Over the past century, traditional and culture does not allow women to work and are homebound. The cultural and traditional factors that discriminate and hamper women’s human rights are not only confined to traditional communities and societies and that is found everywhere including the western cultures. Today, we do see some countries have changed based on gender equality which sees more female ministers, CEOs, heads of departments, and holdings high-ranking positions in the male-dominated occupation. One such woman business leader is May Yap, Chairwoman, CEO, and Managing Director at LHT Holdings Ltd.
In December 1977 after graduated from GCE ‘O” level, May joined former Lian Hup Timber & Trading before it was renamed LHT. May holds a Diploma in Sales and Marketing from the Marketing Institute of Singapore and has completed the Operation Management Innovation (OMNI) programmer conducted by A*Star in 2011. She is also a member of the Singapore Institute of Director.
As a teenage admin clerk, she held multi-tasking jobs like receptionist, delivery arrangement, stock inventory, accounts, and housekeeping etc. The company had less than 20 employees in its workforce and on leasing land size not more than 100 sqm situated in Mandai area. As of 2nd January 1988, May was Sales Director in charge of all sales and marketing functions. She took the opportunity to be an Executive Director by purchased as one of the holders of the major shares during the company restructured for its listing.
On 26-02-2016 May was appointed as Acting Managing Director and was re-designated as the Chairman, Managing Director and CEO on 10 February 2017. With over 20 years of experience, she plays a key role in exploring opportunities in new markets.
May’s primary responsibility is to monitor market developments and to ensure the Company’s product development efforts is aligned to market demands. She is actively involved in the pallet rental business in Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
Challenges that Occur with the Time
“We saw little changes in the timber industry over the years. But today the world has changed to Digital Technology Transformation where ‘pen & rulers’ will be phasing out,” says May. At LHT, the team faces many challenges besides innovative products, it is facing the new generation gaps where it is hard to find workers and staff entering the timber trade. May finds that the company is fortunate as the government provides funds to cope with the digital transformation. She adds, “We took the opportunities to collaborate with A’STAR since 2009 – The Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) is a catalyst, enabler, and convenor of significant research initiatives among the research community in Singapore and beyond.”
Combining Innovation and Corporate Responsibilities
According to May, wood pallets have been traditional for more than 60 years since world war two, to entice the target audience the company needs to provide a competitive one-stop solution. Besides selling wood and plastic pallets, LHT has technology pallets known as system pallets that cooperate with the RFID system. The company also manufactures environmentally-friendly pallets that make from recycling wood waste.
With rapid changes in the industry, many uncertainty factors arise we can no longer do things of the past practice. The digital transformation has a great impact on the industry and with the internet, selling comes into the pictures and new digital business likes digital supply chain and warehouse are cater for their transshipment and storages before arriving in online end consumers. May opines, “We need to do in a smart way and not the hard way by bringing high-tech machine and technology and reduce the manpower that increases our productivity to adapt to the changing landscape.”
LHT has been relentless in its efforts to provide products of cutting-edge technology, constantly investing and upgrading to ensure it is always able to meet changing market demands and provide the best value-added products and services to our customers.
May asserts, “We are always conscious of our role in the conservation of natural resources and recycling is one of many efforts that reflect our commitment towards mitigating climate change and deforestation.”
Action Speaks Louder than Words
With the social Media Era, there had been much positive thinking videos or lecture from YouTube Facebook or Titok etc. For May, her inspiration is her mother who looked after eight children and single-handedly built a chicken and duck farm, and a vegetable farm. “She was a tough woman, even the weather was never her concern,” says May.
Seeing her mother’s dazzling actions which were great reminds May of the statement “Action speaks louder than words”. May asserts, “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.”
Serving during the Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic is a testament to that proof the company is sustainable over the majority of companies that were shut down due to the lockdown period and LHT Holdings Ltd was one of the few companies that provide the essential service to the community as well as the society.
As a pallet manufacturer, May finds them lucky to be considered as essential services as the company provides logistic support to the supply chain. Without pallets, goods cannot be transported and stored in warehouses. She says, “As for us, we remain status quo, except the reshuffle of our workforce to cope with the high demand from some sectors due to customers’ stop work.”
May sees many women are leaving their home as a housewife to join the society and many women are now holding the high ranking post. She could only post and set an example that a female clerk that it is possible comes one day she can be the top management
As a successful woman business leader, May advises young women entrepreneurs that don’t worry to fall, how it comes and how it goes. She asserts, “From the day you born you bring nothing, upon we die we should not have something but do a good deed. Lastly, earn from society and payback to society. Kind to everyone it is kind to ourselves and use our life to the fullest.”
Quote: “Deforestation is one major cause of climate change. Recycling is one of the many efforts that reflect our commitment toward mitigating climate change and global warming”