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Paying It Forward

The picturesque scenery surrounding Lake Kussharo, the largest highland lake in Hokkaido makes it a highly sought-after destination for nature and photography enthusiasts.

LIKE many young entrepreneurs, PKT Logistics Group chief executive and managing director Datuk Seri Michael Tio struggled at the beginning of his career.

However he remained grateful for the guidance of his mentors, who navigated him on the right path to avoid potential pitfalls, save from the learning curve to fast track growth.

Hence, he emulates and pays forward with the same kind act in helping others.

Tio led 14 entrepreneurs for the 14th installation of the “DSMT Entrepreneur Study Tour” themed “Sustainable Entrepreneurship Journey” to Osaka, Kyoto, Hokkaido and Tokyo, Japan for a 14-day immersive learning experience.

In the trip, he imparted his knowledge through business sharing sessions while travelling and eating with them.

This edition is the latest over a period of nine years, where the trips are modelled after PKT’s management retreats and embodied Tio’s management principles of promoting bonding and shared moments.

Tio (centre) posing with the group he described as the most amazing collection of like-minded and light-minded ST14 members in Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park: (from left) Malaysia Book of Records chief marketing officer Jwan Heah, DOREMi Services & Rental Sdn Bhd managing director Lim Ee Huang, DEzeno Sdn Bhd (designation) Saw Shin Yin, Star Glory Asia (M) Sdn Bhd (designation) Shamen Phang Sher Ren, Li Hong Giap Garment Sdn Bhd (designation) Belle Lim Suat Ling, Conspec Builders Malaysia (designation) Charlene (full name), Jesztronomy and Kindori (designation) Jesz Cheah, Conspec Builders managing director Marcus Tan, GDex Group executive director and chief financial officer Lim Chee Seong, Focus Electrical Malaysia Sdn Bhd executive director Tan How Ching, ITG Industrial (designation) Carrien Chong, Lee Ting San Group (designation) Dr Lee Hooi Jing, ACO Group Berhad executive director Sean Tan and Aluminium Company of Malaysia Berhad (designation) Greg Hoh.

Future-proof businesses

An academic exchange on “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) at Osaka University, famed for its world-renowned education level was incorporated as part of this DSMT study tour edition.

The group learnt how to be socially responsible via the “2030 SDG Game”, where participants experienced gameplay to understand that one cannot simply focus on economic goals without taking care of the environment and society.

Jwan, 44 shared that gamification gave them a clear understanding of how everything is connected.

The impact of one’s actions in the pursuit of economic gains without regard for the environment can lead to major devastation, where you have lots of money but nowhere to enjoy it in the long run.

When everyone puts their individual goals aside and works for the greater good, everyone wins.

Notably at the exchange, Tio was also appointed as a collaborative professor at Osaka University.

The group embarked on an academic exchange journey to Osaka University and had the chance to explore the campus grounds.

Life-long learning

Unanimously, the most valuable takeaway for the entrepreneurs were the insights gained from Tio and other participants as there was a unique opportunity for everyone to learn from each other and build relationships.

Tio firmly believes that unity and support are key to success, both in entrepreneurship and in life.

During the trip, it was an eye-opener for participants as they shared rooms and rotated roommates and car-mates daily to encourage socialisation and exchange of ideas and experiences without fear of judgement or prejudice.

By the end of the trip, new-found friendships were formed, likely leading to continued life-enrichment and friendships beyond the 14 days spent together in Japan.

Participants attended the "Transformation Sustainability Leadership Workshop - Sustainable Development Goals" at Osaka University.

Fruitful mentor-menteeship

Tio, who prefers to be called a “captain”, believes in the importance of mentorship for business growth. He distinguishes between mentoring and coaching, stating that coaching requires payment and can be found on various platforms.

In contrast, mentorship is a free service that requires an understanding of and respect for the mentor’s time.

Tio believes that mentorship is a business relationship that goes beyond the industry.

“During this study tour, you take out all your titles, go on the trip as a person, you call each other brother and sister, you call me captain and captain is always right,” he added.

He further stressed that the study tour was merely open to those seeking mentorship as it serves as an important platform to provide mentorship and encourages participants to leave their titles behind.

Tio received a certificate of appointment as a collaborative professor at Osaka University.

For Tio, the DSMT study tour is not just a tour but a journey of mentorship and leadership that fosters unity and personal growth.

“I don’t want to mentor people who are very snobbish, always talking about travelling in business class or driving a Rolls Royce, then why do you need mentoring?”, he asked.

“People who need mentoring are those who are seeking help, always want to learn and improve, and desire to be a part of a network with all the brothers and sisters.

“Entrepreneurship can be a very lonely journey, and if you have a problem, you still have to show that nothing has happened.

