Asia Inc November 1999

The Time Chaser

If there’s ever a machine invented to freeze time, Pat Lu will be the first in line to buy it. “There’s just so much to do and I can’t be at so many places at the same time,” she quips. If only she could, she would.

The founder, president and chief executive of Rayma Management Consultants (M) Sdn Bhd is a lady on the run. Foong Wai Fong, author and close friend of the Rayma chief has this to say about her: “Before I knew Pat, I had a regular schedule. I sleep early and wake up early. These days, everything is just the opposite. I work longer hours and hardly had time to sleep.”

Perhaps her larger than life ambitions have a big part to play in the overall scheme of things. But for Lu or Pat (as she’s better known) to have come this far, there has got to be something more than just ambition. And there is. But the down-to-earth, fireball of ideas and enthusiasm remains coy. As the ex-Assuntarian puts it: “It’s common sense.” And that common sense made her a millionaire before she was 30!

For Pat, common sense plus hard work and long hours equals success. “It’s as simple as that,” she says. But then again, she says one also has to be creative and imaginative. It was these attributes that have contributed to Rayma having recorded a few firsts in the course of its corporate life. “We were the first to invite world class speakers to Malaysia,” Pat says.

“Since our inception in 1987, we have invited many renowned speakers from all over the world to present their seminars in Kuala Lumpur.” Among them: Tom Peters, the co-author of In Search for Excellence and A Passion for Excellence , management and leadership guru Warren Bennis, marketing strategists Philip Kotler, Al Ries and Jack Trout as well as mind mapping expert Tony Buzan. “We were also the first professional conference organizer to promote our conferences and seminars on television.”

For all they are worth, they remain what they are – history. A great track record perhaps. Some ‘trophies’ to remember at best. For Pat, life goes on. She’s not resting on her laurels. Her unrestrained self-initiative and insatiable appetite for adventure continue to demand that she explore new territories and seek out new challenges.

“Pat’s energy is refreshingly contagious,” says Steven K C Poh, president and chief executive of newly set-up I-2Media Sdn Bhd, an Internet services and software development company. “For all the years I’ve known Pat, there’s never a moment she’s without an idea. She’s wildly imaginative and her ‘never-say-die’ attitude to life continues to be the driving force behind her success as a person and a leader.”

Example: at the height of the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, in addition to steering Rayma out of troubled waters, Pat was also involved in a volunteer project to help revive the battered Malaysian economy by bringing foreign exchange into Malaysia through tourist dollars.

The project, dubbed the Visit Malaysia Cyber Campaign or VMCC, aimed to send out 50 million e-cards through caring Malaysians to invite friends from around the world to visit Malaysia. VMCC was supported by the Malaysian Tourist Promotion Board and officially launched by the then Minister of Tourism and Culture Datuk Sabaruddin Chik this past March. Prior to the launch, Pat spent many sleepless nights to figure out the best ways to mobilize friends to undertake the huge task. And for a person who claimed to not have an aptitude for IT (information technology), she quickly sought the Internet for help. She and a few volunteer friends started e-mailing their friends to set the ‘invitation wheel’ in motion.

In the midst of VMCC, Malaysia was also saddled with the Nipah Encephalitis outbreak amongst pig farmers in Negeri Sembilan. As death toll climbed, and epidemic-like devastation seemed inevitable, Pat and her volunteer friends wasted no time in seeking out ways and means to contain the problem. They brought Taiwanese experts to contain the virus and produced the "Sunflower Project", a proposal to the government to reorganise and restructure the pig farming industry. “Those were really trying times,” she recalls.

These days Pat is wearing many hats. But she’s not complaining. “You must always treat what you do as a hobby; something that you enjoy doing. To me, the priority is having fun. Never relent to get at what you want no matter how strong the obstacles are.” She obviously knows what she’s talking about.

As an entrepreneur, a volunteer, a lobbyist, a social worker, a mother and a servant all rolled into one, she has to juggle her time to meet the expectations of each role. Her toughest so far is to constantly carve out enough time each day to be with her son Joshua. “But we managed,” she says matter-of-factly. In addition to Joshua, Pat’s other involvement with kids is through the Rumah Hope orphanage where she has a godson.

Her other community service is her personal attention to an organ donation campaign she hosts on cyberspace and her regular talks and lectures to students. Lee Kok Leong, executive director of Institute Advertising, Communication and Training has this to say about Pat: “In spite of her busy schedule, it amazes me that she continues to find time to share her thoughts with our students year after year. I’m thankful for her sacrificial attitude, I am sure the students will one day realise the wise words she have imparted to them meant so much to them and they go through life"s ups and downs. Pat certainly possess an attitude of helping people and serving people.”

And part of that service to her community comes in the form of educating Malaysians on the advent of the Internet. Rayma was the first Malaysian seminar company to explore the digital world in 1995. Since then, Pat has used the Internet for many things. The way she sees it, the World Wide Web will be the next revolution the world will have to contend with.

“Whether companies know it or not, they better be ready for it or be caught with their pants down,” she says. “The digital marketplace is not for the faint hearted. The business models are different. The shift in paradigm is significant and many businessmen are scared stiff because of it. The Internet will not only change the way people do business, but also the way people perceive value,” she adds. “I believe the magic words for the new millennium would be personalisation and customisation. The product diffentiator would be the quality of service rendered.”

Pat’s involvement in cyberspace has also led her and a few other volunteer friends to form Pahlawan Volunteers in November 1997. “Many people wrote to ask who the Pahlawans are,” Pat says. “Our government stressed, ‘Negara Kita, Tanggungjawab Kita’. The Pahlawans embraced this philosophy with an additional emphasis of our own. ‘Our Country, Our Responsibility. Ultimately, We Chart Our Own Destiny.’

Adds Pat: “The word ‘pahlawan’ means warrior in our national language. A warrior is loyal to his duty and pays his allegiance to the country. That is our spirit – as citizens of Malaysia, as beneficiary of the land that nurtures us, we think that each of us has a duty to shape and make our society better, after all our society is us. If we don't care about the state of our society, we don't care about ourselves.

“The citizenry is a dynamic force, the character of the people determines the kind of physical environment we live in, the competitiveness of our economy, how participatory our political process is and how vibrant and responsible our civil society is.”

The Pahlawans worry about "how the cohesiveness of our community has been eroded by over-addiction to materialism and vested interest, sidelining morals and virtues which once-upon-a-time formed the wealth of our heritage.” They seek to give voice to these values and seek to promote them through their various projects.

“By the way, the Pahlawans are hip and progressive people. We are not a bunch of tradition-preservation conservatives. We interact primarily on the Internet, the philosophy is egalitarian. Everyone has an equal voice, there is no organization, no chairman, no nothing. We don't stand on ceremony. And we are not afraid to point out inconsistencies. We would persist on our conviction even though our message may not be politically correct.”

Daredevil Pat has lived with that conviction for many years now. After giving 12 years to her company – Rayma – Pat is again charting new horizons. At 38, she is living life. Says I-2Media’s Poh: “She is one person who knows exactly what she wants and is single minded to pursue the goals to their logical conclusions. She is committed to excellence and her hunger for results augers well for whatever she sets out to do. But what sets Pat from others is her genuine love for people and their potential.”

And here’s Pat’s next pet project – “building self-reliant communities.” But that’s another story.

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