Aik Meng - CEO TE Asia Healthcare Partners
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Many aspire to reach the upper echelon of the healthcare industry, but few are able to successfully navigate the corporate ladder. As Asia becomes the world epicenter of the healthcare industry, C-Suite Partners sits down with international healthcare executives asking the tough questions and unpacking the personalities of the top industry leaders.
Welcome to the boardroom.
Michael Murray 0:33
Aik Meng, thank you for joining C-Suite Partners in the boardroom.
Aik Meng 0:37
Always a pleasure.
Michael Murray 0:38
Talk me through your career today, until today.
Aik Meng 0:41
Well, I I didn’t start in the healthcare industry. I was in a B2B business in the ports and logistics and shipping business. I spent close to almost 20 years in the industry and then, as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to move into healthcare services. I was approached, actually by a search firm. I knew I knew nothing about health care at that time. But it intrigued me a lot. So I’ve been involved in the healthcare scene for probably good 7, 7, 8 years.
Michael Murray 1:15
So you’re an advocate of the lookout side of the healthcare industry, to bring in experience that is really going to, I suppose navigate the way through the challenges over the next 10 to 20 years
Aik Meng 1:28
I think it’s useful to have people outside provide a new perspective. But I will also say knowing the industry has a lot of advantages, a lot of nuances in this industry, especially in Southeast Asia, this is an industry or the private sector, part of it is still in its early stage of development. I mean, for example, if you would start a network of private hospitals in Vietnam, you could obviously look at the talent pool within Vietnam, but most of the talent pool would come from people that run public hospitals. And that’s a very different model from what you want to advocate, as a private sector player. The other alternative is to move over to private, experienced private healthcare experience from outside of Vietnam. But if you wanted someone who understood the country and the nuances of the culture, you would look at people from outside the industry.
Michael Murray 2:24
I’m interested in entrepreneurial CEO mindset to the corporate CEO mindset, what’s the big difference there for you?
Aik Meng 2:31
You work a whole lot harder when you’re an entrepreneur. Okay. You’ve got a lot more at stake. And when I say a lot more at stake, it’s not just financial, it’s also emotional. Because it becomes your own. Right. You have relied on your moral standing on your gravitas to either recruit people or get people to support you, or find partners. So I think the stakes are a whole lot different. It’s much higher,
Michael Murray 2:57
Aik Meng 3:00
Much more stressful. Yes. But I also think that if you’ve chosen this path, it must mean that you, you really feel passionate about it, you really believed in it.
Michael Murray 3:08
One of the key things that every single founder of a business says is that the founder always cares more than the rest of the staff, although they’re coming along for the journey. Yeah. How do you manage that when you’re sometimes a little bit too enthusiastic.
Aik Meng 3:25
So I’m very guilty of that because you tend to then think that everybody is like you. In the early part of my career, I actually hated one of my bosses, because he was an extremely entrepreneur passionate about the business person, but he would insist and when they because he was so so into the work, that he would have meetings on weekends. Yes, right. Because that’s what he lived for. I fall into the trap of trying to do some things like that I have to stop myself because I have to learn that not everyone may think the same way as I do. So you’ve got to sort of pull yourself back to some of these things. I think that’s quite important. But equally important, is then find people who think similar to you feel the same level of passion, feel the same level of excitement is what you’re doing. But it takes a hell of a lot of discipline to do that.
Michael Murray 4:19
What about a moment where you’re in your CEO position that you felt overwhelmed? You remember a moment a project, the contract or a joint venture?
Aik Meng 4:28
This is probably not in my healthcare needs. Since I’m still in the shipping business, I took over as president of the company in 2008. Just in the crisis, the financial crisis, starting to unravel. I have the distinction of probably the CEO in history to have lost the most money in one year. I calculated that we lost about a million bucks U.S a day. That’s a huge one. I came in when the crisis was happening. I obviously got before your time, but you’re still responsible. Yes. But you had to make a lot of very difficult decisions. We were at a point where one we have to cut costs. We structure many arrangements, agreements, go negotiate with customers, clients, renegotiate terms, terms with vendors. It was overwhelming. There was a lot. Shareholders were worried. They were very concerned. And I think the most difficult part for me was this was a company that I had almost grown up with, I’d spent around 15 years in the company. And knowing that I had to let go of some people was tough, alot of emotion. But I’m proud to say that we did it in the most fairest way we could find. But not easy. And it’s those times that you you wish there was a lot more people around you to help you navigate your ways.
Michael Murray 5:56
Aik Meng, thank you very much for spending time with C-Suite Partners in the boardroom. Thank you
Aik Meng 5:59
It was pleasurable. Thank you.