“During the early stages of my business, I cannot talk to anybody except those that I considered mentors,” said Tio.

Hence, Tio considers this method of mentoring his way of giving back to the entrepreneurial community.

ACO Group Bhd executive director Sean Tan Yushan, 37, is the youngest member of the study tour group and echoes Tio that entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey.

However, he benefited from the trip as he met like-minded entrepreneurs who shared their experiences and encouraged each other.

He added that the key satisfaction from the tour was an indescribable spiritual experience that has helped him understand the importance of effective teamwork and cohesion in creating high performance for his company.

Sean admitted that he would be happy to follow in Tio’s footsteps by guiding young entrepreneurs when he becomes successful.

Meanwhile, Conspec Builders Sdn Bhd managing director Marcus Tan, 42, initially joined the study tour with very little expectations.

Nevertheless, he returned with a significant insight that Tio possesses an impressive and genuine leadership quality with an enchanting style.

As a two-time cancer survivor, Marcus learned to value the importance of life and interpersonal relationships.

“Seeing is believing. When you get along with Tio, you will discover his sincerity and it inspires everyone who follows him.

“I completely changed my attitude towards him. There are always millionaires or billionaires around us. However, those who are genuinely concerned in building a valuable relationship are not easy to find,” he added.

He revealed that Tio perfectly demonstrated his servant leadership philosophy during the study tour and it had a profound impact on him.

Focus Electrical Malaysia Sdn Bhd executive director Tan How Ching, 39, was cautious about joining study tours due to past negative experiences with paid courses.

However, he was grateful for the opportunity to seek guidance from Tio as being a second-generation successor himself, he understands the challenges of running a business, as entrepreneurs have to shoulder heavy responsibilities yet can’t expose their weaknesses.

He was amazed by Tio who willingly helped and guided young entrepreneurs selflessly, despite having millions of fans on his Facebook page.

DOREMi Services & Rental Sdn Bhd managing director Lim Ee Huang, 39, is a dedicated member of Tio’s study tour.

Despite multiple absences due to pregnancy, she has participated in three study tours in the past few years and if not for her maternity leave, the study tour would have become her annual itinerary.

Lim was initially asked to return home from overseas to shut her father’s business down after he retired but she decided otherwise, turned the business around and remains a stalwart in the market even after the pandemic period.

She shared that Tio’s selfless dedication during the study tours has profound influence on her, is grateful for his unwavering commitment to helping young entrepreneurs and described every tour as a unique joyful experience.

“Datuk Seri (Michael Tio) will definitely give us the best,” she stressed.

Reputable domestic delivery company GDex Group’s executive director and chief financial officer Lim Chee Seong, 56, has been an eager participant of the study tours, having signed up for two tours within a year.

He stressed that learning from Tio complements his strengths and as a leader he believes that participating in DSMT study tours has helped him bring greater changes and progress to GDex.

He is particularly impressed with the “5H working culture” that PKT Logistics Group implements, which emphasises humility as a critical culture that cannot be ignored.

The entrepreneurs successfully ascended Mt Niseko-Annupuri, reaching the summit of a mountain — a true test of leadership and teamwork.

Strength in union

Tio sets in motion a hiking challenge at each DSMT Study tour, which is most memorable for participants.

Through sheer teamwork, the group excitedly overcame the odds of hiking up the 1,308m Mt Niseko-Annupuri – the highest peak in Niseko mountain famed for its fine-powdery snow and stunning view of Mt Yotei in Hokkaido.

By experiencing the determination climbers possess while facing unpredictable challenges without retreating, the group grasps the importance of teamwork and encourages one another to avoid abandonment.

This process creates trust, which ultimately generates a powerful resonance that gives each individual the courage to reach the mountain’s peak.

How Ching shared the same sentiments that he realised the importance of positive collective thinking in a team during the climb where he experienced breaking through self-limits and a sense of accomplishment with teamwork.

Tio (first from the right) and the entrepreneurs immersed in the emerald green of Japan's most famous Arashiyama Bamboo grove, an iconic sight in Kyoto.

Giving back in good faith

Author Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 book In The Garden of Delight reflects, “You don’t pay love back, you pay it forward”.

Over the course of nearly a decade, Tio has embodied the spirit of paying it forward by consistently showing that the most effective way to give back is through the DMST Study tour.

As a believer that one’s life experiences can be utilised as a source of guidance for others, Tio has undoubtedly created a unique platform to facilitate healthy bonding and mutual learning between participants.

With his selfless efforts, participants of the study tour have recognised him as a truly admirable captain who engages them via his transformational leadership and journey, and lives by his philosophy “Dream of it, Talk about it, Plan for it, Work on it and Get it”.

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