Loh Lik Peng, Founder & CEO of Unlisted Collection - hotelier with Michelin Starred restaurants - Rishi Naleendra - So This Is My Why podcast episode 140 with Ling Yah host and producer

Ep 140: The No-Nonsense ‘Lucky’ Hotelier?! | Loh Lik Peng (Founder, Unlisted Collection)

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Welcome to Episode 140!

Want to know how a lawyer became a successful hotelier with 40 hotels & restaurants ( 9 of them were awarded 1 – 3 Michelin stars) in Singapore, London, Ireland, Shanghai & Sydney?!

Look no further than today’s STIMY guest: Loh Lik Peng, the founder of Unlisted Collection.

Lik Peng grew up expecting to be a doctor, like his parents. 

But ended up practising as a commercial litigator for 3 years.

During that time, the world was hit with the Asian Financial Crisis and a rundown property called Hotel 1929 came onto the Singapore property market.

Hotel 1929 was located in Singapore’s red light district and Lik Peng saw potential in it, so he took a year off from law to develop the hotel with the full intention of going back to being a lawyer thereafter. 

But life didn’t turn out that way.

He ended up opening his first restaurant at Hotel 1929, then another hotel and restaurant, and another and…

In fact, he bought so many properties in the area that his friend once remarked that the street should be renamed “Peng Road”! 🤣

Lik Peng has now become one of Singapore’s most established hoteliers (he struggled with imposter syndrome for a long time when people called him a hotelier!) despite starting out by taking projects “by the seat of his pants”. 

And his Michelin-starred restaurants include:

⭐️: Burnt Ends, Marguerite, Nouri

⭐️⭐️: Cloudstreet, Da Terre

⭐️⭐️⭐️: Zen

So do you want to know how he did it?

Let’s go!


Also a special shoutout to Karl Mak (STIMY Ep 55) & his team at Hepmil. 

They’re the ones who made this subseries possible and helped me record all my interviews in their studio.

I definitely couldn’t do it without them – thank you Hepmil!

P/S: Let me know if you’re interested in doing a studio recording in Singapore! There’s plenty of space at Hepmil’s Limpeh studios. 😉

P/S: This episode is available on YouTube too!


Want to be the first to get the behind-the-scenes at STIMY & also the hacks that inspiring people use to create success on their terms? 

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    Loh Lik Peng, Founder & CEO of Unlisted Collection - hotelier with Michelin Starred restaurants - Rishi Naleendra - So This Is My Why podcast episode 140 with Ling Yah host and producer

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    Part 2

    In Part 2 with Lik Peng, we dive straight into the intricacies of his business. 

    For instance:

    • Why does he give equity to his chefs? 
    • How does he identify and convince talents like Rishi Naleendra to come on board?
    • How does he work together with the chefs to ensure that they have everything they need to build a thriving business?
    • How attaining a Michelin star flipped a switch within the chefs he works with
    • All things brand building
    • Knowing when it’s time to pull the plug – and he’s had failures too, including a painful one with One Leicester Square in London
    • His big passion with museums and so much more

    If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:

    • Karl Mak: Founder, Hepmil Media – Building a Viral Meme Business in Southeast Asia
    • Phil Libin: Co-Founder, Evernote
    • Justin Byam Shaw: Co-Owner of the Evening Standard & the Independent – on building the UK’s largest media empire
    • Chen Chow Yeoh: Co-Founder, Fave – the Non-Charismatic Leader We All Need?!
    • Adrian Tan: The Late President of the Singapore Law Society & King of Singapore

    If you enjoyed this episode, you can: 

    Leave a Review

    If you enjoy listening to the podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on iTunes / Apple Podcasts. The link works even if you aren’t on an iPhone. 😉


    If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s Patreon page here

    External Links

    Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:

    Loh Lik Peng, Founder & CEO of Unlisted Collection - hotelier with Michelin Starred restaurants - Rishi Naleendra - So This Is My Why podcast episode 140 with Ling Yah host and producer

    Part 1 STIMY 140: Loh Lik Peng

    Loh Lik Peng: You know, I'm not a numbers guy actually. I've only in the last 10 years, maybe started to do proper feasibility studies.

    Before that a lot of my projects were kind of seat of the pants, I was lucky that they worked out. But if I look back and the kind of decisions I was making with very little homework, I'm really a bit shocked. So I, I I was never a numbers man. Think I was just lucky that I never got caught out not being a numbers man.

    Ling Yah: Hey, STIMIES!

    Welcome to episode 140 of the So This My Way podcast. I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah, and today is the start of a very special two month Singapore focused podcast mini series, and our first guest is Loh Lik Peng.

    Now, Lik Peng is actually the founder of Unlisted Collection, which has under its purview 40 hotels and restaurants throughout the world, including Singapore. Ireland, Shanghai, Sydney, and London. Those restaurants include one three Michelin starred restaurant called Zen, as well as two two Michelin starred restaurants and three one Michelin starred restaurants. So it's safe to say that Peng kind of knows what he's doing as a hotelier. But the thing is, he never officially trained to be one. He grew up thinking that he would be a doctor, like his parents.

    Ended up studying law, practicing as a commercial litigator, even though it turned out to be the Asian Financial Crisis. But even through this crisis, he noticed that some properties constantly kept popping up in the market.

    And one of those properties was Hotel 1929.

    So he took a year of leave from law, invested in Hotel 1929 and launched it. His plan was to go back to law, became so successful, he opened his first restaurant, then another hotel, another restaurant, and so on and so forth until where he is today.

    So the big question is this - how does an ex-lawyer turn out to be such a successful hotelier?

    Why does he split his equity with his own chefs? How does he actually think about who he wants to partner with? All these questions we'll explore in this episode and because it's so extensive and so interesting, it's going to be divided into two parts. Today is part one and part two will be released this Wednesday.

    So stick around.

    Are you ready?

    Let's go.

    Hi Peng, thank you so much for joining me today. When I was doing my research, I realized that you come from a family of gluttons. Your dad is the chief glutton, and apparently he's really good at making duck kueh chap.

    Loh Lik Peng: Great, he is very good at it. In fact, he's good at all the teochew dishes.

    Ling Yah: Really? What's his dish in particular?

    Loh Lik Peng: Well, he does all the steam dishes very well. He's very particular about his steam dishes. He's obviously got his teow chew stewed duck down.

    But in general, he's a bit of a experimental. So occasionally, he'll be watching some TV program and pick up some recipe.

    And then next thing you know, at Sunday lunch, he'll have some exotic smoked duck or something like that. Yeah.

    Ling Yah: It surprises me that you haven't picked up that love for cooking.

    Loh Lik Peng: You know what? My dad's semi retired, so he probably has a lot more time to do all the cooking. I enjoy cooking, actually, but I'm not particularly committed at this point in my life, I guess. I cook more when I'm on holidays, for example. I cooked a lot during pandemic.

    Ling Yah: Yeah. And was it difficult when you moved back to Dublin when you were 12?

    You said boarding school was the best years of life. I went to boarding school, that was the best year of my life, but I went for A levels. You went when you were 12. That's very, very different.

    Loh Lik Peng: I cried my eyes out for the first year, right? I wasn't loving it because I think for one thing, the weather wasn't great.

    Culture was different. Food was awful. But after that I discovered friends and you have this little community there, right? Basically you're growing up you eat, sleep and live with these guys and they kind of become like brothers. And I never had a brother, I guess, growing up.

    Yeah, I really enjoyed it. And some of my best friends to this date are dating from that period of my life.

    Ling Yah: Did you never think, I want to settle down in Ireland?

    Loh Lik Peng: Not really, because I think once I came back to Singapore, did my national service and things like that. Singapore is also home, right?

    Family and stuff are here. So at that time in my life, I didn't contemplate wanting to settle down in Ireland. In the back of my mind, I always knew that Ireland would occupy a special place in my life, I guess.

    Ling Yah: And you end up studying law, which I did as well, and English Bar. Yeah. Which was difficult for you because your family expected you to be a doctor.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah.

    Ling Yah: And your sibling became a doctor too.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, so my sister's a doctor. Both my parents are doctors. And growing up at that time in Singapore, right, everyone expected me to be a doctor. It was the done thing, right, your parents are doctors. But no, no regrets. Actually, I think I would have been a lousy doctor anyway.

    Ling Yah: Why would you say that?

    Loh Lik Peng: Oh, I just don't think I have it in me. You know, I think being a doctor is as much a dedication, a vocation as it is a job and I'm not sure I have that dedication in me, you know to go in there for the for the patients more than career, I guess. So I I'm not sure it would have suited me

    Ling Yah: Yeah, and you were clear that you were going to come back after studies because this was supposed to be the Asian century.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, when I was growing up, right, I think certainly in the 80s, 90s, Asia was sort of going through that Celtic tiger phase and perhaps I didn't really feel it until in the mid 90s, right, when that whole Asian tiger boom went on.

    So when I first graduated there was talk there were so many opportunities in Asia and Singapore. So it seemed like a logical place to come back.

    Ling Yah: And did you feel betrayed when it was the financial crisis instead?

    Loh Lik Peng: Not really, you know, I think I learned a lot from the financial crisis. I was too naive to really, truly understand what it meant right at that time. Actually Asian financial crisis taught me a lot of things.

    . And very valuable lessons I carry to this day.

    Ling Yah: Like what?

    Loh Lik Peng: Like financial prudence, I guess. Leverage and making sure you don't put all your eggs in one basket, I guess, you know?

    I did a lot of is bankruptcy practice, right? You see people who set up trusts and things like that and they're the ones who did a little bit better So I kind of understood early on the the kind of dynamics of what a financial disaster could look like for a family And I grew up in the era where we watched Ally McNeill a lot, right?

    So my impression of what law was when I first went into practice was really about fighting for justice and reality is it's not really the case. No Not not for lawyers you you fight for your clients. That's it, right?

