“My tips to running a successful business is very simple, be friendly and sincere to keep our customers happy and when they are happy, they will keep coming back to us.”
When 20-year-old Ben Low first arrived in Australia back in 1986, he had only managed to get work as a general worker in a restaurant. Low’s father was a factory owner back in Malaysia, manufacturing chicken feed but during that period, the economic downturn had badly affected the business. “I was selling chicken feed by the roadside and nobody wanted it, times were really bad that time,” Low said.
So, Low set out to seek greener pastures in Australia first before his father too decided to start over in Australia. When his father first came over to Australia, they started out in the import and trading business by distributing cigarettes imported from Singapore. “It only lasted a few years but that’s the start we needed and by 1992, we started Wah Lien Trading,” he said.
Wah Lien Trading imports Asian food products such as canned food, noodles, seasonings, sauces, pastes, cooking oil and assorted spices and dried herbs. Low travels often to seek out new products to import and distribute to Asian stores in Australia. “We have to continue seeking out products to meet our customers’ needs and I am always taking the initiative to bring in new products from other countries,” he said.
When Wah Lien started out, they only have one warehouse and since Low took over the business from his father about 11 years ago, it has grown to four warehouses and a vision to expand into the property sector. Low believed the success of the trading company was due to his daring attitude in taking risks.
“I dared to take risks and this is how we have expanded to what we are today. I dared to take in whole shipments of new products to try and it worked to our advantage.”
That was not all, Low has a very simple and straight-forward tip to running a successful business. “My tips to running a successful business is very simple, be friendly and sincere to keep our customers happy and when they are happy, they will keep coming back to us,” he said. He believed in treating his clients like friends and when they are on friendly terms, the clients tend to be more loyal. “This is very natural, if you want something, you’d rather go to your friend rather than someone you don’t know,” he added.
Looking forward, Low said his import, export and wholesale business in the food sector will continue to be in high demand, if not on the increase. “Essential food such as rice, vermicelli, cooking oil and spices are economy-proof. Even if times are bad, people still need to eat, they still need to cook rice and use cooking oil,” he said. Low is now also eyeing the property sector by taking a tentative first step with a land purchase. He plans to go into this slowly by first buying a land and building a factory. “This doesn’t mean I will be changing sectors, I will continue to import food products, it is our core business,” he said.
1986年，年仅20岁的 Ben Low 首次踏上澳大利亚土地，只能在一家餐厅找到打工机会。 他的父亲之前在马来西亚开了家生产鸡饲料的工厂，但期间工厂企业遭受经济衰退的严重打击。“我当时在路边叫卖鸡饲料都无人问津，那是最糟糕的时刻。”
“My philosophy at Webber Design has deliberately been totally different. I am a perfectionist and to me our reputation is all about consistency in our delivery and that can’t happen if you are spread too thin.”
It has been said that “Children are the builders of a brave new world” and as a child Paul Webber loved playing with Meccano sets and carpentry kits, experimenting with building structures and understanding how they stand up. That childhood passion has stayed with Paul and today as the owner of Webber Design he is one of the faces changing Australia’s skyline.
Graduating in Brisbane in a depressed economy at a time when jobs were few and far between, Paul was handpicked by one of his lecturers and employed to work for a leading Brisbane Engineering Firm. “That was my start and appreciating just how fortunate I was at the time, I have never taken anything for granted in my career.”
It wasn’t long until Paul, still in his twenties, was promoted to an Associate Director before heading to Hong Kong to work for a large multinational multidisciplinary practice in Asia.
“I was responsible for a team of over 30 structural engineers most of whom were Chinese and it was there that I developed a massive respect for their engineering expertise and work ethic. We worked on some incredible projects, airports, railways and tall buildings in Thailand, Southern China, Hong Kong and Vietnam. I loved it all. The intensity, the long hours and the experience was something that you couldn’t get in Australia at that time.”
Paul returned to Australia and became a Principal of a large Brisbane Structural Engineering practice for 5 years before opening up and growing their Melbourne practice for a further 4 years. “That was an exciting time for me being a part of Melbourne’s rapidly growing property market.”
With his growing success in Melbourne Paul was headhunted and accepted the position of National Structural Director for another large Australian Engineering company, “The job became more a management and administrative role and to be honest I hated it. It was not what I enjoy doing. I have always loved being hands on dealing with architects right from the beginning, being creative, making good engineering designs come to fruition and having fun. That was my skill set and what I enjoyed doing and why people enjoyed working with me”
At a crossroad and armed with a new vision, Paul started his own Structural Engineering company Webber Design in 2007. He admits that, “Apart from the start up costs It was a little daunting at first, being an outsider from Brisbane and starting on my own in Melbourne, however right from day one clients, architects and developers gave me their work.”
“Webber Design work hard for our clients and our approach and focus on cost effective designs has paid off over time.”
“Most of the engineering companies that I had worked for had a philosophy to open offices everywhere and be big. I understand that approach however big isn’t always better. I also saw first hand many of the downsides including, at times, a too rapid a growth without sufficient quality staff or systems in place, a loss of control and poor design outcomes which ultimately impacts on the bottom line and reputation. Of more importance though was that the clients were not receiving the best outcomes or service on many occasions.”
