Father and son business: Differences as strength

Songyao Goh CPA (left) and Yau Kee Goh FCPA.

With contrasting philosophies and backgrounds, it wasn’t always a given that Songyao Goh CPA would work at his father’s financial services business, GYK Consulting. Now that he does, it’s apparent that their differences are a strength, rather than a weakness.

Yau Kee Goh FCPA

Owner and director, GYK Consulting

We have survived in the financial services sector for more than 40 years by providing assurance and gaining the trust of our clients. I think that can continue.

The current company, GYK Consulting, was formed as a spin-off firm from our main business of audit and tax. It’s different from other similar-sized management consultancies in that we combine that audit know-how with our newly acquired consulting strength, which Songyao has helped to drive.

Comparing the two of us at about the same age is very difficult; our career paths took us to such different places. I started Goh Yau Kee & Co., and my affiliated firms, when I was only 29, while Songyao worked in various countries before settling in his current line of management consulting.

We have very different personalities. However, I do hope that Songyao can do much better than me and bring the company to new heights. No pressure!

Songyao can be a little too enthusiastic in resolving operational constraints and attempting to expand into new markets quickly. He needs to continue to work on understanding not just the operational needs and culture of the firm, but also how SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] work in general, especially after working in big organisations for a long time.

As a father, I just wanted my son to grow up to be a responsible and honest person who could contribute positively to society and, more importantly, just be healthy – so far, so good.

Songyao has a great attitude and faith, and I can only say it can’t be too bad for him to join me now! I see huge potential for him to grow this business further. Ten years is a long time, but we hope to continue to grow to be trusted advisers to businesses, not only in Singapore, but also in Asia-Pacific and beyond in time to come.

For now, we will work hard to build up Singapore businesses and, in the midst of doing that, hope that our own relationship will continue to grow stronger – as partners and as a family.

What Yau Kee would change about Songyao

Be more patient, and be less stressed about the numbers. While targets are important, Songyao will need to see the bigger picture and the direction of the company to last the journey.

CPA Library resource: Building Family Business Champions. Read now.

Songyao Goh CPA

Director, GYK Consulting

I think my dad and I are very different people. He is into fine arts, while I am more into sports, so I won’t really call him my role model.

However, we did spend a lot of time together when I was young, and he was always supportive of me.

From a career perspective, I’ve been spoilt for choice, so I just took the easy way out and decided to follow my dad! It’s turning out to be a pretty good choice for my career progression.

I went to Australia [Queensland] to do my studies. It was my first time separated from my family for a prolonged period of time. It was difficult, but we used technology to stay in touch, and I made a lot of friends there.

Going straight from university to working with my dad was never an option. I saw friends who succeeded after going back to family businesses straight after university, but I also saw others who struggled. There are many reasons why businesses succeed or fail, but I do believe that working for other people helps provide a different perspective.

The [ten] years out in the market gave me control over my emotions and helped me to build my leadership, technical capabilities and business acumen, which I find useful, especially in a trying time such as now.

When I ultimately made the move to work with my dad [late in 2019], it was a tough choice. I had a lot of opportunities at PwC and a good boss there. Yet, I wanted to give it a shot, as this business was built up with difficulty by my dad, and it seemed a waste to let it go.

It has definitely been a rollercoaster ride, joining at a time when the market is hitting pretty much rock bottom.

While business volume is affected, it has provided time for me to learn about the business operations and clientele. I can bring in good practices that I learnt from my previous ventures when the economy rebounds.

I’m just starting out, while my dad is nearing the end of his illustrious career, and there are instances when we don’t necessarily see eye to eye. Yet, like all good partners, we normally come to a compromise and leverage each other’s strengths to try to help improve the company.

What Songyao would change about Yau Kee

At times, my dad relies a lot on his past experience, which is not a bad thing, but it will be good for him to be more embracing of new methods and technologies. In short, more forward-looking.

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