In 2003, Dato Sri Dr Yeoh Seong Mok started a small project management firm, William Consulting Sdn Bhd. Fast forward 12 years later, not only is the firm handling multi-billion ringgits worth of projects, Yeoh is also appointed to helm Vivocom Intl Holding Bhd, a massive integrated business enterprise specialising in projects related to telecommunication towers and construction. In a recent interview with Top 10 of Asia, the dynamic and far-sighted CEO talks about what it takes to succeed in the highly challenging construction industry and his game plan to bring Vivocom to the next level.
The Malaysian construction industry is predicted to remain robust in spite of the current economic climate, thanks to a slew of high-value projects currently in the pipeline as well as a number of big infrastructure projects slated over the next five years. However, the sector is rife with its own set of challenges, such as the recent announcement of the increase on the levy for foreign workers, project delays and cash flow problems to name a few. But one man remains calm and unfazed in spite of it all. That man is none other than Dato Sri Dr Yeoh Seong Mok, the CEO of Vivocom Intl Holdings Bhd (formerly known as Instacom Group Bhd) and WY Consultancy & Development Services SdnBhd (WY). Vivocom, an integrated business enterprise involved in the telecommunication tower business, infrastructure and building construction projects, aluminium works, turnkey design and build projects and related information technology projects, has strategic alliances with WY (the project management consultancy company founded by Yeoh) and major Chinese corporations such as China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), China MCC among others.
“The construction business is very challenging and enthusiasm alone can drive a corporation to failure if it is not supported by a team of competent and loyal staff and partners. Cash flow is the life blood in this business and the risks of not getting paid on time by clients is very real. Project delays are a reality for reasons known and unknown, and can be either self-inflicted or attributed to other stakeholders who have nothing to lose except for their emotions,” says Yeoh in a matter-of-fact manner. “The only way to succeed is to have a profound understanding and mastery over project management and laws of contract (for contractors and sub-contractors), and people management skills (for managers and supervisors),” he adds.
The Ipoh-born Yeoh is not only highly-qualified for the role – he has a Bachelor of Construction Management and a Doctorate in Business Management from the University of Greenwich, a Master of Science in Engineering Business Management from the University of Warwick, a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of London and a Doctorate in Business Management from SABI University, France – he also has 38 years of working experience in the education, defence and construction industries. “I started my career with the Ministry of Defence and was posted to the Lumut Naval Base project under secondment to FH Kocks Gm BH. I later joined Mudajaya Construction Sdn Bhd to work on the Baha-Keratong Highway project and went on to work with other construction companies including Juma Construction, Pilecon and Pelangi Bhd.” In 2003, Yeoh started his entrepreneurial journey providing project management services with the establishment of William Consulting Sdn Bhd (now known as WY). Twelve years later, WY has clinched about RM10 billion worth of projects to manage and have collaborations and tenders for projects with international partners in Oman, Pakistan, Bangkok, Jakarta, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and China. Vivocom Enterprise has been working closely with WY for many years over scores of projects and when the company was acquired by Instacom, alongside with Neata Aluminium in August 2015, Yeoh was offered the CEO post for Instacom. “In line with the acquisition, Instacom (now renamed as Vivocom) needed someone experienced to handle the construction business and I was the natural choice as CEO,” Yeoh explains.
Vivocom currently has construction contracts worth around RM500 million in hand and Yeoh is confident that they will secure about RM1 billion to RM1.5 billion worth of projects towards the end of 2016. According to Yeoh, most of Vivocom’s projects are procured via negotiations from reputable international contractors such as CRCC, China MCC via MCC overseas and they are in talks with Hydro China, China Power, Beijing Yang Zhong and numerous other Chinese corporations. “The future and potential of Vivocom is enticing indeed. It is a strategic business decision for me to take on the challenge to lead and grow the business to a world-class status,” says Yeoh.
Yeoh also spent eight years as a visiting tutor in various universities locally and internationally, in line with his passion to impart his vast business and management knowledge to countless of CEOs, many of whom became steadfast friends and valued business partners. “Building a network of trustworthy partners is invaluable. When people know who you are, they will trust you and open up channels that were previously inaccessible to you,” says Yeoh. “Ask yourself, why should people help you? If you have a heart that wants to help and serve others, it will benefit you as well. Only greed will stop your success.” A believer in making the most of his time, Yeoh is known for closing business deals within minutes while having his morning walk at Bukit Tunku. “My motto in life is ‘don’t waste time’. I’ve signed billions of ringgit of deals during my walks. This kind of trust is only made possible due to my strong network of trusted partners who vouched for me.”
An avid reader, Yeoh has read over 15,000 books thus far, including autobiographies of business leaders and various ancient religious texts as he believes knowledge can be found anywhere. “There is no sense in reinventing the wheel when you can learn from the mistakes and lessons of others,” he says. He finds Donald Trump’s Think Big to be inspirational and helps drive him forward in his entrepreneurial journey. But his main role model is entrepreneur extraordinaire Jack Ma of the Alibaba Group. “I admire his razor-sharp vision and entrepreneurial instincts. He’s also a brilliant strategist that many can learn from.”
The newly-minted CEO of Vivocom foresees that his most pressing challenge would be to ensure a smooth transition from Vivocom’s core telecommunications business to an integrated business enterprise with the ability and capacity to take on mega-scale projects that has the capability to reward its shareholders regularly. Nevertheless, he is positive that the future looks bright for the company. “We hope to achieve construction book orders exceeding RM2 billion soon and to garner RM5 billion worth of projects within the next 15 to 18 months. With the strong relationships with our Chinese corporate giant partners, we aim to grow the company to be a successful multi-national corporation and put Malaysia firmly on the global map.”