Property Investory
John Foong: Investing at Age 18 to Succeeding in Google & Domain
September 24, 2023
With more than two decades under his belt and a stellar investing repertoire both here and oversees, the chief revenue officer of Australia's leading property marketplace Domain, John Foong, sets the stage and gives us a glimpse into his property journey.
In this episode, he takes us on a picturesque trip all over the world— from London, to Ireland, to the U.S.A. and, of course, to Australia. Plus, he reveals the Google job that opened doors for him, his family's investing practices, and what exactly his granny said that had him start investing at 18 years old!

00:01:12 | A Leader in the Domain-ion
00:02:46 | The Family Man
00:03:50 | Great Childhood Hits
00:05:09 | From School to Church
00:06:33 | A Man of Conviction
00:07:54 | In All Honesty
00:09:17 | From Australia to the US
00:14:30 | A Man of Knowledge
00:16:10 | From the US to Europe
00:18:11 | Dear Ireland
00:20:39 | From Google to Uber
00:22:08 | Taking the Wheel
00:23:54 | A Pivotal Moment
00:26:19 | Cheers to Granny


00:01:10 | To Granny With Love
00:02:37 | Building the Portfolio
00:06:44 | Investments Everywhere
00:08:49 | Home and Family
00:09:29 | Challenges and Lessons
00:12:48 | That Aha Moment
00:16:02 | Strategies — To Each His Own
00:18:08 | The Impact of Parents, Mentors, and Books
00:20:16 | The Power of Habit
00:23:08 | Chill Out, Be Real
00:24:39 | On Personal Goals
00:26:44 | An Attitude of Gratitude
00:28:49 | Amidst Life Changes

Resources and Links:


John Foong:
That year [I] was surrounded by incredible people who all do the same thing. They feel they have a calling to change the world. And being surrounded by that and the pressure of that just put you down a path of, like, what can I do with this kind of single precious life I've got? And that's how I guess my calling continued to evolve all those years.


Tyrone Shum:
This is Property Investory where we talk to successful property investors to find out more about their stories, mindset and strategies.
I’m Tyrone Shum and we’re speaking with John Foong, the chief revenue officer of Australia's leading property marketplace Domain. With a stellar investing repertoire both here and oversees, he reveals the Google job that opened doors for him, his family's investing practices, and what exactly his granny said that had him start investing at 18 years old!



A Leader in the Domain-ion 

Tyrone Shum:   
With more than two decades of investing experience, Foong recognises the value of time in his line of work. With great detail and smart precision, he makes certain he spends his days wisely.

John Foong:
I grew up here in Sydney, [and] spent the last 20 years overseas in Europe and the U.S.—a bunch of different places. Now [I'm] back to where I grew up in Sydney's North Shore. 

I've been a property investor for 25 years. And I'm also the Chief Revenue Officer at 'Domain', one of Australia's largest property portals and marketplaces.

Domain is one of the most loved and used property portals in the Southern Hemisphere. We have about 8 million Australians using [our site] every month to find property. And obviously, many people use us to try and sell their property. 

I'm responsible for the revenue and for managing our customers. That's about 500 people on my team, about half of those people are in sales, and their responses to look after primary real estate agents who are recommending Domain to help people sell their house. 

And then there's a few hundred people in our customer support team, who once people are using this [site], if they have any problems or changes, they come to that team. So that's my responsibility. 

We sell a bunch of different products, not just, you know, the ability to be found on the Domain app, and the Domain website, but a lot of products just for real estate agents, like a DocuSign-like product for local real time agent[s], some SaaS products-like or Pricefinder, which helps people get market intelligence. 

In any given day, I'm always thinking about how to make it easier for our customers—real estate agents—[i.e.,] to help their customers—[i.e.,] people trying to buy and sell houses—, and all the things that are more than that. 

The Family Man

Tyrone Shum:   
As much as he is passionate about his work, Foong still rightly makes it a point to devote time for his family and in taking care of his health.

John Foong:
[I have] a 4-year-old, [a] 2-year-old, and [a] 4-month-old. All girls. So it's lots of fun, lots of cuteness, and not much sleep.

[I'm] up early, in theory, it involves a run in the morning—that hasn't happened for about a month now. 

Really, it's work and family right now that dominates. Work is lots of fun; I get to travel around Australia, because we've always had customers and have sellers everywhere, which is fantastic. And then, once work finishes at five or six o'clock, then it's family, family, family during the day. So my life is pretty simple in that regard now.

Oh, like many tech companies, we really would provide a lot of options for our people. 

Most of my team are actually on the road a lot of the time. They're the main point of contact for real estate agents. But you know, for most of our most of our companies is hybrid. In reality, I'm in the office most days, really some of the day. And I'm interstate once or twice a week. So I'm at home for at least part of the day and then around the rest of the time.

Great Childhood Hits 

Tyrone Shum:   
With a good balance of humour and sincerity, Foong gives an inside look to his past and his family's roots while he flips the pages of his childhood.

John Foong:
Well, I think the first thing I'd say is I think you and me have a lot in common. You know we both joke about mutual backgrounds. 

But I mentioned before I grew up in Sydney's North Shore. I grew up in a suburb called Gordon, and I'm currently in Pymble now, so which is the next suburb across.

It was such a privilege I grew up here. It's beautiful. It's leafy. There's lots of sports. I wasn't particularly good at sport. But I enjoyed every part of it. I had the chance to go to school called Knox Grammar School out here in Sydney, which was lots of fun. 

Obviously lots of work. But in terms of... they encouraged you to do sport, music—and I just really enjoyed all this.

I went to Sydney Grammar [School] in St. Ives, and then Knox [Grammar School] is in Wahroonga. So quite a very fortunate experience. 

My parents were from Malaysia [and] from Hong Kong. They migrated to Australia before I was born. So you know, that's all I've known and they've always lived around this area.

[My relatives are] fairly spread in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. I think there was a time actually before [the] kids came along, I was probably there every year. And then as I mentioned before, I was away from Australia, most of the last 20 years. I still made it back to Australia quite a lot and to Singapore and Hong Kong, with some regularity. But those trips have decreased since so the time has gone on. But yeah, a lot of relatives there. And there are amazing places to visit as well. 

From School to Church

Tyrone Shum:   
Further speaking on the topic of growing up in Sydney's North Shore, Foong dishes out precious memories from high school and what he loved doing as a kid.

John Foong:
Yeah, I think for me, I love doing everything. I think, going back to Knox, there is this always a vision of they call the 'Knox Man' —it's a single-sex school so—and the whole idea is almost this: It's built on the premise of a 'Renaissance Man', which is, yeah, study is really important, but you should try to expose yourself to a multitude of different things. 

