Even opponents want to have a beer with him! | SAM*INK®
Sam overcame adversity at a young age and understands the challenges faced by many families. Born in 1965 in a racially diverse Singapore, Sam grew-up in the midst of a newly independent country and struggling economy. There was abject poverty and mass unemployment. The son of a school teacher, Sam was the eldest of 3 children of a God fearing family. His father suffered from kidney failure and his entire family put up a brave and emotional fight for 11 years. That experience enabled him to relate to the poor and disabled people. Sam's life is all about hard work from the time he was a little boy. Beyond kicking a ball around with his friends, he was from the age of 10 bagging groceries at the local supermarket. He worked for pay, and did not choose to beg for the left over coins people had in their pockets.
Sam's father, Alan, was a school teacher, born and raised in a small village in Malaysia. He grew up selling cigarettes to Japanese soldiers during the Second World War and went to school in a canvas tent. His father, Sam's grandfather was a policeman, a civil servant of the Colonial British. He had a compassionate heart for downtrodden people. The Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya in 1941 and started bombing government buildings. While British officers were scrambling out of prison buildings, his grandfather went in for the keys, unlocked the prison cells and save the lives of hundreds of detainees. His family became refugees and fled south to Singapore.
Sam was very fond of his father, Alan, whose plans for him included educating him life's fundamentals. Sam saw how hard his father worked. The Leong's were not well off and neither were their neighbors. A school teacher's work was hard, with young gangsters to contend with, Alan was an exacting disciplinarian. He didn't shower praise on his son. Instead, he surrounded him with his own expectations and fanned the dreams they came to share: dreams of seeing the world and a university education -- things his parents never had. Sam watched his father put in long hours during economic slow downs.
But he didn't brood over his misfortune. He didn't ask his mother and father to figure out a way to take him. Instead, he developed a concept he would later make his signature theme at SAM*INK®, and indeed up till today in his adult life. It was something he called 'mind-set'. It was a term a lot of other people used to mean a host of different things, but to him it connoted a powerful force, one that eliminated the doubt and risk and made sure something he wanted was going to happen. As an adult, he would define it in this way: " It's not a question of if we're going to get there. It's a matter of when."
It was the 1970s, and many teenage boys, exposed to Apollo 11 and Sputnik, were fascinated with space missions and astronauts landing on the Moon. Sam poured over library books, did his research, and made his vow. He knew then what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He would become an engineer. While some youth exposed to the Beatles would plead for guitar lessons to start rock bands, Sam chose his fate more calculatingly. Here was something he wanted and now he knows how to get it. If I can land a man on the Moon by being a good engineer, he said to himself, then I'll be an engineer.
He kept to his principles. He was cautious by nature. In the 1980s, while a national service armor infantry soldier in the Singapore Armed Forces, his fellow soldiers frequently invited him to card games. There, as in most cases, Sam was conservative. He liked poker but diligently kept his losses, and wins, to a minimum, sticking to the one-dollar bets. He liked control, and he liked predictability. Gambling with money is far from that control mode. So he just put a toe into the water, never exposing himself more than he had to. In romance too, he took no chances. He proposed to his wife Grace only after two years of exclusively going through thick and thin together.
The workaholic Sam sold food as a restaurant worker and many a times labored 16 hours a day, hoarding an on campus job to help pay for his tuition through engineering school. He focused his years in the university around a single purpose. "I was there for only one purpose: to learn enough to get a job when I get out of school". He is a mechanical engineering scholar who studied engineering law and graduated top of his class at the University of Texas at Austin (top 5 US public engineering school). The university then offered him a teaching assistant-ship to pursue the masters of science degree in operations research and industrial engineering. He later earned an MBA from the Golden Gate University, in the Silicon Valley of San-Francisco, California, USA.
Sam cut his teeth at HP as an engineer specializing on DesignJet plotter postponement design, supplier management, manufacturing, quality control, packaging, inventory control, and shipping. HP experienced a bottle neck on its postponement and packaging lines where 220 pounds or 100kg DesignJets had to be lifted onto and lifted off its production line every 3 minutes without damage. Sam was initially tasked to increase productivity within 6 months. However, when a senior manager from HP Barcelona wanted to bring forward the launch date at a lower cost, he reduced it to 3 months and slashed 50% off the budget. Sam, in a military manner, assembled a project team and together they work into the mornings and over the week-ends. Often hand drawing up project time lines, budgeting, processes, layout, human resources, speed, technology, and the support maintenance infrastructure. He then sourced globally for the technology suppliers and integration partners. The pneumatic programmable logic controlled semi automatic robot was designed, approved, assembled, tested, installed, and commissioned within 3 months. It increased DesignJets production throughput by 500% without dropping a single unit and it was so reliable that it was adopted in HP Barcelona and later into other global manufacturing operations within HP.
Sam subsequently took up the position of a technical marketing manager where his scope of work included the training of HP technical and service specialists. Driving himself further, Sam took on the role of a business development manager executing product, pricing, promotion and distribution strategies in the Asia-Pacific stretching from Australia to China and to India. Encad was then a NASDAQ public listed company and the number one market leader in the large format water based inkjet 60" color graphics segment and Sam was tasked to take Encad down in the Asia Pacific hemisphere. Using a combination of product, pricing, promotion, and placement strategies, Sam holed up in research and development, rolled up his sleeves on the factory floor, and then hit the streets to knock on the doors of country distributors and dealers to convince and muster up their spirits to take-on the number one Encad. The rest is history. Encad was summarily delisted and then absorbed into Kodak.
