From Dato Jimmy Choo to Mum Matilda: Darren Yaw’s Top 5 Business Role Models

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Darren Yaw has had plenty of business role models he attributes to his success. As an entrepreneur, Darren has invested in businesses all around South East Asia—including Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Thailand. Being an entrepreneur is not an easy path to take. Just like any other businesses, there are still many challenges and risks involved. There are stakes, and failures that will inevitably come into play throughout their career. Entrepreneurship is a profession that requires a lot of tough decision-making as well as strategizing efficient business plans. 

But what happens when an entrepreneur finds himself or herself in a situation where certain decisions may be too big for him or her? Who does he or she look to for advice? Entrepreneurs are business persons by default, but they are still human beings who still face everyday problems you and I go through. In many cases, entrepreneurs have their own dedicated team of analysts. However, in some situations, entrepreneurs have to make hard decisions by themselves. That said, it isn’t uncommon for them to have role models of their own. These role models could be influential people, or influential stories, that help guide and inspire others to forge their path onto. Who is better to teach us of a certain situation than the people who have gone through it themselves? 

Darren Yaw credits most of his successful decision making towards the role models. Every business person should have their own business role model. This will indeed help inspire and guide start-up companies into a more fruitful pathway. Here is a list of his top business role models. 

1. Dato Jimmy Choo

Dato Jimmy Choo is no stranger to fashion lovers. To those who don’t know, this world renowned shoe designer was born from humble roots in Penang, Malaysia, to a cobbler, and when he was eleven, he created his first pair of shoes. In 1983, Dato Jimmy Choo earned his bachelor’s degree from the London College of Fashion (also known as London College of Fashion). When he was three years older, he opened his Hackney shoe store. Dato Jimmy Choo was still a small operation even after increasing in popularity, making only 20 handmade pairs of shoes each week. But Vogue accessories editor Tamara Yeardye Mellon realised there was a larger market for Dato Jimmy Choo’s shoes. She went to the shoemaker and approached him about starting a line of ready-to-wear footwear together. And the rest is history.
From then on, Dato Jimmy Choo shoes have become the most expensive and coveted footwear of the rich and famous. No matter who you are, whether you are a celebrity or a member of royalty, people from all walks of life want a pair of Jimmy Choos. Princess Diana was one of his loyal customers even after her death. There is no Malaysian competitor to Dato Jimmy Choo in the fashion world. In recognition, the British government awarded Dato Jimmy Choo Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his contributions to the fashion and shoe industries.
I admire his work ethic. He is famously hard working. He built his shoe empire from nothing. Dato Jimmy started small and slowly built his business. Like him, I also believe that you must be strong in your fundamentals. In one interview Dato Jimmy Choo said, “Everything comes from the basics. If your basics are good, when the difficult part comes, you can handle it yourself,” he said.
I also agree with Dato Jimmy’s emphasis on having a strong mindset. “Take care of yourself and your health. Be sincere, be nice to yourself, ”he has said. I firmly agree.

2. Warren Buffet

I often sought inspiration for my business enterprises by reading stories from Warren Buffett, the legendary investor, perhaps the most legendary investor of all time. Previously one of the world’s richest men, he fits into what people say he is. A business lover, a numbers guy. A man who, during his childhood, would always read annual reports and stock prices of companies through the newspapers. His first business venture started when he was a young boy. He would go around selling Coca-Cola, chewing gum, and weekly magazines door-to-door in his neighborhood. It’s no wonder where he is where he is today. The man has been dedicated towards the art of business ever since he read the book A Thousand Ways to Get $1000 by Frances Minaker from his local library when he was younger. Even at the age of 90, he still reads the newspapers every day. Five newspapers in fact, one of which the Omaha World Herald is owned by his company.

3. Lee Kuan Yew

The man behind Singapore’s rise towards growing into a first world country all in under one generation. As extraordinary as it sounds, I am still looking into Lee Kuan Yew’s life for personal and financial advice. The only political figure in my list, Lee Kuan Yew has served as Singapore’s founding father ever since gaining independence from the British in 1963 and again in 1965 when Singapore exited Malaysia. He only wanted what was best for his country and his people. And I can relate with his vision. I’d like to think of my company as how Lee Kuan Yew viewed Singapore–a small venture that has enormous potential. An opportunity to make a mark in history books. His autobiography is a very interesting read too, I would highly recommend it.

4. Tim Cook

The successor to the great visionary Steve Jobs, the current CEO of Apple, Tim Cook. Tim Cook has a distinct leadership style that I try to follow. Every morning he will send emails to his staff regarding the task of the week at 4:30am. He would also have Sunday-night calls with his team so that the work flow of the following week is discussed. It wasn’t an easy transition, taking the torch of one of the world’s most innovative icons at one of the world’s biggest companies. But Apple Inc. has been flourishing since Cook’s take over. He has implemented different styles into the business flow, catering towards a more environmentally sustainable system. I tend to follow his philanthropy as well.

5. Matilda Yaw

Without a doubt, the light at the end of a dark tunnel, the rainbow after every rainstorm, the cherry on top of my ice-cream sundae—my dearest mother, Matilda Yaw. I think she deserves a dato-ship for her contributions. If I could, I would give her a dato-ship myself. The woman who is responsible for my character, my thoughts and my sounding board. I talk to her when I am sad, when I am happy, and when I feel like the world is against me. My mother is there backing me up with every choice that I make. She never pressured me to do anything but she instilled in me a sense of being myself. She once told me: “You have to take pride in your work. Be the best Darren Yaw you can be. If you wash cars for a living, be the best car washer you can be. If you sweep roads, be the best road sweeper. Remember there’s only one Darren Yaw, so you be you.”
I save her number on my phone as “Big Boss”: the only boss I will listen to. She is the definition of courage and grace. She is intelligent and witty. She can host a meeting while still lecturing me about the importance of time. It’s annoying, but she is always right.
When my father passed away, it was very hard for me. I did not take it well because he was my hero. I did not just lose a father figure, I also lost a personal role model. But with every door closing, a new door opens up. My mother took charge and helped me cope with the loss. We suffered together. To her, she lost the love of her life. It was harder for her, and yet she was in complete composure. To this day, if my tight schedule allows, I always try to eat dinner with her whenever possible. We will go out together with my wife Judie to eat and talk for hours. I will occasionally call her for words of encouragement or when I need advice. She is my one and only Boss.

Final Thoughts

A role model is someone you look up to. Someone who inspires you when you are facing tough challenges. In the midst of hard situations I would find myself asking the question “What would Dato Jimmy do?” or “How will Lee Kuan Yew overcome this problem?” Sometimes, I think the best way for us to have a broader perspective of a subject is through the lens of someone else. Someone who has vast experience in the field and is able to critically think of the best outcome, but more importantly someone who has been through the problem himself or herself and knows what to do when facing tough circumstances. Finding a right role model is the first step into your business career or your personal life. What do you want to change about yourself? How much do you want to know about the business? These are initial questions that you should ask yourself before figuring out which role models are best suited for you. Role models can be found in any person you deem inspirational. It matters not how old they are or where they’re from, it matters if you believe that they are an inspiration to you.

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