    Whoever pays your fees is the person you act for, that's more or less it. And the justice part sometimes comes into it but not always.

    Ling Yah: Yeah, you would say it's grounded on the principles of justice, but it's not justice per se.

    Loh Lik Peng: No, no, not always. I think particularly when you look at the amount of power that the commercial entities have, right? Whether it's the contracts that they can write and the commercial leverage they have, things like that. So it's not always an equal level playing field.

    Ling Yah: But why a litigator? I was a litigator and I realized as I was practicing, your lifestyle is so distinct from every other lawyer. You either love it or you hate it.

    Loh Lik Peng: I think I didn't have a choice about being a litigator because when I first came back to practice that was the areas where things were going on.

    And so I was asked to do a litigation and that was it. But having said that, I enjoyed it. I did enjoy litigation.

    Ling Yah: That makes sense. And then along the way you found out about Hotel 1929.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, you know at that time as a as a young practicing lawyer I noticed a lot of mortgagee sales going on and things like that . And you look at The mortgagee auctions in those days, you walk in and there could be a hundred properties on, on auction, right?

    And most of them were, were mortgagee sales. And so at some point, the banks were just letting go of properties really cheap because the market was flooded with all these repossessed properties, whether they were residential or commercial.

    And in that period in Singapore, nobody really paid attention to conservation houses.

    In fact, shophouses were seen as a poor asset class because you couldn't intensify the land use. They were protected.

    What I noticed was, yeah, there was a whole bunch of shophouses for sale in Chinatown. At the time, Keong Seap Road in Singapore if you go there now, it's one of the trendiest streets in Singapore, right?

    But at the time, it was a really rough red light area. And so, what I did at the time was to acquire a few of them and do mortgage sales. So the first one was 1929 on Kyeongsang Road. The second one was what was to become the new Majestic Hotel on Bukit Basel, both of which are very trendy areas now.

    But at that time, both of them were fairly seedy areas.

    Ling Yah: Chris of Asylum actually said you turn into Peng Road because you acquired so many properties there.

    Loh Lik Peng: At the time it was, not expensive, you know. Shop houses now everyone looks at them and they're like, oh my gosh. And they are ridiculously priced now, but at the time honestly, nobody wanted to touch them Yeah.

    And in, in some instances, you couldn't get bank financing for them because if you're in Kyeongsang Road, the bank won't finance you because it was a red light area and a lot of the properties there were effectively brothels.

    Ling Yah: I actually found that hotel when I was there last weekend. Oh yeah? Doing recce research and I didn't know that was the place until I saw this very ancient dentist chair and I thought, oh wait, he collects these antiques.

    That should be the place. And it turned out that it was.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah. So when I sold it, I sold it lock, stock and barrel and and barber chair stayed.

    Ling Yah: It's still there. But it's empty though.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, it's unfortunately, whoever took over has not done a good job with it.

    Ling Yah: Yeah. But I mean, even though it was going for cheap, it was still red light district and you still had to contend with the fact that whatever guests came would be accosted by people who are working in those industries.

    Were you not daunted by that thought?

    Loh Lik Peng: At the time not really. It never occurred to me right Whenever I was doing renovation on the street, I'd walk around and I'd have lunch there and things like that. And it struck me that, even though it was a red light area, it actually was quite friendly, kind of a red light area.

    Most of the working girls were actually quite elderly. They were fairly matronly. It didn't really have that quality of, of... Seediness. Seediness. Well, it was seedy, but it didn't have that quality of being very depressing. You know, some areas you go to, it's like full of druggies.

    The area was full of old men, patronizing these fairly matronly working girls. And I realized that a lot of it was maybe just companionship. And they were probably close to retirement age, a lot of these girls.

    Loh Lik Peng: And it wasn't a scene where you saw a lot of young girls and men prowling the streets. So I kind of got the impression that maybe this was a, a slightly different kind of red light area.

    And sure enough, it rapidly transformed, right? Once the pinnacles were starting to be built, I think the government took decision that they were going to clean up the area. So a lot of the brothels disappeared, literally in the space of a year, year and a half. And so the gentrification was really rapid.

    And you could see it before your eyes. One brothel closed down, replaced by a restaurant, things like that. So it was interesting for me to witness that firsthand.

    Ling Yah: But you still had to put down around 4 million before that gentrification happened, including from your parents. Were you not concerned because it's your family's money and your mom thought you were insane?

    Loh Lik Peng: Yes, I think so, but at the end of the day, in a sense I wasn't doing it in isolation and doing something crazy, right? I always thought that, okay, if you restore this building, there would be some use for it. And it wasn't like literally gambling the money away. And at the time, I thought I'd restore that building and then go back to practice, actually.

    Ling Yah: After one year.

    Loh Lik Peng: After a year or a year and a half and it never really happened because New Majestic came along after that and I did that too. And, and from that point onwards, you could see the streets were changing, gentrification was coming along. In fact, when we opened 1929, already people were writing about the fact that the, the whole kind of scene in Chinatown was changing.

    That whole thing moved quite quickly.

    Ling Yah: At what point did people around you go from, what are you doing to, you were really smart, you were ahead of the curve?

    Loh Lik Peng: Oh, people started writing about that fairly shortly after 1929 opened. And I, I never quite felt that right because I think when you're doing one hotel or property, you don't think of the work you do in terms of gentrifying the whole street.

    And to this day, I'm not sure we had that much to do with it. I think the trends were changing anyway. You could observe that maybe URA or the government's policy on those parts of Chinatown were changing too.

    That whole area was going through a massive gentrification. Largely driven by developments like the Pinnacles, where the HDB was being developed into this more or less a new Typology of HDB flats, which were going to, to be almost on a par with private condos , and Pinnacles was the first of them, right?

    Fifty story HDBs with sky gardens and things like that. It had a tremendous impact on the area, not just on Keong Siak, but on, on that whole end of Chinatown. So I think that those parts of it really drove the change and the fact that, more sort of lifestyle businesses were coming in. At the time, yeah, you didn't have that many independent restaurants and bars.

    But that changed very rapidly in the three or four years that we were there.

    Ling Yah: And then SARS hit.

    Loh Lik Peng: Well, SARS hit straight away after opening 1929. In fact, SARS hit two or three months after we opened 1929. The gentrification was after SARS, but, but the SARS thing was, you know, looking back, it was a blip, right?

    At the time, it seemed like the worst thing in the world. It seemed like, honestly, like the world was ending because every tourist disappeared. The funny thing is us being seen as a small boutique hotel actually helped because we got more patronage because people were like, Oh, I'm much less likely to get SARS if I go to a small hotel.

    So actually we were reasonably full during SARS. I know a lot of the large hotels were deserted because everyone thought there'd be big crowds there and you're more likely to pick up the disease, right? So this counter intuitively, somehow we were reasonably busy during SARS.

    We learned a lot of lessons during SARS, right? About kind of trying to operate more leanly, about crisis management. And so the fact that it happened early on in my hotel career, when I didn't really have any expectations of what that career might mean or what it would look like, actually that early crisis probably helped a lot because it, it kind of playbook, yeah, you know, and it really kind of formulated the team and made us a really unified team.

    So it helped a lot in my subsequent hotels.

    Ling Yah: So what does crisis management look like in a hotel?

    Loh Lik Peng: You know, the thing about crisis management in any, not just hotels, it's really about adaptability, right? And being able to pivot faster than the next person. So I think, those of us who went through SARS I think the SARS actually looked at COVID 19 in a slightly different light.

    I could see that from our Singapore hotels versus our hotels in London, and Australia, which never really had the SARS thing. The Singapore side, our protocols kicked in way faster. We had all our... thermometers and all this kind of stuff, hand sanitizer rolled out really fast.

    In Europe, in Australia, in Ireland, it took a much longer time and I had to, in fact, buy thermometers from here and send to them. They couldn't find those thermometers there.

    So, yeah, the crisis management, once you've been through a big one, kicks in much faster than the second or third one that comes.

    Ling Yah: Yeah. And then you expanded really quickly to London as well. Yes. And that's because you were also familiar with the market, your family already had investments there.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah.

    Ling Yah: How did you decide to move in?

    Loh Lik Peng: I invested in places where the legal training part of me was assured that, We had a bit of a framework. People always ask me, why haven't you invested in Vietnam or Indonesia or Malaysia and things like that? I'm always like, well, for me I invest in markets I'm familiar with, both in terms of the law and the business environment.

    So for me to go to a place like Vietnam, even though perhaps there are opportunities there it'd be probably more difficult. When I go to somewhere like Australia, Ireland or UK, actually I'm familiar with the laws. I'm familiar with the regulatory environment. I'm familiar with the business practices.

    And therefore, it's easier for me to, to do businesses in those places than to go to somewhere like Vietnam or Indonesia where I would have to be highly reliant on a partner on the ground. And I wouldn't necessarily understand how the planning laws work or, or what the business practices or the legal side of things are, right?

    And I know there's probably more risk in those countries for a small player like myself in terms of whether or not you can... local conditions. Shall I put it that way? And therefore I've always chosen to operate more developed markets.

    Ling Yah: But Bethnal Green of all places. I never went there when I was there.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah. Yeah. So that was a bit of an adventure actually. Bethnal Green, for those of you who don't know, is kind of like East End of London. And for...

    Ling Yah: More seedy area I would say.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, yeah. Very much more seedy. And for those of you who are not familiar with East End of London, that is the more, sort of adventurous part of East End of London, too.

    I think when we first bought the Town Hall Hotel well, the Bethnal Green Town Hall, actually at the time, if you were the wrong... Shade of brown and Bethnal green. You probably get robbed.

    So it was a bit of an adventure, but you know what struck me as a Singaporean going to London, I was like, I'm gobsmacked that a town hall is for sale, a beautiful municipal building, like a town hall. And all these buildings were built during the glory of the British empire, right? When they had loads of cash and they had, you know, robbing the Indians to pay for all their grand buildings.