You should understand your sports, your musics, your arts, different languages, [and] travel. And I was very, very fortunate that that was really where I was at. I loved doing everything. 

I love playing sports; I was no good at sports, but I loved it. 

I love music. I was forced to play piano from an early age and got good enough at piano that by the time I went through my rebellious teenage years—that 'I'm not going to play piano anymore!' —I realised that actually at church and in clubs, like actually, it was really helpful to play piano. And that was something which I really got into.

I love volunteering, as well as have a church. I've been a youth leader and organising camps. And they just love music and acting, and the arts, and debating, and public speaking. So [I] just loved all those different things. And I was very grateful to...with many great schools here in Australia but, I think, Knox in particular just really allowed me to [do] those different things in between lunchtime, and after school, and before school. And it was quite close to home and quite complimentary.

A Man of Conviction

Tyrone Shum:   
Living a well-rounded life, being active with his studies and involved in many activities, Foong was very purposeful with his life after high school. 

John Foong:  
I mentioned I was quite heavily involved in church. I had a real conviction in my teenage years that I wanted to basically become either a missionary or a pastor or leader of a nonprofit. 

Tyrone Shum:

John Foong:
I kind of looked into it [and went], 'This business was not for me'. I really enjoy business, but I want to get out there and serve people in that sense, in that ministerial sense. And so a lot of elements of that are still with me, which I'll talk to you later [about]. 

But what I thought about when I finished Knox—I was really looking for a place where [I can go], 'Hey, where can I get work experience? Where can I study something with a view to bring that actually back into the church or back into [indiscernible] non-profit?' 

Tyrone Shum:

John Foong:  
And so when I thought about that, I was fortunate enough to go to similar alma mater to [the one in] Utah, [which is] University of South Wales. And they had a programme there, this co-op programme, where the whole focus was information systems and management. 

So it was actually three things I was passionate about: It was business, so I did accounting major things like that. It was information technology, so I did an honest to honours degree and honours major in information systems. And the focus was on leadership and management. 

And the whole idea was great. I'll do that, I'll get to work experience, and then I'll go off to the mission field or whatever it is. So that was very much my thinking leaving high school.

In All Honesty

Tyrone Shum:   
As he reflects over the positives from being involved in church, Foong contemplates on the good and the not-so-good observations he has with the organisation.

John Foong:
I was very heavily involved in church for most of my life. That has waned as kids have come along. It was a huge part of my life. It was a huge part of what influenced me, I think, in good ways, and in some ways, which I still struggle with. 

I think the very benevolent way was... you know, church, we will call the 'church service', right? So the whole notion of if you're at church, if you're a regular, how are you going to serve? Are you going to play an instrument? Are you going to serve morning tea? Are you going to preach preach and lead a small group? It was like, all those things, right? So it was very, very obvious, even if not stated that, hey, if you want to serve, you can serve in a part-time capacity, but what if you could serve in a full-time capacity? 

So that was mainly the positive notion of, like, a life of service [which] was very much ingrained, you know, upon the thinking of the church I was at during my formative years. And I think a lot of the leaders and the mentors I looked up to, that defined their life. They were either a full-time pastor, or they were doing some kind of job. 

But doing a lot of work, [maybe] 30 [or] 40 hours of church work on the side, which I think was a big influence for me. I can also see some of the troubling aspects for all of those people probably over-prioritise church and ministry over their families [or] over their own physical and mental health. So I think that was very much the influence in better ways and worse ways.

From Australia to the US

Tyrone Shum:   
Unbeknownst to Foong at the time, his life took a turn to a different corner after joining the co-op programme in UNSW—a direction that would surprise even him.

John Foong:
So I think I went to that co-op with that mantra of like, 'Okay, great. I want to serve other people, I want to get a range of experience of other people. And this degree helps me get work experience, and it helps me get some real great learnings about business technology leadership'. I think when it came to in that journey, my original expectation was great, you know—[that is] now I'm going to go and go to Bible college or go join a nonprofit. 

But the reality is, like, I didn't feel ready, you know. 

And the world of business started opening up, and it was like, I really enjoyed it. I still really enjoy business and technology. And so, I think a lot of how that shaped my calling is to go from 'Great, you know, my job is to get a job or a nonprofit or a church. And that's my destination'.

And I think the way that that changed and then evolved was, 'Hey, my calling, my purpose, may or may not be a destination'. But there was, I don't know, the world was such a changing place. 

My calling is to build up a set of skills around leadership, business and technology, which can then be used in many forms. It could be used in the church. It could be in a nonprofit volunteer. It could be used in a family, or it can be used to run a corporation, where that can have a lot of social good, hopefully, right in the end. 

And I think that conviction, I guess, came to in my 20s. And that was a big part of why I wanted to go down the consulting path. 

Because I think that consulting company—I end[ed] up working for McKinsey out of university—, their big selling point is: 'We're going to give you a whole range of experiences, we're going to teach you a general a set of skills around problem-solving leadership and technology, and you're going to apply that for us for customers are going to pay McKinsey—not you, [but] McKinsey—a lot of money. You'll get a lot of great experiences. And then you'll be able to use that'.  

And that's why those consulting companies [are] often great CEO-building grounds. It kind of teaches that general management skill set. 

I was very fortunate to get into McKinsey at the time—this was back in the in the early 2000s. And that led me down a path of being surrounded by amazing people who then asked, 'Hey, after she was with McKinsey, what are you going to do?' I said, 'What did you do?' [They] said, 'Well, we all got our MBAs or our graduate degree'.  [So I said], 'Wait, I'll get back to UNSW', and they said, 'Well, UNSW is a great college. But you know, what if you [can] go anywhere in the world, where would you go?' 

That opened up a path of, you know... I applied to all these Ivy League schools in America. [I] was lucky enough to get into Stanford, and going to Stanford was a life-changing experience. I'd always lived at the same postcode my whole life. [I] wouldn't survive [indiscernible]. 

That year [I] was surrounded by incredible people who all do the same thing. They feel they have a calling to change the world. And being surrounded by that and the pressure of that just put you down a path of, like, what can I do with this kind of single precious life I've got? 

And that's how I guess my calling continued to evolve all those years.

That was 2005 [or] 2007. So we worked for McKinsey for about two years. And I ended up leaving there and work[ing] in Africa for a bit, for about six months. And then, after, [I went to] business school in the States.

Tyrone Shum:
Oh, that's wonderful. And what were you doing in Africa?

John Foong:
I was working for the U.S. government there actually. 

Tyrone Shum:
Oh nice. 

