Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Success: Failure – Keeping Your Competency Scorecard

Today marks a new chapter in your life as you cross over from being a student to a practising designer. Be prepared to face a completely different set of tests. 

Overcoming Life’s Battery of Tests
Broadly speaking, life consists of a battery of tests. Be aware that the design industry is a highly competitive one and it takes loads of passion, persistence and perseverance to overcome challenges to succeed. Recognise that there are always learning opportunities in every challenge and learn to deal with them squarely. What matter most is not about you winning or losing but whether you have learnt and done your very best. Overtime, I am sure you will increase your personal value through accumulation of these varied experiences, pick up nuggets of wisdom and develop your resourcefulness as a designer.

Positive Attitude
As an FMDS graduate, you have been equipped with the know-how and applied skills to survive in this trade. I can assure you that it is only with a positive attitude towards life and your designing career that you will be able to go far. Undertake each and every project as your award-winning masterpiece. You will not regret it. Do well and your name will be well regarded by your clients. Your competitors will fear you and your peers will envy you.

Champion Mindset
On another note, I urge you to always adopt a champion mindset. Champions compete to win but there are always lessons from failure. Keep a personal scorecard to monitor your personal progress. Your designing competency, attitude and work professionalism are your scorecard, and your performance will be constantly judged against your peers’ and contemporaries’ as well as by your clients.

Keep Up the FMDS Spirit of Learning, Sharing & Teaching
In keeping up with the FMDS spirit, I urge you to continue the pathway of sharing, teaching and learning. Do not limit your mind to learning or it will stunt your career growth. The world is now your classroom and everyone can be your teacher or student.

I wish all of you every success and may God bless you. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Phooi
First Media Design School

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Passion Hunger and Discipline: (PhD)

FMDS spearheaded an initiative to form a polytechnic in Jakarta with $20.5M education facilities

Mark Phooi, Founder and Principal of First Media Design School (FMDS) take the lead and initiated the Republic Education Group (REG) which is a consortium of four firms: First Media, Auston Institute, CSM Academy and SDH Corporation to set up the Raffles Polytechnic in Indonesia. REG have signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with PT Budhi Lestari's subsidiary, the Raffles International Group of Schools to develop an institution to meet the vocational and training needs of the Indonesian market.

For your information, please see attached article or click below about the media coverage during MOU-Signing between Singaporean and Indonesian education companies in Bali:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Friend's comments about my book

Dear Mark,

The following are my brief comments on your book:

"Thoroughly enjoyable and beneficial read. Sound, honest and generous information applicable to many aspects of life. My mother (a retired teacher) read the feature article on Mark (The Sunday Times, 11 August 2013) and requested to read the book. I have worked with Mark and his wife, Elisa, for a number of years now (as their dentist) and it has always been a pleasure to attend to them." - Dr. Stephen Khor


Dentist (Paragon)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Post Card from Xavier

Monday, September 2, 2013

Underdog Millionaire


Thank you note from Victor

A Bookmark from my FMDS Family

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kind Words from a Friend

Mark Phooi's Biography, Adventures &
Designpreneur Tips
Dear Mark,

Once again , thanks for your specially autographed book. It was really a great book. I have just finished reading it. Some thoughts and comments below:

 1. Book was written and narrated in a refreshing manner, unlike the typical boring biography style that most western authors undertake.

 2. The chronological sequence of the chapters , complete with your thoughts on business, life, family etc, in between makes reading easy, organised and yet refreshing.

 3. However there was not much reference from the book contents relating to the title, " Think like a sage, Work like a fool, Act like a criminal," aside from some brief mentions in the few initial chapters. Perhaps there could be some reiteration of the title or content relating to it towards the end of the book.

 4. It may be a great idea if you can have a electronic copy of this book, so that you can market it on digital publishers like Skoob, Booktique etc. Given the fact that most people has preferred reading E-books on their ipads or other tablets nowadays. This will no doubt increase the not only the number of people reading it but also a wider market and industry segment. 

5. My personal favourite chapters- Personal Reflections- Never covet your neighbour's wealth and success- I personally feel very strongly and can't agree more than what you have written after having been through these many times in my life.

