Interview with Del Goh

Del Goh

“Leaders Eat Last” By Simon Sinek proposes that “True leadership is about empowering others to achieve things they didn’t think possible. Exceptional organisations he says, prioritise the well-being of their people and, in return, their people give everything they’ve got to protect and advance the well-being of one another and the organisation.” This idea seems to be at the core of Del Goh’s leadership philosophy. As the General Manager of KFC in Brunei, Del recognises the importance of putting people first in order to be a competent and effective leader in the fast food industry in Brunei.

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Del Goh

What is the biggest challenge of leading KFC in Brunei?
Being in the food and beverage industry, I actually do not see myself in the restaurant or chicken business. I’m very clear that I’m in the people business. While there is the preparation and quality procedures that we follow to keep our food up to standard, it’s the people that I consider the essentials in the business. I deal with a lot of people, and they can be the biggest challenge or the greatest assets. Firstly, there is the staff. Our staff needs to be able to create a healthy environment wherever they work so that productivity is not compromised. The frontliners are the most important members of the family, and unfortunately, being in the corporate system there are many layers between myself and the frontliners in the restaurant. However, getting all the layers on the same page is the most important and the most challenging job.

Secondly, there are the customers. To win customers over using product is easier than to win them with the quality of service. And customers are looking at the overall service to invest their money and time in. So our restaurants need to have that comfortable environment as well. This is why I’m in the people business.

How do you divide your time leading and managing 16 chains?
I obviously cannot do this alone. Therefore, I surround myself with people who are capable. In order for them to shine, I have to trust them. And the funny thing about trust is that, I must give them trust first while I earn their trust. And with a trusting relationship in place, I let them flourish in their scope of work. Everyone plays an important role in the system, I just make sure that the right people are in the right place – including myself.

What is unique about KFC’s leadership culture that makes the brand such a worldwide success?
KFC is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. It has come from a rich legacy of the 11 secret herbs and spices. The brand builds itself. I’m just a caretaker of the brand for the Bruneian market. That’s why I can focus on the people instead and let the food sell itself. But having said that, we do a lot of innovating.

We come up with many different promotional flavours that give customers variety throughout the year. We also listen to our customers. For example, we used to omit the Hot and Spicy flavour when we ran a promotional campaign for a new spicy taste. But when we did this we alienated those customers who loved our Hot and Spicy. So now, during promotional campaigns, we sell all three flavours.

As a young leader, how do you win the respect of your employees? I am humble enough to admit my own mistakes. I give my employees my trust first before I ask for theirs and show them a vision that’s worth striving for. I don’t think age plays a factor. As long as you genuinely care for your employees, they will be your friends. Employees need to know that they are needed and that they are trusted. I give them my assurance and watch them soar. But most importantly, I always lend them my ear whenever they need it. I’m there to listen to their personal problems and to give them advice. And I would also go to the restaurant level to do the same whenever needed.

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Photo courtesy of Del Goh

As the President of YEAB, what is your vision for the organisation?
We want to be of a presence in the business community in Brunei. We are here not just for networking, but as a support system for one another. We also like to have fun, we organise many activities during the year for our members to meet one another. I hope the organisation will become more well known in the community – as a group of young and energetic individuals who want to see the community thrive and become more successful.

What role does YEAB play in the business society in Brunei at the moment?
We are a group of dynamic individuals from all walks of industry. Our wealth of knowledge is extensive as an organisation and we are here to support anyone out there who needs advice when it comes to business. We also have direct contacts within the ministries so we can help open up channels for dialogue as well. YEAB is also a platform from which we can make contributions to the community, for example we have our yearly basket brigade to the kids in Temburong or our peer to peer support system.

You are also an active member of Toastmasters. How important are communication and public speaking skills to leadership?
So important. I used to be a hard core introvert. And after my experience with Toastmasters, I have opened up so much that I am now a more confident leader in my organisation and I am doing things that I never thought I would or could dream of doing. I’m standing on stages addressing hundreds of people, I’ve been nominated to become YEAB’s president, and not to mention the first male president.

Being a confident speaker has provided me with many more opportunities, like being able to facilitate a seminar, emcee a wedding; or just following my passion for movies and creating a YouTube channel called The Reel Show. It is definitely a life changing experience.

This article was published in the Jul-Sept 2015 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!