    So I walked in and this huge town hall. clad in marble and brass and I was like, wow, this thing is for sale. Then I did a bit of homework and I realized, you know, in the eighties, when Margaret Thatcher came in and Britain was no longer a rich country, didn't have a empire to support its ambitions. All these town halls a lot of them were sold or in the process of being sold.

    And a lot of these sort of boroughs are being merged because it wasn't efficient and they couldn't collect enough taxes, poll taxes and things like that to support their services.

    So, So there were a number of these really grand old buildings that aged from sort of Victorian Edwardian period to a little bit more modern that were being sold. And this was one of them, right? As a grand grand old building fallen into disrepair.

    You know, the roof was starting to leak. Windows was starting to cave in. Floors with holes, things like that.

    The romantic idea of restoring a town hall. And so, probably that romanticism overruled my logic.

    Ling Yah: Yes, because once you said repair, I thought, oh, this is really expensive.

    Loh Lik Peng: But, you know, it turned out to be one of the most rewarding projects I've ever done in my life, right? And one of the signatures of my career, maybe.

    Yeah, I restored this town hall, and again, my timing was, was...

    Ling Yah: Terrible.

    Loh Lik Peng: Terrible because we had the financial crisis straight after we purchased it and we built it all through the financial crisis. But actually when we opened, it was just starting to be the green shoots of the financial crisis being overwrite. 2010 we opened.

    Just after we acquired it, the financial crisis happened. So '08 and having to go to your bank and tell them that you're going to be restoring a town hall and turning it into a hotel in 2008 would be an interesting experience for anyone.

    How did they respond?

    Well, here's the thing. I had secured my financing for this property just before the financial crisis hit. So, so, again, my timing was bad and good, right? But it allowed me to build this crazy, but you know, not without a great amount of trepidation. I mean, I was fearful the whole way through because... In 08, you had no idea how things were going to turn out.

    It seemed like the whole world might end, right? So I would say it was a huge period of learning. But I got the hotel done and opened in 2010 when London was starting to boom again.

    This was the period when they were running up to the Olympics. And suddenly the East End of London became very trendy.

    There was a lot of improvement in transport infrastructure. Just generally people's perception of East end change. So I think I was the beneficiary of that, you know, and we opened with this incredible restaurant at the time called Viejante, which was the first restaurant in East End of London to get a Michelin star.

    And that kind of put us on a map. First of all, this crazy Singaporean guy had restored a town hall in Bethnal Green, and then he opened a Michelin star restaurant there, so. Yeah, it's like, wow, this crazy guy. And the papers wrote about us. Everyone was amazed and... That someone would be crazy enough to do this project and in the middle of a financial crisis, right?

    So in a way, we got a lot of attention. The restaurant in particular got a lot of attention. It was the hottest restaurant in, in London for maybe that year and a half. And so we, we kind of pulled out this incredible feat of, opening this five star hotel effectively in the middle of the East End of London and perhaps defying a lot of the naysayers.

    Ling Yah: I love that you almost brush past that period of depredation and uncertainty. What was keeping you going because you could have just pulled out or did you think I've invested too much? It's too late to pull out.

    Just keep going.

    Loh Lik Peng: No, once you commit to the project once you're your fingers on that dotted line you have signed it there's no going back, right? So from that perspective, I knew that I was committed. There was no going back. It was to to do or die. So, you know, I had to do

    Ling Yah: So you just based yourself there in that country as well?

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, more or less. I was traveling a little bit back and forth, but I was there for large chunks of my life.

    Ling Yah: What would you say were the things that helped to ensure, because you were there physically, that the project was on course?

    Loh Lik Peng: I think for me it was just driving the project and being there and having the momentum, right?

    Making sure that things remain on track, that whatever roadblocks we hit, there were plenty. That we were able to plow to them without, you know, further blowing the budget, things like that. I mean, the thing about a complex restoration like that is to manage the risks of the project expanding beyond the scope and the budget expanding beyond the scope at which you plan.

    And they almost always do. And at that time, we had no margin for error because I couldn't go back to the bank for a variation. and say, look, I need a bit more money. The bank would not have countenanced it because they probably did not want to give me the loan in the first place. Right. But the fact is I already had signed the loan agreement.

    Therefore I had the financing locked in and the contract was going to go ahead. But had I gone to them and say, Hey, I need another half million pounds. Chances are at the time it would have been a no. So I didn't have margin for error. I had to fulfill the project in the time and on the budget that we had set at the start.

    Ling Yah: I love that you used the word risk because what you are saying that you were doing is completely contrary to what a lawyer would do. That's the last thing in the world.

    You would just think, how do you mitigate your risk? And I realized after 10 years in legal field, when I come out, I am always mitigating my risk.

    I'm always adding more and more clauses. And those who have always done business would say, Ling Yah, you don't need to put all these things in, but then I would go, but my training says otherwise. And if you don't put it in, then all these situations might arise. But you seem to not have that issue at all.

    I think it helped that I didn't practice for too long.

    You weren't ruined.

    Loh Lik Peng: I didn't necessarily have the kind of risk adverse thing that a lot of lawyers do, right? Because they've seen every horror story imaginable. But, I, I'd seen enough horror stories to be careful, but not been so long in the game that I was completely risk adverse.

    And, doing these kind of, Restoration projects are inherently risky. That much I understood. But you know, the fact that I was able to carry that project through without blowing up the budget was in some ways due to my knowledge of the law that I didn't have recourse, right? There was no way back if I didn't get it right.

    So I think that that really occupied my mind. It was definitely a very stressful, a very kind of a difficult period, but you know, when, when you go through that stressful type of project, a very difficult kind of project, and you pull it off, it feels twice as rewarding. So maybe for that reason, that project has always been quite special to me.

    I, I did do it in the middle of what was at the time, seemed like a world ending event.

    Ling Yah: Did you feel invincible? I could tackle anything. I'm ready to enter another jurisdiction now.

    Loh Lik Peng: No, I just wanted to take a long holiday I got married 2010. Yes

    Ling Yah: To your violinist wife.

    Loh Lik Peng: To to my wife.

    Yeah And and that was in a way my reward for finishing the hotel because I had that deadline in my mind, right? And I was supposed to be the first wedding there, but in the event I was the second wedding because there was someone who came ahead and my GM called me, Hey, there's someone who wants to do a wedding fair.

    Take the money.

    Ling Yah: You know, you always have to be businessman first.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, absolutely.

    Ling Yah: So you mentioned earlier about the Michelin star. Was that the point when you thought I can actually call myself a hotelier?

    Loh Lik Peng: I don't know what, you know, I don't think it was one single event. I think it was the fact that at some point people kept referring to me as a hotelier, and I realized we had that portfolio of hotels, and then dawned on me, yeah, I can call myself a hotelier.

    You had long, long imposter syndrome, right, about calling myself a hotelier, because I never trained as a hotelier. And when I built the first few hotels, I wouldn't say I was a Delante or anything.

    I did take it seriously, but somehow the idea of being a hotelier seemed Pretentious for me to say, right? So it took me a while.

    Yeah, and it wasn't just one event. I think it was you know, Maybe other people validating that I could be called a hotelier before I would call myself that, you know

    Ling Yah: So what does it mean to be a hotelier without being pretentious?

    Loh Lik Peng: I don't know. I think I think looking back now being hoteliers It doesn't have to have that connotation of, of being someone who was brought up in the Four Seasons or the peninsula, right? And that was my impression of Hotelier at the time.

    Hotelier is just someone who kind of has hospitality as his passion, I guess, and, and runs hotels. Runs her own hotels.

    But at the time it seemed like a much bigger thing to me, you know? It seemed imbued with some sort of a special skills or magic as a hospitality person. You always hear of these legendary GMs and things like that, right? So that was kind of my idea of a hotelier. You know, someone who had that stature.

    And I never saw myself in that light, I guess.

    Ling Yah: What is the magic in the work you do? Because you're not at the hotel running the thing, greeting the customers. That might be what draws a lot of people to do it. You're doing the numbers. You're very, very pragmatic. Where's the magic in that?

    Loh Lik Peng: You know, I'm not a numbers guy actually. I've only in the last 10 years, maybe started to do proper feasibility studies.

    Before that a lot of my projects were kind of seat of the pants, you know, and the seat the pants ones, I was lucky that they worked out. But if I look back and the kind of decisions I was making with very little homework, I'm really a bit shocked. So I, I I was never a numbers man. Think I was just lucky that I never got caught out not being a numbers man.

    I have been caught up for, for not being a numbers man before, maybe. But, but not, not in a major way, right? But my early projects... to be honest, I didn't, I didn't do major projections. I didn't do feasibility studies. I didn't do sort of sensitivity studies. I learned all these things along the way, when other people told me I should do it.

    So I don't think I was a numbers man at the start. Now with enough gray hairs, I, I'm a bit more of a numbers man.

    Ling Yah: Yeah, what crosses your mind now? Because I did a little bit of hotel work as well. There's always requests, proposals, information, memos. You sign your NDA and you get access to all the documents.

    How do you know when something intrigues you enough to go in?

    Loh Lik Peng: I think for me, it's not always about the numbers. if as a hotel investor, I want to go just for numbers, actually, I invest in three star hotels, buy one of those portfolios, or you get a yield of eight, 9%, whatever it is. What interests me is.

    Ling Yah: Historical.

    Loh Lik Peng: Historical properties. Characterful hotels. Hotels that have a little bit of a, different beauty about them, right? And they are more often than not, historical kind of buildings. So I, I tend to go for those, and I tend to go for those who, which have kind of more evolved lifestyle offering, I guess, right, and that can be resorts or, or urban hotels, but they have a bit more of a different story to tell that I can really put a bit of a mark and put a really nice restaurant there.

    The lifestyle elements of the hotel are more important to me, I think, than just the pure numbers. If you you know, an asset manager be a very different exercise from the kind of things I do, right? I think I look at hotels more is what can I put in there that will make it interesting to someone like me who might be the customer, you know, that can be the F and B offering can be the design, things like that.

