Vincent Ho talks business, family and the Mercedes-AMG GT R, writes phoebe cheong
The managing director of the Kimarie Group on business, family and the Mercedes
AMG GT R
For Vincent Ho, managing director of the Kimarie Group, anything to do with salons comes as second nature. Growing up in a salon environment after his mother founded Kimarie in 1982, he even learned hairdressing when he was 18, practising the trade for a year and a half.
“I was a little bit of a gypsy,” he shares. “Being born in Ipoh and then moving to KL, and then studying in Singapore before going to the United States, I was always going from place to place, not knowing what I wanted to do. But then I came back and decided to give this a try.”
He goes on to explain that the business went through a period of contraction around the time his mother was set to retire. Finding himself a challenge, it was when he decided to take over, swiftly discovering that he had a passion for entrepreneurship and business.
“When I came back, Kimarie was associated with being a little old-fashioned,” Vincent says. “The challenge then was to revamp it in such a way to attract new customers without alienating our existing customers. So we changed everything from the logo to the personnel, to the image of the company, and even renovated the façades and interiors of the shops.”
Fifteen years on, the Kimarie Group now has eight salons and two academies under its wing. When asked how Kimarie stays ahead of the game, Vincent credits their service quality, technological expertise and value proposition. “We stand out because we’re able to constantly reinvent ourselves,” he declares. “It’s not enough to only meet customer expectations; you have to go beyond it in this day and age.”
Priding themselves on constant innovation, the next step for Kimarie, as Vincent tells me, is for them to evolve into a lifestyle salon. He reveals that one such salon is coming up very soon, with it already being in the planning phase. He also expresses his vision for the Kimarie academies – his goal is for Kimarie to become the hairdressing hub of Southeast Asia.
It hasn’t been easy in fortifying Kimarie’s presence, but Vincent chooses to quote Aristotle when it comes to work: pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.
“You have to have passion in what you do. I totally believe in that. If you don’t love it, how are you going to be good at it?” he states. “You’ll be very mediocre at something that you don’t love. You have to wake up wanting to do the job, so that it no longer becomes a job. As long as you have the passion and enjoy it, then success will come naturally.”
Getting this far comes with its fair share of setbacks, but Vincent believes in keeping his cool. Though it’s easy to get lost in the face of adversities and to focus on the problem instead of looking for a solution, he prefers to remove himself from the problem and look at it through the lenses of multiple perspectives.
“That’s how I’m able to come up with solutions, as opposed to something happening and going, ‘oh, what am I going to do?’ You’ll never get anything done. Just take a very calm approach and try to look at it from a few steps back,” he advises.
One particular roadblock in the industry that he is to address is the lack of standards being implemented when it comes to hairdressing. “There’s no control or standard, so anybody can be a hairdresser. You don’t even need to pass any test. So what happens is that the quality isn’t there and our profession as a whole will be judged (negatively),” Vincent says.
He adds that the way to overcome this is to raise the overall standard when it comes to hairdressing. He tells me how the Kimarie Group is involved with the government to help develop the National Occupational Skills Standard. “Unfortunately, its implementation hasn’t been made mandatory yet,” Vincent remarks. “I’m looking forward to the day that it will be (made mandatory), because when that happens, I believe that our profession will be respected a lot more than it is today.”
Throughout his career, Vincent has learned a great deal, especially on being as honest, fair and loyal as possible. However, he’s also learned to expect disappointment and betrayal. “It’s important to not reciprocate,” he emphasises. “It’s all part and parcel of life, and the lesson learned is to not take it personally, don’t dwell on it and to just move on. Don’t let them compromise your values.”
While Vincent admits that he tends to immerse himself in work, it’s not all about business. He finds it important to make time for the people he cares about and be appreciative of them. And when asked what his most pride-worthy accomplishment is, he answers in the most heart-warming manner possible, “My son.”
“Before I became a father, I never understood that (notion). But as strange as it sounds, I understand (that) now,” he says with a laugh. “I’m proud of him, and having him (around) just made me a prouder man.”
He is very much a family man, crediting his family as his biggest source of inspiration. “Everything I do is for them,” he shares with a smile. “They inspire me to be what I am.”
Vincent is a man of many passions, some of them being extreme sports, music and travel. But take a scroll through Vincent’s social media accounts, and one of his biggest passions stands out without a question: cars.
“Beautiful cars are like works of art to me,” he says. “I find the whole notion of car racing very romantic and masculine; the whole idea of men trying to tame and dominate these super-violent machines.”
When I ask what quality he looks for in his dream car, Vincent replies thoughtfully, “It has to be a really well-sculpted car – a piece of art that is functional and beautiful, with technology so advanced that it’s almost indistinguishable from magic. Acoustically, it sounds like the devil singing to a symphony of fighter jets.”
The Mercedes-AMG GT R, he explains, is the closest to meeting this criterion. The car is also being known as “the Beast of the Green Hell”.
“I’d say that it’s probably the fastest and most capable car in the Mercedes line-up. It’s really aggressive and beautiful. The exhaust (system) is very good. It’s responsive and it’s got this low, bassy grunt,” Vincent enthuses. “It’s like power at your fingertips. You step on it and it doesn’t stop – it just goes on forever.”