Conversations with: Dennis Wee, Chairman and Founder, DWG

Earlier this month, estate agencies PropNex and Dennis Wee Group (DWG) announced their merger, which automatically shot PropNex to the top of the list as Singapore’s largest property agency.

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Established in 1992, DWG has achieved many milestones in the past 25 years. Its Founder and Chairman, Dr Dennis Wee, is well known for his antics and sense of humour.

Dr Wee’s career started from humble beginnings. A secondary 2 drop out, he was a (self-proclaimed) hippie who was featured in the Singapore museum at one time, he spent his youth juggling odd jobs just to rake in pocket money to spend and have fun. He also spent 2 years working at the parliament house as an office boy, but decided that he wanted to pursue a job that could promise a higher income after completing his national service.

He managed to secure a job as an offshore surveyor, which he performed well at for 14 years. However an economic downturn saw him retrenched and he went through a period of job hopping, which also included his failed attempt at being a taxi driver due to his mandarin illiteracy.

He then forayed into the world of Real Estate, first spending a year at a friend’s agency and then moving on to ERA for almost 6 years. After 6 years, he decided to take the leap and open DWG.

We had the privilege to speak with him earlier this month, where he shared fondly of his career progression over the years, the reasons behind the merger, and his leisure pursuits.

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The Redbrick Team (RB): What does success mean to you?

Dr. Dennis Wee (DW): The definition of success can be very wide. For me, it depends on how much I want to do. Of course, I could have pushed further, and gotten DWG to IPO. But I also wanted to have a comfortable life, to be able to spend time with family. To me, success is to be able to strike a balance. I want to be happy with myself and my family, as well as with my associates and agents.

I don’t have to go for an IPO, I just have to take care of my people, as long as they like me. That’s important to me.

 

RB: Do you consider yourself successful?

DW: Yes I do. At the present moment, success means I get to enjoy my life with my wife, my kids and I get to travel with my family. I’m already 65, so if you tell me that I have to work until I die, then that’s not being successful.

You’ve to strike a balance, and this balance came at a good time for me. That’s why I decided on the merger; I wanted to let PropNex take care of my people, and I believe they have the sincerity and capability to take good care of them. Of course I’ll still be here to encourage and motivate them, but I’m looking forward to stick to this balance.

I wanted to let PropNex take care of my people, and I believe they have the sincerity and capability to take good care of them.

 

RB: What is a typical day at work like for you?

DW: I used to come in to the office at about 10.30 – 11. My job revolves around chit chatting with all my associates and bonding with them. Since I’m a fun guy, I like to talk and joke with them.

Some of them don’t know much, so sometimes they would ask me about selling techniques, and I would teach them how to tackle certain situations. The agents and associates usually have their own leaders, but sometimes their respective leaders are busy, so I try to help them out. I spend time communicating with them, and that’s the key part of my job every day.

 

RB: What made you decide on the merger with PropNex?

DW: It took me a couple of months to think about it. My wife and son even asked me, “why are you so emotional about it?

For a few months I was very sad, because I built up DWG. But of course, we are just a medium-sized company. Sooner or later, I’m sure the government would only want 3 – 4 big boys, so it’s hard for medium-sized companies to offer the same as the big boys. They have the muscles and the resources to do it, and we don’t have the same resources.

I kept trying to think of how to grow DWG. And today, I thank God for getting me through the merger, because my purpose is for my people to grow. I’ve been trying to get them to grow, but it’s difficult because big companies can give more and more perks, and it is not sustainable for medium companies to compete against this.

Out of all the big boys, I chose PropNex, because I felt that PropNex is the most sincere company. I’m confident that my group partner (Mr. Muhammad Ismail Gafoor) and his management will take care of my people, to teach and train them, and help them grow. The only thing is that my salespersons must be committed, but apart from that I’m confident we will do well there.

 

RB: What are your plans after the merger?

DW: Since its a merger, I will still carry on DWG with my son. I will continue sharing my experience with him. However, there have been many changes in today’s world and in many cases, he knows better than me now. I’ll always be there with him to support him, and for my men here, I will also come in to the office to support them and give them encouragement.

