
Surveillance is to keep watch of a person or a place to establish the activities of the person or the place. In our line of work, we simply follow, follow, follow the person, and take video footage discreetly like Candid Camera. Our collection of information are obtained through communication and observation.
26. There have been ethical issues (such as stalking, "putting a show", purposely setting up traps to capture misdoings) and criticism of PIs work. How do you manage these issues while maintaining your professional stand or getting the required results for your clients?
We do not do honey trapping, as in our view, this is very unethical. We are very transparent. When we see that the guy is with a woman, we tell you. If the guy is really clean, we report truthfully, and not wilfully stage a show for the woman's benefit. In fact, we have many such cases when we realized the guy is clean, and we reject clients who want us to "create" or "manufacture" evidence for them. I do not care what other PIs do. I just stick to my principle. What is unethical, I just do not do.
27. What is the difference doing this business in Singapore and other countries?
Singapore is a clean city as compared to other Asian countries. Our Government is clean and transparent. In Singapore, we have the license to give evidence as an independent witness in court. The culture and law in Singapore only allows each man to have only one wife, and the law also protects the female and the children. Moreover, in Singapore, we have protection orders to protect against battering. Doing business in Singapore seems to be full of restrictions. However, it is fair and good to all citizens. Sometimes I feel restricted, but I am happy that I can run a business in this safe and clean country. As long as my hands are clean and I do my job within the framework of the law, I have nothing to worry. It would be different for other countries. In Islamic countries, husband is allowed to marry up to 4 wives. In fact, if the husband and the family can afford, the wife would allow the husband to go marry another woman. Therefore, there is less business in these countries as compared to Singapore. In Japan, it is the wife who controls the husband's wages. In fact, I know of many cases where the wife even allows her husband and give him some allowance to go to entertain himself. In some other countries, there are a lot of unwritten rules. Following laws not necessarily protects you. You may have to bear some unfairness in those countries.
28. Is your business dangerous and possess a threat to you and your staff lives? What do you think the prospects of young people if they join this industry.
People say my job is dangerous. In any profession there are some risk and dangers. But I am not afraid, as I always adhere to my principles and I never hurt anyone. Similarly, I stress this importance to my staff also. Therefore, we are protected from harm even though we had to meet with a lot of abrasions and hostile people. Law is strict in Singapore, and people are well aware of it. So, we do not have to worry about getting harmed. We have a lot of youngsters working for me as Private Investigators, and you will be surprised that they can perform better than some of the retired civil service personnel. They are physically fit, fast, street-smart, patient, energetic, dynamic and curious, and willing to undergo any type of training. They are more willing to take risks. They also do not have family commitments and dependents, and can take any form of challenges.
29. What does entrepreneurship mean to you? In your opinion, what does it mean to have the "spirit of enterprise"
To be wiling to give your best to make what you believe into a profitable business. You must have one speciality that you are very confident with, and you must be willing to work hard to make it available to the public. You should be prepared to take some risks if necessary. To have an ability to find what you are good at, to offer your best to the public, to take some risks, to work hard, to be willing to learn always.
30. What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you have which has helped you come this far?
I had my calling and talent in private investigation. Others can start the same business, but would not last long. My passion for this particular business and the talent given by God has helped me come thus far.
31. In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be successful in business? And why? (e.g. Educational qualification, work experience, family influence, attitude, etc)
Attitude is important. If you do not have a right attitude, you will not succeed even you have very special skill. You also need a good family support. If you run a business, you must endure long and irregular working hours. As for me, I have a full support from my wife and children who understand my business. My wife fully takes care of my family matters, from children's education and grocery shopping to plumbing work, so that I can concentrate on my work. She also helps my business in many ways such as writing letters, checking emails and budgeting. I always consult with her on my company's important issues because she gives me honest opinions and great ideas. She is not afraid to talk back to me if she finds that what I am planning may not be good for the company. If you can get someone like her, who can really think for your business, you will be in the upper hand.
32. Who or what motivates and inspires you?
As I mentioned earlier, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew inspired me. In earlier days, my motivation came from my mother. My father passed away when I and my siblings were all schooling, and my mother suffered a lot. I wanted to give her good life. Now, my family is my motivation. I always work very late nights, but my wife trusts and understands me totally, and I always behave myself. My children are very proud whenever my name appears on newspaper. And of course, words of appreciation from my clients are huge motivating factor. My business philosophy has come from the discipline from my mother and by seeing our Minister Mentor led the country. It is not shaped by one particular incident.
33. What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down to others, particularly the younger generation?
Always think what you are going to do to improve your business. When you do something, make sure you give your best, your all.
34. With the changes in the market today, do you think it has become harder or easier to succeed in business? Why do you say so? .
I think it has become harder in some ways. There are a lot of agencies in this industry now, many of them are set up by my ex-employees. Competition is tougher. Also, internet has become a part of everyone's life, and everyone searches for services using internet. It is not easy to determine which company is really reliable by just reading their websites. Some of my ex-employees used exactly the same contents as ours in his website. But the readers would not know which is genuine.
35. What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business? Would you advise young people to work in a company first before setting their own business?
If you want to succeed in any businesses, you must find out your interest and calling. When you find out, then, do your best. You also must know the job and trade well before you start your own business. You should have some working experience before you start your own business, so that you can learn right work attitude, business ethics and manners, and certain things that you cannot learn in classrooms. But do not start exactly the same business as the company you worked for. It is unethical. If you like to be an entrepreneur in this industry, you must understand surveillance work. You can learn surveillance only on the field, therefore you must gain field experience before starting this business.
36. What do you think are the main hindrances and obstacles to nurturing the spirit of Entrepreneurship?
Young generation is losing hungry spirit. They feel safer and more comfortable in finding job in big companies or government agencies. And it has become easier to find jobs compared to many years ago.
37. Are there any other last advice you like to give to anyone in general that will be useful to them no matter what profession or age group they are in?
I noticed many people, especially the younger ones and the middle aged groups, drowning their sorrows drinking in pubs or clubbing. I suggest that instead of going to pubs or clubs to drink, you could consider going to East Coast Park or any other beaches in Singapore alone to listen to the waves and enjoy the breeze. Not only you will feel much better and more peaceful as compared to drinking, many a times you actually will be able to find the solutions to your problems with a clearer mind. Of course, no matter what you do, even if you are not an Entrepreneur but working for someone else, you should always strive for excellence, and do your very best. This is integrity.
38. As we try to select the top 43 honourees of the year, what do you think are the winning qualities and factors we should look out for?
Public Spiritedness and tenacity, a never-give-up spirit.