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Life and Leadership: The Journey of The Muse & CEO Of AAVII

Having been in the travel & event industry for over 26 years, Francis Cheong, CEO and The Muse of Aavii Worldwide Sdn Bhd has established lifelong relationships with his fellow employees, hotel industry sales and marketing leaders and clients. Watching them getting married, their families grow, losing loved ones as if they were his family. The current situation has ravaged the travel & event industry and put a lot of good people in a difficult position, including Francis and his employees.

Continuous growth, being better than yesterday, has always been his life moto from the very beginning.

17 years ago, when he brought this business into existence, building his company Apxara Travel & Events wasn’t a smooth sailing journey. At one point, the company plummeted during one of the toughest years for Apxara. Business was stagnant and there were insufficient funds to safeguard the welfares of his employees but with no hesitation, he sacrificed his own salary and other senior top managements’ salary as an alternative instead of laying off some of his employees. This was the value of a leader with a servant's heart who works tirelessly to get closer towards the company’s vision to build trust.

Francis believes in collaboration over competition, believing teamwork is the way forward. An effective way for the business to move efficiently and drive growth is by partnering brilliant minds. Therefore, he has chosen to collaborate with his direct competitor turn shareholder, KL Yuen, who is now Aavii Worldwide's Chief Sales Officer. Another unique collaboration came about when Francis decided to partner up with Jim Tan, former audio-visual supply owner turn shareholder. Jim Tan owns Accucap Msc Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Aavii Worldwide Group and now he is Aavii Worldwide's Chief Operating Officer.

Because of his belief in collaboration, through building people towards the same goal, Aavii worldwide has been operating with growing success for almost two decades, owing to the collaborative efforts of our five great chiefs also current shareholders of the company and fellow Aaviians.

Unfortunately, success fluctuates when the pandemic occurred and took a hit on the travel & events industry. But despite the hardships and difficult situations he is put in, Francis remains unfazed.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Leon C. Megginson

Two and a half decades of experience in this industry has taught him that the landscape of travel & events industry is constantly changing. As a leader he is likely to face situations that requires him to make fast decisions about whether or not to change course and if he is unable to oscillate quickly his actions could harm his employees and organization as a whole. His ability to adapt to change has gotten him this far.

Instead of letting the hardships deter him, he used this time to upscale his employees to adapt to the new norm in this industry. It wasn’t an easy process but he continues to motivate those who were resisting to change. A number of collaborations and initiatives were taken to make this work, and as a result, 5 digital initiatives from Live Streaming to Virtual Conferences and Hybrid Launches were rolled out in the month of May.

Leadership for Francis is much like a mentor, training and motivating his employees to be better for their future. When the company transferred me, Azmiera Azwar, The Mastermind, to the Marketing and Communications department during the start of MCO, due to the restructuring of our roles and business plan, I was inexperienced. I had no background in marketing nor communications. With Francis taking me under his wings, my fledgling character grew by leaps when I witness myself becoming better at what I do. Through many collaborations with Francis as my direct superior, I find myself with a new passion for writing and interest in marketing and communications, that I have decided to pursue my dreams in completing my Master’s Degree, in communications.

Although I will no longer be with Aavii Worldwide, I believe that with Francis’ leadership, through continuous engagement with industry specialists such as MyCEB and the most recent 4 seasons hotel round table top discussion and the digital platforms, Aavii Worlwide and its employees will do great on its new path of growth. Nonetheless, Francis personally feels that nothing beats Face to face interaction and believes that our industry will come back in a new form and that until then, he and the company will be ready.

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