Interview with Mr. Alvin Chia

Written by Claire Aw, February 2014

We at AllAce publications managed to catch up with Mr Alvin Chia, who is the winner of Singapore entrepreneur award. A successful private investor and a businessman who is the owner of many award winning companies in Singapore. Mr Chia is also an avid sailor with his own yacht named after him near his home at Sentosa Cove. Over the past decade this energy driven man who hasn’t even turned 35, has climbed various mountainous treks around the world, sailed, dived and explored remote places of our earth. Back home he still has time to oversee the development of many various companies which have won a whole flotilla of awards.

Being an inspiration to young people aspiring to be equally successful at a young age, we emailed a list of Q and A to Mr Chia and as he happened to be contactable only via satellite phone at this point, we waited almost three days before his email came back up. Below are his answers as we have received it.

1. We understand that you are the owner and shareholder of a few tuition centers in Singapore. You have also written dozens of articles for leading children magazines and as a private investor who also invested in many other assets like oil fields and luxury condominiums. We like to enquire how you first came into contact with the private teaching line and what was it about tuition that got you involved heavily in this industry.

Answer: Tuition always has been close to my heart as I always have a healthy respect for teachers. I started giving tuition to kids myself to supplement my tertiary education when I was 18. During those days,I had to pay an agent commission to find me a student. So I opened my own firm to match and mix assignments. Another department soon developed, and that was having lessons at my premise. In due time,I bought and opened several centers to give good quality advice and ability to beat the educational system. I select my managers only from the best. Only the best can teach your children to give the best.

2. We understand that you are a man who is passionate about his hobbies. You do sailing,hunting and even go mountain climbing. Not every man has his own yacht with his own name on its bow. You also have a few cars. What do you have to say about spending money on assets that depreciate?

Answer: Every man need his toys. As long as his toys are a small fraction of his overall assets,there is no reason to feel guilty. If a man spends 90% of his income on toys then it becomes a cause for concern. Personally I sunk most of my wealth into properties across Singapore and Thailand. I have always loved the sea, it’s natural and alive. I can sail on it on endless horizons and fish for nice big fishes wherever I can find. I keep my Lexus Rx450 for commuting to meet clients and partners, my convertible for leisure and the Volkswagen beetle which is a cute car that mostly just sits at my garage and takes me to traditional car events. All work and no play makes a man bored, riding on my jetski out towards endless horizons makes me very relaxed and happy.

3. What advice would you give our young ones so they can achieve financial freedom?

Answer : Youth is an asset in itself. It’s the time a man has the most energy. He feels immortal because he is so young he can afford to make mistakes and learn from it. A man who wants to achieve a financial target must set a goal in terms of dollars and cents(Eg save $2 million by 40). His goal cannot be in terms of time (Eg to retire by 40, otherwise by 40 he will find he is way off his target and he will push back his timeframe to retire by 50 and later 60 and 70). Be practical. Know how much u need to survive and save and invest your way towards it. Break a massive goal or problem into many small achievable targets.

4. How does a man with your lifestyle continue to keep in touch with all his partners and associates when you could be sailing to Morocco today or climbing Mount Kalimanjaro tomorrow?

Answer :I have a mini communication bag that I keep with me in my car. It contains an Iridium satellite phone that allows me to call or conference call anyone worldwide. It allows me to connect my iPad and laptop to the internet for emails and other important facsimile functions. When I go aboard my boat,I always carry my communications bag with me. If I am on a mountain, I carry only my satellite phone which is waterproof.

5. How do you select if an investment is worth buying and getting involved?

Answer : Every business comes with its managers. I always look at the managers. If he is motivated and determined, I will buy him regardless of the industry he is in. Thus I have been involved in things like hair salons, restaurants and lodging for foreign kids. The best resource in any business is the human resource. I am always looking for good managers may they be equities on the stock markets or a barber shop.

6. What is the best foreign property you own? That you consider a value buy?

Answer : A condominium in the Royal Phuket marina. It overlooks the marina so I can see my own boat docked at the berth. From a Singaporean point of view, the home there cost me as much as what a HDB five room flat would have cost in Singapore? Seemed to me very much like a value buy.

7. Did you have a mentor who taught you how to do business when you were younger?

Answer : My parents have always instilled in me never to borrow or take loans and to buy only what you can afford. This advice has served me well but in the beginning I felt everything was so slow moving. The rewards only started coming in when I was in my 30s. I was also conditioned from young to never give up and never stop believing in yourself. It helped me completed marathons,instilled iron discipline in my life.

8. We understand that you are surrounded by staff and partners who are equally disciplined. Is it true you sign them up for marathons too?

Answer: it’s true that I always encourage my staff to do exercises and I choose only the most disciplined and hardened people to manage my businesses. Many have achieved multimillionaires status. I can only point a man in the right direction but he must put his feet and walk towards the promised land.

Once again I like to thank Mr Alvin Chia on behalf of AllAce publications for the time taken to reply our questions. We hope that other young people can be encouraged and learn to take inspiration from others like him. In the following newsletters I will catch up with other successful homegrown Singaporeans and try to get their stories.