By Chin Mui Yoon
MALAYSIA - Losing a husband suddenly after 30 years of marriage is tough. But on top of that, Datuk Anne Eu had to take over her late husband, Joseph William Yee Eu's role as chairman of Eu Yan Sang Malaysia, one of Malaysia's oldest and most respected brands.
That was five years ago and Eu Yan Sang Malaysia is thriving under her leadership as a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) powerhouse that is leading the way in merging with mainstream healthcare. Last year, Eu Yan Sang celebrated its 132nd birthday with its 88th outlet opened in Malaysia.
"This is an exciting time for us as we are poised to take TCM to the world," says Eu during an interview recently at her office in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.
"We are targeting the non-Chinese segment of the market now. A number of our products are already halal-certified, such as our high quality bird's nests and cordyceps that have been scientifically proven to be a potent source of antioxidant."
Eu was an investment manager for Sime Darby Berhad's insurance division, handling multi-million dollar funds, when she decided to retire from the corporate world in 1984 to be a full time mother to her four children, who are today in their 20s and 30s.
"Many people ask how a tai-tai (lady of leisure) like me could successfully make the transition to leading a successful business employing 600 staff members," says Eu.
"I've always been exposed to the business and I'm familiar with the staff, as I'd frequently visit my husband's office and was present during staff dinners and get togethers. But once you take over helm, everything looks different from the top.
I felt a huge responsibility, as I am literally accountable for the livelihood of my staff members and the future of this company that had started in 1879 (in Gopeng, Perak).
"The board welcomed me enthusiastically, as they believed I could contribute to the company's growth. I credit my team of managers and employees with making all the difference. The heart and soul of a company lies in its staff - we must never forget that fact no matter how big or successful we become.
"I have a strong, able team of generals, colonels, lieutenants and foot soldiers who are integral to our success.
They were incredibly patient with me, as I had to learn the ropes at first. As the Chinese saying goes, 'When the horse falls, you must get on the ground and walk'.
What I didn't know in the business, I asked about until I could thoroughly understand. It takes passion to make a job work. And passion had taken me this far."