    Ling Yah: But how do you find that line? That is great to be romantic about it. But this is a business at the end of the day. I did speak to some people who do know you and I was like, what is his reputation in the industry? And he said, ultimately he's a no nonsense business person.

    Loh Lik Peng: Ultimately, yes. I think if, if I know the numbers are not going to stack up, I'll walk away now as I said.

    In the early years, I was not, you know.

    Ling Yah: Could have sold you anything?

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah. Well, not anything, but I would fall in love with the project I'll do it. Case in point is, is Town Hall, right? On any piece of paper and any projections you have done at the time, you should have walked away, right? And I probably should have walked away, but as I said, I was lucky I pulled it off.

    But if, if in 2007, if I had the knowledge I have now in 2005, 2006, 2007, I don't think I would have done the project, you know? And this is the paradox, right? You make a success of a project that really shouldn't have succeeded. And had I known enough, I would have walked away.

    But somehow I made it work. As I said, it was a lot of things falling my way that I didn't have much to do with. It could have gone very pear shaped. It should have gone very pear shaped. And, therefore, I'm blessed and lucky that it didn't. But that's not to say that, anything in my design had a decisive say in it succeeding.

    Ling Yah: So is this one of those instances where I was so young and naive and I managed to get through, but now that I'm older and wiser, I will never do it again?

    Loh Lik Peng: No, but here's... That's what I'm saying is a paradox. Actually, it was a successful project, right? But on paper, it shouldn't have been a successful project.

    Most people have walked away. This was a very complex restoration of an old town hall. Grade II listed building. You know, we were adding a new floor. There was a lot of complexity. And it was an area that was, not looked upon as a prime area. It was, it was not a salubrious neighborhood.

    It was not a... Investable area. Bethnal Green in early 2000s, not an investable area.

    Ling Yah: Even now, not quite.

    Loh Lik Peng: Well, much better now. The East End of London is much, much more, people are much more familiar with the banks and all that, much more familiar. In the early 2000s, most people will tell you you're, you're nuts, right? To be in the East End of London.

    It was known more for its crime than anything else. So all sorts of things on paper that project didn't stack up, but you know, I was lucky and it stacked up.

    Ling Yah: What about the Old Clare? Do you regret taking that on?

    Loh Lik Peng: No, not at all. Old Clare was an amazing project, right? And, and for me looking back, it was, it was, yeah, again, one of the most rewarding projects I ever did because there's nothing quite like taking an old building and transforming it, your vision into doing something there, right?

    And, and really being able to put your stamp on it, I guess. And Eau Claire was one of those, right? It was an old brewery, it was an old headquarters, an old pub. And in a neighborhood that had largely been sort of industrial before. Because this was the old Carlton United Brewery and at that time, Sydney's largest urban regeneration.

    This was a enormous brewery site right next to Central Station and opposite UTS and any other city, it would have been developed a long time ago, but for some reason in Sydney, this, this industrial plot, which was an old brewery dating from, 19th century, was still there.

    Breweries are not beautiful buildings, right? But because they kind of have to carry a lot of weight of fluids and things like that, they tend to be very strong buildings, and they tend to have that very brutalist construction. So there's a certain beauty about this kind of old industrial buildings.

    And breweries have that particular look. And this was lovely old brick building falling apart, but with beautiful bones. And so I walked in there, again I fell in love with it. But I had no reference point. I was like, okay, Chippendale, what's this, what's this neighborhood in Sydney, things like that.

    All I could see was, the development plans for it, which looked amazing. These things can go badly wrong too, right? But the building itself was so gorgeous, so amazing, and in my own head I knew we could create something pretty special. And at the time, Sydney didn't have a lot of nice boutique hotels.

    There was one or two. But nothing like the kind of sophisticated boutique hotels, the really beautiful ones you see in other key gateway cities like London and things like that. In fact, Melbourne had much better boutique hotel stock in Sydney. So it, for me, it was just a a challenge I couldn't pass up.

    I looked at this building and I said, Okay, I gotta do this. But it took me a few months to wrap my head around it. Yeah.

    Ling Yah: I read some articles you were bringing in 200 year old Oregon wood rafters. Yes. And the people bringing it were very, very proud. Yeah. Of the fact that you were just keeping that history when everyone else was just tearing things out.

    Loh Lik Peng: Throwing it out, yeah. So we preserved as much of the old building as we could, you know. All the artefacts, all the industrial fittings. The old bars, things like that. And actually it's a lot more effort to preserve those things than chuck it out and put a new thing in. But it wouldn't have been anywhere near as fun, right?

    Ling Yah: And the cost though. Were you ever tempted at one point, this is costing too much, I need to be more prudent.

    Loh Lik Peng: You do that every stage of a project, right? There's always a balance that I'd like to say that all these things have no cost, but the reality is there is. And you always, always, always, always make that judgment.

    And I think I do lean much more towards trying to preserve it and it costing a bit more than is wise. , but I always find that these things have their own reward at the end.

    And sometimes when I've decided, okay, something is not worth it, and you, you chuck it at the end, a project I kick myself and said, dammit, I should have just done that.

    So having done that one once or twice now my, I always lean towards trying to keep the old things there because those are the things that make the place special. And those are things you actually, you can't buy. You know? You can't literally go and say, I want an old beam and put it in.

    These things don't exist. I mean, you go to architectural salvage yards, and they might have a fireplace, but they seldom have these architectural sort of elements, I would say, you know, things like beams and beautiful aged things. So looking at an old wall, a brick wall, very different from a brick wall that you build now, right?

    There's no comparison. So those type of things, yeah, they are costly to incorporate, but I always find that they do give the project a different quality at the end.

    Ling Yah: Hey STIMIES, just interrupting this to say that if you are really enjoying what you're hearing, please do subscribe to the STIMY newsletter as well. You can find the link in the show notes for this episode at www.sothisismywhy.com/ 140.

    With the newsletter, you get updates on all the new episodes that are coming up.

    Also the behind the scenes and all things about how to build your personal brand online as well.

    So if you'd like to learn more about STIMY beyond these weekly episodes, please do subscribe to the STIMY newsletter. Now let's get back to this episode with Lik Peng.

    And what about navigating your way through the unsexy regulatory part? You said it was the worst red tape you ever encountered compared to london, China.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, yeah. So everyone always has this impression that Australians are very laid back. Actually the contrary is true. I've discovered that Australians are the most anal people in the world.. And I say this with great affection and love, but they love their red tape. The Australians absolutely love their red tape.

    And they will do everything they can to ensure that there's more layers of red tape. So that's the thing that always astonished me, you know. They love their regulations and everything in Australia has some layer of regulation.

    So everyone thinks Singaporeans are very kiasu. Actually, Australians are the most kiasu people around. There's regulation and red tape for everything in Australia.

    So doing construction there is, is challenging, you know, and you've got to navigate that. You've got to have a dozen consultants just to do the project. So yeah, it's, it's one of those places where you, you've got to be prepared to wade in red tape if you're going to do business there.

    Not just in terms of construction, in terms of the labor laws, everything that follows, you know. At the same time, it's, it's a wonderful place. It's a great place to do business, but not an easy place.

    Ling Yah: What were some of the things that surprised you that people who want to go into the Australian market should be aware of?

    Loh Lik Peng: I think the fact that you were likely to face regulations for everything at every turn. Whether it's your acoustics to occupation limits to heritage, virtually everything. You know, the stairs, how long the tread is, how long your handle has to go down. Astonishing.

    You look at an Australian building code, you know, it's like layer upon layer and they take different jurisdictions, just chuck it in. And so it's, it's a enormous manual and you need many, many people to help you navigate it, whether it's the fire and all sorts of things. You know, the accessibility.

    Yeah, having worked in many, many jurisdictions, Australia has by far the thickest regulation books I've ever encountered. You need many, many consultants to get through. So it's wonderful a place as it is. And, and it is a good place to do business. You, you always have to be prepared to put in an extra effort when you go to Australia.

    It's a lot of work.

    Ling Yah: And taking a little step back, Dr. Stanley Quek was the one who introduced this property to you.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yes. He was the CEO of Frasers in Australia at the time. He called me up one day. He knows I love these old buildings, right? And, and he said, hey, I've got this fabulous old building.

    I'm, I'm doing out the Carlton United Brewery. Do you want to have a look? At first I said to him, no, no, no, no. I'm not interested in Australia. It's not on my horizon, right? Because I didn't know much about Sydney other than going there on holiday. Absolutely loving going there on holiday.

    So he says, no, no, come up. I'll show you around the place. And so I duly flew up. I flew up to this old brewery and he was showing me around and the brewery was still there. It wasn't operating. He led me around Kensington Street and it was all boarded up at the time.

    But because it was all boarded up, not operating, all these druggies and prostitutes were actually using it for, whatever activities they were doing at night.

    So I first walked in, there were needles all over the ground. Used needles, used condoms, and I was like, okay, this is not the problem.

    He was showing me all these plans. So, I, I said, no, no, I, I'm not sure I could do this. But at the same time, I could see this building had a lot of potential. So I went away, and I, it was kind of in the back of my mind for a while. Then he called me again, and I thought about it. You know what, I think Sydney could do with a really cool hotel and I, I love this building.

    So, I said, okay, I'll do it, you know, and that's how O'Kara came along. But yeah, it wasn't on my radar, you know, but I absolutely love doing the Eau Claire. It was a very special project for me.

    Ling Yah: Well, it was definitely on his radar. He owns the whole of Kensington street, so he's very familiar.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yes, yes, and he was developing the whole of of Calton United Brewery at the time, right? Which was one of the largest urban regeneration projects in Sydney and certainly one of the largest projects that Frasers was undertaking in Australia at the time.

    And the thing about Frasers is, they are interested in building large apartment blocks and selling them. right, Restoring an old building and turning into hotels are probably the last thing they want to do.

