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EXPANDING THE SPHERE OF SUCCESS
Michael Tan’s entrepreneurial journey has been a swirling growth of resilient comebacks defined by slow and steady wins amidst intermittent losses. The continuous diversification of Tan’s business adheres strongly to the core principles of customer education. In a conversation with TMV, the founder of Freemen Group speaks on his entrepreneurship experiences, the importance of customer centrism and taking the business forward by adding value for customers.
The field of entrepreneurship based on the fundamentals of education and customer relationships has been an attractive lure for Michael Tan. Ever since leaving his day job as a mechanical engineer as it was not something he wanted, Tan has been involved in starting businesses that take into consideration customers’ benefits. “As a self-made entrepreneur, the journey has been an eye-opener in connecting with new ideas, business partners, customers and all crucial factors for business sustainment,” says Tan. There is overriding importance placed on education based on experience and knowledge. “The business consultant who coached me during my first business venture had a significant impact as I succeeded in achieving million-dollar sales within the first year,” adds Tan.
“My parents, father in sales and mother a teacher, were middle-income earners originally from the north and they were striving to make it in Kuala Lumpur,” says Tan when talking about his family background. “Father, being in sales must be where I got my initial inspiration for entrepreneurship. Plus, hard work is my second nature. With my two siblings studying overseas, I had to work doubly hard to get a scholarship for my studies in Singapore,” continues Tan.
The Freemen group started by Tan in 2008 is focused on empowering prospective property owners with the required education for financial freedom. There were ventures before this that did not produce the expected results especially for customers, which Tan acknowledges as lessons learnt. The highs have been sustained through learning the dynamics of business cultures and people. The business model, focused on adding value to customers within the property domain has been successful with the opening of property educational centres and involvement in property development locally and within the region. “From personal experiences in owning properties and with my expertise in mortgage brokering, I started Freemen based on my passion to educate and add value for prospective purchasers,” says Tan.
“The increasing fulfilment from our educational services led to us becoming a full-fledged training establishment. Our main areas of specialisation, which are interlinked, consists of mind-set development, property investment and entrepreneurship,” explains Tan. The company has grown locally in Malaysia and regionally through partnerships in Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong. “We teach financial management, property assessment, tenant management and pertinent actions to be taken in purchasing property either for own use or investment,” says Tan.
“My main inspiration in going to these places is to help and guide the locals in property investment, a form of social entrepreneurship,” says Tan. “Our passion and purpose in educating our students towards successful property ownership provide us with a sense of self-fulfilment and the inspiration to do more for such communities. We are grateful that we have been allowed to add value to these people’s lives,” says Tan.
Tan’s leadership style is based on an open concept and teamwork. “We have about 40 staff locally and 60 overseas handling training, administration and operations,” explains Tan. The other businesses consist of property investments in the form of block buying, hospitality and property management and land bank investment. “We are looking at transnational collaboration and teamwork involving shared resources between two or more locations which will enhance value-add for these areas.”
On the personal side, Tan’s family consists of a wife who is a Singaporean engineer by profession and three children, a son and two daughters. “As time constraint is a major factor, we do try and maximise quality time as a family during the weekends. My son accompanies me on some of my trips and we spend time together,” says Tan on work-life balance.
Tan’s advice for newcomers is to dare to dream and to be focused on realising that dream. He also says that one has to take a leap of faith sometimes to find out what one truly wants out of life.