John Foong:
Something called 'TechnoServe'. And it's a thing that a lot of ex-consultants do when they're in that 'career break' stage of life. And they have this programme [where] we can volunteer for the U.S. government to go. And the U.S. government has a lot of aid that are deployed to developing countries. 

They bring you in and go like, 'Great, here's some entrepreneurs. They got a company. It's going okay, but it's got problems, fix it.' 

And even though I knew nothing about chickens, which [indiscernible]... 

There is that the value of that general skill set you learn, you know, at university to the degrees we had. And at a place like McKinsey, we can really actually add a lot of value to an entrepreneur there. So I end up kind of volunteer[ing] there a few months, and they ended up giving me a kind of a full-time job there as a Project Manager to try and help turn around the Mozambican chicken industry. So I end up staying there for about half of 2005 and went back in 2006. 

It was an incredible experience [indiscernible] from the world of of nappies and young kids and and the luck we have right now.

A Man of Knowledge

Tyrone Shum:   
With eagerness and care, Foong continues to share what it was like to take post-graduate studies while pursuing the next steps of his career. 

John Foong:
It takes about two years— I did an MBA and actually a master's in education as well, which is also really interesting. 

Tyrone Shum: 

John Foong:
And then what happens is, the American system is, it goes over two years. And then they have about a three-month summer break in the middle. And typically, to a summer internship. A lot of Australian universities or MBAs are similar. 

And I have a good fortune of, at that time, Australia had just qualified for the World Cup. For the first time. 

It was happening in Germany. My sister had just moved to London; she was based there. So [I was] like, 'I've got to  get to Europe, ideally in London'. And then each weekend, I'll go watch the World Cup games or do some fun stuff. 

Tyrone Shum:

John Foong: 
And the only company that was really hiring at the time that wasn't a consulting company or a bank was Google—a small company back then. This was back in 2006, or 2005 [or] 2006. So I started off as an MBA marketing intern at Google, back in 2006, based in London, and had an amazing summer there. So two years overall at Stanford with a small internship.

The way it works is, you know, I think business school is about 40 weeks in the year. 

Tyrone Shum:

John Foong:
So there's like a 12-week break. In that 12-week break, everyone does an internship. But most people will just do one in America. But for me, it was like, 'Wait, let me try to do one in London'. And it so happened in Google, [they] were offering internships in London at the time for the background I had, which was marketing in this case. 

Yeah, so I did my first year at Stanford, got the job at Google, spent three months at Google, then went back to finish my second year at Stanford, and then ended up joining Google full-time afterwards.

From the US to Europe

Tyrone Shum:   
Travelling back and forth between the U.S. and Europe has certainly earned Foong notable rich life experiences. But there was one experience with a particular company that really stood out to him.

John Foong:
Yeah, it was amazing. 

I was very fortunate at the time. There was a lot of great technology jobs. And Google did one thing, which is a bit, they've stopped doing it, because [it] actually was quite unsuccessful— But to a lot of MBAs, what they did was [they] offered full-time manager positions, even though most of us had never managed anyone. 

They actually stopped the programme because it was not successful. There was a lot of rejection there like, 'Oh, actually, you're not a very good manager yet'. 

Typically, what a company will do is offer [you] a position as an individual contributor, and then you learn skills and look for the right manager opportunity. 

But that was a big selling point for me, like, 'Hey, you can go and manage a team'. And actually, the job I took was in the Republic of Ireland. 

They have a large operations base there— thousands upon thousands of people now. 

And I was managing a search engine operations team, looking after all the European countries and managing about a team of 10 to 15 people, my first full-time management experience. And that was incredible. A lot of the reason that was appealing to me was because, you know, as per my calling, I'm trying to build skills around leadership, technology, [and] business. 

And I think so much it was just practice, you know. And they [offered] the chance to get that practice right now. I was like 'Right, well, Google seems cool. And I've never lived in Ireland before, never been to Ireland before. But that sounds cool. They're super friendly'. And it was for the next six and a half years there I had a range of different roles— first as a leading a technical operations team, and then about 16 years ago, I got my start in in sales. 

That was also really cool. I've never sold anything before. This is back in, not 16 years [but] about [in] 2009. Running a small Sales Team at what was a very small part of Google called 'Google Cloud'. And we were at work. For the next 10 years after that at Google, I got a very fortunate, very lucky experience in one row chance, where I got to learn about the [Google] Cloud and learn about sales for the first time my life.

Dear Ireland

Tyrone Shum:   
Evidently invigorated by his memories of living in Ireland, Foong emphasises how grateful he is for the opportunities and experiences he had there.

John Foong:
It's an amazing place. 

Europe is full of Aussies. So Aussies are pretty well-loved everywhere. Ireland is a very special place for me. I end up spending six and a half years there. I'm actually an Irish citizen, because I spent so long there. I've got a godson there. 

Some of my best friends are there. 

It is a place where it's very, very welcoming. But a lot of foreigners like me have remarked that it's actually difficult to get settled there. 

Because Irish people tend to live in Ireland their whole life. A lot of Irish do leave, and they end up coming to Australia [or] to Bondi Beach, just settling here. But it can be quite a close [town], like literally, all my friends not only that [did] they go to school together, but their parents went to school together. 

Tyrone Shum: 

John Foong:
It's a very, very small town in a sense. And it is beautiful and lovely that way. And I think I consider myself very fortunate where... you know, one of my things was, I still do a lot of church stuff. My big priorities are: I need to build community, [and] I'm going to find a church. And that's what I did from day one. 

And that was really, really helpful. Because then I was able to get stuck in to church. I was able to forge a lot of local community, playing piano, leading small groups—all those kinds of fun things that really helped me feel settled, and getting to know people. I'd see some of my Irish friends every single day. I was a single guy having fun [and], getting to know families. 

It was just a wonderful, rich, and unique time of life.

Tyrone Shum:   
Of course, it was no surprise that Foong's passion for serving in the church in Australia also spilt over to his adventure in Ireland.

John Foong:
By the end of my time in Australia, I'd started to be on like boards of directors and councils. So I went to a church called 'Wesley Mission',  and I was part of their leadership council, and it was interesting to serve in that strategic way—that kind of, like, more managerial way rather than kind of hands-on. 

And I think I was able to do that a lot in Ireland. Actually, I was able to get involved with the Church of Ireland there; we ran a church plant, which those are like a church startup there. And [I was] learning about finances and learning about denominations, and also [about] a lot of the brokenness in leadership. Like any company or organisation, there's challenges, and [so] how do you deal with that? 

So I think for me, I had a very, very fortunate, I guess, intersection of what I was learning at my work, what I learned in my studies, and what I was able to do [in] a nonprofit, in church, and each of them kind of cross-fertilised each other—which was very much, I guess, what, as a teenager, I had hoped for but had no concept of how that would work out.

