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A Contemporary Philosophy: Tony Khoo

For EM Services CEO Tony Khoo, supporting employees to perform at their best isn’t just an ideal; it’s put into practice on a daily basis.

Reaching the top of the corporate ladder to become a CEO is a major achievement, and one that requires talent, patience and dedication. But it can become easy for leaders who spend too much time in the C-suite to lose touch with the heart of the company – its customers and employees.

"You really must look after your people because ultimately, for the company to serve the customer, it’s not just one leader – it’s teamwork," explains Tony Khoo, CEO of EM Services, one of Singapore’s largest estate and property management companies. "A good leader has to be humble."

"A good leader has to be humble."

So why is humility of the utmost importance as a leader? Khoo believes that humility allows us to appreciate our own limitations; it reminds us that there are many things we don’t know and many people whom we can learn from.

"When you start to internalize that, you start to improve and then you become better. If you think you are already number one, then there is nothing more to learn," he says.

But humility isn’t enough by itself: an effective leader also needs a clear vision that incorporates staff, the environment and the community.

"We must have a particular vision. If people like the vision, then they will follow you," he exaplains.

Evolving Philosophy

With EM Services managing nine of Singapore’s 17 townships, Khoo realizes the vital importance of staying attentive to the varying needs of community members.

Of course, for any estate management or real estate business, the property offered to customers must meet their needs. For Khoo, the physical building, or hardware as he calls it, is the company’s main priority.

"We want to ensure that the buildings continue to be well-maintained, are functional and safe for the residents to live or work in. And we will continue to hone our capabilities through the adoption of technology and manpower," he adds.

Partnering with EM Services has been exceptional – a testament to professionalism and synergy. Its commitment resonates with our values at Lumica Asia. Together, we’ve brightened pathways, fostering a strong, collaborative bond that enhances our shared vision of excellence." – James Lim, Managing Director, Lumica Asia


Technology is not being used for technology’s sake, with new solutions being implemented that enable predictive maintenance to be used in all elevators throughout properties in the portfolio.

"In the past, it was reactive elevator maintenance, but now with predictive technology we are able to detect early signs of possible breakdown before the breakdown actually happens," he points out.

The drive to become a more technologically advanced company happened two years ago, when a concerted effort was made to build up the hardware side of the business. Today, Khoo is reaping the rewards from adopting a business philosophy of evolving physical assets.

The next stage of this strategy is to move from a very reactive approach to a more proactive approach with resident care and support. An example of this is the use of a social media listening tool to better understand feedback from residents on township issues.

"Demand from residents has gone up recently. We are putting various communication channels in place so that we can better understand our residents," he reveals.

Lessons Learned

From increasing cost of living to the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and employees have had a challenging few years. But despite pledges from employers, many workers have not received adequate financial or social support.

Under the leadership of Khoo, EM Services has gone above and beyond to provide thoughtful and tailored support to all staff.

"We want to look after our people in all circumstances and all situations," he explains. "Taking care of our employees is part of our three core values, which we coin PIC, or professionalism, integrity and care."


As a direct result of the work accomplished by EM Services, both the company and Khoo have been nominated for and received countless awards. Notable wins include The Straits Times Singapore’s Best Employers and the Medal of Commendation from NTUC.

"I think those awards reflect my philosophy of work. It just shows that as a company, as a person, we look after our employees," Khoo reflects.

For example, during the pandemic, all employees received additional monetary assistance to help reduce financial worries. As part of the holistic approach Khoo and his team take to support staff, the mental health of employees is taken seriously and supported.

"In EM Services, nobody lost their jobs, but of course we can’t say the same about their families. Some family members could have lost a job or had their income impacted," he says.

For many, the isolation from friends and family imposed by COVID-19 lockdowns had a destructive impact on mental wellbeing. Especially now, with the increased prevalence of remote working, it can be difficult to know which employees need support. Under Khoo, EM Solutions is taking steps to solve this issue.

"We have a care team that will actually call staff, talk to them and share certain interests," he confirms. "For example, now everybody’s working from home, they might share some recipes so that they can cook nice food to eat."

Managing Relationships

Being able to offer a unified service and experience to residents requires the right set of trusted partners. Recognizing the importance of incorporating technological advancement in townships, EM Services has partnered with esave, a provider of smart city solutions through intelligent wireless infrastructure.

Alongside esave, EM Services work with Singapore LED specialist Lumica, which offers lighting and display solutions for various clients in entertainment, public infrastructure and residential projects.

"Partnering with EM Services on Singapore’s inaugural Smart Lighting retrofit tender is an honor. EM Services’ expertise in planning, execution and town council relationships ensures a seamless project. We’re confident in our joint success and look forward to future collaborations." – Christopher Lee, CEO, eSave APAC


There is a growing trend throughout the entire property sector towards an integrated facility management (IFM) model, which sees all facility management services unified into a single team. The township market still operates a traditional managing agent model, but Khoo is gearing up for the change in this space, as well.

"When the IFM model starts coming in, firms have to not just work together on a contractual basis, but they have to integrate their operations together," Khoo notes.

"We look after our people in all circumstances and all situations."

In practice, this shift will see EM Services move from contractual business relationships to embark on strategic partnerships with other firms, where they will collaborate and work very closely together, including bidding for projects as partners.

"For example, we’ve already started to share the technology platform, which we’ll continue to do," he says. "But I think ultimately the market will move to full integration where size really matters and you have all the services to offer."

As Khoo continues to lead EM Services, his philosophy of humility and a strong vision for the future will be essential to best meet the needs of workers and residents. By putting core business values into action when it matters most during challenging economic times, staff at the company know they can rely on Khoo and EM Services to be there when times are hardest.

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