Settled in and running the show
Father: Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, founder and chairman, YTL group of companies.
Son: Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, Managing director, YTL Corp Bhd
Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, has described himself as a pencil. God's pencil, that is. A little one.
"It is God who writes the script and I am just a little willing pencil," he said at the London Business School back in 2003, when he was invited to address senior executives during a Creative Leadership programme.
For Francis, who is a devout Christian, the pencil analogy must seem accurate. But for those who have observed him over the years it is difficult to marry the almost in-your-face confidence of the man when he struts around the corridors of corporate Malaysia, with the humility behind those words.
And that humility continues when he goes so far as to tell The Edge that his leadership role in the company is "a case of primogeniture [the state of being first-born]".
Again, those who know him say this is a man driven to succeed — who is sharp, quick, incisive and decisive. So, yes, an accident of birth ensured that the company became his birthright. But even if he wasn't the eldest son, the feeling is that Francis would still be leading something somewhere. He just has the mettle.
He trained for the job from the age of 16 when he was, in his own words, "construction sightseeing".
"Every school holiday, I was at an outstation site supervising a construction project. I used to stay with the workers in the kongsi huts and made decisions for the company."
But on-the-job training was not enough and Francis headed off to England to further his studies.
"My beloved father taught me some valuable lessons. When the company was hit by the oil crisis in the early 1970's, I thought that as the eldest son, I should sacrifice my university education and join him in the rough and tumble of the Jurassic construction business model then," Francis says.
But Yeoh senior would have none of it. So Francis graduated from the university at the age of 24 with an honours degree in civil engineering.
He reworked the company's strategies, investing heavily in intellectual capital and construction equipment. It was Francis' idea to list and tap into public funds.
It appears that Yeoh senior had then relinquished several of the decision-making processes to his son, forcing him to swim at the deep end. And, of course, there was no thought of sinking.
"Today, YTL is a global company with a staff strength of 6,000. The earnings of the group have grown an impressive 42% since 1986 and is still one of the most profitable companies per employee in the world," says Francis.
And, looking at YTL on a global scale, this is not an exercise in self-congratulation. YTL, thanks in large part to Francis, is a major league player, having acquired Wessex Water in 2002 for £1.4 billion. It was an open bid made for a utility in England which was eyed by the likes of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
While Francis always refers to the "we" in the decision-making processes, he was still the leader of the pack.
The company has a "cabinet" of 30 members comprising both strategic and implementation directors and it meets every Monday at 10am. Sharp.
"The joint intellectual capital and experience of the various cabinet members have contributed tremendously to the impressive growth of the group.
"Our future remains bright and we have set a new objective of growing 20% compounded from our present larger base till the year 2020. None of the cabinet members doubt we will get there," says Francis.
Music to shareholders' ears.