Midor Group of Companies has come a long way since its establishment by Woo Kun Yeow in 1972. Now both his sons, Dato’ Dannie Woo and James Woo, are the second generation scion of the Woo family. Midor Interior Designer and Furnishing Sdn Bhd is a leading renovator, designer, manufacturer and contractor of interior furniture and finishing, specializing in projects for commercial offices, financial institutions, hotels, entertainment centres, retail outlets and restaurants. In this issue, Top 10 Malaysia meets up with the enterprising and ambitious young successor, Dato’ Dannie Woo, to have a chat about the family’s business, the generation gap and his life experiences.
It is said that Rome was not built in a day; same goes to Midor as well. Being one of Malaysia’s top commercial interior design and renovation contractors with nearly forty years of experience, it has its fair share of challenges and breakthroughs. Midor was established through the sweat and blood of its founder and current chairman, Woo Kun Yeow. With the founder’s vast experience in commercial interior design and renovation, construction and steel fabrications, Midor was, and still is, known for its ‘design and build’ business approach.
Woo,who hails from the dreamy town of Kuantan, Pahang once set out on a journey to Terengganu hoping to make it big there. Sadly, he realised that competition in this industry was getting tougher and business was not picking up. Holding on to his faith and beliefs, he decided to move his business to the big city, Kuala Lumpur, despite venturing into the big unknown alone. As time passed, Woo found out that the road to establish a brand is harder than he thought but he persevered and overcame all obstacles to get Midor to where it is today. And now, senior Woo has put Midor into the hands of his eldest son, Dannie.
“Midor really owes everything to my father for not giving up on it. He had borne all the hardships to build the solid foundation it has today,” says Dannie with a sense of gratitude. Adding to that, Dannie says he is also thankful to his team for not giving up on his father’s dreams. “The most fundamental factor that has contributed to the company’s successes is teamwork. In Midor, we work as a team, a family that shares the same values and objectives. Everyone, from the corporate level to the front-line employees can openly share opinions and put forth suggestions. This transparency enhances the accuracy and creativity which have a direct impact on the effectiveness and the efficiency of doing any task, regardless of employee and employer relations, or even father and son relationships.”
Dannie, the eldest son and the one now taking charge of Midor goes on to speak about the transformation process of the family’s business. He is only in his mid-thirties and inevitably there is a distinct generational gap between son and father, who is in his sixties, not only in terms of age but also in management style. He freely admits that the transfer of leadership has its bumps.
“As the head of the company, I have the absolute right to call the shots based on personal thoughts instead of taking into account the different inputs from others. Frankly speaking, my brother, James, who also works at the company, and I had faced the exact same problem dealing with our father in the past, when disagreements, miscommunication and lack of communication occur frequently,” Dannie reveals.
Ways of communicating are bound to be different from a father, who grew up watching black and white television and when nasi lemak was only 10 cents, to a son who has the privilege to study in a foreign country and who cannot imagine a life without smart phones. The environment will undoubtedly shape a person’s thinking, his perception of things, and probably the words he chooses to communicate his ideas and even the way he talks.
“Like it or not, a generation gap occurs when there are differing thoughts based on past experiences. For example, an older sibling may think that an idea is not workable based on his own experience, while a younger sibling may think the idea is workable based on the current trend,” says Dannie. “Fortunately, my dad is a good listener and although he might initially disagree to a proposal, he will eventually agree after giving it much thought. Hence, constant and persistent communication keeps the relationship channels open and enhances sharing. Today, we can sit together as a family in an atmosphere of mutual respect to share information, have open discussion and raise opinions freely,” he continues.
Since the days of Dannie’s father, Midor has been in the continuous process in expanding its footprints in the interior design and construction industry in Malaysia. It has evolved tremendously and has furniture and furnishing factories that manufacture products from wood, steel, aluminium, glass and composite. The new generation helming Midor ensures that the old business ethics of integrity and quality remain the bedrock of the company while new innovations and modern methods are brought in to develop new successes in current times.
On predicting where Midor will be in the next ten years, Dannie feels that competition in the future will become more intense. “Our vision is to be Malaysia’s leading commercial interior design and renovator with excellent quality products and services that exceed the clients’ expectations. We are also actively doing projects in China and Hong Kong and Singapore. We value integrity, total work commitment, excellence in quality and competitiveness, and undertaking well-thought-out Corporate Social Responsibility programmes to ‘give back to society’,” he elaborates.
Tracing the history of Midor, one can really see that it has really gone through a lot – from financial recession to few unexpected tragedies that destroyed almost everything that it has built up. The Woo’s family residence, corporate office and factory have always used to be located in the same building. Although this arrangement makes for convenience, it has proven disastrous should misfortune strike. However, these painful tragedies have made the Woo’s family more cautious and stronger than ever before.
The way Dannie embarks on new businesses is unique. He does not conduct market research or engage consultants. He will discuss with family members and observe market trends.If initial deliberations look promising, he will begin a small start-up with his own resources. This method of starting a new business will minimise financial risks to the family business and only after a business has achieved critical mass will the business be transferred into the family group where more capital can be injected to expand it. Some agribusinesses were started this way.
It is very apparent that since the new generation has taken over the helm of the family business, Midor has expanded and diversified. The core business of interior design has gone into banks, hotels and educational institutions. On the surface the new businesses do not represent a coherent strategy but on deeper analysis they leverage on the common principles of understanding the critical success factors, fostering trust with customers, delivering quality products and staying ahead of the business trends.
When asked what has inspired him to be the Managing Director of Midor, Dannie has this to say: “My father has spent his entire life building this empire and it is only fair that he gets to retire and enjoy his remaining time as much as he can. Since Midor is a family business, our family members share a common goal – to nurture relationships over generations, build both trust among employees and partners and commit to the company’s vision and goals. Ultimately, as we grow, we hope to sustain what my father had developed in the past while embracing the family values and traditions.”