    They don't have that kind of thing on their portfolio. Even in service apartments. So I think they were content to sell it to me and I could manage the risk for them and possibly do something quite interesting then.

    Ling Yah: It's probably comforting to know at least this very, very large property group is developing this area.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, but you never know quite how the area is going to turn up, especially when nothing's been built yet. Literally at that time, there was nothing there. There was no buildings being built. I think they had just gotten planning permission for a few of those blocks. And, those developments take years.

    It can take you 10 years to develop a project that size. And it did take them about 10 years. You know I think they've largely finished the last few blocks now. So It was definitely something a little bit adventurous, I would say.

    And at that time, nobody in Australia had any impression of Chippendale because it was a brewery. It was a brewery for that length of time that people forgot that Chippendale existed.

    Ling Yah: I really want to talk about Stanley because I noticed as I was doing my research, his name kept popping up. And he's your business partner in a lot of properties. When I dug deeper, I realized there's a lot more link between the two of you.

    Your dad taught him medicine.

    Loh Lik Peng: He was in Trinity College in Dublin doing medicine. Right. And he was my dad's junior by about five years. So he's known my family since before I was born. Before my parents got married even. So I think yeah, my dad said he was his houseman many years ago and he taught him, right?

    So, you know and of course I only knew this many years later. But Stanley has kind of always been a family friend. I don't know, since before I was born, as I said, you know, so somehow in the background his voice went there, right. And, and I knew he had a strong connection to Ireland.

    Even after I came back, I think his name was mentioned a few times because he was The consul for Ireland and Singapore before Ireland had its own ambassador.

    I think he used to represent Trinity University, interviewed all the students before they went there. Yes. So I think he always had a strong link to Ireland as did my family, I guess.

    Ling Yah: But how does one transition from a family friend to a business partner?

    Loh Lik Peng: Okay, so this is the funny thing, right?

    He was very involved in Ireland. And actually, I had a lot of friends there, but I didn't ever do business in Ireland. So I, I would go back maybe once every two, three years, visit friends and have parties and things like that. Or go for friends weddings and, and then eventually christening of their children.

    You know, things like that, right? And then one day, an agent sent me this email and said, Oh, this property in Ireland for sale in Dublin. And I usually just junk those emails, because Ireland's not on my radar. Dublin's not on my radar.

    But I was curious because of the Irish link. So I looked at it, I was like, mortgagee sale? And South Frederick Street. I was like, my gosh, that's smack in the middle of town. So I pinged it to Stanley. I said, Hey, look, this is little Hotel mortgagee sale smack in the middle of, of Dublin, south Frederick Street, right next to Trinity College. And we decided just to throw in a blind.

    The auction was the next week, you know, and, and there was no way seeing it, huh? We didn't see it. We didn't see it, but I knew the location. Yeah. Because obviously, I'm familiar with Dublin enough that I knew the location was very good. The 2 of us said, okay, why don't we do 50 50 and we just threw in a blind bid.

    We had not seen the property We didn't even read the terms and conditions, right? We didn't have time. We didn't get a lawyer to review it for us. I just chucked in a bid with him.

    And Lo and behold we won it Okay, now I gotta so I actually I was lucky I had my team in London they came down and we did all the due deed quickly and and completed the sale. So it was just that serendipitous thing.

    I, I literally pinged the email to him and , he hadn't done any business in Ireland despite all his links there, right? But we were both familiar with Dublin, so we bought that property and that was our first hotel. And we restored it and turned it into this really cute boutique hotel called Trinity Townhouse.

    And that was the first of our hotels in Ireland. You know, once you have a team on the ground and agents know you're investing there, you get more and more property sent to you .

    That's how we got into business together in Ireland and that's how we've built that portfolio in Ireland.

    Ling Yah: How do you figure out the division in terms of obligations, responsibilities?

    Loh Lik Peng: Look, I think Stanley is a very experienced businessman, right? So, in, in that sense, I, I defer to him in most things. But we get on very, very well. Our chemistry is very good. There's a deep amount of trust.

    And therefore, doing business with him is very easy. He's probably a little bit more of a hands on guy than me. So I let him be the more hands on guy. I've always been much more giving my managers autonomy and setting targets and holding them accountable for, for those targets. He likes to get in on the ground more and that's great .

    So there's very seldom any conflict. We don't step on each other's toes. I'm perhaps a bit more on the kind of lifestyle F& B and looking at segments of market to go for and branding and things like that. And he's probably be much more into the business and the management, which is his background, right?

    He's very good at it. So we, we don't ever step on each other's toes. I can't think of any point where we had any major disagreements, in fact. Mostly it's minor things like, is this dish good? And he's like, no, not very good. I'm like, oh, but it's delicious, you know, but other than that, we don't have disagreements on major matters, so it works out very well.

    Ling Yah: I was reading more and I realized that he liked the same things as you, historical buildings, keeping it, making sure people are not tearing it down. And I wonder if there are any instances where you think, oh, I really want this property, but he also wants it. I suppose he would just say, let's just split it.

    Loh Lik Peng: No, I mean, in Ireland, we, we do the properties together, right? So we don't cut each other out. So I think that's not a problem, but he's not in the same field as me in Australia or UK, and if we decided to do a project together, I'm sure it'd be easy in any of those places, but we haven't. We've kind of mostly been looking at stuff in Ireland.

    But at the same time, yeah, I mean, as I said, a very easy relationship,. We haven't had the opportunity to do it anywhere else yet. But I don't see why we wouldn't.

    We've made bids in Australia together. We haven't won the tenders, but,

    Ling Yah: You will always have more.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, there's always more- opportunities.

    Ling Yah: And that was the end of part one of episode 140 with Lik Peng. If you haven't done so already, please do subscribe to the STIMY newsletter because we'll be back with part two with Lik Peng this Wednesday and you don't want to miss it.

    You can find it at the show notes at www.sothisismywhy.com/140, and I'll see you this Wednesday.


    Part 2 STIMY 140 Part 2: Loh Lik Peng

    Loh Lik Peng: Any successful chefs keeps an eye on the numbers He's got to make sure that enough people enjoy their food, right?

    So anyone who's too focused on his own vision and not what other people want is usually a disaster.

    Ling Yah: And you normally promise your chefs you'll give equity. And with Rishi, you said once you hit your numbers because he wasn't profitable, I would give you a share. But you gave him more than he expected and he was thrilled with that.

    Were you already clear of that number?

    Loh Lik Peng: Not always, but I think I try and make sure I align my interests with the chefs. Because, look, at the end of the day, I recognize they have to look after themselves. They have no one else in the world will look after them if they don't look after themselves.

    So if I can align my interests with them and they can look after themselves, they'll look after me. That's how I always look at this shareholding thing. Look, and chefs are very mobile, right? The talent is very mobile. If you don't look after them, if they find a better opportunity somewhere else, they'll walk.

    And in their shoes, I would walk. They don't owe me a living so I try and make sure my interests are aligned with them. That's the, the thing I know will succeed in the long term for both parties.

    Ling Yah: Hey, STIMIES!

    Welcome to episode 140 part two of the So This My Why podcast. I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah. And today we are back for part two with Loh Lik Peng, the CEO and founder of Unlisted Collection, where he shares a lot more about his process of going from being a lawyer to a hotelier. In this particular episode, we dive straight into the intricacies of his business.

    For instance, we talk about things like why does he give equity to his head chefs?

    How does he identify and convince talents like award winning Michelin star chef Rishi Naleendra to come on board?

    How does he work together with the chefs to ensure that they have everything they need to be a thriving business?

    How has he seen winning Michelin stars impact the chefs he works with?

    Brand building, knowing when to pull the plug, because guess what, he's also had big failures too, including a painful one with One Leicester Square in London, his big passion with museums and so much more.

    Now, if you haven't already heard his origin story, I would advise to head over to the previous part one episode first.

    But if you've already listened to that, then do stick around because we are about to kick off with part two of the So This My Why episode with Lik Pang. And by the way, this was recorded in the studio. So if you want to actually watch it, you can.

    Just head over to YouTube.

    Look up S o This Is My Why and find Lik Peng's episode.

    Now, are you ready?

    Let's go.

    Ling Yah: I love that you brought up hands off, because that is very much your trademark. It applies to your restaurants, it also applies to your hotels.

    And I wonder... Was it very clear from the start, this is your approach, or was it very much because at the time when you first started your hotel you thought, I'm going to go back to law anyway, I need someone to take over. Therefore, find someone.

    Loh Lik Peng: I think it was by necessity, actually, more than anything else, simply because of the breadth of the kind of things we do. If I tried to be hands on with all the hotels and restaurants that I did, it would be unmanageable. Because we have hotels and restaurants in too many jurisdictions, and we have too many types of restaurants, too many types of hotels, all different time zones, and you can't be everywhere at once, right?

    And the thing about hotels is a 24/ 7 operation. There's decision to be made every minute of the day, and if you were trying to be too hands on it just would be unmanageable. Either that, or you would have nothing else to do in your life, but, I have a family and things like that.

    So I, I tend to be more, set certain goals and obviously the certain decisions still have to come back to me. Whether or not it's major investments, whether it's things to do with the legal side of things to make sure that we comply with regulations, things always come back to me.

    But other than that, you know, I, I try and leave the commercial decisions to my managers and try and make sure that they have enough interest in the success of the property that they look at it as their own thing as well, right? And I try not to manage day to day. It's a fool's errand.

    Ling Yah: An example I want to bring: a chef, Rishi Nalindra. He has worked with you for a very, very long time. You first found him because you dined at his restaurant, Makkah. And he realized, Oh, it's really empty, but his food's really good.

    And then he came. and had a 10 minute conversation, in which case you said, you come back next Monday and tell me whether you want to go ahead or not. You must have had a very clear mind beyond just eating the food that this is someone you wanted.