My Confession- We do share a very robust common take on this- Most Chinese Singaporeans having a passion on gambling and the government having more than $500B in assets, the unequal distribution of wealth in our island state. Overall it was en extremely well crafted book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and has made this weekend a meaningful one. I hereby congratulate you on a having come so far and having a life well lived. Best of luck and health and also a belated happy birthday!

Yours Truly,
Lawrence Tan

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hunger Makes Me Tick

They said crisis always brings out the best in people. I beg to differ. Why should one wait for crisis to happen before they uncover their best.

People will always try different ways to discover or attain successes but for me, I attributed my achievements and successes to HUNGER. Hunger is the push factor, it is the key driving force that resulted in my series of achievements. Either in swimming, design, business and investment, without hunger, I will be just another average Joe seeking the safe, secure and predictable route to living.

Hunger is always good. It makes me stretch my courage and capabilities and increase my drive to outperform my last best. Over the years, it brings out my courage and determination to transform myself successfully again and again. Throughout my career (from being a swimming coach to a designer to an entrepreneur and an educator), hunger is the key determinant that pushes me to stretch beyond my ability to transform. It drives me to move out of my comfort zone into the sphere of uncertainty to seek out the unknown.

In the course of these career transformations, it brings out a ‘new’ me, uncovering a new personal limit. Through these successes, my resolve is fortified and my courage to make bolder attempts is increased. Hunger also raises my adventurous spirit to a new high.

Hunger for recognition pushes me to strive beyond my personal best in business to grow First Media Group into Singapore’s largest local communication group to be awarded the various business awards.

Hunger for teaching and design propels me to set up First Media Design School (FMDS). It instils in me a stronger sense of compassion and commitment in nurturing my students' overall intellectual growth and characters development. Through FMDS, I discover my purpose, meaning and, most importantly, happiness in my role as a principal.

Hunger for achievement drives my enterprising spirit to live out my personal dream as a school owner. It pushes me to the edge of uncertainly, ‘think out of the box’ and increases my tenacity to overcome partnership disputes, students’ dissatisfaction and poor students enrolment during the inception years.

Hunger for personal growth elevates my attitudinal spirit enabling me to accept failures as a necessary stage of growth, paving the way for my future successes.

Hunger for action makes me restless and proactive. It drives me to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to read, write and reflect. It also inspires me to hunt down business leads, bringing me to places and new friends in the region.

Hunger for wealth drives me to heighten my investment acumen and financial prudence.
(P.S. desperation for wealth often drives one to be unscrupulous through unethical means).

Hunger for excellence drives me to be a perfectionist and to improve my personal performance standard in everything I undertake.

Hunger for power makes me authoritative and dominating.
(P.S. interesting to note how desperation for survival drove me to be a domineering and no-nonsense boss during those struggling years).

Hunger for freedom drives me to have an independent spirit and the attitude of self-reliance.
(P.S. another interesting point is my ability to work alone without the need for partners to provide courage, direction or moral support).

Hunger for success has led me to learn the best qualities of individuals (Hitler, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, etc.) whom I admired. Over time, I have successfully adapted these revolutionary ideas and characteristics as mine while staying true to what defines me as me.

Hunger brings out the best in me, it also brings out the killer instinct. Without it, no new discovery will be found and no new personal best will be set. Without hunger, life will always be status quo and I will never be able to accomplish these extraordinary achievements and be who I am today.

I am still hungry.

Mark Phooi

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Life So Far

The reading of John Maxwell’s Laws of Leadership sparks off this message. John’s article would not have hit me if I have not come this far. I first read his book titled “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’ decades ago and he was an inspiration. I am admitting I am the result of his words of wisdom.

After all these years of struggles and with God’s blessings, I see the present as a harvest period. Time to enjoy my pace and smell the roses.

I am pleased to have achieved financial freedom. One of the major milestones in my life, which was constantly on top of my priority list. Being able to accomplish it at my age gives me an ecstatic feeling.

Personally, life is all about choices and decision-making. I echoed Sir Winston Churchill’s quote, ‘I am a simple man, only satisfied with the finest’. At this juncture of my life, I have under my disposal, a wider range of choices.

