May Yap: From an Admin Clerk to a Chairwoman

May Yap | Chairwoman | CEO | Managing Director | LHT Holdings Ltd.
May Yap | Chairwoman | CEO | Managing Director | LHT Holdings Ltd.

They say difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. May Yap has also overcome numerous hurdles to earn the coveted position of Chairwoman, CEO, and Managing Director at LHT Holdings Ltd. Her entrepreneurial ride had a lot of undulating moments. Let us uncover her journey of becoming a businesswoman in an exclusive interview with CIO look:

Give a brief overview of your background and your role as a businesswoman.

In December 1977, after graduating from my GCE ‘O” level, I joined former Lian Hup Timber Trading Co and commonly known as “Lian Hup” by the pioneer generation of the timber industry in Sungei Kadut, before its rename to “LHT Holdings Limited”.

At that time, the firm “Lian Hup” had around 10 employees and on leasing land size of less than 100 sqm situated in the Mandai Village in a rural area. As a teenage admin clerk, I handled multiple positions including receptionist, delivery arrangement, stock inventory, accounts, and housekeeping, amongst others.

In the year 1999, the Lian Hup Timber Pte Ltd went listing in the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and was renamed LHT Holdings Limited. I was then a senior sales manager and took the opportunity to buy ten percent of the company shares.

For this reason, I was appointed as Sales Director in charge of all sales and marketing functions. Perceiving the opportunity to be an Executive Director, I took up to be one of the major shareholders during the company’s reconstruction.

LHT has been one of the largest manufacturing companies of high-quality wooden pallets, boxes, and crates in Singapore. LHT has a staff strength of 180, serving the areas of administration, manufacturing, and warehousing.

Another opportunity came by when I was appointed as the acting Managing Director in 2016 and followed by re-designation as the chairman, Managing Director, and CEO in 2017.

And now, with over 20 years of experience, I play a key role in seeking opportunities in the markets. My responsibilities rest in monitoring market developments and assuring that LHT’s product development efforts are in line with the industry.

What people, what books, what life factors have influenced and impacted you?

The only person who influenced me was my mother, even though she had little education or none. She was the only person who looked after eight children. She can single-handedly built a chicken and duck farm, and a vegetable farm. She was a tough woman, even the weather was never her concern. She spoke little but her actions were great which reminds me the statement “Action speaks louder than words”. She was perseverant, determined, with a never-say-never attitude. My mother works better than any man does, and the money she earned from the farming was used to pay for our siblings’ school fees and our daily needs.

What is your vision for the company for the next five years?

Green products and sustainable business with digitalization will be key success factors for our business. Technical Wood: Compressed wood formed of original tropical hard fibers. The new wood substitutes the natural wood made from wood waste material.

The Innovative Process Product Conversion (IPPC) Pallets: A strong foothold in the arena of green products designed and produced to reduce carbon footprints. The environmentally friendly packaging solutions enable customers to comply with international eco-friendly standards and regulations.

ECR Leasing Pallet: The ‘Efficient Consumer Response’, or ECR is a strategy to improve consumer choice, satisfaction, and service and at the same, reduce total costs, inventories, and physical assets.

Industrial Packing: Providing services and solutions to customers’ large machineries, unique design shapes that require special care, and the packaging that starts from a commercial sales point and arrives at the consumer as a sales unit.

RFID Technology: Enhances productivity by eliminating all unnecessary manpower wastage on information retrieval for customers’ verification documentation, provide accuracy, control, and efficiency for your business.

Our Green Energy: Recycling wood waste to ‘Technical Wood’ and waste management. Technical Wood is the raw material and bio-products that are used to make furniture components for Greenflo Doors (fire-rated) and flooring strip.

How do you sustain your creative leadership spirit in this changing technological era?

Wood pallets have been traditional for more than 60 years since World War II, to entice our target audience we need to provide a competitive one-stop solution. Besides selling wood and plastic pallets, we have technology pallets known as system pallets that cooperate with the RFID system. We also manufacture environment-friendly pallets that are made from recycling wood waste.

By 2013 we took over a big plant at Johor, Malaysia for Green innovative GPAC molded pallet production and became a multi diversity of wide ranges of ECO Green pallet leadership to distribute all kinds of wood packaging and champion in the green journey and scaled the company with a more effective business model and longevity sustainable for success.

What advice would you like to give to emerging businesswomen?

There is no advice I would give to the emerging businesswomen of today, as I believe these women are already making the move towards their destiny. The IoT or I would rather call it “IoE” (internet of everything) gives them access to the knowledge on what they want. I would only say, where there is a will there is a way, and never give up till your very last breath.

What are your future objectives and where do you see yourself in near future?

The Covid-19 pandemic is a testament that our company is sustainable over the majority of companies that were shut down due to the lockdown period and we were one of the few companies that provided the essential services to the community as well as the society.

Even though we are in business, as usual, we will not stop here. In good time and through good opportunities, Mergers and Acquisitions will be a part of the near future of our global expansion journey and also R&D collaboration to develop green products with our resources.