“His leadership skills were honed by the training and exposure he obtained from the Singapore Armed Forces during National Service, when he was an officer. “
Mr. Steven Tham, Chairman and CEO of Leeden National Oxygen Ltd says that the characteristics of a good entrepreneur include: “Firstly, the ability to read changes in the business environment well. Secondly, being daring enough to execute the strategy and follow through on the results and, thirdly, learning how to make good use of human talent.”
Leeden National Oxygen Ltd, manufacturer and distributor of welding, industrial gas and safety products, was established in May 1964. With an annual turnover of more than S$200 mil, this Singapore-registered company is the largest welding, safety & gas integrated solutions provider in South East Asia.
Currently employing 1 ,563 people, the group has progressed from a distributor and manufacturer of welding, industrial gas and safety products to become a value-added integration specialist for its customers in the oil & gas, marine, infrastructure and manufacturing industries. Their clients are mainly companies in the oil and gas fabrication and marine industry, infrastructure contractors, automobile and general manufacturing companies.
“This is a highly competitive industry with ease of entry. Hence, product positioning and marketing is of vital importance,” Mr. Tham explained. “Good selection of high quality products is also most important – we focus on product reliability and performance.”
Mr. Tham graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree with Honours (2nd Class Upper from the University of Singapore, specialising in marketing). He completed the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) course and was admitted as a CIMA member. He also completed a Master of Science (Real Estate) from the University of Singapore.
All this provided a foundation for him to understand business management better. But his leadership skills were honed by the training and exposure he obtained from the Singapore Armed Forces during National Service, when he was an officer.
Having Kwek Leng Beng, the Executive Chairman of the Hong Leong Group, as a former boss and role model also helped. “Being a financier, I learned from him when to be aggressive and when not to take risks, especially in lending,” he elaborated.
How does he gauge success? “Apart from doing well financially, a person, in order to be considered ‘successful’ should also have a balanced way of life – a good family, a good home, enjoy some recreation and also be able to contribute back to society in whatever way he can.”
While retirement won’t be happening anytime too soon, 10 years from now, Mr. Tham hopes the company will continue to grow into a bigger and more stable company: “At 73, if I cannot contribute actively, I hope to be able to contribute as an advisor.” All that while reading, playing golf with customers and partners as well as taking skiing holidays with his family during the year-end break.
His advice to budding corporate leaders? “You need to have a strong vision for the things that you believe in, execute well and be patient and wait for the results. Don’t be too anxious to start – gather enough experience and money first. Do your homework well – understand the type of business that you intend to enter into and what the rewards and financial risks are. Have a good business model and there must be something unique about the business that gives you a chance to succeed.”
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