CREATING CONCEPTS AND INNOVATING LIVES
Eccentrics. Misfits. Outsiders. Starving artists and tortured geniuses. Once upon a time, to be a creative person was to feel marginalized, banished to the garrets and studios, cafes and bars of the bohemian quarter. To the rest of society, they were a sideshow. Sometimes entertaining, occasionally envied or scorned, mostly ignored.
Ernie Chen chose to stand up and be counted.
From an idea conceived on scraps of paper that became an inspirational tome, Founder and Group CEO Ernie Chen has authored ATCEN into a eight volume hardback written with passion and pride. What began in an apartment as a consultancy under five years ago is now a six company force. This was done through tenacity and a genuinely genius streak of creativity that can be jaw-dropping at times.
Times are changing. Creativity is now an economic hot property. And that means the rules that govern the ‘real world’ are a lot more susceptible to being rewritten by people like you. If you are a creative entrepreneur in the 21st century, then your talent opens up the possibility of spectacular creative and commercial success.
Ernie will tell you that being an entrepreneur is great. When you’re a creative entrepreneur, the rewards are even greater. In contrast to the bad old days of starving in a garret or selling your soul to The Man, you now have the chance to taste the kind of creative, financial and social freedom that was once reserved for rock stars. Known for his tough love and a sentimental infirm, Ernie is now in the midst of developing each member of his team into prospective entrepreneurs.
To Ernie, being an entrepreneur isn’t only about making things happen. It’s about creating new opportunities, and being challenged continuously.
Watching Ernie work makes it perfectly clear that being Group CEO to ATCEN isn’t a job but a vocation. Ernie has inspired countless others to realize their potential, instilled a sense of bold and daring in many to go after a dream, make it happen and not let anyone tell them otherwise.
Ernie has often said that one shouldn’t be too comfortable where they are and must always press onward to achieve greatness while making the world a better place. As long as he’s doing the same - helping one person at a time, suffice to say that he will be, if not already, thought of as someone who never tired of making the good great and better, the best.
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Ernie Chen was born in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia to Chen Swee Huang a former secondary school administrator and San Yuen Hun, a sales personnel. Ernie attended The Bukit Bintang Boys’ School in Petaling Jaya, Selangor Malaysia and went on to Western Kentucky University to receive an MA in Communication, BA in Mass Communication, and BA in Theatre.
He is also Certified Image Consultant and Global Certified Support Manager from America, and is presently pursuing his DBA in Marketing Management. Alongside his Professional Membership with the Malaysian Association of Professional Speakers, he has more than 15 years of experience working with outsourcing, mass communication, people development, entertainment, education, consulting and training industries.
Ernie is the Founder/ Group CEO of the ATCEN Group of Companies that consist of ATCEN Ventures Sdn Bhd (the Holding and Investment company), ATCEN Sdn Bhd (a Consulting, Education and Outsourcing Company), ATCEN Communications Sdn Bhd (a Brand, PR & Marketing Communications Company), outLOUD Studios Sdn Bhd (an Entertainment Group), Training Touch Sdn Bhd (a Team Event & Adventure Company), DreamTalents Media Sdn Bhd (a Film & Video Production House), Agensi Pekerjaan Seri Mahligai Sdn Bhd (Recruitment & Outsourcing) and Leadership Asia Sdn Bhd (Leadership Development Center & Publishing).
Ernie's intelligent wit, charm, spontaneity and performance style landed him roles in local sitcoms such as Kopitiam, Show Me The Money, Each Other and Table For Two, The Firm and recently as corporate leader in The Firm 2. His success and achievements have been featured in The New Straits Times, The Sunday Times, TV1, TV2, TV3, NTV7, 8TV, Astro, Hitz FM, FHM Magazine, Channel V, The Star and The Sun Malaysian newspapers and numerous magazines.
The clients he serves already include some of the leading Asian and global companies from the telecommunication, banks, financial, education, services and hi-tech industries including; Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Maybank Group, BSN, Bank Negara, AmBank, RHB Bank, TM Group, DiGi, Maxis, Celcom, TMNet, Sony, HP, DELL, Nokia, Samsung, Hitachi, Fuji Xerox, DHL, TNT, ARB, AIA, AIG, MAA, Commerce Assurance, MNI, AXA, Great Eastern, BP, Shell, Petronas, ExxonMobil, KPMG, Real Rewards, EON, Taylor’s College, KDU College, Binary University College, Systematic Education Group, Inti Education Group, Limkokwing University College, UITM, UPM and many more companies worldwide.
