MELAKA – He was once a carwash boy in shabby clothes, but now he attends Lions Club events in a suit and tie and gets addressed as “Mr President”.
Automobile dealer Simon Tan Chee Haw, 37, said he started cleaning cars in Cheng here as a 17-year-old.
“Those days I wore tattered clothes at the workshop and my bosses used to swear at me using Cantonese coarse words,” he recalled.
That boy was later promoted as a mechanic and went on to start his automobile business in 2002. In 14 years, he grew the enterprise from one outlet to seven workshops with more than 60 employees.
In July, the entrepreneur was elected president of the Tanjung Bidara branch of the Lions Club.
“These days I go around events in coat and tie, a far cry from my early working years,” said Tan, adding that he was grateful to get the support of the past committee and club members.
Tan said he never forgot his humble beginnings, through which he learnt precious values of respecting others and generosity.
“At one point, I was given the task of towing vehicles involved in accidents along the expressway and trunk roads.
“Seeing dead bodies made me realise that cash was not always king but charitable deeds would be remembered even after life,” he said.
Tan attributed his success to his family and good friends who gave him all the support when he first ventured into business.
“They not only encouraged me in my work but also to help the needy. So, I started to allocate funds for charity,” he said.
A staunch believer of honesty being the best policy, Tan said he built trust among his suppliers and clients to grow his business.
With enough manpower to manage his outlets, the father-of-four is focusing more on charity work.
Last year, a close friend invited Tan to join the Lions Club and within a year, he found himself heading the local branch of the internationally accredited service organisation.
“I don’t want to be a profit-minded businessman. I am happy to go around doing good and meeting people,” he said.
Since becoming the club president, Tan had organised a series of charity events. To improve his public-speaking, Tan is now polishing his command of English.
“I want to break the record within the Lions Club by organising at least 40 charitable events in a month.
“I also wish to see the membership increase from about 70 now to 100 by middle of next year,” he said.