From Google to Uber

Tyrone Shum:   
Interestingly, the technology path that Foong was walking on at this point of his career did not end with Google.

John Foong:
I was with Google for 13 years. Eventually, if you want to keep climbing, you end up at [their] headquarters. 

And this to me happened about, I guess, [in] 2012 [or] 2013. I'd be leading European teams, [indiscernible] European countries, and I was leading entire European teams. And then I was asked to lead global teams. 

So I was leading this global pre-sales team for Google Cloud, out of Ireland, and then I was just travelling the U.S. all the time. It basically became pretty clear: Like, if we want to keep progressing, you don't want to play the whole time; you want to be [in the] head office, right? And I wasn't married or things like that; I was still a lot more flexible. And so in 2013, I moved back to work on a business school in Silicon Valley, and kind of started life there. 

And so that was with Google. I was able to have a range of different roles. It was all with Google Cloud. One was running their agent network, which actually was a great precursor to my time at Uber and now Domain where primarily they sell Cloud products through agencies, not direct to customers. So I had a bunch of different roles there and running sales teams and agency sales teams. 

I did that for about five or six more years. 

And then in 2019, [I] had the chance to do a very similar thing: Run a account management team and a customer engineering team at Uber. Uber [was] starting a business group. So it was there from 2019 to 2021. So I [ended up] being in Silicon the whole time, getting married and hav[ing] a bunch of kids on the way.

Taking the Wheel

Tyrone Shum:   
With Uber's brand already growing globally at the time he was invited to join them, Foong took the wheel of his new position with both hands.

John Foong:
Uber, I mean, started about 10 years before then. 

Tyrone Shum:

John Foong:
Already by kind of 2013 [or] 2014, it was quite popular in America. I think it was probably in 2015 [or] 2016 they start[ed] to get very mainstream around the whole world. 

That was the point in time, in 2017, where they went through their own organisational crisis. Their CEO was basically replaced, and there was some very material cultural issue. 

So even by that time, [in] 2017, they were quite large. So by the time we got to 2019, their culture had changed a lot. You know, it was a bit more, a lot more Google-like; a lot more friendly, a lot more family-friendly. [They] had a new CEO for a few years by that time. And I was along part of a kind of a fledgling group, which was particularly selling Uber to business travellers. Uber—it's a fantastic group; it's grown a lot since. 

And by that time, I was brought on board to professionalise our experience for business travellers and create like an easier expense system—slightly different products—, manage those accounts, manage the big deals. Actually, a lot of consulting companies are primarily who have a lot of business travellers. So that was my role, and they were really quite big by that stage. 

Tyrone Shum:   
As he talks about working with Uber at Silicon Valley, Foong takes a moment to reflect on the slice of life where he met his wife.

John Foong:
I met my wife shortly after moving to the States, like early 2014. I got married in 2015. We had our first kid in 2018. So she's now four and a half; with another kid during COVID— [who is] almost three now. So that all happened. They were both born in Silicon Valley, where we met and had settled.

They had American accents, and now they've got Australian accents. But yes, the first few years of [their] life were in America.

A Pivotal Moment

Tyrone Shum:   
Interestingly, life took a bit of a dramatic turn for Foong when Uber decided to make considerable changes in their company.

John Foong:
So this is mid-2021. And Uber was going through, I guess, some restructuring conversations. And obviously, the global team... And, you know, it was basically the heads-up that [went] 'Look this structure is not going to stay the same'. This happens to big organisations—we structure [and] we restructure; it's part of the deal. 

And so I was faced between staying in Uber in a smaller role or looking for a different possibility—something that all happens to us. 

And I think at that time, my assumption was, 'Great, you know, Silicon Valley is great. Our friends are here; my physical friends are here. The kids are settled here. Let's stay here'. And so I was looking around those really interesting jobs in that technology-leadership space. 

But at the same time, we thought, 'Oh, we have all of my family, my cousins, back in Sydney, what if we just look for jobs there as well [to] just see what came up?' 

Over the course of the next few months of searching and looking and reflecting and chatting and seeking. It became pretty clear that it would be cool to spend some time in Australia; to experience that, to give our kids that experience. We have much bigger family here. My wife has less family in the States. 

And actually those really interesting jobs here, really interesting jobs here, in terms of particularly folks who are [or] companies that were looking for my skill set, which is basically scaling companies to go global, particularly [in the] technology space. That had been my life for the last 10 or 15 years. And in a place like Silicon Valley, there's thousands of people like me. And [in] a place like Australia, if you want a skill set of background like mine, I'm actually pretty unique. 

And so it turned out the time that Domain [was] looking for a Head of Sales, a Chief Revenue Officer. And the CEO of Domain, a guy called Jason Pellegrino—he was also at Google for a decade. And he, obviously, was quite familiar with the kinds of things that I could do. And it was quite complimentary with the direction he was wondering the company. 

There was a lot of really interesting possibilities in Australia, but Domain was a great fit. It was a great company. There was a chance to be on the executive team, which I've never had that experience. 

And it was in property, which we haven't spoken much about but was really my life's passion, [and] my family's work. [With] my dad, being a real estate agent and, maybe, [an] investor for over 20 years by that stage. 

So it was just a wonderful combination of leadership, business, real estate, and growth, all coming together.

Cheers to Granny

Tyrone Shum:   
With undeniable zeal in his voice, Foong delves into how his property journey unexpectedly started at such a young age.

John Foong:
I was fortunate to be on a scholarship at a university. I didn't pay that much. [But] I did pay for university fees; a bit of pocket money. 

When I was 18, my granny, who played a huge role and raised me [from when I was] 7 [years old] and said, 'Hey, John, here's a book, we are going to buy a property. You've got some income now. We're going to buy a property'. 

Tyrone Shum:

John Foong:
It's funny. 

It was just such a big part of, you know… I'll speak to the particular kind of the Asian Australian migrant culture at the time. She was Malaysian Chinese. It was just a given that when you had money, you put [it in] property. 

Tyrone Shum:

John Foong:
That's what you did. 

First your family home, and then like an investment property, depending if... whatever it was. And so for me, that was, I guess, the practices of my family. 

So my parents—when they came over from Malaysia and Hong Kong, they were not wealthy. But the first thing they did was they bought a property, right? They'd have their family home. They'll buy investment properties; some went well, some didn't. 

But it was just that the investment vehicle that they had grown up with, and that they would pass down, right. 