Ernie founded The ATCEN in 2003. In less than five short years through brilliant business acumen and foresight, it is today a multi-million dollar company serving global giants.
Chen was never a family favorite neither was he an “A” student. Always compared to his older brother who was deemed the more favored one, Ernie was the one voted most likely to fail by his kin. This however was a different story at school where he was the livewire of every gathering and made fast friends with almost everyone.
Growing up in a traditional Chinese family was never easy for Ernie who was always looking for unorthodox ways to get something done better. He was constantly berated for his frankness which was often taken as rudeness by relatives who never tired of telling him that he was stubborn and would amount to nothing much.
Never one to give in so easily, Ernie decided to leave the country and fend for himself in America where he thrived like never before. Having failed almost every subject while in Malaysia, Ernie became a straight A’s student and found himself on the Dean’s list the entire time at Western Kentucky University.
He returned to Malaysia in 1998 met Carol Siew and married her nine years later. He is known to credit her steadfastness, loyalty and unshakable support in every single one of his endeavors.
THE REBEL CEO
It would be easy to list all the accolades that make up Ernie Chen, but not quite so with regard to the journey taken towards a destination not yet reached. For the record, Ernie Chen is an established entrepreneur, award winning speaker, best selling author, highly sought after consultant and motivator extraordinaire in the Asian business, corporate and social community. Ernie serves as Group CEO of ATCEN – a leading regional service provider of people and brand development.
Ernie has managed to get to where he is as quickly as he has because he was able to identify the importance of belonging in the right industry, learning what needs to be learnt in order to reap the full benefits of his strengths. The lesson of identifying a weakness and relying on knowledge workers is a lesson learnt from one of Ernie’s idols, Peter F. Drucker - the man who is said to have invented management. What also sets Ernie apart from many is that he knows that management is so much more than exercising rank and privilege and much more than making a deal.
In the years he has been in the industry, Ernie has developed a solid reputation for uncanny business acumen and unique leadership strategies – a cue taken from Jack Welch. He has turned his frustrations into solutions and has worked to eradicate inefficiency by dismantling office bureaucracy and instilling a sense of ownership in all those who work with him.
Ernie is also recognized for his candor in his meetings with executives. He makes no bones about wanting the best from his team and is known to push his managers to perform and reward top performers generously.
Those who have met Ernie would have experienced his unmistakable flamboyant and competitive style, going a mile minute and leaving many wondering how he does it. His insatiable appetite for starting and sustaining new businesses is a trait learnt from Sir Richard Branson the man with a passion for action and the creator of one of the most recognizable brands in the world – Virgin.
It is this eclectic combination that has propelled him to the success story he is today. Better known as the “Asia's No.1 Business Coach” and the No. 1 Motivator in Asia by his peers, Ernie is showing no signs of slowing down. Always one to advocate education.
Ernie is continuously looking at sure fire ways to increase educational awareness looking towards setting up ATCEN Business College in 2010. His educational background which includes a MA in Communication, BA in Mass Communication, BA in Theatre, a Certified Image Consultant and Global Certified Support Manager from America will soon extend to a DBA in Marketing Management.
Alongside his Professional Membership with the Malaysian Association of Professional Speakers, he has more than 15 years of experience working with outsourcing, mass communication, people development, entertainment, education and training industries.
Ernie is an entrepreneur and professional salesman that has sold his ideas successfully, a professional manager that delivers results, a performance coach helping others achieve high performance and a motivator extraordinaire empowering people worldwide to believe in themselves.
LEADERSHIPSTYLE, CHALLENGES & RISKS
There was a sales agent with a German mechanical engineering company whose week-long negotiations with his Chinese counterparts had brought no results. All kinds of subjects were discussed but no mention of a contract was made and soon it was time for him to return home.
Shortly before his departure, a delegate approached him and confirmed the order of two engines. Due to his patience and his respect they were convinced of two things - his reliability and the reliability of his products.
