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Dynamism and discipline.

Women success stories are becoming a daily habit. For other women, who seek to join this rank of elite women, there is a lot we can learn from them. Here is the story of one another exceptional woman. And here, we focus on those traits that have made her taste success in this world where very few women continue to reach such heights.

If Chan Yue Yee had to be described in a word, it would have to be "vibrant." A 43-year old Malaysian woman of Chinese ethnicity, she has made a name for herself in interior designing.
Chan has been running her own interior design consultancy, Equus Designs, since 1986 in Kuala Lumpur. One of Chan's recent undertakings is the prestigious Petronas Art Gallery on the third floor of the Kuala Lumpur City Center Twin Towers in Malaysia. Among the many awards to her credit are the Anton Design Award for the Asia-Pacific region in 1988 and the Best Resort Award sponsored by the FIABCI in 1996. Chan has also judged various design competitions in Malaysia.


Her eyes shine like onyxes as she roller blades over a range of topics with total involvement in what she's saying. "Disciplined" competes closely to be the epithet that encapsulates her.

"Discipline, discipline, discipline," she says, tapping her forefinger emphatically on the table,. As an interior designer with more than 15 years' experience, she believes discipline is a key element in making interiors work.

"When you're younger, what you want comes out because you want to show people what you can do, but the thing is to let what the interior needs to come out," she says. "This comes with experience and discipline."

Knowing what is important and channeling the energies into success stories and rejecting those that will not help you in your way to the top.

She started out doing home interiors, but found that frustrating because the wife would want green and the grandmother would want purple and the brief would keep changing all the time. For the time and effort spent, it just didn't seem worthwhile. Chan now focuses on business interiors - hotels, offices, galleries and stores. "Control is better in commercial projects," Chan explains. "In such projects, the parameters are more clearly defined in terms of budget, corporate image expectations and deadlines. Work is better channeled," she adds.

Doing things differently from the competition, going beyond what is expected, aiming towards true customer satisfaction.

In doing a business interior, Chan believes in "the interplay of the esthetics with the functions successfully and systematically." She often works with other consultants and starts with the practical aspects.
She puts down what is relevant on a layout.
Then she studies her client's brief
Subsequently, the layout is modified to match the client's requirements. Now, she's ready to tackle the soft side: what the business is and the hidden objectives the space must fulfill. For instance, a showroom is meant for promotion and marketing and the interior must do this subliminally. An office interior must layer in the corporate image of the company.

Responding to change by being proactive.

Chan doesn't have any pet pieces that she's done; neither does she have any interiors she regrets and wishes she had done differently. In fact, she wouldn't like to go back in time because interior designing is a face-forward business that is constantly changing, Chan observes. "It's a moment in time that is not as fast as fashion, but shorter than architecture. The life-span of a hotel interior is perhaps five years," she says. "Ten years ago, the hype was about supermarkets, but today we're talking about hypermarkets; now it's no longer coffee bars, but cyber cafes. In our field, which is ever growing, nothing can be repeated. We have to respond creatively to change," she adds.

And more discipline

Much of her success could be attributed to discipline, Chan thinks. "To achieve, one must first think 'I want to do this.' The difficult part is then doing it. That's where discipline is important," she explains. Perhaps the responsibilities she had to shoulder made her learn discipline. But she remembers always being determined and disciplined, even as a child. "I think I was born that way. I don't know," she says.

Prioritizing is key to time management.

Chan begins her typical workday by perusing her message book. Her first order of business is to take care of urgent messages. Then she makes her own list of priorities for the day. After this she either jumps into a project or spends time with her staff. Before she ends her day, she makes a summary of what she has achieved that day and plans for the next.

Facing challenges and accepting them as part of life.

"Every day I wait for a new challenge," Chan says. She is very involved in her work. If something should go wrong with anything she's done, is the first to be on the spot to troubleshoot. "You should be embarrassed to fail," she says. "When there's a crisis, the first thing to do is to acknowledge it. Then you discuss the problem and when the options have been agreed on by all parties, you implement the solutions."

- Chan Yue Yee in conversation with Nachammai Raman

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