Daily Transportation Mode
Sports, saloon or sports utility vehicle

My last ride in the Singapore public transport (bus and MRT) was more than 2 decades ago. I have vague memory of how the interior of our MRT carriages looks like or how the MRT lines interconnected with one another. But I can vividly remember how the subways in London and Tokyo work. I am totally out of touch.

Air Travel Mode
When come to air travel, I need space to pamper myself. I also find air travel offers the best solitude since I am disconnected (not by choice) from the world. This time space allows me to focus on self-reflection. Business class is a norm and occasional first class cabin gives me the physical and mental comfort. However, I find the attendant’s overly attentive service irritating and certainly dislike airline foods.

Also, I have missed out the regular check-in counter in the Changi airport terminals. The JetQuay Terminal offers plenty of private space allowing me to immerse myself into isolation and quietness, essential nutrients to recharge my physical and mental self. I find the staff there extremely understanding leaving passengers like me alone to enjoy the serenity and peace in a ritzy lounge.

My Typical Work Week
I am very free and I don’t act busy. But my mind is always engaged.

I treasured my freedom and defend my personal space. Hence I don’t have a personal assistant to mind over me (trade off). I truly enjoy the absolute movement to determine my work schedule.

I have no fixed routine except for few management meetings. All my managers are very self-motivated know their stuffs well and they give me no or little headaches freeing me for proactive thinking.

It takes good organising skill to work like clockwork and I conduct most of my discussions through mobile.

My mode of communication with them has been set as such:

·      Urgent and importance – via call
·      Importance but not urgent – via message
·      Not urgent – via email
·      Not important – don’t bother

Despite this mobility and freedom, I tend to work harder and longer hours.

I eat to live and eat simply. Lunch is always the same place and same stall over and over again. Again, given the choice, I enjoy lunching alone.

Family dinning out in the evening takes place 4 times a week. Like myself, the family is not adventurous and often we ended up in a few common places around Bukit Timah.

Long Weekends
Come long weekends, I am likely to pack my bags for a short escapade. My ideal getaway is family togetherness and often tries to go as a family unit. These days, it just seems more difficult with the boys having their own social activities.

My Typical Weekends
Instead of sleeping late, I am wired to wake up earlier than usual cause I was sold on the morale story of ‘How Many Saturdays Left?’ As of now, I am down to 1,248 Saturdays. How about you?

I always treasured Saturday morning as it marks the beginning of a weekend. It gives me the isolation and peacefulness to read and pen my thoughts. The crisp morning air always freshen my mind and inspired me to think deeply.

For 30 years, I have been religiously doing my 70 push-ups and 120 sit-ups in the morning and evening. Occasional jogging takes place twice a week around my house.

My current lifestyle is what I have envisaged during my early twenties when I was still taking public transport. The result is a deliberate act through careful planning and meticulous execution. I must admit it was not easy initially especially when we are often taken in by instant gratification.

Living out these moments is certainly a dream comes true.

Yours regards

Mark Phooi

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Love for Students

I have always derived great enjoyment from talking to my students. Through the countless impromptu short engagements, particularly with the international students, I am always intrigued to find out how well they are coping with new living and learning environments. My curiosity about their learning progress and social integration often gives me a grasp of reality followed by a sense of comfort knowing they are well adjusted and assimilated into our local environment.

Whenever necessary, I will offer my assistance to integrate them into our school’s learning environment through a buddy system. Also, I often extend to them the idea of considering Singapore as their permanent abode; finding employment and eventually starting a family here. Most, if not all of these international students typically come from well-to-do family backgrounds and are cultivated to become refined characters with a good moral values system. Our clean and safe living environment often eases their parents’ concerns of personal security and safety.

The family spirit of FMDS gives these students a welcoming and enjoyable learning environment in spite of the tight space and limited facilities. Our pool of friendly, responsive and helpful FMDS staff and my frequent mingling with them easily outweighs these limitations. The key concerns I have for my students primarily revolve around three aspects. 1. Personal intellectual growth 2. Personal attitude and discipline 3. Personal safety and comfort In terms of intellectual development, I will gauge their pace of growth through their responses relating to subjects covering development in the areas of self-knowledge, research skill, concept thinking capabilities and process understanding.