If patience is indeed a virtue, then Ernie is its testimony. The idea of the company came about due to an inspired action taken to overcome a personal frustration – two actually.
One was with regard to the education system and the other was his sheer exhaustion at being just another employee. Ernie remembers wanting to do so much more but being told it wasn’t necessary or that it wasn’t his job. After awhile, it became tiring to be on a perpetual cycle of convincing his bosses, subordinates and peers that things can be done better and more efficiently.
Therefore, instead of griping about it, Ernie decided that he could provide a solution. He also realized that in order to bring about change in an industry such as this, he has to be at the top of his game.
Like with most success stories, the rejections came in droves and in various forms. There were individuals who made Ernie promises they never intended to keep, people who told him they were excited that he was starting out his own and invited him to meet up with them as soon as he did. When calls were made to these individuals, their days appeared to be terribly imbued with meetings and appointments.
Then there were very trying situations to deal with on the personal front. Ernie remembers the cloak and dagger affair with his then landlord because of four months in unpaid rental, the hardship of trying to materialize a dream without the basics of material needs. And what of daily sustenance – all of RM2 daily for food with the humble roti canai and the ubiquitous Maggi Mee as victuals for a growling stomach.
Over the course of six months, this was the life for Ernie and his three founding directors. But lack of food for the belly transferred into food for thought and thought became reality and this reality is now food for the soul – that through belief, patience and perseverance dreams can and do come true.
The hard knocks received by Ernie are the cornerstones which speak volumes about team work and dedication and the priceless rewards it brings. There are plenty of teams in every sport that claim to have great players but somehow, they never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren't willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team.
The irony is that in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual goals more difficult to achieve. At ATCEN, it’s easy to see that thinking and achieving as a team, allows the individual accolades to take care of themselves. Talent may win games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.
Financial risks involved was that there was no money to begin with and Ernie made sure that the pecuniary drought will end soon by providing from the start, top notch service to their very first client.
This is also how the company’s bank account was opened – with a RM2, 000 cheque received from the first contract, the company which was initially named ATSEN Consultants was finally on its way. And what an appropriate name it would prove to be since the name ATSEN is derived from a classical English name of Atsun which means “the dawn of a new beginning” or “dawn of all good things.”
Ernie is known for his blunt and sometimes brutal approach to setting people right. Those familiar with his work ethic and principles will say that this approach is reserved to individuals who literally ask for it.
Passionate about righting the local education system and changing the attitudes of fresh graduates, Ernie has often been seen as heartless. He works untiringly in motivating people from numerous backgrounds and industry and they in turn have come to love the man who does not suffer fools gladly.
This is simply because he has learnt many lessons the hard way and decided that the adage of “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” hold true in every aspect of his life.
At age 26, Ernie was driving a BMW but lost it all in a failed business and had to downgrade. Naysayers who said he wouldn’t last had a field day and when he first began ATCEN in 2003, the tiny office space rented was the brunt of many a relative’s joke.
Today, the laugh is on them as ATCEN rakes in millions yearly and for the record, Ernie is back to driving a BMW.
CREATIVITY & INNOVATION IN BUSINESS
The ATCEN business model conceptualized by Ernie is straightforward and clear with a direct focus on three areas namely Education, Communication and Entertainment upon which more businesses will be built towards. The innovative approach of merging these three components is once again attributed to Ernie’s keen business insight of identifying entertainment as the undisputed next wave of learning.
He envisions this business model as one that will be able to educate people and their companies as a brand delivered in an entertaining way. With a mission which goes “To have great fun developing people and brands globally”, Ernie is certain that the three avenues of education, communication and entertainment will in turn allow ATCEN to achieve the said mission and take Malaysia to the forefront of communicating education effectively through entertainment.
This inventive approach of combining entertainment and education resulting in edutainment has been conceptualized with the intention of educating the world better; change mindsets and help people get better through education.
Ernie is also known to say that this is a business with concepts that go beyond profits and beyond personal gain because it is bigger than what he is and the need to do something about now and do it fast cannot be ignored any further.
Passion, compassion, heart, industry know–how, vision, determination, and sheer hard-work are also additional components making up the business model upon which ATCEN is built and continues to grow from. The future and its projection have never been so bright and in better hands.