Sam risked his life at HP. In 1998, Indonesia was not entirely stable & Sam was sent into Jakarta to train HP dealers. In the midst of training, the hotel manager burst into the room and shouted 'Run for your life'. Riots broke out on the streets which neither the police nor the military were able to immediately control. Hard-core prison convicts broke out of jail and they attacked and killed any person whose skin color looked like a foreigner. Foreign women were raped and then killed. Sam took his passport and ran for the airport. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClwV_VkdYFY From this experience, Sam vows never to send any of his staff into harms way.
On a warm summer morning, a US headhunter knocked on Sam's door and presented an opportunity as a Director of Sihl, a Swiss public listed company. The job was to setup & spearhead their Asia operations. It was not because of money but for the new opportunity to explore the technological world of inkjet medias. In Sihl, he assembled a laboratory-factory product team and supplier network to research & develop a new pigmented-ink instant-dry water-resistant scratch-resistant multi-purpose recyclable polypropylene based matte inkjet coated media for outdoor poster and back-lit film applications. That product became an instant hit with JCDecaux and ClearChannel on outdoor bus shelters and it empowered the sales of HP designjet 5000 series large-format pigmented inkjet printers globally to clearly become the #1 best seller. He then brought the media to directors and senior managers in HP Barcelona and HP San Diego and managed to OEM it as a HP branded media. As Director Sihl Asia, Sam recruited & trained multi-religious & cross-cultural distributors in Japan, China, India, Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, & Hong-Kong.
September 11, 2001 or bitterly remembered as 9/11 crashed the stock market and a recession ensued. It destroyed many print businesses who were not recession proofed. When Sam saw the destruction, he decided that the time was right to start SAM*INK®. Sam's hard work has enabled him to start his own company, Inkjet Systems. He toiled a very punishing 16-hours everyday. In the mornings, he would wear-down the heels of his shoes, pounding the pavements looking for new customers. Many turned him away because he has become a one-man-show, unknown, and unproven. In the afternoons, he painted big blotches of sweat on his shirt and strained muscles on his back from packing ink bottles and going on the road carrying them to customers. Many customers' shops were on the second or third-floor and he carried them up as customer service. In the night, he gets ink under his fingernails from filling cartridges and cleaning-up the work area. He would try to wash-off the stains before carrying and reading to his children at bed-time but too often he would be too exhausted to do so. On the weekends, he would answer customers' call to service their printers and install bulk-ink-systems. In between activities, whenever he remembers, he would be on his phone requesting for payments that were overdue. His wife, Grace, while maintaining her medical practice, walked with him every-step of the way.
It has been a long hard road with many wrong turns and dead-ends. Sam has made plenty of mistakes and has his share of follies leading to disasters. In an unforgiving economic climate, these mistakes have almost sink the business. No doubt, the road ahead will have many further twists and turns. But he made sure these mistakes do not happen again. This has proven his resilience and has shown his determination to succeed. Using his personal savings, step-by-step, dollar-by-dollar, he carefully lead and develop SAM*INK® into a multinational ISO9001 inkjet-ink franchisor manufacturer. Sam understands family challenges even now. He and his wife Grace have three children, Elizabeth, Victoria, & Alexander. The key to his success is that he likes to compete and hates to lose.
Because I was formulating water-based inks since 2001, I already had a latex ink formula since 2003 but there was no market. No one built a printer with radiant heaters. That opportunity presented itself when HP introduced the DesignJet L25500 in 2009 and so I introduced SAM*INK® latex inks some 6-months later at ISA 2010.
When I flew back to Singapore that fateful day in 2010, I had a freshly scribbled list of customers from the ISA convention in Las Vegas on my briefcase. I was a 10-year battle-scarred veteran of the inkjet wars, but I was still eager to get into action. I was 45-years old. I had borderline diabetes and a kidney stone removal in earlier campaigns. But I was convinced that the best was ahead of me. I was still green and growing, and I was flying along at an altitude slightly higher than the plane. It was bright and sunny up there above the clouds. You can see nothing but clear skies and endless ocean. But everything turned gray and threatening as we began our decent into Singapore. Perhaps I should have taken that as an omen.
As the plane wheels touched down on the dark runway, I stretched my hands, massaged my shoulders, and noticed a lump on the right side of my neck. Just 24-hours ago, I had looked forward to the production of latex inks. That dream suddenly crashed. Cancer?
On my way home in the taxi, I pulled out and glanced at the photos of my wife and children on my iPhone.
Back at the office, I called my staff together to break the news. After a lot of debate and deep soul searching, they felt that my health takes priority. God willing, customers will understand and forgive a postponement. If the business was to have a healthy pipeline of new products, I would need to get back on my feet as soon as possible.
There was no pain at the start but by Christmas 2010, I could not swallow food. For 18-months, I put up with a Thyroid disorder. In 2011, I went for surgery to have my entire right thyroid gland removed. Thank God it was not malignant and I heaved a deep sign of relief. Immediately following the operation, I was often breathless and that was why I preferred to message rather than to talk. Curled up on the hospital bed, I designed latex ink production equipments and processes. The latex formula was ready since 2010 but I did not have the energy to setup and scale up production until 2011.
There is so much more in our world to celebrate, honor, strengthen, & protect. The SAM*INK® company is a vibrant network of many people, countries, colors, races, languages, religions, cultures, and beliefs putting citizenship into action everyday. Through our actions as local citizens, we strive every day to help customers enrich their lives, protect the environment, and strengthen our communities we live in.
We are a local employer, with responsibility to enable our people to tap their fullest potential; working at their innovative best and representing the diversity of the world we serve.
We are a local investor in the local economies and a driver of marketplace innovation, with a responsibility to act as a good stewards of our natural environment & our precious natural resources.
And we are a local citizen, understanding our responsibilities to contribute to an improved quality of life in our communities.
I welcome you & wholeheartedly share with you our beliefs and how they guide our actions everyday, around the world.