From humble beginnings in Birmingham in the UK, Leon Hulme is now a managing director at Crown Worldwide Group, a diverse company that manages the valuable assets of corporates.
This includes managing corporate talent through the company’s world mobility business, their belongings with its relocations stream, information through records management, physical assets through workspace relocations, as well as wine storage, and corporate and private fine art.
Leon has been working at Crown, which employs more than 5,000 people globally, for 18 years. In that time, he’s worked in five different countries – Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Thailand – and today he’s Managing Director of Crown’s Malaysia business, which is one of the largest country operations in the Group.
“I left the UK for Malaysia back in 2000, not really knowing where I was going or what to expect, not to mention whether I could even do the job,” says Leon. “I think you’ve got to have confidence in yourself and go for it.”
Leon joined Crown as Corporate Services Manager in Kuala Lumpur. It didn’t take long for him to settle in when he arrived, thanks in part to a thriving expat community full of what Leon describes as friendly, down-to-earth people working in oil, gas and construction as well as many others from a variety of different industries.
“This is a bit of a cheesy line, but surround yourself with people you want to be like and that you respect,” he advises.
After his first stint in Malaysia, Leon travelled around Asia, managing new offices in big global cities along the way. He says he has stayed with Crown for so long partly due to the amount of travel he’s been able to do and also because Crown has consistently offered him opportunities to advance through the organisation.
He also appreciates the familial culture of the privately held business and the fact that there’s no politics. “You’re encouraged to be yourself,” he says.
The Crown Worldwide Group has evolved over the years from a simple relocation company that would move furniture and belongings from one country to another into an organisation with multiple business strands – including world mobility, relocations, records management, wine storage and fine art.
Leon says this is partly because today’s generation are less obsessed with buying big houses and filling them with possessions. “Crown is working very hard with regard to changing its propositions for this new age of people with different values who are now entering our world.”
Today, the Group runs a wine storage business and private members club, called Crown Wine Cellars, as well as a business specialising in moving valuable items from museums, institutions, galleries, auction houses and private collectors, called Crown Fine Art.
The company still moves people around the world through its traditional relocations business, which was founded in 1965, but it also allows companies to send their workforce to new locations through Crown World Mobility.
“In my 18 years I’ve seen quite a drastic change where we have become much more as one,” says Leon. “What we see now is automatic collaboration between one country and another or one brand and the next.”
In terms of his leadership style, Leon says, “I find being open, transparent, honest and upfront with people has worked very well for me. I think people ultimately believe in and trust in me. Even if I have to communicate something to my colleagues that they may not like, because there’s that trust in place, they will see what I’m trying to say. So, my strategy has been: ‘What you see is what you get.’”
He sets clear goals for his staff that are achievable but still a bit of a stretch and explains why the goals are what they are and why the company wants to go in a particular direction.
“Leaders need to invest time into understanding what management style is going to make people perform their best.”
He also adopts different tactics in different scenarios because not everyone likes to be led in the same way. “Leaders need to invest time into understanding what management style is going to make people perform their best.”