Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Conversation with Achievers: Entrepreneur/Business-Leader/Ironman, Dave Low

Full name: David Teh-Hui Low

Age: 46

Status: Single

Profession: Managing Director, Hawaii Capital Management

Years in profession: 20

City of Residence: Honolulu

Years in triathlon: 4

Pet peeves: Indecision; Selfishness

Hobbies: Triathlons, Ferraris, Ducatis & Watches.

I first met Dave Low in Singapore, during the 70.3 Singapore 2008. He was competing in the Fittest CEO Challenge, where one slot for the Ironman Triathlon

World Championships in Kona, Hawaii would be given to the winner. Dave crossed the line at a blistering 5:10, beating a field of seven other business-leaders. A large contingent of Triathlon Family Singapore met the charming and affable Dave for dinner to celebrate his achievement. He subsequently completed his first full Ironman in Kona in 11:52.

Dave is a managing director of Hawaii Capital Management, based in Honolulu, Hawaii. His office is located within an historic bank building in downtown Honolulu. His company’s slogan is ‘Number 1 in building health and wealth’. The company’s core value is ‘Integrity with Aloha’. He takes pride in triathlon and being a triathlete, and this can be clearly seen on one page of his corporate website where he describes his achievements, including ‘Hawaii’s Fittest CEO’. He has been featured in the Hawaii Business magazine, as well as Triathlete magazine.

Dave is a journalist’s dream. I barely edited his responses, as he gives succinct and clear answers. Communicating clearly is one of the hallmarks of leaders, and he is certainly a successful entrepreneur and businessperson. Enjoy the interview.

Enrico: Good day, Dave. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Dave Low: It would be an honor to be interviewed by you, a 7-time Ironman!

EV: My pleasure, mate. Walk us through your active lifestyle. You run a successful business in Honolulu, and are an active and competitive sportsman. How do you do it?

Dave Low: By structuring each day to include some form of triathlon or fitness training, whether before an important business meeting, or at the end of the day.

EV: When taking on these physical challenges, how do you maintain your work/life/family balance?

DL: To be honest, it is very difficult to maintain a good balance. Since scaling back on competing this year, it is a little easier. I have made fitness a top priority though, because a healthy, fit lifestyle translates into so many positive spinoffs, such as healthy relationships, success in business and a happy, positive outlook.

EV: How does an active physical lifestyle tie in to your work as an entrepreneur and businessperson, as well as a leader?

DL: Being competitive in a triathlon or private equity deal keeps me on track to be my best in all aspects of life. Success provides credibility as a leader. But first, you have to train hard in order to produce results.

EV: What made you do Ironman? How many years did you train before you qualified for Kona?

DL: About six years ago, I was a morbidly obese couch-potato. Then, one day out of the blue, I looked in the mirror and got off the couch. Started running 5k's, marathons...eventually transitioning into triathlons in 2005. I put forth a serious campaign for Kona just last year with Hawaii 70.3 and the Singapore 70.3 CEO Challenge where I won the Kona slot.

EV: Congratulations again for that effort! What was your day like, when you won ‘The Fittest CEO Challenge’ in the Singapore 70.3?

DL: It was a momentous accomplishment for me. As equally rewarding as competing in, and finishing Kona.

EV: What did you do to prepare for Kona? Which sacrifices did you make?

DL: I trained with my triathlon group, Boca Hawaii and coach, Raul Torres, to prepare for the mother of all triathlons. I had achieved my goal of qualifying for Kona so I really didn't think of anything as being sacrificial. I had a job to do and that was finish - hopefully, under-12 hours. I finished in 11:53.

EV: Why the Ironman triathlon? What started you on that?

DL: Training with so many talented triathletes and friends who all aspire to finish an Ironman, it was only inevitable.

EV: Who are your biggest influences in your life? Why them?

DL: Firstly, my mother, who is in her 70’s, stays fit by swimming an hour a day. Secondly, my high-school wrestling coach who taught me how to set goals and work for them. I'll never forget his credo: "Don't wish for it. Work for it."

EV: What is your strategy for racing? Is it ‘all or nothing’, or ‘one step at a time’, or ‘be the best’?