Through hearing them voice their difficulties in their projects, I am able to determine their ability to handle stress as well as assess their personal learning capacity. Their feedback on their lecturers’ teaching is another area I pay attention to. Whenever I detect that the students need special attention, I will immediately recommend and arrange additional tutorial classes for them, at no additional fees. Where their attitude and discipline is concerned, I take on both the devil and the angel’s roles as the principal. I am known to enforce strict discipline such as attendance, punctuality and promptness in their submissions, and I have never compromised on this. Hauling them to my office for a stern admonishment and threatening them with failure always seems to work.

To these ‘undisciplined’ students, I am seen as a hard-nosed taskmaster. Playing the angel’s role, I am their inspirational figure and am often seen giving them pep talks. Personal mental attitude conditioning has to start early and through my series of engagements, I strive to train their minds to always look from a macro perspective and defer their judgements so as to not kill small but potentially great ideas. I also aim to condition their minds through the lenses of daily life and hopefully increase their readiness to accept the hardships of life. For their personal safety and comfort, I check to make sure they have not encountered harassment or conflict in their living environment.

Personally, I believe that a conducive living environment is paramount in aiding the progress of my students’ overall mental and physical health. Thankfully, such cases have been manageable so far. In case emergencies arise outside school hours, I also avail my mobile number to all of them. Many of the past graduates I spoke with, often left FMDS and Singapore with a heavy heart, cherishing the FMDS’ family spirit and missing their network of fellow Singaporeans. Overall, the development of FMDS has given me immense pleasure and fulfillment – seeing how a boutique design school like FMDS is able to be the catalyst in improving their minds and transforming their lives. This, to me, is more purposeful and valuable than money.

Love, Mark Phooi

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Personal Reflection by Mark Phooi

My Personal Reflection 

Personally, life is a battery of tests. A test of our characters, integrity, values, competency and faith. I choose how I live by how I see my end game and take anything that comes with zest and gusto. At this juncture in my life, transforming minds and changing lives seem to be my calling, not in a spiritual sense but building aspirations and giving learners hope in their pursuit by becoming an inspiration to them. At some points in my life (2005 - 2007), I have also come to realisation that life is also suffering.

"The pains, disappointments and frustrations were too much to bear but I managed to entrust it to God. With His grace and blessings, I survived and passed with flying colors."

To close my life's last chapter, I truly hope to become a game changer and be a source of inspiration to people who are willing to listen, learn and also unlearn. I must admit I am not a saint and am also constantly battling with all the worldly temptations. Emotional detachment from worldly material needs is one of them. Somehow, with thoughtful consciousness, I should be able to strike a balance. With people, I like to see the goodness in others and embrace them readily. Often times, was taken advantage of. However, I harbour no hatred towards them regardless what they did to me cause life will be wasteful living having to store up past grievances. Am turning 51 next week and am having moment of disquiet as to what are my life priorities should be cause recently I have been faced with many business proposals and money making opportunities. I am confident I will be able to set my priorities right before my big day comes.

Regards Mark Phooi

Still hungry after all these years - Mark Phooi

Wong Kim Hoh The Sunday Times Tuesday, Aug 13, 2013

SINGAPORE - Four years ago, a friend asked Mr Mark Phooi to invest in a moneylending company.

