Her key to success may lie in her enormous courage to reach out far and wide, peppered with great determination to overcome distance, culture and language barriers. Her achievements today include a CEO SUITE, home-grown, but with international clients in cosmopolitan cities of Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Shanghai.
If anyone is blessed enough to be born with good business instincts, and creative entrepreneurial talents, Mee Kim is one in such a category. Popularly known amongst her peers to have most scraps converted into opportunities, Mee Kim is a legend who can “sell almost anything”.
And it does not thus surprise us that many of her clients, mainly top international players would entrust her with their business logistics, just as one would call S.O.S. in times of emergencies. Mee Kim is the lady to call in times of business emergencies!
One may think this is by far an exaggeration … until we came to meet up with this lady who had a story covered by Far Eastern Economic Review last October, and with Freeport McMoran (a copper & gold mining behemoth from the U.S.) as a witness to her name.
The memory was a bomb near the Australian Embassy on September 09, 2004. Mee Kim and her team were quickly set to a challenge as windows shattered, and offices became instant rubbles, with calls from Freeport, and 3 other less fortunate companies whose office space were affected.
It was anything but a request. The order was relocation (of their entire offices), and settling in, by “the next working day”.
Overnight, CEO SUITE scrambled to transform all its available spaces into offices (to be complete with all supporting work facilities such as phone lines and internet access) for these affected companies. “They moved in, the next day”, declared Mee Kim, as if she would not have it any other way.
Today Mee Kim is the founder and President of her own brand CEO SUITE, a destination she arrived at only after 7 long years with an Australian company (in the same line of instant-office business). Jakarta was chosen as her first center location because in her view, this capital city has its advantages in terms of costs, and business opportunities.
The economy however turned sour (Jakarta being one of the worst hit by the Asian monetary crisis in 1997) upon the launch of her first center at the Jakarta Stock Exchange building, but for this Korean, a problem is solved by facing up to it, and not by running away.
And from scratch, she built her business all over as many foreign companies had to shut down their operations, creating a big vacancy in her business center. But for her, weakness in the market signifies low competition. “Everyone thought I was crazy,” says Mee Kim.
To keep her head above the water, she had to negotiate for lower rental rates, and tie up with various partners to survive the difficult patch. Today, Mee Kim serves as a landlord to over 250 clients in Jakarta alone. From secretarial services to full-fledged offices, the rates range from US$60 per month to a few thousand dollars for office rental services.
CEO SUITE has since expanded its business to reach Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai, with each center located in the city’s most central business district. In Singapore, CEO SUITE can be found in Raffles Place, and in Kuala Lumpur, the KLCC vicinity.
Shanghai has since been added to the Group last November. In a booming city such as Shanghai, her center filled up all its office space within months! But the downside remains its high rental & operational costs in comparison with Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. “Rental for as small a space as 1 square meter may cost a hefty US$1 per day”, Mee Kim exclaims!
All in all, the key to Mee Kim’s success boils down to her philosophy in business. It is as if she has an intimate understanding of the different tastes and requirements of top business executives across many cultures.
In Jakarta, she is able to reach out to a niche market wanting assurance of security and business opportunities, in Shanghai, a group of new start-ups needing small office space as initial testing ground. In Singapore, she targets a cost-conscious population of businessmen, and in Kuala Lumpur, another group with fairly limited amount of initial capital.
The services offered and the décor of each of the centers may differ slightly from center to center (albeit only slightly) … yet, each center exudes a comfortable feeling in its own way. But more than this physical appeal, we have a feeling it is something else that sells … Mee Kim, and the intrinsic value of her sound management?