    Loh Lik Peng: What I've realized over the years is I think I'm a pretty good spotter of talent when it comes to F& B.

    I tend to have a fairly good ability to pick the, the winners in terms of the F& B guys. The guys who I think have potential. So I think Rishi was one of them. Yeah, I went to eat in his restaurant. Instinctively, I knew he could cook really well.

    Ling Yah: What was it?

    Loh Lik Peng: And his food was, well, I couldn't put a finger on it.

    It was Australian cuisine or he called it Australian cuisine. But at the same time, it wasn't right. It wasn't conventional. Anyway, that word Australian cuisine is a bit of a misnomer because there is no such thing as Australian cuisine, really, right? It's really just a fusion of anything. So I, I was a bit sort of taken aback.

    I was like, wow, this guy is a huge talent, but he's in this weird restaurant. Nobody knows it's here. No marketing, nothing. A friend brought me there actually, and I was like, what is this guy doing here?

    So I just said to him, hey, if you ever want to have a chat, come and see me, you know? And sure enough, opportunity came that we could work together, and I said to him, This is my style of working.

    I'm not going to be calling shots, but I hope I build an environment around you that allows you to succeed. And that's really how it happened.

    Ling Yah: Yeah.

    So was there any kind of duty that you did? Because I listened to some of his interviews, and I could immediately sense, Oh, this is why I would work with someone like him.

    Because he's very much the, Why would you take a gap year? You just gotta go straight to work. And he's very much focused on perfecting his craft which I imagine you need to succeed. But did you do all that research before to know who he was?

    Loh Lik Peng: No,

    I didn't do any research on him. All I knew was this guy from Australia, Sri Lankan background.

    Could cook very well. And it seemed to me like he was in the wrong place. That, that's, that was my only impression. So I, I kind of figured that, okay, given the right environment and the right sort of thing, he could really succeed, yeah. And sure, sure enough, he got his Michelin star within six months or something.

    Ling Yah: But you couldn't have known that before.

    Loh Lik Peng: No, no, I had no idea. And our ambition was not to get admissions done. Our ambition was to open a cool little Brasserie type restaurant, with lots of lovely kind of flavours, but not too expensive. That was our only ambition. And kind of nice wines.

    Ling Yah: But just opening that little brasserie is really difficult and Rishi himself said, I had no idea what it took to launch a restaurant or put together a team.

    Loh Lik Peng: So we helped him through that bit, right? We are good at building that infrastructure around them.

    Ling Yah: What does that look like?

    Loh Lik Peng: Means making sure that you someone toat, look after accounts, HR, purchasing the licensing, the regulatory things and, and making sure there's prudence around the business model.

    And then just saying to him, you cook what you want to cook. Don't blow your budget on the food costs. Don't blow your budget on labor costs. And we'll walk them through that. Right. And then the rest of it, we leave up to them. So the creative part of it is the, the secret sauce. You got to produce the dishes.

    And he was busy from day one. He was packed from day one. People came in droves, you know. And Boontop Street was a little bit, sort of, slightly sleepy in those days. But his restaurant was, I would say, successful from day one, more or less.

    Ling Yah: Because of the marketing? I mean, no one had heard of him before.

    Loh Lik Peng: Marketing and word of mouth. I think no one had heard of him because... I think he was in Tangling that, that old post office, right, in the basement. And so there's no hope for lunch there because it's nowhere near the CBD you know. And dinners, you, maybe you get a little bit of dinners at weekends.

    The location didn't work for the kind of food he was doing. I instinctively knew that.

    So, I think that was more me putting him in the right place and letting him express his own talent. It wasn't necessarily PR or marketing. I don't think we did any PR, in fact.

    We may have had some internal marketing, but I don't think we did a lot of PR or anything special for him.

    Ling Yah: Something he said once in an interview I thought was really funny. He said, I didn't understand what P& L was before. If I knew, I would have never said yes. And Peng knows the whole story. So what is the whole story?

    Loh Lik Peng: Well, P&L is important, right?

    Look, I've had many conversations with chefs and if they kind of go on just only about artistic vision without any sense of what a restaurant needs to succeed and you have no sense of the P& L, then you're not going to succeed no matter how artistic your food is.

    So I think the first thing I always talk to my chefs is we draw a business plan. We do a projected P& L and then we got to try and meet that, right? There's no restaurant where you can just artistic expression or whatever it is you want to call it. End of the day somebody's got to like your food enough to pay you for it.

    Yeah, you know, there's no point you're cooking what you like if nobody else likes it and you are doomed.

    Ling Yah: Yeah, Heston Blumenthal definitely keeps an eye on the numbers for sure.

    Loh Lik Peng: Any successful chefs keeps an eye on the numbers He's got to make sure that enough people enjoy their food, right?

    So anyone who's too focused on his own vision and not what other people want is usually a disaster.

    Ling Yah: And you normally promise your chefs you'll give equity. And with Rishi, you said once you hit your numbers because he wasn't profitable, I would give you a share. But you gave him more than he expected and he was thrilled with that.

    Were you already clear of that number?

    Loh Lik Peng: Not always, but I think I try and make sure I align my interests with the chefs. Because, look, at the end of the day, I recognize they have to look after themselves. They have no one else in the world will look after them if they don't look after themselves.

    So if I can align my interests with them and they can look after themselves, they'll look after me. That's how I always look at this shareholding thing. Look, and chefs are very mobile, right? The talent is very mobile. If you don't look after them, if they find a better opportunity somewhere else, they'll walk.

    And in their shoes, I would walk. They don't owe me a living so I try and make sure my interests are aligned with them. That's the, the thing I know will succeed in the long term for both parties.

    Ling Yah: And you mentioned the Michelin star. When Rishi got it, you said you saw a switch flip in him.

    What was that?

    Loh Lik Peng: I think he never realized he was capable of getting a star. I would say, you know, a lot of people have this imposter syndrome, right? They look up to people and more successful peers that they have.

    Sometimes when you you are an ethnic minority in a place like Australia, you, you don't always think that you are the equal of, the, the peers that you go to cooking school with or you cook in your kitchens.

    Ling Yah: Yeah, for context, he's Sri Lankan.

    Loh Lik Peng: Things like that. Yeah, for context, he's a Sri Lankan background, right? And you see that in the UK too.

    It always seems a little bit harder for you to achieve something. So I think maybe he just never thought he'd get a Michelin star.

    I kind of always knew he was capable of it in a way. We didn't aim for it, but I knew this guy could cook, right? And he had a very unique flavor. He wasn't cooking what anyone else was cooking at that time. I remember he had a laksa leaf ice cream that blew me away. Chili, in fact, green chili and laksa leaf ice cream.

    And I was like, wow, this thing is super tasty, but nobody would have thought of doing a green chili ice cream.

    He was doing really unique things and I knew, there was something about him.

    Ling Yah: You said something else once in relation to another chef, Sam Miller. There comes a time in a chef's career when you know he's ready to strike out on his own. And then you reach out to them. What is that timing?

    Loh Lik Peng: I think chefs who have occupied senior positions for a certain number of years, who have enough experience and who recognize their own talents and their and have enough ambitions to come out on their own, that's a fairly delicate sort of exercise right to understand when that period might be. So it's more sort of looking for that tipping point in their careers.

    Not always easy to spot but in some people you know, because you've encountered them enough, you've seen them at work enough you've seen the things they produce and the chefs that have come through and And then, you know, okay, the next step is to do their own thing.

    There's nowhere else for them to go.

    Ling Yah: Yeah. There's one thing you said earlier in relation to Stanley that you focus on the branding. And I think that's very interesting because unlike most hospitality businesses, everything is so distinct. When I show most people, oh, this is the list under Unlisted Collection, they will go, it's all under one company?

    I had no idea because they're so distinct. So it's not like another organization where you just carry through the goodwill of one brand to another to another. How do you think about brand building then?

    Loh Lik Peng: I never thought about brand building as a singular kind of thing. I was always more interested in building a particular property, particular hotel, particular restaurant.

    So we never had a common brand that we try to propagate beyond one property.

    Ling Yah: Do you not think it's easier because another person I'm interviewing is Arthur Kiong of Far East and they would, once you go to one hotel, you know what the other hotel would look like. Wouldn't that be easier?

    Loh Lik Peng: No. In my mind, yes, but it would not work for the things we do, right? Because our hotels are very individual. They just exist as one.

    Old Clare, I couldn't do another Old Clare anywhere else because the Old Clare was literally the Clare Hotel that was in Chippendale.

    Sure, I could give it a brand sort of like Unlisted Old Clare.

    Yeah, unlisted town hall, but you know what all of them are so different that it's meaningless to do it that way .

    We didn't ever set out to have a brand standard and we don't. So.

    Could we do it? Probably, but I'm not particularly interested in it. It wouldn't be much fun in my book, so I'm just not interested in doing it.

    Ling Yah: There's one part briefly and this was in relation to all the difficult times that you had with your properties, and you said that you do go through those blind panic moments, but they're actually good for you when you get through them.

    A lot of people do go through those moments as well, so what would your advice be in just getting through those moments?

    Loh Lik Peng: What I recognize now is those moments of insecurity are your own intellect telling you not to get complacent.

    So those moments are good.

    You need to panic you need to have fear you need to really focus hard on what's gonna make you succeed because the minute you think it's gonna be easy and you get a bit complacent you're probably gonna fall flat in your face.

    So I appreciate now the moments of great stress, the moments when you are a little bit panicky and, and you're, you know, like, oh my, oh my gosh, this is all going wrong. This kind of thing, because it really sharpens what you do.

    I've learned to not necessarily embrace, but to appreciate that those moments have a reason why they come.

    So I would say no one should ever feel that success comes easy or a project is easy, right? So it's good to have those moments when you're a little bit sort of panicky, a little bit sort of feel a little bit out of your depth. That's when you produce your best work because you're not complacent, right?

    You're thinking hard about what you need to do to make the project work.