It charged borrowers 20 per cent interest monthly on loans and was extremely lucrative. In less than a year, he not only recouped the $1.1 million he put in but also made a profit of about $500,000. However, his conscience got the better of him and he exited the venture not long after.
"Ninety-seven per cent of the borrowers were desperate gamblers, and poor. I'd rather make money from the rich," he says. His friend still runs the company.
The flamboyant, spiffily dressed 51-year-old left school with only two O-level passes but struck a big pot of gold after starting a design business which spawned a string of companies and the First Media Design School in Keong Saik Road.
Today, the entrepreneur owns several properties and three cars, including a Bentley cabriolet.
His immaculately furnished four-storey Bukit Timah home - which looks like a giant tree house - is worlds removed from the dingy two-bedroom Everton Park rental flat he grew up in.
"I didn't get a bed of my own until I was 14. I slept on a piece of plywood in the kitchen as a kid," says the fourth of five children of illiterate labourers.
His late father was a stevedore at the port; his mother, now 80, loaded detergent boxes into shipping containers in Jurong. Both were inveterate gamblers.
When they lost, which was often, Mr Phooi and one of his sisters were made to borrow money or rice from neighbours. "I developed a thick skin very young," he says.
With no firm hand to rein him in, he also became quite a bully in the neighbourhood. "I'm a Tiger and born in the evening, so I'm very hungry and aggressive," he says with a grin, referring to his Chinese zodiac sign.
Fighting was almost a daily sport but survival and making money were also top priorities.
"We often didn't have enough to eat, so I'd steal chocolate and snacks from shops in the area.
When I needed a new pair of shoes, I'd just go to one of the point blocks across the road and take what I needed," recalls the former student of Silat Primary and Tanglin Technical Secondary.
He was just seven when he started opening car doors for small tips at the Hillman Restaurant in Cantonment Road.
There were other gigs later, as a hotel bellboy and general dogsbody in a melon seed factory during school holidays.
More than the money he earned, the free meals that came with the jobs were a big draw. "It was the only time I could eat my fill," he says.
He also admits to behaviour that would make any proper boy scout ashamed.
As a sea scout, he was most flush with cash during the annual Job Week, when scouts raise money by doing odd jobs. He would not record all the jobs he did, and kept the money for himself.
"I would start one week early. Because I worked so hard, I could amass a couple of hundred dollars, enough to last me a few months," he says. It would take some time, but he would repay that debt eventually.
Not all his early entrepreneurial experiences were pleasant.
With a grimace, he recalls a couple of port labourers who would pay him and some of the neighbourhood boys to buy bottles of beer or stout. The men would then make the boys sit on their laps and grope them.
"I was just seven or eight and had no idea what was happening," he says. The trauma only hit him when he was in his 30s and a father himself.
"I was really upset and felt a lot of hatred and anger then," says Mr Phooi, who has three sons aged between 16 and 24.
In school, he was a sports ace but an academic dud and left Tanglin Technical with O-level passes in only Chinese and history.
"Many of my friends went on to junior college or polytechnic, but I could not even get into a vocational institute," he recalls.
He qualified only for the Construction Industry Training Centre (CITC) in Balestier. He quit after one day.
In the two years before he started national service, he was a factory hand at Bridgestone Tyres and a lifeguard at the Big Splash pool complex at the East Coast Park, a stint he enjoyed.
"I liked the attention and the authority I had. When I blew my whistle, people would react," says Mr Phooi, who perfected his swimming skills through countless training sessions as a sea scout and as a member of the Life Saving Club at Yan Kit Swimming Pool.
After national service, short stints as an encyclopaedia salesman and a timber yard supervisor followed. His mainstay, however, was teaching swimming, which netted him as much as $4,000 a month.
"I probably spent 44 hours in the water a week," he says. Then he chanced upon a theological book, The Seven Laws Of Success, and it changed his life.
"Among other things, the book says a person must have a goal, start with the end in mind, and have a lot of drive, perseverance as well as God to succeed in life.
"I didn't have much of an education but at that stage, I knew I wanted to be rich and to live in a nice house," he says.
So he hauled himself back to school to re-sit the O levels by attending night classes.
With a bellow, he says it took him four attempts over four years before he got another two passes in English and art. But, combined with his earlierO levels, his grades got him into the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
There, he became chairman of the students' union. When he was 25 and in his second year in Nafa, he married Elisa, a former accounts clerk. He graduated one year later in 1988 with a diploma in graphic design.
