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Event Review: SHOULDERS OF TITANS – Joo Kim Tiah

On Thursday night, I had the pleasure of attending the Shoulders of Titans event, hosted by the Vancouver Entrepreneurs Group. Being my first interaction with this group I had no idea what to expect. I only knew that the key speaker was Joo Kim Tiah, the man behind the $360 Million Dollar Trump Tower project here in Vancouver and that the event was being held at the luxurious Vancouver Club. I was intrigued to hear this man’s success story, and I had also had some amazing experiences at other events hosted at The Vancouver Club.

The evening began with an introduction by Dan Lok, Founder of the Vancouver Entrepreneurs Group and quite the enigmatic speaker. He had the whole room engaged in his words with inspirational and helpful phrases such as ‘Who you spend time with, is who you become’ and encouraging us to keep two questions in mind as we listen to Joo Kim Tiah speak:

  1. How does this apply to me?
  2. What principles can I apply to my own business?

Reminding us that while we may not all be 2nd tier billionaires who build ground breaking hotels, the principles for success in any industry, at any level, are fundamentally the same. It’s how we incorporate them in a way that works for our own needs that differs.

After a short networking game (that encouraged the room to get up and meet two people in the room and discover what they do and how you might be able to help them) the man we had all come to see joined Dan on stage for a one on one chat about his life and career. Here are some of the top take-aways from Joo Kim Tiah’s story:

  • His parents were his most important mentors – their ‘Tough Love’ bred resilience and his father’s lesson that we need to ‘Listen to learn, then find what works for you’ has helped him in his success
  • In business – you can’t assume everyone is kind and compassionate. You need to be able to be that, but also be strong when needed, people need to know you are the boss
  • To be extremely successful – there needs to be a sacrifice – Joo Kim believes that should be when you are young if you want to achieve success early, then you can relax
  • His involvement in Trump Tower meant he had to become a ‘master of all elements’ (Restaurants, Clubs, Health, Luxury) – Joo Kim doesn’t rely on ‘experts’ to make detail decisions, he has been hands on in everything from bathroom tiles to restaurant design
  • He started as, and still is, a researcher – his philosophy is ‘Leave no stone unturned’ meaning he will review all options before making a decision
  • His ideas on what makes a great Entrepreneur:
    • Visionary: identify gaps in the market and be able to package it
    • Inquisitive: always asking Why? And How?
    • Have integrity but always be able to be tough
  • TOP LESSON: That success comes from creating the right habits and reinforcing those habits every day. To explain this, Joo Kim told an amusing story of how he used to think his father ‘weird’ for having 5 minute showers and 10 minute lunch breaks, but now he sees that it was his father’s choice to spend that extra time on more important tasks.

While Joo Kim Tiah is arguably one of the youngest Billionaires in the world (he does contribute his start to his father’s legacy but insists he has made his own path) he does warn that making the choice to focus on success isn’t always easy and admitted to the room that it can be ‘lonely and tough’ and that not everyone in your social circle will understand or support that choice.

I know I wasn't the only one who left the event full of ideas and thoughts on how to change my habits in order to be more successful; however there was one element of the event that could be reviewed. In full disclosure, the cost of my own ticket was covered by the promoters, however I did feel a little disappointed on behalf of the guests who had paid a minimum of $79 to attend as the event ran from 6pm – 9pm, with only water or paid drinks available. Given previous events I have attended in that price range (and the fact it was noted that Joo Kim Tiah was not being paid) I would have expected at least some basic canapés or a complimentary drink on arrival for the price point. Other than that, I found the event to be engaging, inspiring and clearly attracted a diverse and successful group of people.

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