    Ling Yah: But don't you have in your mind, if it reaches a certain point, I've got to pull the plug.

    Like SOREL for instance, you pulled the plug on that.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yes, yes. I think you have to have those. Yeah. And you need to have enough clarity.

    And that comes sometimes with experience too.

    Ling Yah: So what is the requirements or factors that you take into account when you say, Enough, we need to let this go.

    Loh Lik Peng: I think it really depends, you know. There's no one answer. I mean, I have let go of projects before. And, and sometimes you run out of ideas for them.

    Other times you just realize that, whatever you put together here is not working. As I said enough of the public has to want to appreciate what you're doing that for it to commercially succeed.

    If you are just doing it because you think it's going to succeed and so far nobody else thinks it's going to succeed, then you're not going to make a success of it.

    Ling Yah: Yeah. What would you say is your biggest failure?

    Loh Lik Peng: Biggest failure. I would say the one that taught me the most lessons was One Leicester Square.

    So I did this hotel in London that was the former St. John's. The very iconic restaurant. And they opened a hotel on Leicester Square. And anyone of you knows Leicester Square, it's the opposite of Bethnal Green. It's packed with tourists. It's probably the busiest place in London, right?

    Ling Yah: Chinatown's there.

    Loh Lik Peng: Chinatown's there. Everything is there. You got a theater district, and it's rammed, it's rammed. It's like literally tens of thousands of people walking past an hour. So I thought, wow.

    I knew it had gone on, kind of liquidation through the grapevine. And so I spoke to my lawyers. Okay, let's, let's let's make a bid for this property.

    In my mind it was, nothing could go wrong, right? It was such a busy location. So I, I, I bought over the property. Converted, you know, did some renovation to the hotel room.

    The hotel rooms were beautiful, they didn't need much work. Changed the restaurant. Within three months got a Michelin star. And I was like, okay, we are on the way, this is really good. And, and, nobody came and I was like puzzled. I was like, there's thousands of people walking past you. Why are they not eating with us?

    You know, we got a Michelin star. We got great reviews, fantastic reviews. All the reviewers loved the food. And then I realized that everyone walking past was on their way to Chinatown.

    They're all there for siu ngak. You know, gave a damn about my Mission Star restaurant. And so, in the end, I had to sell it tail between my legs.

    So it taught me a lesson, that just because there's traffic there, doesn't mean that you are able to capture the traffic.

    I didn't do any due diligence on that project, because in my own mind, so busy, I just do a good restaurant, people will come. And they didn't come despite walking right past the restaurant.

    It was a painful lesson, but a very, really valuable one about about knowing your market. Just because you do a restaurant with great reviews does not mean people will come. You, you still have to be attracting the right people, the right traffic there. And, and most English people don't go to Leicester Square because it's full of tourists.

    Yes. You know? Or, or Oxford Street. Or Oxford Street. So, if you're a local there, you're not, you're not coming to this restaurant because you don't want to fight for space with tourists. If you're a tourist... You're, you're going to Chinatown to eat siu ngak and wan tan min. You're not going to come and eat my Michelin Star food, right?

    It's not why they come to Leicester Square. And on occasions when they had this big movie debuts and things like that, the whole square is closed.

    Anyway, it was the wrong crowd. Busy as it was, it was the wrong crowd.

    Ling Yah: Another thing about Leicester Square is that it's very close to all the big museums, and that is also another big passion of yours.

    How did that come about?

    Loh Lik Peng: How did I come about? I've always loved museums, I think. I was always someone who went to exhibitions. So I've always had a little bit of a thing for... Old buildings, maybe old artifacts, you know, collecting antiques and kind of antiquities. I did classics in, in school.

    So I always had this thing about the Greek classics, the kind of Roman classics, things like that. Funnily enough, not enough Asian things when I was younger.

    And when I first came back to Singapore, museums in Singapore, weren't really cutting edge. They weren't terrible, but they were not, they were not cutting edge and there was not maybe as, as, as good a focus on collections and on exhibitions, on doing different type of shows.

    I used to go overseas more to kind of do museums.

    Ling Yah: But it's one thing to appreciate and to attend museums, not to be the chairperson of the Asian Civilization Museum, the Peranakan Museum, and see what it actually takes to run these museums. So what is it behind the scenes that we generally don't see?

    Loh Lik Peng: I think what people don't realize about museums is how much I guess work goes on behind the scenes, right?

    Because for every exhibition you see, you know, it's, it's probably taken hundreds of thousands, if not millions, and hundreds of man hours to put that show on. And a lot of it is international collaboration. You, you borrow from other institutions. There's a lot of academic work that goes into the kind of displays, the exhibitions. There's a lot of things that goes into the catalog for the shows.

    And many, many negotiations with different museums to bring different collections in.

    Ling Yah: And verifying whether it's even authentic or they're the big hoo ha with British Museum.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yes, yes, yes. I mean, there's a huge amount of controversy now about provenance. About authenticity, also about looted artworks, right? And, and, of course all the big institutions have this rather questionable collections, right?

    I don't want to call them illegal. In most instances, by their laws, they are legal. But, you know, it's usually, stolen from someone. That's the reality. Or taken in fairly dodgy circumstances.

    We don't have that much of a problem here in Singapore because we were never a colonial power. So if we have a problem with our collection, it's usually because of provenance, right?

    You unknowingly collect something that was looted from a grave site, things like that, typically. But the other major museums have all these issues of whether their collections should really be with them or return to the place where they were looted from.

    Ling Yah: Hey, Simmies, if you haven't done so already, please do head over to give a rating and review for this podcast, because without it, Apple Podcast, Spotify, would never push it forward to let anyone else see. So just head on over, share with people, so that people will know about this special series, especially the ones that we are showcasing right now on Singaporeans who have achieved incredible success.

    And just before we go to questions from other people, I wonder, you have been interviewed a lot, you've been featured for a very, very long time.

    Any question you wish people would just ask you?

    Loh Lik Peng: No, actually no, I'm not in the least bit

    Ling Yah: Less questions are better?

    Loh Lik Peng: Not just that. I, I'm not sure that anything I say is particularly interesting, right? I think I get asked a lot of questions to me. I think my answers are rather banal, but you know, sometimes people find them interesting, which always surprises me.

    Ling Yah: Yeah, people find them interesting. There are several questions.

    The first one was really, do you still identify as a lawyer?

    Loh Lik Peng: No, because now I don't think I would be competent at all. I would get in a lot of trouble if I try to practice law.

    Ling Yah: And there was a lot of interest around the fact that you were an ex lawyer and then you pivoted.

    So there was this question from Krishna Kumar who said, which pivot was the easiest, which was the hardest and why?

    Loh Lik Peng: You know, pivoting from law at the time was not difficult because I always intended to go back. And in those days it seemed like an unusual choice, but nowadays it's not, right? People don't blink an eye when people change professions .

    You know you spend all these years training to be a lawyer, whatever it is. Now, now it's so common. It's no longer that surprising when people do it, whether it's doctors becoming chefs or businessmen or things like that. People realize now that you can have a multitude of, of careers throughout your life.

    And frankly, there are enough lawyers. So it's not, it's not , there'll be no loss to the world if you went from being a lawyer to something else.

    At that time in Singapore, relatively rare. Now it's not so rare and that's, that's a good thing.

    You know, people don't feel that it's a waste if you convert your career from being a lawyer, a doctor to something else.

    Ling Yah: But it was still a deliberate choice for you. Like for instance, you sold off your baby, Hotel 1929, and you were struggling with that a lot, right? Oh, where do I use this? How did you decide?

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, so at the time it was more emotional than difficult. I think it was emotional because it was my first baby, right? But once I got over that, I reconciled myself to that I realized, well, look, everything has a cycle. And you bring what you can to the table for that particular phase and then let someone else take it over.

    So I'm a bit more phlegmatic about these decisions now. I don't agonize over them as much. I realize that just different phases. And can you repeat the success you had with that property? Because, you know, once a property goes through a certain cycle, you have to refresh it, right?

    And I never felt that I could... I could do better than what I did originally. If I was going to renovate New Majestic, for example, and it was that phase when I have to make those decisions soon, I never felt that I had the right inspirations anymore. I did it once, for that period very successfully.

    Can I repeat it? I didn't think I could. And I think there's many times when you, you, you realize that, okay, maybe my time doing that is over.

    But at the time when I first sold 1929, it was emotionally difficult.

    Ling Yah: Speaking of refreshing, and tomorrow I'll be speaking about this with another guest, Tai Ho, who founded Channel News Asia, is this idea of refreshing your career, the second act.

    So for him it was very much media, setting up this TV broadcasting network, now writing books for people like George Yeo Sounds like you're not going to think about a refresh. You're just going to keep doing what you've been doing.

    Loh Lik Peng: I think I would like to find a third act actually. I do. I don't know whether I will or anytime soon, but I kind of do feel like I might in the next five six years.

    I would like to do something a little bit different. Not because I'm sick of doing this. I still have a lot of fun.

    But mainly because I think it would be nice to do something else again.

    Ling Yah: What might that be if maybe someone listening would go? Oh, I have that opportunity.

    Loh Lik Peng: I don't know. I've done the restaurant thing, the hotel thing. Museums. I, yeah, I don't think, I think I would like to do something a little bit more on the creative side.

    I don't know, you know? I'd maybe like to manage an arts organization or something.

    Ling Yah: Your wife would be helpful there.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, I don't know. Maybe do something more in education with children, something. I don't know. Yeah. I, I think I wouldn't want necessarily to do something overtly corporate or money making, yeah.

    Ling Yah: Another question from Terrence. What book are you reading now?

    Loh Lik Peng: I just finished Shugie Bain, which I loved. I like reading kind of fiction. I was reading a lot during pandemic and I've slowed down now because I'm traveling like mad again. But I, I just finished Shugie Bain and I, I, I haven't started a new book.