“My philosophy at Webber Design has deliberately been totally different. I am a perfectionist and to me our reputation is all about consistency in our delivery and that can’t happen if you are spread too thin. I employ quality staff across every level of the business who are all well respected in the industry. We remain client and project focused and that has proven to be my formula for success.”
A very respected and successful engineering company in Melbourne, Webber Design is now making its mark in Sydney. “I am not here to grow quickly but rather my philosophy, as always, is to maintain a controlled growth, delivering consistent quality work and cutting-edge designs. Since we opened the office here two years ago we’ve secured over 30 projects including most recently a role on the tallest residential tower in Sydney, the 65 level Greenland Centre developed by Chinese developer Greenland. We are working in collaboration with Arup and the contractor Probuild to incorporate our alternative structural design.”
Over the course of ten years, Webber Design has delivered more than $20 billion worth of projects and is one of the largest privately owned structural engineering firms in Australia. “I’ve always had a strong work ethic which I inherited from my parents and have always put pressure on myself to strive for perfection. Webber Design work hard for our clients and our approach and focus on cost effective designs has paid off over time. On reflection and perhaps based on my experiences in Hong Kong we employ a very strong multicultural staff base with many Asian engineers. Interestingly our client base is currently around 80% Chinese with a lot of repeat business.”
It’s not all about business. In his spare time Paul collects art, unusual chess sets and has a share in a few racehorses one of which won three races in Singapore and another winning a race on Oaks Day last year. “I used to play golf but sadly with my 24/7 business demands, I rarely find the time.”
“I wouldn’t be the person. I am today without Deborah. I love everything about her. She is passionate, funny and a major asset to me in business and life. We are very close.”
More admirable is their commitment to charities. Paul and Deb are ambassadors for the St Vincent Hospital’s HIV fund in Sydney. Smiling he acknowledges “Most of my industry colleagues know that I am a soft touch when it comes to donating to a worthy cause. I believe it is important to give back when you have it to give.”
So what is next for Webber Design? “I am still as passionate today as when I first started my career. My focus as always is to keep mentoring my staff and building Webber Design as a brand that people respect and trust and continue to deliver great structural engineering outcomes for our clients and their projects.”
Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
One of the most superior Australian minds, Professor Kathryn North is the director of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the David Danks Professor of Child Health Research at the University of Melbourne.She is also Chair of Research Committee to the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to medicine in the field of neuromuscular and neurogenetics research.
“Now we can take blood or skin cells from you and recreate your kidneys in the laboratory. We’re starting to recreate cartilage cells as well.”
Trainedasapaediatric physician, neurologist and clinical geneticist,Professor North is also an international leading expert in genomic medicine.
Brilliant and beautiful, Professor Kathryn North is devoid of amour propre, with no apparent air or condescendence. There is self-value and pride at the right doses as well as a healthy sense of humour and wit to complement her intellectual prowess. And then there is also that inimitable sense of style and sassiness in her dressing and impish choir-boy haircut. People love Kathryn North.
In 1994 Professor North was awarded a doctorate for research in neurogenetics. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Genetics Program.
Interest in genetics developed from her training in neurology where her focus was on children with severe intellectual disabilities and muscular dystrophies. Most of these disorders have a genetic or inherited basis. “When I started practising medicine the human genome haven’t been sequenced. I could not give the parents an answer as to why their children aren’t developing normally. It’s literally those simple questions every parent deserves to know that really drives me,” she shares.
Her research in genetic diagnosis produced ground-breaking results. “By using the latest genomic technologies, we’ve increased the diagnostic rate by four times at a fifth of the cost. Genomic medicine is set revolutionising clinical care.We are moving towards prevention and early intervention, instead of waiting for the problem to occur and then treat it, a method which is often costly and ineffective. In some cases, we can even prevent intellectual disability and start treatment before the brain gets damaged. That’s the dream.”
“Genomic medicine is set revolutionise clinical care. We are moving towards prevention and early intervention”
With genetics, there is always the proverbial argument of ‘playing god’. “Everything we do goes through ethics approval and family consent to make sure we are respecting the patient’s beliefs and wishes. Genomic testing is not so different. It’s just much better with a lot more sensitivity and accurate results,” she reveals.
Essentially this guru of genetics is passionate about child health. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is by far the best in Australia and one of the top five child health facilities in the world. “We are able to attract funding because of our excellence. We work very actively with peer-reviewed funding agencies and philanthropists where we commercialise and drive innovation within the industry to make our discoveries and inventions available.”
“I still have big plans for this place, I can tell you. With genomic medicine, we are working out some of the big problems in food allergies. We are rolling out life-saving vaccines in Asia and Africa. Stem cell medicine and therapy is our latest initiative. Now we can take blood or skin cells from you and recreate your kidneys in the laboratory. We’re starting to recreate cartilage cells as well,” she beams.
I’m immensely proud of it and it’s just wonderful to be able to do something like that. I look forward to coming to work every day.”