I can retire with my wife comfortably, go on holidays with her and spend more quality time with my family. For my associates, I always tell them don’t worry, as I will still be around and they will still see me here and there, because I really honour them. They moved because they believed in me. For me, title is not important, but the key thing is to encourage them so that they can give their family a comfortable life.

For my associates, I always tell them don’t worry, as I will still be around and they will still see me here and there, because I really honour them. They moved because they believed in me.

 

RB: What kind of advice would you give to aspiring property investors?

DW: People have to think about what they are buying for. If it’s buying for owner occupation, you can always just upgrade to a better location.

If you want to buy to occupy yourself, buy based on what your personal needs are. If you buy somewhere taking only investment viewpoints into consideration, you may find out that living there is more trouble than it is worth to you.

If buying for investment, it is good to look for properties with strategic locations so that it is easier to rent out, and appreciates in value faster as well. People can also consider investments in capital cities outside Singapore which may offer better yields and lower prices.

Of course, that’s not to say that properties in Singapore can’t be bought. But, always remember to do your calculations and check the statistics first. If you do your calculations right, and it’s okay, then please go ahead and buy because sooner or later the price will go up. It’s always in a cycle; it may be down these few years, but after this it will go up. If you think it is going up, might as well buy now.

 

RB: What about advice for aspiring property agents?

DW: You must upgrade yourself all the time, and hard work plays a big part for brand new agents. I’d advise them to always spend time attending courses and building up their client base first. The more effort you put in, the better you will get.

I first build up my client base in 1.5 years; in this 1.5 years, I only took 3 days off – on my birthday, Chinese New Year, and Christmas. Once you have a good database, when you call your customers up, they will talk to you. You must become friends with them, because when you are professional and honest with them, they will listen to you and stick by you.

 

RB: What do you do in your free time?

DW: I like to cycle, and I usually cycle alone. Why? Because my brother and friends invited me to cycle with them, but they are younger than me! I’m 65 and they are only about 40-50, plus their muscles are so big! I like to take my time, whether to go fast or slow, it’s up to me. On average, I cycle about 25km, 3 – 5 times a week, and I take it easy.

I also like to sit down with friends, chit chat and joke with them. Life without humour is as good as being dead, so you better have humour. We’d sit back and talk about the past, the things we’ve done which makes us laugh.

Makan is also my hobby! But I prefer hawker food to restaurant food, that’s why I was a hawker master judge for 6 years.

 

RB: What is one interesting fact about yourself that people don’t usually know?

DW: People don’t usually know that I’ve got diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. And I have blockage in my heart and arteries, but all these can be settled through exercise. The doctor has told me that sooner or later I must go for stenting, but so far so good. When you enjoy your life, making the effort to exercise and controlling your diet can help you to live longer.

People tell me I look healthy and slim, but I tell them: your body and my body is like your car and my car. I polish the car so the outside looks shiny, but on the inside, a lot of work has to be done. Like an old car where you need to change the engine oil, the piston and the shock absorber… the list goes on. But it looks good on the outside.

It’s the same for our bodies, nobody knows what’s going on inside. You can look healthy, but you see so many people dying young because they don’t know what’s wrong inside.

 

RB: If you could go back in time, is there anything that you would have done differently?

DW: I think I lead a very blessed life. Whatever I’ve in life, I think it’s all due to God’s plans. So whether I would want to do anything differently, I don’t think I would, because the truth is I only studied till sec 2, but despite that, I still managed to earn a lifelong learning award from President S R Nathan because I always upgrading myself.

I can choose to push myself, but like I said I would like to balance my time between the company and my family. I think I’ve also done quite a bit to give back to society. Now I’m a Rotarian. I try to give people what they need, by doing service work at charities and being a servant leader. I encourage people to join Rotary, to start giving back to the needy.

As far as I know, my life is complete.

Note: Dr. Wee will still remain on within the DWG team in PropNex as a Senior Strategic Partner. With regard to upcoming plans for the company, one of DWG’s main focuses will now be on real estate investing. DWG will continue sourcing and securing profitable income generating assets in cities around the world. Opportunities will also be presented for retail investors to invest in the same projects, offering more options to those who wish to invest with an established brand name. They will also begin to develop some of their own projects; however, as the talks and plans are still in initial stages, they are not able to reveal too much information in this aspect.

The Redbrick Team

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