There has never been, nor will there ever be, anything quite so special as the love between a mother and her child. We sat down with Datuk Susan Wong and Jonathan Wong, pioneers of WSG Group, to learn of their unique mother-son working relationship.
Hi Jonathan, tell us a bit about yourself. Have you always wanted to be in the property line? JW: I can't really say that I've always wanted to be in the property line, but I think it's a very interesting field to be in because there's a lot to learn. And it's with that that I became curious about the industry and I was eager to learn. I studied Project Management back in university and at that time, I would have never thought I'd end up being where I am today.
What is it like to have a mother-son working relationship? JW: It's not what people may think it is. To me, it's the same as your normal employee and employer jobs. I don't get any special treatments. I'm basically the employee here and just like most, if not all, employees, I still do need to perform and find ways to impress the boss. But the good thing about it is that at the end of the working day, I'll still be able to talk to my parents about what happened in the office. Of course, when I first started, I'd get disappointed and embarrassed whenever I get cautioned about something but, I am lucky to have an encouraging team who supports each other. So, we normally just brush things off and do better.
DSW: It has been great actually. Jonathan is a very capable man and knows how to handle situations by himself. When he joined the company, he carried with him my burdens in marketing and promotional materials, dealing with customers and more. It's almost as if I depend on him here. He's very steady when carrying out his own tasks and he would always say, "Calm down. Calm down. Don't rush. Take things step by step." I'm blessed to have my son on board with us. That's the advantage of having him here - he always makes sure we know things will be fine if we do it systematically.
What are the key points in maintaining a unique relationship such as the one you both share? JW: I guess it's getting the chance to do something out of my own initiative. I don't get it all the time but when I do, it feels good. On normal basis when I do have an idea, I respect that my mum is my boss and even though she has appointed me as one of the Directors, I still do go through her with getting approvals before proceeding with something.
DSW: Support them with their decisions and give them the chance to be more independent. And if needs to, guide them whenever and wherever possible. That's why I give him the freedom to try out new things, with my supervision of course! The younger generation today is very much up to date with everything and it's hard for us to catch up. So, it's better to let them explore the opportunities and we support them however we can.
What is your most exciting project this year? JW: The most exciting and most challenging project would be Benoni Commercial Centre. Although the price is affordable, due to the economy and the banks getting stricter with loans, it's challenging to be selling an apartment project, especially in the Papar area. Most people would still be building landed properties, so introducing an apartment is new to them. My sister and I are also involved in the construction of BCC. We started out the residential project a bit late because we were more focused on building the commercial area first.
DSW: BCC sits on 40 acres of land and seeing that Papar is quite far from KK City, we decided that building a mixed development project will benefit the people of Papar. Once this whole project is completed, it'll be like a small town where people will be able to enjoy the shop lots, supermarket, shopping mall and marketplace without having to go down to the city. And with the Pan Borneo Highway passing through our development, it drives us to build more.
Can you tell us a bit about Benoni Commercial Centre? JW: BBC started with Phase 1 and we've received the OC for it. It's a 2-storey shop lot. Phase 2 is also completed with OC. And now we're focusing on Phase 3, a 3-storey shop lot and it's facing the Pan Borneo Highway.
The Benoni Gardens Apartment is just behind Phase 1's shop lots. We're still in the construction phase. Foundations have been done and we will start the ground works soon. We will only incorporate facilities such as a security guard house, playground, few barbecue pits and a sky deck. The sky deck will be fenced up with glass panels to ensure the safety of the residents.
DSW: In the near future, we plan to further develop the place. There'll be a supermarket next to Phase 3 of BBC, which will be opened by Servay and there'll also be a 24-hour KFC drive-through. We also plan to build a shopping mall with a cinema and food court inside. We will also have a hotel with a banquet hall enough to fit 60 tables. I think it's a good thing to have in Papar and it gives the residents an option to use the banquet hall or the existing multipurpose halls in Papar to host parties and events.
What about The Palms Condo? How is that progressing? JW: To date, we've built 3 towers. We're planning to launch the 4th tower in the future. Each tower houses 128 units. Towers C and D are fully sold, and Tower A has about 10 units still up for grabs.
DSW: Buyers are already collecting their keys to Tower A. Those staying there will be able to enjoy the sea view and the facilities that we have there, namely the swimming pool and gym room.
What future developments can we expect to come? DSW: We have around 60 acres of land next to Benoni Commercial Centre which we plan to develop once BCC is fully completed. We are proposing to build terrace and semi-detached houses, apartments and condominiums. Of course, along the road, we'll also build some shop lots. We will also try to build and bring in a college if possible. I think that would really benefit the people here. By the time these developments are completed, it will definitely be a game changer for Papar.
Jonathan, do you feel pressured to take over and follow your mother's footsteps? JW: I haven't actually thought about taking over. The pressure is there but for now, I'm just doing my best to learn as much as I can and maybe in the near future if I think I'm capable enough then I might consider taking over. Of course, with the right support and encouragement, I know one day I can do it.
Datuk Susan, what advice can you give to Jonathan in terms of progressing in the company? DSW: Advice? Continue learning and take in as much knowledge as you can. He's already doing a good job and I'm proud of him. Most of the time he's advising me to be calm and to take things step by step, instead of the other way around!
Lastly, what does the future hold for WSG? JW: In my opinion, I think the company will expand to have a more variety of departments and to be more systematic. I guess this is what most of us in this generation wants - a livelier atmosphere and better systematic office management.
DSW: We hope to have more developments on our landbanks and we hope that our young, creative individuals will be able to help with that. We currently have a 100-acre land in Tuaran, but for the time being Jonathan is running it as a fish farm. The location is perfect for a resort but I will leave it to Jonathan to decide.