Sister act: 3 generations of family business at SKB Shutters

Michelle Sin Siew Huey CPA (right) with her sister Melissa Sin Tze Yi CPA. Photo: Rebecca Toh.

Michelle Sin Siew Huey CPA and Melissa Sin Tze Yi CPA work for roller shutter company SKB Shutters Corporation in Malaysia. They say working together has brought them closer as sisters.

Melissa Sin Tze Yi CPA

Executive director, SKB Shutters Corporation

My sister is five years older, so growing up, a lot of the time we weren’t in the same school. When I was in primary school, she was in high school; when I was in high school, she was in college. We didn’t really spend that much time together. She’s always been a very motherly figure to me because my parents were always out of the country building our business.

We’ve been a family business for three generations: SKB Shutters Corporation was started in 1957 by our grandfather. Because I’m the youngest, there wasn’t much expectation for me [to join the business]. I think there was for Michelle. Yet growing up, we were very tightly connected to the company; we always had family jobs in the office.

We tend to have a very good working relationship because our roles don’t really overlap. Michelle oversees our operations and everything else; I’m more focused on business development, mostly outside of Malaysia – ASEAN countries, the Middle East, the US, Australia.

A lot of the time we may not have the same views on things, but as the boss, Michelle will decide where we should go on major decisions.

Michelle is often seen as very firm, consistent. I wouldn’t say rigid, but she’s not easily swayed. A lot of the time when she makes decisions, she tends to be very analytical. That is something I don’t see in myself. I need a lot of feedback. I need to hear from all sides and then come back to myself and wrap up.

Michelle tends to have her own opinion based on analysis that she’s got from data.

Despite not being entirely a people person, she always plays her leadership role as a guidance role. She’s also always trying to enrich herself with courses and reading. Her willingness to do that does motivate me to be just like her.

I’ve learned from her to be very resilient. A lot of the decisions at her level are big decisions, and there will be people who are against them. From time to time I get a little too distracted by the negativity, but with Michelle, you trust her views and then you work towards her goal as well. That is something I constantly remind myself of – a decision I make may have a huge impact.

I have to be thinking it through thoroughly, sticking to it and giving it my best. That is something Michelle demonstrates very well.

It’s good to have a sister and, of course, a senior that you can speak to, to share your ideas and get feedback. I always say it’s a good relationship, because you can argue to the max and then still make up and be friends again.

Working together has brought us a lot closer than when we were growing up. Only when we started working together did it feel more like we’re partners; we’re friends, we’re best friends.

What Melissa would change about Michelle:

“I wouldn’t want to change anything about Michelle, actually. I know this doesn’t answer the question, but I think she is a pretty good fit for a CEO.”

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Michelle Sin Siew Huey CPA

Managing director, SKB Shutters Corporation

Melissa is very, very determined, and she often wants to get things out as soon as possible. Having a timeline is essential to her. She has a lot of things on her checklist, and she will get it done as soon as possible so that the list gets shorter before more things come in. Determined, I think, is the right word to describe her.

Melissa is super particular on presentations and written documents. I’m more meticulous about product quality and things like that, so we complement each other: I’m more focused on the hardware, she’s more focused on the software. You need both to be better.

She’s very focused. She doesn’t get distracted easily. When she’s on a task, she’ll be fully focused on that task. She has her mind very clearly on what the priority is, now.

Sometimes I get very carried away because there are just so many things, so I admire her for that.

Being a woman in this industry, I think when you walk into a meeting room, you kind of shock everyone. They’ll be slightly more polite because you’re a woman. They’re also probably thinking, “What do you know?”

It’s entirely up to us to back up our knowledge and impress and prove them wrong. You kind of have to work twice as hard, in a way, to prove yourself. Firstly, I’m a woman; secondly, what’s a CPA doing in this industry?

I’m very lucky because I get to work with someone really close to me. She can actually tell me, “This needs to be better”. There’s been a lot of exchanging of ideas over the years. For example, Melissa solves problems out of the box. I’m more of a follow-by-the-book kind of person. In that way, we really complement each other very well.

Of course we do argue over differences, but we always have a way to sort it out. When on a business trip, we get to travel on a sisters’ trip as well.

That’s really one of the biggest perks of having to work with your sister. You have no worries about confrontation. If you’re not going to be colleagues, you’re still going to be sisters, right?

What Michelle would change about Melissa:

“I do not wish to change who she is; we complement each other quite well, constantly being a reminder to each other of our strengths and weaknesses. I see this as a healthy working partnership. If there must be one, it would be great if she could be more flexible on decisions made.”

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