And my dad actually was a real estate agent after he was in corporate as well. So by that time he had become a real estate agent in the in the '90s. This is the late '90s I'm talking about when I started my investing journey. He had already begun to [do] a lot of research—both as a real estate agent as an investor—into different parts of Australia, investing in. 

Most of the investment was outside of Sydney. We invested first in Perth and Cairns and places like that. 

So I was very, very fortunate that I was from a culture—and actually my wife [was] also very similarly [from the same culture]—where that was just a given; that's what you did with your money because of the leverage, because of the relative safety, [and] because you can touch and feel it. And it was just a practice. 

Yeah, at 18 [years old] I first got into the game.

We first started looking at stuff in Sydney because we could visit it. And we looked for things that had, I guess, 'people magnets'. And one of the best people magnets are universities. 

And so around that Broadway, Paddington University, Sydney University area, there are a bunch of these university lodges like UniLodge. And these are apartments—this is back in the day—that was $60,000 in the '90s. Just little studio apartments that, typically, folks from overseas or outside of Sydney who are studying, they can stay on campus, they can stay close by. 

So these are good because they had pretty secure cash flows. They were going to be used for most of the years. Unless something terrible happened like COVID, you can count on people being in that right. (We had no concept of COVID at the time.) 

That was my first investment—$6,000, [which] I think is worth 10 [or] 20 times now. But it was a very, very good cash flow-positive property and a good thing to dip my toe in.

To Granny With Love

Tyrone Shum:   
Reminiscing his relationship with his grandmother, Foong elaborates on the lasting impact she has had on his own journey—in life and in investing.

John Foong:
Yeah, I was very, very close to my grandmother. Very, very close. 

She was the one who, I guess, raised me most, particularly when my mom and dad were both working. So she was the chauffeur, the cook, the childcare, the disciplinarian.

She'd be the one, well, when I was playing piano, looking at the clock with, I don't think it was an actual stick, but like a threat in one hand and Tim Tams in the other. [indiscernible] my piano practice. [Indiscernible] you know, obese-related problems as a child and my lack of skill in sports. 

Even when I had turned 18, and I lived at home with her, we had a pretty cool arrangement where we moved out of our family home and moved to a set of apartments—me and my sister, [and] my granny lived in one apartment. And we helped to look after her, and she looked after us, and my mom and dad was [indiscernible].

I was extremely close to Granny. She was very much a second mother to me. And so she had very, very strong ideas about what 'great' looked like. And she would in classic-ethnic-migrant-grandmother style, pass them on to me—whether to a piano, my studies, or, in this case, about property. 

When she spoke, I listened. And by that time I was critically evaluated. But actually, the book we'd read together and the TV shows we watched together about it made a lot of sense. 

Building the Portfolio

Tyrone Shum:   
With more than two decades under his belt, Foong shares his family's investing practices, touching on how his dad and family were central in developing the strategy he has been using to accumulate properties over the years.

John Foong:
Me, my dad, and my sister, and my family kind of stumbled upon a few investment properties that mostly worked pretty well for us. There was a lot of—this is back in the late '90s [and] early 2000s.

Australians has always loved property. I think at that time, there was an appreciation of the power of not even negative gearing, I call it positive gearing. I'm not sure what [indiscernible] is, but the idea is that you accrue cash flow-positive properties that have a meaningful chance of equity upside. 

You invest in those. They pay for themselves; the the rental pays for the interest. You still leverage as much as you can. You put down 20% [and] leverage 80%. But then as the capital gains appreciates, you invest that capital gains in getting another loan for the house. 

And then for me at that time, too, I was started off, you know, earning not that much money as a scholarship student. But then [when] I went to consulting and things like that, my income increased, I'd say, exponentially right over the next two years. 

So that was our kind of thinking—myself, my dad and my sister in particular at the time. And so we started off with one property. 

But we were very fortunate through a combination of capital gains, and me getting graduation jobs, that we were able to buy new properties pretty quickly. 

And we had a theory that we would not buy in Sydney, because by that time, it was already quite expensive. 

Apartments were cheap. But you know, even then a house is $500,000. You could buy one, but that'd be it. Right? And ideally, you'd live in it. Instead of doing that, we decided to go to capital cities.

The whole idea of let's find capital cities [and] the universities, [on] the belief that both migrants and people will continue to flow into cities. We didn't buy at the heart of the city; we didn't  buy in the most expensive areas. 

We would typically look for three-bedroom, two-bathroom houses within a 15- to 20-minute drive of the city. And we identified a few areas, in particular, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, the Gold Coast and Cairns was one of our key areas—as opposed to Sydney and Melbourne in contrast. 

We were pretty lucky at the time. And we'd open up the real estate magazines at the time. And then just look at postcodes where there had been a good amount of capital growth in the last 12 months—very similar to how people tend to pick world stocks, which is you're not trying to buy at the bottom, you buy on the way up, and you kind of go, 'Great, we're going to affect it to do spread betting there'.  

But we're not just going to buy at random. We're going to go over there and really familiarise ourselves with those places. 

In particular, these places like Armadale in Perth, and these places particularly areas of Cairns—a place like Elizabeth in Adelaide, right. 

My dad's a lot at work and, being a real estate himself, he was able to really find all the favour with great property managers and understand the nuances of the city, not just like go, 'Great, we're going to buy a house in Perth'. But actually we're going to find the street, the suburb, the school that makes sense.

Because in all these places, you find out that, at that time, [has a] $100,000 price point— that could get you maybe the next place which is where all the doctors [and] professionals could move here, or if you're in the wrong place, it becomes potentially pretty rough areas. So it's a tough call you've got to make. 

We were very fortunate that the first few bets we made, particularly Perth with the space called Armadale and then Cairns, we did really, really well. In this the first part was it is our investing. We were lucky that those places we invested in— those places took off.

You'd see that they would double in price within three or four years. You know you couldn't predict those kinds of gains, but they really played into our strategies. So that we were able to go from one property for me. 

By the time I was in business school, I'd have like 10 different properties around Australia.

It isn't fine houses or anything like that. But they're houses, which a lot of them would double or triple in value. So I was very fortunate in the first five or 10 years, you know, going from zero to one to 10. 

That was actually a lot of what I [used to] pay for my expenses in a business school. Business school in the States is very expensive, even though I was on scholarship and things in that nature, you know, we're still talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the capital gains in two Cairns properties paid for all of that.

Tyrone Shum:
Wow, that's phenomenal. 

John Foong:
Yeah, very, very, very lucky, and [that's due to] a lot of the foresight of my dad and my granny to get us early into this. 

Investments Everywhere

Tyrone Shum:   
Working oversees did not stop Foong from investing in property. In fact, in the period he found himself in the U.S. already investing, pursuing his two master's degrees, and fulfilling his calling in the corporate field, he still had his eyes on Australia's property space.

