“Leadership is about inspiring people to do what they don’t ordinarily do”
The dynamic, 49-year-old Chief Executive Officer of Berjaya Food Berhad, Sydney Quays is one of Malaysia’s best known Food and Beverage personalities. Charming, gregarious, and totally immersed in delivering the Starbucks Experience, Quays graduated with Honours from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, United States of America, majoring in Hospitality Management and Marketing in 1988.
Quays is one of the pioneer who was involved in the 1998 establishment of the Starbucks brand in Malaysia. He was appointed as managing director of Starbucks Coffee Malaysia back in 2012 and in 2017, Quays assumes the role of CEO, Berjaya Food Berhad, overseeing the overall operational management and strategy for Berjaya Starbucks Coffee Company, Berjaya Food Supreme and 6 other companies under the Berjaya Group.
Leadership, Quays opines, is developed through a combination of personality, education and experience. “I believe I am more of a visionary leader, as my role requires me to set goals and direction and inspire others to achieve them willingly,” he says. As CEO Berjaya Food Berhad, Quays is tasked with developing business strategies for growth and new market expansion which are focused on bringing to the fore new innovative ideas to increases sales, elevate brand value while increasing profitability and future prospects.
To Quays, success as a leader is not just about doing well financially. “I believe a successful person must be well-rounded. A person must have a strong balance between work and family life. I believe that success in the working environment will lead to success in family and life and likewise.”
“My role models are my parents. Back in those days of limited access to the Internet and no connection to the outside world, seeing them work hard was always an inspiration for me to want to work harder. I hope someday I can be a role model for my children as well,” says Quays, who endeavors to constantly try to understand, and adopt the strength of different people in a bid to becoming a better business leader.
“Today’s leadership has switched from ‘power’ to ‘empower’. When dealing with Gen Y and millennials, ‘I’m the boss’ is replaced by ‘We are a team,’” Quays muses. He believes that leadership is about inspiring people to do things that they do not ordinarily do. “A good leader needs to strike the balance of being compassionate and driving results by having a clear vision and providing direction while understanding the capabilities of the team,” he stresses.
When asked if he differs from other industry leaders, Quays shares, “As a marketer, it is important to continuously seek for opportunities beyond the norm. I am always prepped with an entrepreneurial spirit and take calculated risks for the growth of the business. Most importantly, I believe in anything that I do and I’m willing to invest heavily in people. Good leadership is better taught through experience. I practice empowering people to make decisions and not being afraid to make mistakes.”
The Penang-born CEO was instrumental in making Starbucks the first chain coffee store in Malaysia to open a drive-through concept store. Malaysia also boasts the first Starbucks Signing store in the world that is run by the deaf community. “The store demonstrates Starbucks’ commitment to building a company where everyone is welcome, with inclusion at its core,” Quays shares.
When quizzed about the most difficult challenges Berjaya Food Bhd has faced, and its impact on his leadership character, Quays is of the mind that the biggest challenge in the industry today is to consistently exceed customers’ expectations.
“Customer expectations will always change due to different circumstances. Regardless of whichever brand under BFood, every day, our customers come to our store with high expectations of quality, service, environment and such. Hence, tapping on the best practices among the brands has become more important than ever. We do this by investing in our people; from the initial stage of hiring the right candidates, followed by training and talent development, we want to ensure that our employees are ready to serve up the desired experience.”
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