    I literally just finished it last week and I'm dreading starting on a new book because I know I'm traveling a lot towards the end of the year. And then I'll be carting this book around, reading one chapter and then not reading it for like three or four weeks and then starting a chapter again.

    I tend to go to the bookshop, buy like five, six books at a time and just leave it there and then I, I work through it. But I probably will cause I'll be stuck on a plane and then I'll be bored.

    Ling Yah: Here's another question. I'm going to play it for you.

    Hey Peng Loh and Ling, I'm Helen Eber. I talk about HR leadership on LinkedIn and food on Instagram.

    My question is, how do you find the right talent for Unlisted Collection and how important is it to you, thinking of Ivan and Rishi particularly, that on top of being able to cook delicious food, they have that additional artistic or intellectual curiosity?

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, I think a lot of it is down to personal chemistry, you know. If I look at all the chefs that I work with, Chef Yong at Majestic, you know, Dave Pint, Rishi, all these guys. A lot of it is down to personal chemistry and a lot of trust because working on restaurants is difficult enough, right? You don't want to make it hard work.

    So a lot of the thing I find that makes... me want to back a chef and have those long hours together, you've got to get on well with them. There has to be a certain meeting of minds, a good chemistry. An easy relationship.

    You can't be questioning each other's intent or abilities. So I think for me, a confidence in them.

    Ling Yah: Would you put in non compete clause?

    Loh Lik Peng: Never, yeah, I don't. I think for me it's more we work together long term. I make sure they get looked after. I mean, it's not non compete, right?

    They have their employment contracts, they have their kind of shares in the company, things like that. They go off and do the artistic things, right? They fly off around the world, do all these chef events. I love them to do that.

    I don't try and restrict them so long as they have in their mind that this restaurant that they have also needs to succeed. I don't track how many hours they do in the restaurant, things like that. So, I respect their space, and I think it works.

    But, yeah, the chemistry is important.

    Ling Yah: Final question from the audience, let me play.

    Hi Peng Loh, this is Barbara. I'm a self employed person and I would love to know on your busiest year that was in 2010, what are the three key things you or your team attribute your success to and that without these, you wouldn't have made it?

    And my second question is, what are the three key things already established in your business that made you survive COVID without any retrenchment? And also, quite impressive, only one business casualty.

    I'd really love to know and I'm looking forward to your sharings and insights. Thanks!

    Loh Lik Peng: Okay, that's two questions.

    Okay, 2010, I would say. Look, at the time I was without a family, right? And I could devote all my time to work. So we were opening... (six altogether) a lot of projects, you know, amongst them Wanderlust . Town Hall Hotel and Shanghai's Waterhouse. And those were in three hotels in three different countries, so I was on the road 24 /7.

    I literally was never in Singapore and I had the bandwidth to do it. I would never contemplate doing something like that again.

    But at the time I had the bandwidth to do it, I had the energy to do it, and the sheer bloody mindedness to think I might make them succeed, right?

    So I think yeah, in some ways it was probably too ambitious. But I pulled it off because I was single, I had tons of energy and I had no choice but to do it, right? Because I signed on to it and I just had to make them work.

    But looking back, yeah, I don't think I would do it again. I certainly couldn't do it now because family and all that, right?

    I'd be divorced if I tried to do that amount of work now. But at the time, yeah, I was living on an airplane. I was just in and out. I'd land and then take a shower and then take a flight there again and you'd go through meetings after meetings.

    You were always in a different time zone. Very, very stressful because you were juggling budgets everywhere.

    Nobody had money in those days, right? You know, 2008, 2009. Banks were not giving you money. And everything seemed like it was going bust. Contractors were going bust. So it was a very risky environment. And consumers were not spending money. As I said, in a way, by 2010, when we reopened, the world economy was starting to lift up.

    So, in some ways we were lucky we were constructing in 08, 09. And when we opened, the economy was starting to boom, right? Whether it was China, Europe, all of it was starting to boom.

    So we were just lucky. But had I opened in 2008, let's say I was doing it, we would have been dead. Because we would have to pay off all those debts when the economy of the world shut down.

    Ling Yah: And what about the second question, the COVID and only one casualty?

    Loh Lik Peng: I think largely we had a team that was prepared to knuckle down, right?

    And we were able to downscale our costs quickly enough. And a lot of it was heart and mouth moments. You know, we were calling all the hotels and making sure that we were able to shut down different wings

    And what helped of course was we were only in developed markets , Ireland, UK, Australia, Singapore. Government support was pretty good You know, if we were in Vietnam, Indonesia, all these places, they had no support.

    It would have been a different picture I think but we were in markets where we had significant support, in terms of wage support, things like that.

    We had no income coming in, but we had the wage support. So we were able to contain our costs. It was very, very painful. Very, very stressful, but we managed to ride through most of it.

    And in fact, Jing shut down, not necessarily as a consequence of COVID, but actually our lease ran out at that time. So we were like, okay, do I want to renew the lease when there's no business? It was an opportunity for us to walk away. Right. But at least right now, just, just at the time when, when COVID was at its peak.

    So in some ways we were lucky. Yeah. Yeah.

    Ling Yah: Just a lot of luck that's involved all the time.

    Loh Lik Peng: I tell you, people always think that they have so much to do with their own success. Often it's luck. I realized over the years that, you know, you need as much luck as you need your own efforts to, to succeed.

    Often you, you look back, you're like, okay, you know, if I opened, as I said, in 08, we would have been dead in the water. Yeah. Yeah. But we were building in 08. It was painful, but... But it allowed us to boom and when, when we opened in 2010.

    Ling Yah: A question for one of my favorite NPR podcasts, how I built this.

    They always ask at the end, every guest, how much of your success will you attribute to luck versus hard work?

    Loh Lik Peng: I would say it's at least 50 percent. Minimum. Yeah. If not more. Yeah.

    Ling Yah: Well, I always end my podcast with the same questions.

    So the first is this, do you feel like you have found your why?

    Loh Lik Peng: I think I'm still searching.

    I have found it partially for sure, but you know, I, I, I, I got asked this thing about whether I found my sort of raison d'etre to my metier 10 years ago. And I, I kind of said no, and I said the same thing to you, right? I want to do something different in the last phase of my life.

    Not necessarily sort of business things, but I do feel I want to do something different. So... Maybe there's another component cause I don't want to feel like this age that I've, I've done it all, right?

    Ling Yah: Yeah, a lot of people would say my seasons will always change.

    So yes now, but it might change later.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah, I do want it to change. I want to go to a different phase at some point. Yeah. But I think at early fifties, I, I don't feel that I've done it all. Although I, I think I've, I've done more than I ever thought I would, to be honest.

    When I first set out to work, I never imagined that I would be sitting here today, talking to you about this.

    Ling Yah: What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

    Loh Lik Peng: People ask me this all the time. I don't actually want to leave any legacy. I want my family to love me and remember me, the people who knew me.

    That's the only legacy I want because I think a lot of things we do are ephemeral. Even the hotels we built, somebody in 10 years will come along and reimagine what we did. And, and rightly they should, right? Nothing is, is set in concrete, really.

    In a hundred years time, Lee Kuan Yew will be remembered for certain things, but the Singapore in a hundred years will be very different from now.

    So, his achievements will have got to a certain stage, and, and then after that, somebody else takes the mantle.

    That's how I feel. I don't really feel I want to leave a legacy. I want to be remembered by people who knew me well for good things.

    That, that's really the only legacy I want. I don't really feel that anything I do has any permanence, really, beyond getting us to the next stage and then somebody else takes it on.

    Ling Yah: And what do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?

    Loh Lik Peng: I don't know. Not to get too big for your boots, I think.

    To always realize that in the grand scheme of things, even Bill Gates in the grand scheme of history is, is, is nothing more than a grain of sand.

    And, that's the reality . Elon Musk might seem like the giant of our age, but really in the grand scheme of things, he's also nothing, right?

    He's just going to be a little ripple on the surface, and then somebody else takes it on. And somebody will achieve more than him in, in the future.

    That's what life is about . We only make an impact on the circle that surrounds us for the period of time that we're here.

    Ling Yah: And where can people go to find out more about what you're doing, support what you're doing as well?

    Loh Lik Peng: Oof, I don't know. I don't think there's any resource that will tell people what I'm doing. They come and say hello to me and ask.

    Ling Yah: Well, they know what you're eating on your Instagram. I've been following.

    Loh Lik Peng: Yes, apart from that, I don't know. I often don't know what I'm going to do the next day. Yeah, I have no idea.

    Ling Yah: Anything else you'd like to share that we haven't covered so far, Peng?

    Loh Lik Peng: No.

    Ling Yah: Well, thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure having you.

    Loh Lik Peng: Thank you for having me. It's been fun.

    Ling Yah: Oh, I'm glad to hear that.

    Loh Lik Peng: You asked me a lot of questions that are tricky. I had to think hard.

    Ling Yah: Oh, yes.

    Are they different from your normal ones?

    Loh Lik Peng: Yeah. I think you asked some fairly probing questions. You know, it made me think hard. Like, my hardest failures and things like that. Those are always the most difficult ones.

    Because they are always painful, sometimes painful to realize how stupid you are, right? Yeah, in retrospect.

    Ling Yah: But you don't seem to have an issue with sharing it, which is something that Asians tend to struggle with.

    Loh Lik Peng: No, look, I think for me, you know, you learn more from your failures.

    People often say that, I realize it's correct. Sometimes you, you think you've had too many successes, as I said, you get a bit complacent. That's when you fall in that hole, right?

    And that was the end of episode 140. The show notes can be found at www.sothisismywhy.com/140. I want to give a special shout out to Limpeh Studios for allowing us to film this while in Singapore. It is in person. So if you want to see the actual studio recording, you can just head over to YouTube.

    Ling Yah: And if you yourself wanted to some kind of recording as well in person, just head over to www.hepmil.com/limpehstudios for more information. And don't forget to subscribe to this podcast and see you next Sunday!

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