John Foong:
By that time, we had a bunch of properties in Australia. 

My intention with Australia was to move back. I thought it'd be [like], 'Great, I'll do two years in the U.S. for business and then move back'. [But it was more like] 'Oh actually, [here is] a cool opportunity in Europe; let me stay there longer'. I was like, 'Well, I'll be here for a few years and I'll move back. [But again it was like] 'Oh, actually go back to the U.S.'.  

By the time I was now 10 years into it. I was 10 years [in]. I was settled [in] the U.S. I had a wife who was American. I was, 'Okay. Like, we're probably not going anywhere, anytime soon'. 

So around that time, this is almost 10 years ago, I started shifting my investments from Australia, into the U.S. partly from a taxation point of view. It's a bit tricky if you're investing in multiple places. And also, just because Silicon Valley became my backyard. 

Tyrone Shum:

John Foong:
So that was where we wanted to buy a family home. And we did, those were the areas that we were now most really with, you know, like the areas where my wife lived. and Silicon Valley was my neighborhood, right. So [I] never forget local knowledge of local real estate agents, local catchments.

And then with my business school friends, real estate investing is very big in the U.S. 

It's one of the highest paid careers in the U.S., not to [indiscernible] real estate agent. There's some very successful ones there. But, you know, to go into a real estate property investing, they'll go and build hotels, or build schools or things like that. 

Some of my best friends in the U.S. were in real estate investing. And we do a lot of that investing together in terms of syndicates, and things of that nature. 

That allowed me to invest in what I knew best, which was single-family homes. We would do that for ourselves, but also invest in some commercial properties, like fastfood shops, as well as for some syndicated things, or just hotels. 

That became a lot of my investing, starting 10 years ago. And that continues to this day, with the exception of we've purchased our primary family residence in Australia. So that happened once we moved back. But yeah, I'm kind of spread most in the U.S. and a bit in Australia now.

Home and Family

Tyrone Shum:   
With a noteworthy diverse portfolio, Foong certainly made sure he invested wisely abroad. After asking him if he has purchased any more property since coming back to Australia, he gives this answer…

John Foong: 
No. Just our family home.

Favorably from a taxation point of view, [we want] to put as much as possible into that. 

And frankly, with house prices, get every dollar you can get you want to live in. Even the places that we all grew up in are now much more expensive, relative to when our parents purchased [them]. 

So my parents are still here; my sister is still the area. So we want to be on to these North Shore. And that's where we forge after purchase last year.

Challenges and Lessons

Tyrone Shum:   
Now looking back at his vast experiences as a more well-informed investor, Foong describes two of the most challenging incidents he has encountered down the property road— incidents which inevitably shaped the investing philosophy he has today. 

John Foong:
I'd say I've been pretty lucky. I've been really lucky. And we're really lucky that the first bets went really well. And then by the time some of the bad things happened, they're not devastating, because they're a percentage of the portfolio, not the whole [thing]. 

I think the two probably biggest challenges I took away where I mentioned that we purchased on an Adelaide, a place called Elizabeth. Those of you who follow Adelaide property—which is some proportion of your listeners will know that that is where the old General Motors-Holden factory was. 

And that was our big bet as the people made it. And in retrospect, that closed down; it was propped up by tax subsidies. And eventually, after a while, the government pulled out support and Holden moved away and moved the manufacturing overseas. So a classic government-propped-up town, and that town, obviousled struggled. It's not been the same since. 

And so, I think as a result, that's an error area where it makes sense to go based on people magnets, like universities, like employers. You just want to judge the volatility of that. 

For me, I had three properties there at the time. And, you know, I was fortunate that I didn't lose money, but I got capital growth and it all disappeared. And then [all] the related social problems and challenges there. It is tough for a community when an employer pulls out that way. 

So I think that, for me is, that's probably a reasonable bet to take as part of a portfolio. But if that's like you putting all your eggs in that basket, unless you're going to live there and it's your primary residence, it's a bit more dangerous. 

And then [on] the flipside, I invested in Darwin—that was one of the areas that we thought we'd try and dip our toe in. 

Darwin is also how people made it. It has a large military base there. And, obviously, approximately in [indiscernible] and places like that, that property went up from $180,000 to $260,000 overnight. It was a fortunate time to buy, and so 'Great, wow, we made 40%. Let's take our money and run and invest in something else'. 

And I think, for me, that was not a terrible decision, because we invested in other things, which generally went well. 

I can't remember how much went to Adelaide, but you know, we've [indiscernible], it was fine. 

But the reality is that if we've kept our money there, that would have doubled a few years after that. 

And so, for me, it formed a hypothesis, which I think Warren Buffett has caused: We are lazy investors. We don't buy much, and when we buy, we never sell. And that's his mindset. Because generally, when you sell, if you've bought good assets, you've come to regret it. 

I think, for him, for example, he recently sold all his airline stock, all his airline shares. Surely before, right at the bottom of the market, and then the airlines kind of hit the roof, you know. And so, in some ways, we all struggle with our own advice. 

But for me, that informed a lot of my strategy, which is try and save up to buy the best assets, the top quartile assets in the class you're going to buy—whether it's property or stocks. And if it is property, like, you know, [in] the premium areas, or the premium parts of the areas you're going to invest in. And ideally, hold on to it— particularly [in] places like Australia, where there are taxation advantages of doing so. 

Because generally, if you sell something good, it's going to get better. And then you've just incurred transaction costs and capital gains and things like that. 

So those two experiences have helped to shape my investing philosophy now.

That Aha Moment 

Tyrone Shum:   
So far traversing the property road with more highs than lows, he is extremely aware of the potential curveballs life can throw at him. Hence, he faces these big questions of the future head-on.

John Foong:
When me and my wife, we married for a few years. When your first kid comes along, it kind of gives you some clarity thinking. And I'd been, even though I'd been a pretty serious investor, I've never actually built like a full-on, like, kind of full family balance sheet, or full family profit or loss statement with kind of 5-year [or] 10-year kind of extrapolations. 

You might think an MBA consultant might do that, [but] I've never done it, actually. 

And the prompting of having our first kid made us think about that. Like, 'Okay, like, where do we spend our money? Are we making the right moves?' 

And we're very fortunate, we both had made very good moves around property. But is that the right thing? 

And so we built this spreadsheet, and we did different scenarios. Okay, if we did this, and we make assumptions about, okay, what's the historical 100-year growth rate of stocks, [of] shares of property, of apartments, of houses? What's the current interest rate? 

You do some scenario analysis, you can imagine a giant Google spreadsheet on this. 