DL: All out for the podium (age group). However, there are so many fast triathletes in Hawaii that I have to hope they don't show up.

EV: [Laughs] You’ve got a point! I, too, hope that they don’t show up, however they do. Now, what mental skills/anchors do you use once you really start hurting (in a race) and the grizzly bear climbs on your back telling you to just walk or quit?

DL: My fragile male ego emerges. Good for overriding all pain.

EV: I can relate to that. How do you stay motivated to repeat similar challenges once you have ticked the box, i.e. Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona?

DL: It is getting harder as there is not much left after I ran the Boston Marathon and finished Kona. Although I hear from multiple Ironman studs like you and Clifford that IM China is even tougher, so maybe I will do IM China one day!

EV: You should do it. I’m sure you’ll do well. How did you decide to become an entrepreneur? Were you ever a ‘corporate slave’?

DL: I worked for Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and a few other prominent Wall Street firms that have since gone belly-up. The cut-throat corporate culture drove me to venture forth on my own. I did not make a very good corporate slave. It was the best career decision I have made.

EV: How long have you been an entrepreneur?

DL: I started my own firm back in 2000.

EV: What lessons from triathlons have you brought into your profession as an entrepreneur and self-directed leader?

DL: Triathlons and the training it requires to be successful, parallels business and career success. One must set high goals and work hard to achieve them.

EV: What was your proudest moment in triathlon? What have been your major achievements?

DL: Triathlon: Winning the Singapore 70.3 CEO Challenge, and finishing Kona (both of which I’m equally proud).

EV: Major achievement?

DL: Metamorphosis from a fat, lazy slob into Hawaii's Fittest CEO and swimsuit/fitness model.

EV: Tell us more about your famous fashion shoot for Triathlete magazine.

DL: It was both terrifying and exciting. I had no experience as a model. Remember, I was a fat dude that hated myself for the way I looked. You can't tell by the photos, but I was a nervous wreck...It turned out well and led to more modeling. I've since decided that I really don't like standing around for hours getting my photo taken. But it was fun for a while!

EV: How has Ironman training and racing benefitted you, both personally and professionally?

DL: Ironman training and competition brings out the best in me, resulting in a healthy lifestyle.

EV: What’s next on the list of ‘to do’ or ‘to conquer’ list? What's after Kona? DL: I'm still struggling to come up with the next challenge. Thought about Everest, but I don't want to die and I hate cold weather! I guess the challenge for me is to not be so competitive and just enjoy training with good friends. But it's difficult because most of them are competitive bastards like me!

EV: What is your philosophy towards life? The host of ‘The Amazing race’, Phil Koegan wrote a book ‘NOW – No Opportunity Wasted’. What is your take on that?

DL: Life is short. Live it well with no regrets.

EV: How do you maintain a healthy business when trying to give 110 % towards training, etc?

DL: Yin-Yang. It is a challenge to balance. One must read Confucius to learn the right blend. He who trains too hard will stumble...

EV: What methods do you use to monitor the onset of fatigue/flat spells/de-motivation during training for such events that come down to you performing at your best on a single day?

DL: This is a good question, the answer to which I am still searching for. For each individual it is different. My body is the single best gauge, which tells me to back off or rest.

EV: Thank you for a great interview, Dave.

DL: I hope your training is going well and safe. I’ve been taking it easy since Kona. Give my best to all my Singapore buddies.

Final results of Singapore 70.3 CEO Challenge 2008

1st: Dave Low, Hawaii Capital Management, Honolulu - (S 43, B 2:39, R 1:47) = 5:10* Kona slot winner

2nd: Matthew Wong, PRIMA USA Ltd, New York - (S 45, B 2:48, R 1:54) = 5:28

3rd: Craig Kerr, PRTM Management, Shanghai - (S 35, B 2:46, R 2:08) = 5:30

4th: Fred Uytengsu, Alaska Milk, Manila - (S 33, B 2:54, R 2:26) = 5:54

5th: David Charlton, David's Salon, Manila - (S 50, B 3:18, R 3:31) = 7:40

Interview by: Enrico Varella

Photographs: Chad Bethel and Ted Kennedy

© 2009 Enrico Varella &

Reproduction of material from any page without written permission is strictly prohibited.

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