He then landed an interview for a graphic designer position with a local advertising company and the agency head asked what he wanted out of life.
"I told him I wanted to be like him and run an agency. He gave me a scolding and told me to come down from my ivory tower. He said I had neither experience nor a network and ended the interview by asking me to write him 10 reasons why he should give me the job," he says.
That night, he sat on his bed trying to draw up the list.
"My wife - who was pregnant with our first child - asked me what I was doing and when I told her, she said the agency owner had insulted me. I threw away the piece of paper and told myself I would pit myself against him."
After working briefly at a design agency and a typesetting firm, he borrowed $2,000 from a friend and started Lancer Design Services in 1989.
"It was just enough for me to buy a computer and a dot-matrix printer. My bedroom was the office," says Mr Phooi, who was then living with his mother in her four-room flat in Clementi.
He started with no grand plans but discovered along the way that the design and printing of newsletters was a lucrative business.
He continued giving swimming lessons, but would make cold calls and knock on doors to get his new business off the ground.
"No one wanted to do newsletters because there was little room for design indulgence, but it was very good money. I was competing with printers, but because I was design trained, my standards were higher.
I did so well that at one time, I had the contracts for nearly 40 companies," says Mr Phooi, whose clients included Singapore Technologies, Great Eastern Life and Jurong Country Club.
By 1992, he had made his first million. The company was growing so fast that he had to move nine times in its first decade of operations.
An electronics company was so impressed by his service that it gave him a $500,000 contract to organise a three-day staff event on Sentosa.
"I knew nuts about events, but I did it. Although I didn't have a track record, they were impressed with me because I would deliver things on weekends, rush things out for them and keep them informed of all developments. If there were problems, I always gave solutions."
Completing that job successfully proved a game-changer.
"It told me I could take on big projects and it pushed me from the C market to the A market," he says.
Over the next decade, he started building a series of small design companies - 11 in Singapore and five more in the region, including Malaysia and Indonesia - each catering to a different market, from retail design to corporate design to product packaging. First Media was formed as a holding company in 2002.
"I always give my guys an opportunity to be their own boss," says Mr Phooi, who also returned to school and received a Masters in Design from the University of New South Wales.
He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) and the Rotary Club of Singapore in 2006. Since then, he has given away all of his companies to the staff who helped him build them and now just owns two.
It has not been smooth sailing all the way.
The 1997 Asian financial crisis nearly bankrupted him because he had one mortgage too many and the value of his properties had plunged by more than 30 per cent. A publishing venture in 2000 also failed, incurring $250,000 in losses.
But each setback, he says, only made him work harder and he managed to claw back his losses.
Despite the scare of 1997, he ventured back into property investments. "In hindsight, what I have now are astute investments. But even I thought myself a little crazy and reckless when I bought them," he says.
Some of the properties he acquired were those no one wanted, including odd-shaped buildings and even a brothel in Chinatown.
"I bought the brothel for $2.45 million in 2008. Two months after I renovated and fumigated it, I sold it and made $2 million," he says.
In 2006, he set up First Media Design School. The 9,000 sq ft school offers programmes in graphic design, multimedia and fashion design; its degrees are conferred by the University of the West of England.
One of the smallest private education institutions to clinch the Council for Private Education's (CPE) EduTrust mark, the school has about 150 students, 40 per cent of whom are from the region.
Candidly, Mr Phooi says the school is unprofitable. "Our capitalisation of $1.3 million is all gone and I've just put in another $600,000."
But the founder is not at all worked up, perhaps because it is payback time for taking money from the scouts' Job Week.
"It's almost like a social enterprise to me. We give out scholarships to many students from Vietnam and Cambodia and it's a great feeling to know that they will be going back to their countries to pass on what they've learnt here."
His business partner, Ms Audrey Chong, has known him for more than a decade.
She says: "His public persona is this hard-nosed, go-getting man always on the lookout for business opportunities. But he has a very humane and soft side. He is a very busy man but he regularly goes to the prison to give talks and offer lessons for the inmates."
Mr Phooi says he is at a point in his life when he can afford to do what pleases him. And what is important to him now is playing educator and leaving a legacy.
It explains why he has decided to splurge $60,000 to publish his autobiography. Available at Kinokuniya book store, it is called: Think Like A Sage, Work Like A Fool and Act Like A Criminal.

File Source: AsiaOne