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The Dreamer and His Dreams

*This is a 3 part article where I discuss about the vision, values and legacy of HDI.

Hello!

Many people have asked me about what I see happening for HDI in the future. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say what I feel.

Business to me is an emotional investment. When I first joined HDI, I came in with ideas but very little knowledge about how things worked. I had an ego. I was quick to criticize. I wanted to change things too quick and too fast without first understanding what was the past. I tried to see my future in the company. But that future was not clear either.

I remember a particularly frustrating period in my working life where I didn’t know myself where things were going. All I knew was that we were trying to improve many things around us. But it wasn’t easy. I tried to be a good leader, but I didn’t feel like I was in control. A lot of it was about reacting to situations and trying to problem solve.

It was driving me crazy. I knew I had to change how I was doing things. But I didn’t know what to do.

So I decided to do some self-reflection. One of the first things that I realized was that my mindset of an employee following instructions. I was always waiting for orders or directions. I wasn’t taking enough initiative. I didn’t know what was really happening in the business. And this was all wrong. I needed to take ownership and be responsible for my actions.

Next, I had to face up to my own weaknesses. Let me tell you, that was one of the most difficult things I had to do. It’s not easy when you need to be honest with yourself and to admit all your failings. You have to put aside your ego and to really get to know yourself better. I came up with a list of words that I felt most accurately described who I was. Now came the hard part- I showed this list to my family and close friends, and asked them if they agreed with my assessment.
Because I was being honest with myself, they too gave me very good feedback. I realized very quickly that the impression I had of myself was somewhat different from the impression they had of me. This was a huge eye-opener.

I was now able to identify objectively which were the things I stood for and which were the things I needed to improve. Armed with this, the next step was to look at the company in the same manner. What were the things that were doing well for us, and what were the things we could improve? I started tackling the weaknesses one by one, same way I started tackling my own weaknesses.

Through this, I started feeling a lot closer to the company. I finally started taking ownership of the process. I was ready to stamp my mark on things. I looked at the company through many different perspectives: as a customer, as an enterpriser, as an employee and as a shareholder. Through this, I slowly formulated my thoughts and created my own vision for what I wanted HDI to stand for. This needed to be a vision that I could believe wholeheartedly, and that could guide both myself and others in making decisions on behalf of the company.

It was a long process. It took me about a year of trying to understand who I was and what I wanted HDI to stand for. This is very different from how other companies do their planning, where they get the senior management together over a few days, ask them questions about where they see the company going and finally putting something together that has everyone’s opinions in it. Yes, everyone might have a say or agree to the vision. But no one is truly passionate about the result, because it’s not them. Well, I have a strong passion for HDI because HDI is me, and I am HDI. I want to be able to share who I am with everyone out there, and if my vision is something that appeals to them, then they will join me in making it a reality.

So what then, is the vision that took me so long to create? I don’t know if you will laugh at me, but my vision came from my dreams I had when I was younger. Growing up, I always dreamt of the kind of world I wanted to be part of. I knew I wanted to live in a world where people will be happy and smiling. That people would have a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Sure, they would disagree with one another, but it didn’t mean that they couldn’t coexist with one another. There would be mutual respect and trust. Everyone would be able to live, learn and love together for each other.

As I grew older, I saw more and more reasons why my dream would just stay a dream. People had egos, were greedy, and were selfish. In fact, so was I! So what hope would there be for my dream to become reality?

I guess that’s why before changing the world, first I had to change myself. And hence the path I chose. I didn’t want to be a fraud. I wanted to understand for myself if it was in fact possible to think and feel in this manner. And I have to admit I was very lucky. HDI gave me the opportunities I needed to improve myself and the way I thought. Though working with so many different people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, I got a better understanding of how people functioned. I realized that everyone had their own story. I couldn’t be judgmental. But what I needed was empathy. Everyone in life was looking for a safe haven that they could be themselves. But they felt a great need to be someone else because they were afraid of being judged by others. Soon, being that someone else became who they were, and they lost touch with their original selves. For those that are reading this, if you ever felt a small sense of emptiness or are on the constant lookout for things or experiences to define who you are, you know what I mean.

So I set out to make it my life’s work to build that safe haven. To allow for people to put aside their differences and to connect on a basal level without fear or suspicion. But I can tell you, it’s not easy to convince people to shed their insecurities overnight. It’s an uphill process. But it doesn’t stop me from trying, especially if I believe in what I’m doing.

We have to realize that we shouldn’t need an catastrophic event that will wipe all of humanity off the face of earth in order to put aside our differences and to work together. If we decided to work together now, we could be doing so much more to help our own species. Instead, we are too busy stepping on one another to care.

I know I can’t change the world instantly, but if I can inspire others by setting an example with HDI, perhaps one day people will see that something like that is possible. That’s why my vision for HDI is “Inspiring a world where people live, learn and love beyond themselves.” The key really is the part “beyond themselves” since I want people to look beyond just their own needs or wants, and to consider the needs and wants of others too. If we can accomplish this, think of how much more peaceful our world can be. After all, if we can’t want it enough for ourselves, then think of the world that we want our children to inherit.

*In Part 2 and 3, I’ll talk a little more about our values- Live, Learn, Love, as well as the Legacy that I want us to leave.

Brandon Chia, 37 has been the Chairman and CEO of HDI since 2013. He was named CEO in 2011 and Chairman in January 2013. He succeeds Peter Chia, Founder and Chairman Emeritus as the 2nd generation business owner. Born in Singapore with a Degree in Law from the National University in Singapore, Brandon has championed consolidation, streamlining and efficiency of the various businesses within the group. He was also instrumental in driving double-digit growth of the organization’s revenue and profitability. In 2013, he led the organisation in rebranding itself from High-Desert to HDI across all the countries and business units. He created the vision, mission, values, purpose and legacy for the brand and also reorganised the portfolio of products, segregating them under different categories each with their own market position and target audience. He also worked to develop a turnkey franchise system that would allow the organisation to grow rapidly in emerging markets. Prior to being appointed Chairman and CEO, Brandon served as the International Operations Manager, jumpstarting the Philippines offices and focussing on growing the Outdoor Advertising, Finance and stock brokerage industries. He also started up two new businesses, Resource and Systech, successful spin offs from the Shared Services division of the Philippines. Brandon’s personal philosophy is about growth and evolution of mankind. His vision is to create healthy, open communities of people that share their knowledge readily and are able to live, learn and love beyond themselves.

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2 Comments

  1. Inspired Employee

    Hi,

    It feels great that our Chairman really does bleed like most of us do and also goes through the “emptiness-soul-searching” phase in one’s life. Shedding some vulnerability to your people really does the opposite and makes it easier for us to follow your lead and work towards your collective vision of what the future should look like.

    This blog is really empowering and at the same time builds rapport with your people (us), even though you’ve shed your challenges with us. Much appreciated!

    Thank you and Greatness is upon HDI!

    -Inspired Employee

    • Thanks for this, I appreciate it. Yes, many times people may have a different perspective from what goes on “up there”. But the biggest concern most CEOs would have would be whether they are doing things right.

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