Listening is key, particularly when you’re running an audio business
When your family business is reputed to be a pioneer in state-of-the-art multimedia systems in Singapore and the region, being the would-be successor could sound like big shoes to fill.
Not for Lam Tze Tze, executive director of Electro-Acoustics Systems (EAS), and the only daughter of the company’s CEO and founder, Lam Tong Loy, who incorporated the business in December 1982. Tze Tze joined the family business after working for 10 years in Hong Kong, where management experience in the telecommunications and biotechnology sectors honed her instincts and increased her confidence in spotting new technological trends.
She shares: “After my studies, I wasn’t ready to come home. I wanted, and needed, the outside experience. Then you come to a point where you decide between continuing to work for someone and returning to help (the family business).”
Since 2017, she has worked hand in hand with her father to learn the ropes of the business. The company is responsible for the integrated audiovisual systems behind megaprojects such as Resorts World Sentosa, Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre and Jewel Changi Airport. It’s also well-known for being the first to successfully implement new technologies, including the first robotic newsroom in Asia and world-first multimedia systems at Suntec and Universal Studios Singapore.
The patriarch is pleased with her performance so far, saying that she has done well in building rapport and trust with the company’s suppliers and partners, such that they now contact her instead of him when issues arise. Employees – even those who have been with the company since inception – are also open to her, given that she has earned her stripes and has a less confrontational nature. Tong Loy says: “She’s not so aggressive; people are willing to listen. I think that is important.”
He also appreciates the IT and telecommunications expertise that she brings to the business, even though he already has a wealth of experience in the industry.
“When I need to talk about an idea, he’d be the right person to talk to because he understands. Even if he doesn’t agree, he’ll still see the positive side of it. That helps a lot,” says Tze Tze
“I tend to leave these details to our engineers. Now that she is working with me, I’m confident that our next-generation team is ready to thrive and enable our company to continue being a market leader in our industry.”
Watching Tong Loy and Tze Tze field questions during this interview is a heartwarming sight of Asian parental pride trying to remain masked, and the unpretentious filial affection of a daughter who values her father’s advice.
“He’s a good sounding board. When I need to talk about an idea, he’d be the right person to talk to because he understands,” she says. “Even if he doesn’t agree, he’ll still see the positive side of it. That helps a lot.”
The two also have their fair share of disagreements. Tze Tze brims with ideas, while her father takes a more cautious approach.
He says: “The younger generation sometimes like to invest in many new things that don’t necessarily lead to success. I’m not saying she is wrong, but that we have to look at many angles and not be so impulsive in our decision-making.”
This occasional pull on the brakes frustrates Tze Tze, but she has learnt to re-examine her plans whenever her father raises concerns. “I’d rethink whether it’s the right time to do it or maybe modify it.”
He was also not amenable at first to her suggestion of bringing in management consultants. “In the past, we were not keen to engage business consultants,” he explains, “as this is a niche market. Not many of them have a good understanding of our business, especially since I am the pioneer in the audiovisual systems integration business in Southeast Asia. I was also concerned about costs.”
He eventually warmed to the idea and they agreed that only those who were genuinely knowledgeable would cross the EAS threshold.
These days, Tong Loy lets Tze Tze make the final decisions.
“This is the way to let her grow. The whole idea of her coming back was to grow the business. I will not stop any good changes coming from her,” he says.