Success in business may be driven by hardships early in life. In Busy Bee: A Young Asian Businessman’s Struggle Experiences in Malaysia, Singapore, and Melbourne, author Bee Loh credits his good fortune to the difficult times he had in school as a child.
Loh writes chattily about beginning school in his early childhood home of Malaysia, then being sent to a school in nearby Singapore. He did not excel as a student, which carries enormous stigma in Asian families, and had to buckle down in later years to prove his ability before joining a family-run business and beginning his career. He then offers life, work, and investment advice to other young Asians.
Most of Loh’s advice is the sort found in any business book: Give back to society by volunteering; hire good employees and train them well. He emphasizes persistence and personal discipline. In a chapter on investing, he offers a detailed breakdown of how he trades copper.
The author is emphatic about his willingness to start at the bottom, on the factory floor of his father’s company, but his success in business seems largely a matter of being born to the right family. He never makes clear how his early hard times in school connect to his current life or how adversity built his character.
The text contains numerous spelling and grammatical errors, and idioms that seem unique to Loh (“a run in the wind”; “the butter to my waffles”). These tend to obscure his meaning rather than clarify it. He also frequently repeats himself.
Nonetheless, Loh is a likeable narrator who makes for a congenial reading companion. Descriptions of the new factory he and his father planned and built are focused and interesting, if somewhat out of place in a self-help oriented memoir.
While his story offers mixed rewards, it sends a helpful message to students pressed to overachieve: It’s possible to succeed on your own terms and timing, with the right support.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.