Interview with Ms Deirdre Goh – The Successful Integration of Family Values and Business
Persis Hoo (Business Development Director) caught up with Ms Deirdre Goh, a power woman that is successful both on the work front and at home, to find out her secrets to successfully integrating family values passed down from her grandfather with her family’s real estate business.
PH: Tell us more about your journey from starting off in the financial sector to founding your own business and then managing your family’s real estate business.
DG: I had always loved theatre and the performing arts. However, growing up in Singapore in the 1980s, there wasn’t many opportunities to pursue this passion. Therefore I went down the traditional path of taking a degree in economics. After graduation, I worked as a research analyst.
My love for the arts scene did not die. After 3 years in the financial sector, I decided that it was time for me to take the leap of faith. I started my own events management company – MLA Special Events – and stuck with it for the next 30 years. It was a dream come true.
All this while, my mother and cousins were involved in managing TCB Pte Ltd – the business started by my grandfather in the 1950s. TCB started off as a trading company. However, due to the insight and foresight of my grandfather, the business evolved to land banking and real estate. It was the best decision that my grandfather made.
Around 5 years ago, my mother fell ill and there was a need to find successors to take over the business. I initially agreed to step in to assist in running the business on a part-time basis. However, as my mother’s condition deteriorated, she asked me to promise her that I will take care of the family.
At that point, it clicked in my heart that running the business was not just about the operations and finances of the business – it was about looking after the family. With a renewed perspective on my purpose in the business, I decided to commit to it. I then left my company and took over TCB for the last 4 years.
PH: That is amazing. Were there any challenges in switching from managing your own company to running the family business?
DG: Certainly. The switch was to a completely different field and it was challenging to get up to speed in real estate. Another challenge I faced was getting the team on board with the vision of the family business. Some of the employees had worked in the business for a long time – one person had even been with the company for 53 years! Everyone had a certain mindset of doing things in a certain way and I found myself faced also with the challenge of heralding the company into the digital age.
As of this date, there are around 15 full time staff in the company, 4 of whom are cousins.
PH: What do you envision to be the future of TCB? Should the family members always need to be involved in managing the business?
DG: The original purpose of the family business can be found in the Constitution when the company was first incorporated. Even though my grandfather had passed away before I was born, I feel like I personally know him because of so many stories shared by my mother, aunts and uncles.
Watch this video clip of our interview with DG to find out the three guiding principles that her grandfather stated in the company’s Constitution, which was entrenched and passed down to her generation. Moving forward, her family intends to also encapsulate these values in a family constitution.
PH: There is a saying that ‘wealth does not pass through 3 generations’ and there may be a ‘cousins conglomerate’ if there are cousins running a business together. Bonds may be diluted in the family which results in in-fighting, and this could be made worse in the 4th and subsequent generations. Do you find this general trend a problem in your family and how can we beat that trend in the 4th generation?
DG: Yes, such a trend is true and I found it creeping into my generation and my mother’s generation as well. It is inevitable that as a family grows bigger, people may not be as close to each other as before. If the business is not doing well, people tend to get along. However, the moment things start to prosper, seeds of dissent may set in. People may start to feel a sense of entitlement.
We see AGMs as a convenient way to gather everyone and talk. It is an opportunity to refocus the team back to the founding values of the company, where the core is to look after one another. Everyone has to play their part to take care of the weaker person in the group. In the past, my grandfather and mother’s leadership style was slightly more dictatorial. However, in the current generation, we are learning to lead in a more democratic style.
We share the purpose of why we do what we do and frame it for the team. Then, it is for them to buy in and run with us. As we live out the values and communicate them, the team will see the significance behind what they do and eventually earn the rewards of their participation.
PH: Do you think such a service/platform such as heritance would be useful in passing down values from generation to generation?
DG: Yes, Memory Time Capsules (MTCs) and all the features are relevant to those who participate. However, the family will have to remain intact in the first place and ensure that there exists a connection between the family members.
Were you inspired by Ms Deirdre Goh’s strong values that she inherited from her family? You can do it too! Use the heritance app to connect with your tribe and pass down values in multiple forms.