We reach kind of our aha moment of the following, which is this: Given that we're fortunate to have enough money to cover our expenses, and well, given that we're fortunate that we have a bunch of investments—a lot of properties, some in stocks, things like that—, we realised that the most logical thing for us to do was to maximise our property investment. 

Or put differently, invest every dollar we have; don't sit on cash. And No. 2 [is] maximise amount of leverage; go to a mortgage broker and say, 'Hey, we've got all these properties, how much can we borrow?'

That happened [in] about 2017 [or] 2018 for us. 

And as a result, we basically maximised what we could borrow, bought as much as we could—we ended buying and moving into a bigger family house—, we borrowed as much as we could for that property, and then just sat on it and said, 'Okay, we actually cannot borrow any more, we're not going to sell anything. So pretty much our next move is when we have to sell something for whatever reason or moving country or I get a job that makes a little bit more money and we can [indicernible] in that regard'.

And to me that has informed, I guess, our family strategy for now. 

Again, we're different. We're part of a young family. We're fortunate to have a couple of assets behind us. I think we're very different for our parents, we're very different [from people] in the '60s or be very different depending how much margin of safety you have to invest. 

But for us right now, our concept is, we maximise the return we have, we maximise how much we've bought out, we maximise our time in market, and we don't attempt to time the market. 

That's been the aha moment back in 2010 that kind of brought together our new family investing strategy with kids added to the mix. 

Kids are very expensive. Kids bring in like kind of new content of negative cash flow.

Our kids aren't even in school yet. I mean, I can only imagine what's going to happen there. But I think, what that [indiscernible] does is almost prioritise what other places of, in what order will we borrow or sell to kind of like, you know, make up for cash flow deficits. 

And obviously, there'll be surprise. There might be health scares. Eventually, those things will happen. But it helped us form a coherent philosophy. Okay, now that can change again, something will change again, or we'll learn something new and we'll change it again. But it's been very helpful for me and my wife to get to kind of negotiate talk format philosophy, and I think it helps make a stronger marriage as well.

Strategies — To Each His Own

Tyrone Shum:   
Foong certainly chooses his battles—especially in terms of the type of property investing strategies he implements.

John Foong:
The biggest other thing would be— I mentioned for this commercial syndicates. So for example, we would build a hotel, and again, like, you're one of like, 100 people investing or you're one of a syndicate of people, but that's a different kind of money, a different kind of return where, you know, we put some capital in and then kind of a management company would come and do that and pay dividends, then you can sell your share. So that's really the other kind of vehicle. 

You mentioned renovations before. It's important to know what you like or what you don't. 

We are terrified of renovating—all the things involving decisions and financing and council approvals. You know, not that it's not frustrating, even if you love it, but some people love that stuff. Some people are happy to live in their house. And that's a very capital and tax efficient way to do it. 

We did not decide that at all. We thought about renovating our first house in Silicon Valley. 'Oh, it's a four-bedroom house. We might have a few kids. I wouldn't try making a fifth bedroom'. We went through this renovation plans [and I] included, 'We are going to move'. And that's exactly righ

The Impact of Parents, Mentors, and Books

Tyrone Shum:   
With undeniable gratitude, Foong acknowledges the depth of his parents' impact in his life. He also shares the benefit of reading books and seeking out people who can positively influence him.

John Foong:
I think family has been the biggest experience, both through my parents, my wife's parents, their practices—that's been a huge influence. I do like to read books, particularly back 25 years ago with my granny. We'd read a bunch of books on property investment from I forget the name, and some like 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad' by Robert Kiyosaki. 

And you know, Charlie Munger, who's Warren Buffett's right hand man. He had this concept—I mentioned the concept of renaissance man—, this kind of like, 'Hey, when you try and read music and sport and academics...', he has a very similar philosophy to investing, which is, 'Hey, don't just read about like, hey, I can do stock investing, try and bring different influences on your investing life'. 

So he looks at like, hey, how do engineers solve problems? How do chefs solve problems? He tries to read different influences to understand what psychological mistakes and what advantages people bring. And that's helped him form his—he's now a multi-billionaire in his own right—investing philosophy. 

I think that's very similar in terms of what has influenced me it's not just these books on investing or all these books on mindset, but a broad array of different books and influences and speakers and caps who helped forge who I am.

Tyrone Shum:

John Foong: 
I mentioned with business school, I'm very, very fortunate that I've 10 really good friends—they're all men in this case—where we were part of the, I mentioned church before, of the men's christian fellowship, actually, at Stanford, and a lot of us lived together. And we've been really [kep]t close [in] touch for the last, I guess, 15 years since I graduated. 

We even have a call every week. Every Thursday morning, we get together, we debate ideas or we share or we talk about different problems. And sometimes it's family, sometimes work, sometimes investing. These are amazing people [indiscernible]. They're all American, except for me. 

Some of them have been extraordinary successful investing some in property, some without. And so those people who are very influential to me. A lot of [us] we invest together, we debate ideas together, we share stories together. So that's been another important one for me as well.

The Power of Habit

Tyrone Shum:   
Without hesitation, Foong relays an advice that would separate the 'great' from the 'good'. 

John Foong:
I thought about this a lot, because I appreciate you ask your guests this question and generally [from] the people you want to get advice from. 

I'll think of something a little different, right, which isn't necessarily into property, because I've already thrown a bits of gratuitous advice throughout the course of this call. And hopefully, you folks have picked it up or or thought about or rejected or accepted it. 

For me, I'll talk about the power of habit. There's one phrase that stuck with me: What's the difference in someone who's good and in someone who's great at something? And the answer is it's habit. 

People who have been able to put something into automatic, where it just happens every day—it's Michael Phelps getting up at 4 a.m. to swim every day—, and after a while, there's no decision, it's just what is.

And I would ask each of your listeners, like, what are your habits and how [do] they serve you? 

There's a bunch of [really good] books on this topic, one's called 'Atomic Habits' I found particularly helpful. But for me, I guess as I've gotten older, as the demands of my life in work and family have become more loud and acute and, well, all-consuming. I realised that ultimately, my health, my relationships will come down to habits. 

And for me it's been about cultivating a small number of habits, which is first start things which are uncomfortable and then also come automatic. I already mentioned a few of them, [like] learning how to love running. And believe me, I'm an extremely slow runner. I tell you, I run marathons. And they go, 'Wow, you run marathons', and [I'm like], 'Yeah, like five hours', but I run them. Even though it's so slow—it's partly because I'm unfit, but it's also partly because just I listen to podcasts the whole time. 