For Ernie Chen, the most valuable lesson learnt to date is persistence, perseverance, and consistency towards goals and objectives. Innovation comes with every turn of the wheel at ATCEN and this is transferred into every single project undertaken – this is after all the business of enhancing human performance and potential.
As for competitors, it is not arrogance that makes ATCEN say it does not have any, but it is instead due to respect for its counterparts. The group believes that while there are similar businesses, each is different offering services geared towards the betterment of various services industries. Having said this below is why ATCEN is a cut above the rest:
Ernie has crafted ATCEN in such a way where everyone under its umbrella is assured meteoric growth by way of mentoring sessions, performance driven training in developing skills and creating employable individuals.
Here, everyone pitches in with chores – from the Group CEO to a few links down, turns are taken at washing the office toilets, taking out the trash, sweeping, mopping even window wiping. In all honesty, everyone pitches in with glee – perhaps more so at the sight of top management scrubbing the toilets!
Therefore, if you’re expecting a company built on an all work and no play, then this isn’t the organization for you. Recruiting the most passionate and driven individuals is the key. Perhaps you’ve heard it all before. If so, then seeing is believing. ATCEN has its very own SGC (Sports, Games & Celebration) team made up by voluntary members who are more than eager to plan and execute company trips, talent contests, and regular get-togethers which further cement close-ties.
Through his foresight and untiring efforts Ernie has formed ATCEN around a culture that emphasizes learning and encourages constant innovation. Continuous improvement is encouraged while and strong relationships are advocated.
Having said this, make no mistake that the ATCEN team has emerged from a corporate environment. The wealth of experience involving various interactions and organizational cultures from companies of all types coupled with a deep understanding of the elements necessary in effective organizational attitudes and behaviors, a unique ATCEN culture was born. Just call it the ATCEN DNA.
A unique part of our DNA is the weekly ATCEN Feedback and monthly K-sharing sessions. ATCEN Feedback and K-sharing are ideal examples of the ATCEN learning culture in action.
These gatherings are opportunities of intense learning where the team meets and share intellectual capital. With the ATCEN Feedback, everyone is an equal and speaks to be heard. It is a platform created for sharing and a time for forging stronger bonds between the team members.
These sessions sees everyone in ATCEN practicing sharing of knowledge by coming together monthly to share their readings for the month. The main focus of the ATCEN Feedback and K-sharing is placed on the distribution and learning of observations, ideas and practices weekly.
Empowerment is the other factor that goes into ATCEN’s winning formula to retain its work force. The people who family this organization don’t stay on because of security and other trappings that come with most other companies.
They stay on because ATCEN empowers each and everyone within the organization with decision making skills. They stay on because they know they will grow and become better at everything they do. They stay on because of opportunities to excel.
They stay because they are confident that hard work at ATCEN pays off and they aren’t working for the company anymore but for themselves. They believe, trust and have faith that they will succeed. They stay on because there is a real love and passion for what they do because they know in their own way, they are a part of a positive change that is already in motion.
The current stage of ATCEN’s development is in ensuring that all its businesses fall into areas involving education, communication and entertainment. Above and beyond this however is a desire to grow into an organization and a person who is here to support the country by getting Malaysia recognized as a helping hand in developing the world better.
Ernie’s is also steering the company towards two brands these being B2B and B2C businesses as reflected in ATCEN Sdn Bhd and outLOUD Studios Sdn Bhd.
ATCEN’s key focus areas include:
• To be the clear and dominant number one people and brand development service provider in Malaysia
• To replicate the Group services globally
As the Group champions the people and brand development environment, it will continue to innovate and deliver value-added services for its customers. And in an industry where ironically enough the only thing constant is change, Ernie embraces each one and sees in it a prospective positive outcome and many of these have been turned into ideas for future opportunities some of which include ATCEN Business College in 2010.
As for sustainability, Ernie says the current generation comprises individuals who want to be owners, consumers who will eventually work towards being entrepreneurs. Since ATCEN is the Centre of Excellence for People and Brand Development, there’s no doubt it is more than equipped to ensure new business opportunities for these individuals which in turn translate to assured financial sustainability for the company.