Still the chief

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01Mar2018_00529
01 Mar 2018 | PEOPLE
Melayu 华文

Still the chief

// STORY ONG HONG TAT
// PHOTOS KENNETH LIN & COURTESY OF COL (NS) LIM

English Melayu

He went from commanding thousands of soldiers to being Chief Operating Officer at CoAssets. The listed crowdfunding firm has set up deals worth millions of dollars (about $48 million to date).

It has been quite a change, to say the least. But Colonel (COL) (NS) Lawrence Lim will say otherwise.

"The fundamental skills -- building teams and operationalising processes -- remain. Industry knowledge can be picked up," explained the 44-year-old, who recently published a book on leadership, titled From Doing to Dreaming.

During his final years in the SAF, he led the Artillery formation as its chief, pioneered the SAF's Personnel Command and helmed the team responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in Singapore.

Centred on values

His job at CoAssets is to support the business' vision by building back-end processes, as well as managing diverse teams within the firm.

"I'm the one who has to make things happen -- building the systems to support the growth of the firm," said COL (NS) Lim.

The company offers an online platform for small- to medium-sized enterprises to raise money for projects through a pool of private investors.

When it comes to hiring and retaining staff, it is the values of the person that really count for COL (NS) Lim. "Competence I can coach, but values like integrity and perseverance must be there."

He added: "Just because a staff member is a high performer, it doesn't mean that anything goes. That sort of behaviour creates a toxic work environment that damages the organisation in the long run.

"That is why I have let very competent people go, when they don't share the same values as the company." That is something he learnt in the SAF.

Early days

In his book, COL (NS) Lim tells of his early days in school and how he, like many boys, got into trouble for being mischievous.

He also revealed some personal details, such as how he came from a broken family and yearned for a father figure to look up to.

Despite these early challenges, he managed to excel academically and was eventually awarded an SAF scholarship.

"Why the Army? It was primarily because I believe it is the best organisation in Singapore and I still felt a lack of some sort of male authority or leader in my life," he wrote in the book.

Military classroom

With more than 20 years in the SAF, COL (NS) Lim has his share of stories to tell. Some of the most intriguing ones are not those of chest-thumping military bravado, but of how he got people to work together to achieve a bigger collective goal.

For example, he brought together a diverse team of creative professionals, student performers and SAF commanders to put up the 2015 SEA Games opening and closing ceremonies. The number of people it took to make that happen? A cool 10,000!

When he first got involved in the planning, he quickly realised the scale of the event.

"The job was massive and we had a new venue (the newly completed National Stadium) to work with. (But) we had no operational templates, no expertise for the proposed programme and not much time for something of this scale and complexity."

So began a whirlwind 18-month period for COL (NS) Lim and his team. One of his tactics to shorten the information flow and communication processes within the teams was to constantly talk to his people, both formally during meetings and informally during social gatherings.

"I was careful to make sure that people didn't see me as just some chairman who was devoid of character and colour, and asked to be looped in on difficult situations so that I could resolve issues before they snowballed.

"I also drank a lot of beer and coffee in the process!"

Want to win a copy of From Doing to Dreaming?
Visit www.mindef.gov.sg/pnr/contest!

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