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Proctor & Gamble Canada
Along with family photographs, Yong Quek's office is sprinkled with a couple of framed caricatures and poems related to his 30 years at Procter & Gamble. Among them is "The Legend of Nirvana," an account of the effort and drama involved in developing ad campaigns with Satchi & Satchi in P&G's UK division.
That stint in the UK—which included spearheading the
transition after P&G acquired Richardson-Vicks—was one of many stops that Quek made during his successful multinational marketing and general management career, which began with childhood dreams of studying in the U.S.
At 17, Quek left his native Singapore for Canada to attend the University of British Columbia. At 22, he sought out Berkeley, partly because he was inspired by Professor Franco Nicosia's book Consumer Decision Processes: Marketing and Advertising Implications.
"Berkeley gave me the academic foundation for developing my data-driven style," Quek says. "The MBA ramped up my mental stamina. The workload was immense."
After graduating, he returned to Canada and nearly rejected a low-ball offer from P&G. His father in Singapore talked him into taking it. As an entry-level brand assistant, he learned the hard way how little he knew: "After the first month I wondered how long I would really survive."
But he did survive, developing a reputation as a marketer
with a flair for applying quantitative and mathematical models to decision making.
In 1980, Quek transferred to Germany to become head of the Paper Division's marketing department there. "The competition was ferocious, and I did a lousy job," reflects Quek.
He was given another chance to prove himself, which he believes "would never happen in today's tougher environment," and moved to the UK to become marketing head of the Laundry Division. After managing several brand introductions, he was promoted to general manager and went on to oversee the UK amalgamation of P&G's Health and Beauty Division and the Richard-Vicks acquisition, with its marquee Olay brand. "The business really took off, and they were foolish enough to give me credit," quips Quek modestly.
In 1990, Quek returned to Canada because he wanted his
sons to focus on qualifying for top-tier universities. The eldest, Chris, earned a Berkeley MBA in 2009. "It was thrilling to see how he changed. Berkeley rounded him out," Quek says.
Quek became president of P&G Canada in 1991. His mandate: to accelerate growth and develop the management team. He left in 1999, ran his own consulting firm for three years, but then decided to move on: "You can come out (of work) old, worn, and extremely narrow. You've got to do something about it."
At 64, Quek is none of those things. He's an avid golfer and tennis player, likes history, art, and travelling. He mentors young people and serves on the International Advisory Council at York University's Schulich School of Business. And he recently joined the board of the Haas School's Asia Business Center. Says Quek, "I felt I owed Haas something." –Michelle Warren
Yong Quek, MBA 69