Mee Kim: A Female Icon in Business
She is an attractive, young looking, trendy and successful woman.
Mee Kim in her early 40’s is a living proof that you do not need to compromise your femininity to be successful in your career especially if you are in a business world monopolized by men!
Mee Kim turned up for the interview looking sweet with a floral dress! And when I complimented her, she smiled in response and said, “You’re not the only one who has mentioned this. Several clients have said the same. I am usually in plain colored skirt or pants-suit. In fact this is one of my very few floral dresses,” she said with a chuckle. “I do feel awkward when people look at me, but I must learn to be comfortable wearing it,” admits Mee Kim, who appears to be an articulate, and soft-spoken lady, occasionally tidying her hair to ensure it is not out of place.
“In a world monopolized by men, I try hard to maintain my femininity! And in our world, it is not unusual to see career ladies who are either trying to make their marks, or who have made their marks acting like men in the office.
Perhaps they feel they have to be one of the boys to get up the corporate ladder!”
And when asked if the feminine image would get in the way when dealing with government officers, and clients who are men, her response is a cool and quick yes! “Sometimes it is quite intimidating, but I always look on the positive side of things. I succeed in being noticed, and keep reminding myself that because I am a woman, it can be easier to set up an appointment with senior government officers, or with clients (as compared to men).
In Mee Kim’s opinion, there are no particular advantages or disadvantages for a woman like herself in an industry that is monopolized by men. “I get attention when I try to negotiate the building’s rental but nobody reduces their rental just because I am a woman. I have to make my own statement just like the rest, with my own integrity and testimonies.”
Mee Kim is the founder of a Serviced Office company, CEO SUITE. If serviced apartments offer services similar to hotels in providing accommodation for guests who are mostly from the corporate sector, CEO SUITE provides accommodation for work.
When businessmen and corporate executives travel, more often than not, they use the facilities at the Business Centres at hotels where they are staying to do the necessary paperwork or to meet up with their clients. At CEO SUITE, Mee Kim explains that they are able to use all facilities similar to their own office in their home country. This includes proper office space, phone facilities, secretarial services, boardroom with audio-visual equipment, IT set-up and tea/coffee for the mornings! Everything necessary for a complete office.
From its origins in Jakarta, CEO SUITE now has several other independent centers in capital cities such as Singapore, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. Besides this, Mee Kim has also established working partnerships with many operators in the States, Australia, Europe and Korea.
All of CEO SUITE centers are only located in prestigious and exclusive buildings, such as the Jakarta Stock Exchange in Jakarta, Hong Kong New World Tower in Shanghai (touted to be the exact center of Shanghai) and Singapore Land Tower at Raffles Place in Singapore. In Jakarta alone, Mee Kim serves over 250 clients, from international journalists to giant organizations such as British Telekom and Dell.
CEO SUITE, Kuala Lumpur (started since 2001) occupies the entire 36th floor of the prestigious Menara Maxis in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC). And according to Mee Kim, CEO SUITE Kuala Lumpur runs between 95% to 100% occupancy on average since its opening! Most of CEO SUITE offices present great view with the Petronas Twin Towers and the KLCC park in the background.
CEO SUITE and its beginnings
I was informed that the interior decorations for all CEO SUITE offices have a feng-shui element. And this includes the importance of the number 36, the position of the entrance / exit, reception and pantry areas, color schemes, lighting and the placement of ornaments. According to Mee Kim, the element of feng-shui is added for comfort and efficiency for the tenants.
Mee Kim is also sensitive towards her clientele of “non-locals” by not displaying any religious symbols in the overall decoration. A framed mask of a tribe in Malaysia is chosen instead to create positive energy and to give the office an ethnic touch and feel. The lobby is given a “Zen” décor & concept.
Settling herself more comfortably, Mee Kim then started on her tale of her involvement in the serviced office industry. Born in South Korea, she received her education in several countries in Seoul, New York and Sydney before finally settling down in Jakarta, Indonesia today.
Upon completing her studies, she joined a serviced office firm based in Sydney. And within eight years, Mee Kim has traveled much of Asia, and with each travel, accumulated invaluable experience and knowledge. Armed with a total of seven years of experience, Mee Kim finally chose her path to set-up her own business. “There is only so much I can do working for someone. I need more space to hone my skills, and expand my horizons!” says Mee Kim about her dream.
Thus was born the first CEO SUITE at the Jakarta Stock Exchange building! And it was from her second center at Wisma GKBI, Jakarta, that Mee Kim expanded her chain of offices to reach 4 other cosmopolitan cities today.
“I chose the name “CEO SUITE” because it is short and straightforward. And most of our clients are high-level executives who are empowered with decision-making authority!”
It is obvious that her past experience has left a positive impact on her. She recalled to have mentioned to her colleagues, that “if she ever had her own business someday, she would employ only women!” And true to her words, Mee Kim today runs an operation with a core team of women! Her logic is simple – 99 percent of her clients are men. “It is a fact that men prefer to be attended to by ladies, and all our staffs are well-trained and qualified professionals (not to mention, also attractive). I often exchange ideas including the latest fashion with them, reminding them always to dress attractively, and to be presentable at all times.”
“If they look attractive, they would naturally feel attractive, and act more confidently! If they have a weight problem, they would be encouraged to work out at the gym, control what they eat and adopt suitable grooming skills.” Mee Kim advises.
And as undeniable as a fact, Mee Kim comes across as a strong woman. Continuing with her business history, I learned that the Asian economic crisis struck a month right after the opening of her first office in 1997. It was bad news for her of course as all her investment was in US dollars, and the currency shrunk by as much as five times! “A dramatic experience!” recalls Mee Kim. And without any other alternatives, Mee Kim worked hard against the odds and salvaged her company two years after the crisis.
Today Mee Kim spends most of her time visiting CEO SUITE centers in Asia. “Only lately, MeMe (CEO SUITE, KL General Manager) replaces me to visit Shanghai”. The main purpose of these site visits is to ensure the service quality for all CEO SUITE centers. “When I am not traveling, I spend time with my son who is in the primary school,” reveals a proud mother of this seven-year-old boy.
Her role is made a lot easier with the help from her husband. Her home in Jakarta, and all CEO centers are equipped with CCTV surveillance cameras in all common areas. “This allows better control in all the centers.” explains Mee Kim.
“It works out that this job is particularly suitable for me because since young, traveling has been my love.” And in travel, Mee Kim met her husband, where she decided to tie the knot, and make Jakarta her home.
So what is it that makes CEO SUITE so special? “We are the only serviced office operator that is managed solely by women.” Mee Kim ended the interview with … a triumph!