From level failure from O millionaire to 29 years, on a first honesty policy


SINGAPORE: He is "Mr. Toilet Man" to many, and well known for being the founder of the World Toilet Organization.

But few know that Singapore's toilet activist Jack Sim is an astute businessman, a retired real estate developer and a millionaire who came from a poor family, failed in his O levels and now owns 15 properties.

He went to a construction supervisor once, but not particularly good. "I supervised construction workers, but I did not know how to do this job, so my job was very bad," the 62-year-old said.

"The foreman at the construction site told my boss to get me out because I was totally unprofessional, and that was true."

He finally quit his job and started selling construction materials and developing properties – and the Money Mind program finds out how he managed to succeed in his business before switching from office to becoming a clean bathroom advocate. (Watch the two episodes here and here.)

Singapore's toilet activist Jack Sim with some of the bathrooms he collected.

Jack Sim also has a bathroom collection.


Born in 1957, he recalls growing up in poverty-stricken Singapore, where his family did not always have enough to buy clothes and often relied on donations.

His mother was a housewife and his father, a supply assistant who earned "very little money".

"Life was in a toilet house and … the bathroom was outside. The water was (of) a tube of shared water, "said Sim." Sometimes there was water rationing. There was a lot of cholera (outbreaks) and typhoid fever. "

Jack Sim in his current home, far from the wedding house in which he grew up when his family was poor.

Yes in your current home.

At school he was not a good student and he was very talkative. "The teacher always asked me to stay outside the classroom, so that's why I always failed. I did not understand what was happening, "he said.

Having to wait for free textbooks did not help, since he would only receive them in April. "So we had to look over the shoulder of other children and sometimes they pulled the book away," he added.

So studying was not one of my specialties.

In 1975, two years after he failed at his O levels, he graduated from a vocational school with a hotel management certificate. But he did not enter the hotel industry; instead, he entered the construction industry on the advice of his brother.

After a year in office, he realized he did not want to be in the place and switched to sales. He became so good at it that he was the best salesman in his department.

His selling skill caught the eye of an investor who persuaded him to set up his own company selling construction materials. Thus, in 1984, Besco Building Supplies was born.

The Besco building was built in 1991, after Jack Sim installed Besco Building Supplies in 1984.

The Besco building on Ubi Road 4 was built in 1991.

But starting from scratch had its challenges; The first thing was to find suppliers. Moreover, while Sim was good at selling his products, he was not good at keeping up with his cash flow.

"We just knew that we ran out of money when the bank called us to say our check jumped, and then we stopped making sales and started (collecting money)," he said.

& # 39; BLESSED IGNORANCE & # 39;

So he faced one of the biggest mistakes of his life, which he still vividly remembers: he had underestimated an auction granted by Raffles City at $ 1.1 million, to the delight of his competitor.

Jack Sim faced one of the biggest mistakes of his business career when he underestimated a contract.

"I was very happy (about the contract). So my competitor told me that I had determined the wrong price and, in fact, told me on what page was the miscalculation, "he said." He expected me to give up and he won (the contract).

"I was very worried about a whole week. How do I deal with this – just started the business and immediately went bankrupt?

He thought honesty was the best policy. He returned to the owners of Raffles City and explained his mistake. He also confessed that he would be unable to comply with the proposal.

But his clients agreed to give him the contract for another $ 1.1 million, provided he worked with a German manufacturer for the project.

Jack Yes, once under the price of a contest, but his clients gave him the contract at $ 1.1 million more.

"Everyone was happy" in the end, said Sim.

"It was a lot of happy ignorance, so I really did not know about such a thing as failure," said Sim, who then formed a consortium of investors in 1986 to buy a 30 million dollar Causeway brick plant.

"I just thought the construction industry was growing so fast … everyone was enjoying good business," he added. "At that time, we did not have pre-fabrication, so everyone needed bricks. So we just dive into it. "

It was at this time that he became interested in real estate, starting with 14 terrace houses in Rosyth Terrace. Although he was unfamiliar with real estate development, "it was the period of expansion, so (the project) sold out very quickly."

He turned to building a 28-apartment building on Meyer Road, and this venture sold well as well. At age 29, he was already a millionaire.

WATCH: How Jack Yes made his millions before 30 (3:21)

In 1990 he was offered a business opportunity of his life by his French tile supplier: To start a tile factory in Malaysia with the supplier.

After the factory started working, Sim managed to convince many developers in Singapore that the orange clay tiles would give the houses a Mediterranean look.

"I told developers:" Your home will sell (for) a higher price, if it looks like ", in contrast to concrete tiles," he said.

"Although clay tile was three times more expensive, in fact, it was only 2% more expensive for the whole house."

Developers switched to clay tiles convinced by Jack Sim that the Mediterranean look would be sold.

Developers have switched to clay tiles.

In three years, your company has become a dominant player in the market.


But everything collapsed with the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, and he was forced to back down the staff. "It was very emotionally traumatic," Sim admitted. "A businessman is very attached to your business and you start to wonder."

At that time, it also owned 15 properties, whose values ​​fell by half. "I did not sell it, I did," he said. "It was a stressful time."

During that time, something changed in him – triggered by a speech by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who said that the courtesy of a society could be measured by the cleanliness of its bathrooms.

This inspired Sim to create the Restroom Association of Singapore, which "many" employees and colleagues found a "crazy" idea.

Watch: Jack Sim's Bathroom Schedule (1.33)

"I told them that … if I do social work, at least I feel useful. When I get to the office, I do not feel useful. I feel like a failure, "he said.

I was nurtured by the spiritual reward I had in social work.

He also told his wife that after the recession, he would leave his business to focus on social work "because it is much more rewarding."

In 2001, he created the World Toilet Organization, which soon gained worldwide recognition. And in 2004, he left the post of chief executive of his first company, Besco.

Currently, his most ambitious social venture is the Base Pyramid Hub (BoP), which he established in 2011 with the mission of designing business to "solve the problem of poverty in the world."

Activist Jack Sim pointed to the back of the Besco Building, where the BoP Design Center was built.

Yes pointing to the back of the Besco Building, where the BoP Design Center was built.

His idea is to provide professional services to social entrepreneurs who serve the basis of the market pyramid – those who live in poverty around the world.

"Charity can not get people out of poverty. We have to release their entrepreneurial spirit and their good work ethics, just as Singapore has come out of poverty, "he said.

"We can export these best practices, public policies (and) technology and integrate everyone."

For him, it's been a journey of ups and downs that helps define who he is today. Looking back, he believes his successes boil down to luck and timing.

"Maintain a good reputation, stick to some principles. If you make a mistake, say so. If you are honest, people tend to trust you, "he added. "These are the kinds of simple rules I think you have to know."

Watch these episodes of Money Mind here and here. New episodes every Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

The entire BoP Hub project cost $ 10 million, the founder of which, Jack Sim, financed mainly through a bank loan.

The entire BoP Hub project cost $ 10 million, mostly funded by a bank loan.


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