Dato’ Simon Foong Has Yielded Some Important Lessons In What It Takes To Know The Right Move For His Businesses

Fresh from celebrating Burger & Lobster KLCC’s one year anniversary, Dato’ Simon Foong is in ebullient mood, grooving to the upbeat music at the restaurant and asking for a lobster roll to be delivered to the table. For him, Burger & Lobster was an anomaly, a discovery in London that made him realise that despite not being able to make a reservation, he really liked the food and how the ambience made everything cool. The idea gestated over the pandemic and led to him establishing the franchise in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. This venture—which he says also involved getting the chef from the UK to be based here to ensure similarities in taste—is the latest in a long line of businesses for Dato’ Foong, who began with bringing Apple to Malaysia in the early ’80s, becoming the CEO of Aquaria KLCC, and representing the ownership behind Angsana Teluk Bahang, one of the latest beachfront hotels along the northern coast of Penang. For him, the years of entrepreneurship has earned some hard-won lessons including triumphing against all odds.

What type of business are you passionate about?

When I was younger, I got excited by businesses that I liked. I would look at it, even on TV, and then travel to London to get the guys to give me the product for the Malaysian market. I relied on gut feeling more than anything.

Your most valuable business lesson?

Having the right partner is important. When you want to get involved in the business, you need to make sure you have the right contract, the right agreement. When I was younger I went with just gut feeling and we could afford to make mistakes. But when the projects start to get bigger, you need to be careful, and have someone look at it to be sure it’s a calculated risk with high returns.

Your riskiest bet in business?

My riskiest bet is in the aquarium business which we started 20 years ago. When I tell people I’m going into that business, they think I’m mad – it’s so expensive. Our first outlay for Aquaria KLCC was RM62million. I’m glad to stay that with next year being our 20th anniversary, it’s a successful business, not just the monetary returns, but seeing how many children we have educated on conservation and marine life.

First thing you do in the morning?

I look into my hand phone, to see what appointments I have. I’m not really a breakfast person so I have a very good cup of English Breakfast and it’s straight to the office.

What do you crave at the end of the day?

With work making me think all the time, my thing at the end of the day is to be with my friends, to network with them for a couple of hours and see what’s happening, then head home to family for dinner.

What song is currently in your head?

I’m not a musical guy even though I love music. Actually not a lot of people know that I’m tone deaf and dyslexic so if someone asked me to sing in a karaoke, God save them.

How do you find calm?

Calm is when I’m off work – I do yoga three times a week so that gives me maybe 45 minutes each session where I’m only thinking about the exercise I’m doing.

The most recent thing you’ve added to your collection?

At the moment, I’m going all electric. It’s better for the environment. So two weeks ago, I got the BMW i7 – it’s a beautiful, quiet car. Next year I will get the Lotus Eletre and then the Tesla.

Your favourite dish at Burger & Lobster?

If I could have anything, my favourite would be the Lobster Laksa. That is one of the best and you can only get it at this particular outlet and nowhere else.

If you can stick to just one age, what age would it be and why?

Fifty.  It’s a very good age because it’s halfway. You will have time to go into a few businesses, learn what is wrong or right. And you’re at the particular time where you’re able to put in more effort into new businesses and spend a bit of time to help other people as well.

The last piece of advice you’ve given?

Don’t dread anything you haven’t done. And don’t think about trying to do something in the past better. To me, it’s easier to do what you want to do, and do it now. Don’t wait. Just get it done. You can’t change the past because you’d be wasting your time.

Who is your biggest inspiration today?

There are two; my mentor Steve Jobs who gave me my first break in business and Dame Anita Roddick of The Body Shop.

Burger & Lobster

Photography:  Cindy the Photoz

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