We are an all-women management and administrative team because 99% of our clients are male!” beams the elegant and articulate Mee Kim, founder and president of CEO SUITE, a company that sets up instant offices.
“The men like to be served by women and ours are particularly well-trained, competent and professional!” She neglects to mention her staff at CEO SUITE happen to be easy on the eye too, no hindrance to any corporation.
Groomed and polished like a cash register, Kim hastens to add wickedly, “Actually, we are not a sexist organisation – our office boys and couriers are men!”
Refusing to reveal her age, she says, “I have been in the same business for 14 years so I know almost everything about serviced offices and business centres.
“Most so-called experts in this profession are very young without the benefit of experience. It is easy to set up a Business Centre with the usual trappings like furniture, phone lines and secretarial services but CEO SUITE is unique because we anticipate clients’ requirements even before they realise what they want! We are at the cutting edge of the latest technology and our offices are constantly updated and upgraded.”
Born in Seoul, South Korea, she did her Masters in Marketing and Commerce in Australia and joined an Aussie firm involved in the same business. She spent eight years with them. Initially Oz-based, she travelled extensively throughout Asia, accumulating invaluable information and experience.
“I chose ‘CEO SUITE’ because it is straightforward and self-explanatory. We cater to decision-makers, chief executives and heads of companies. Our clients are professional executives who demand quality,” explains Kim.
Married to an Indonesian Chinese with one child, she calls Jakarta and Seoul home. It was natural her first CEO SUITE would be in Jakarta. The first CEO SUITE was at the prestigious Wisma GKBI.
It was the worst possible timing.
Kim still shudders at the thought. “CEO SUITE opened in 1997. Within a month, the Asian economic crisis hit like a supersonic sledgehammer!
“So many foreign businesses folded and expatriates fled by the planeloads. Even Singapore was badly affected. There used to be around 40 such businesses. Now there are only 20. We have taken over some of their office space in Jakarta and Singapore so we have been fortunate. This I attribute to good management and my team of dedicated staff!
“The following years were filled with adverse conditions, what with Sept 11, the Iraqi invasion, SARS, you name it! Business confidence is at a low ebb yet our offices are pretty full. CEO SUITE in Kuala Lumpur is running between 90% to 100% occupancy!”
She observes being a woman in the male-dominated industry is neither a handicap nor advantage. “I get attention when negotiating deals for the premises. But no one reduces the rent just because I am a woman. I have to prove my credentials and background experience as CEO SUITE is only located in luxurious, landmark buildings, be it in KL, Singapore, Shanghai or Jakarta. Owners of such prestigious buildings are also finicky about their tenants and vet them carefully.”
Kim waves her hands expansively at the spacious lobby, impressive conference room, works of art that line the walls, lavish floral displays and costly designer furniture. “You can rent a small room for one hour or a tailor-made office for up to two years at today’s rates. Most allow tenants to sign up to a maximum of only one year. Our flexible floor plan means you can have a made-to-measure office space. All we need is 24 hours for our contractors to remove walls or add partitions. Your office can expand or contract depending on your needs.”
As the lift opens on the 36th floor of Maxis Building, there are no signs announcing “CEO SUITE”.
“You can’t get lost as we have taken up the entire 36th floor!” smiles Kim. “There are no signages so it gives the impression the entire set-up is yours. Likewise, I don’t allow names of companies on doors as I think it’s so tacky. Our panoramic views are out of this world as we face the Petronas Twin Towers.”
An Instant Office (IO) beats a Single Operator Home Office (SOHO) anytime, according to Kim.
“Single Operator Home Offices are convenient as you sleep, eat, work and raise your family there. But your address may be unprofessional and there are no back-up services. Instant Offices offer everything from call-forwarding to mobile phone, colour laser printers, broadband internet, 24-hour security, live video-conferencing to project management, staff recruitment, company establishment, tax consultation and accounting services. Plus our Zen Cybercafe offers complimentary coffee, tea and beverages!
“CEO SUITE is great for local and foreign companies because there is no heavy capital outlay or hidden overheads. With nothing to lock you in, you enjoy what I call a “honeymoon period” as you never know when the next recession might hit. You minimise risk and initial operating costs like renovation. Phone calls are answered in your company’s name, a bonus as most small companies cannot afford a fulltime receptionist.
“In good times, 90% of our tenants were foreign newcomers. Now locals realise we cost the same or even cheaper than a rented office! We tailor-package individual deals, from RM20 per hour for a nice-sized, comfortable office. The average rate is RM4,500 a month. We once had a company that had 100 staff and took up half the floor! We require two months’ deposit but electricity, water, air-conditioning and utilities are free! Our tenants include British Telecoms, DELL and Exxon which are international heavyweights.
Kim claims, “CEO SUITE is the only serviced office company to be owned and managed entirely by women. I hire only the most qualified personnel as CEO SUITE is relatively new in KL. We only opened in 2001.”