I love running outside and listen to podcasts. And it creates this virtuous cycle of like, oh, it's something I love doing, I kept liking the endorphin hit. It's hard to do with kids. But as soon as I get the chance, I'll go and go from one-hour run. And I'll listen to a bunch of podcasts about politics or business or investing or real estate. And I love it. 

That is one habit. That's so heavy, right? 

Now the habit is like, I found a group of guys and we have a call every week, and whoever can make it out of the 10 makes it. Yesterday, it was three people. Last time was seven people. 

And to me, it's that habit of accountability, of doing life together. That's a real important habit. 

For me and my wife, it's like, what are the new habits given, we have like three young kids? And there is a short window between kind of like 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at night. We've got two of the kids down, and the other one is asleep for now. And for us, we kind of go into our room in the house, and we bring snacks, and we chat about our day, and we watch Netflix. 

And to me, it's one of those habits that sustain you know, it's a very tough time now. We've got three young kids on the five. 

But like, it's these habits, these things that happen automatically. It's not a decision, it doesn't take organisation, it just happens. 

That is the difference between goodness and greatness, whether you're an Olympic athlete or just folks like us who try to be really good to our families and do interesting work. So that'd be the one advice I'd give to your listeners.

Chill Out, Be Real

Tyrone Shum:   
Honestly mulling over what he would have said to himself if he had met himself 10 years ago, Foong voices it clearly in black and white. 

John Foong:
Probably the same thing I'm saying to myself now. 'So Chill out. Chill out, like, it'll be okay. It will not be what you want or what you think you want. But it'll be okay. It might [have] been terrible. But it'll be okay'. 

And I think people like us, a lot of your listeners, Tyrone—like, because we want to have like an odus mindset, a growth mindset and owners mentality, because we want to be accountable, we don't want to be a victim and blame other people. We take a lot of responsibility for how things turn out. 

Will my kids be okay? Will my company be okay? How will this deal go? You know, that's what I admire. I want people like that to work for me, I want to be like that. I want to be that kind of employee. 

But in the end, like, it's easy to overestimate the locus of how much control we really have. You know, I think the Bible says like, 'Who are you? You're a gust of wind a mist that's here today and [gone tomorrow]'. 

We think the world revolves around us. But actually, our lives are this amazing adventure that we get to have—privileged to have. And in the end, we will make hopefully a bit of a difference to the world. But what have we left with at the end of our lives? And the legacy we leave behind is: Do we enjoy our life? Why do we stress the whole time about having something that didn't really matter? 

And so for me, it is the story of my life, trying to come to terms and it's a real act of faith to accept that it'll be will be and it's okay. I think that's what I would have remind[ed] myself every day now [and] I would've told myself 10 years ago as well.

On Personal Goals

Tyrone Shum:   
With eyes looking straight at what the future may hold, Foong enthusiastically shares what he is most excited about in the next stages of his life.

John Foong:
I think for me, No. 1 is to be a great husband and a great father, and a great son [and] a great cousin as well. I think the older I get, the more I was like, 'Look, work is important. We care about our work. We're lucky to be in jobs that really matter. But you screw up your family then it'll be okay in the end, but it'll suck'. 

So I think that's [indiscernible] and constantly understanding what are the ways I jeopardise that. I take my work into my family; I don't quit good boundaries. 

I think with work, I'm so excited. Oh my goodness, I've barely spoken about what I do day to day. But I think one of the big appeals on why Australia was so alluring to me was [it was] a chance to come back and kind of be a big fish in a small pond. I mean, to say that in America, [in] Silicon Valley, there's tens of thousands of people like me, who are running companies doing great things, and that's great. And I love being a part of that, and I was recruited out of that. 

Here, I'm really grateful that I'm part of an ecosystem in Australia that's doing great stuff. You know, the kind of people I get to rub shoulders every day in the property industry, not just my colleagues at Domain like our Head of Marketing [and] Head of Product but [also] people who head up the biggest real estate agency brands in Australia, or you know, all these names, right? 

I get to speak with them, like, every week, every month. I get to hang out with them. I get to understand how I can serve them better. We get to solve problems together, like what [can we do] about Australia's supply crisis? Like, super cool, right? 

So I think for me the next few years about having a lot of impact in Australian property, which is such a big deal to Australians, how do we... you know, the Domain phrase is, 'Inspire confidence in life's property decisions'. And that's what we're trying to do, whether you're a seller or a buyer or a seeker, and I get to have a huge influence in that. It's amazing. 

Also, for me, it's a leadership training ground. It's a chance to step up as a leader, to learn a bunch of skills. I get to lead 500 people. I get to be a vision [for] them. I can make a huge difference to their lives, their families. If I screw it up, it's not going to be fun. And if I can make their lives and their careers great, that's a huge thing. And they will impact other people in both when they work for me and when they work for someone else. 

So I think I have a really cool spot of having a lot of influence, hav[ing] a lot of impact, but I kind of learn a lot as well.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Tyrone Shum:   
Last question for you is, how much of your success that you've achieved not only through the property, but also your career and stuff has been due to your skill, intelligence and how work? And how much of it do you think has been due to luck?

John Foong:
This is kind of the inevitible nature versus nurture debate. 

Firstly, [seriously], I'd be nothing without my parents and the choices they made. I'd be nothing. They sacrificed a lot so we could go to schools, like [the ones] we what we went to; that wasn't cheap. It's more expensive now, but it wasn't cheap. 

You know, my parents weren't in amazing professions. My dad was an auditor, the real estate agent; my mom was a nurse. It took significant sacrifice. I think, for them both, making those decisions to invest in school, in this case, a private school—other people go to public school and invest in other ways—, that's amazing, right? 

And not just that, but the mindset they modeled for us.

Like, 'Hey, try stuff, do things succeed, fail, don't just do things because we told you to but do things because you love it'. I'm very, very grateful for that. 

I consider luck to have a huge role. I mean, if I were to look at my life, I was extremely lucky to get into McKinsey. And that thing changed the trajectory of my whole life. It made me think about... Without that, I probably would have never left Gordon and people. I guess I'm still back here, you know? 

I guess it paved for me like, 'Well, the world is your oyster, anything is possible'. 

And here are people who [you can be] friends with, and you know, and that's what got me working studying overseas. 

I consider myself extremely lucky to have gotten to Google at that stage, at a company—where it was at its infancy, or not its infancy, it was 10,000 people, but it was much smaller than it is today, but a company—where they believed anything was possible. 

I came in as a marketeer. They said 'Hey, why don't you lead a team and operations?' I did that for a few years. [And then], 'Hey, what don't you do sales?' It's like, 'Oh, okay, I'll try sales. You'll build a team of sales of two people,  [then] have a team of 50 people'. 

How much of that was me? Maybe a little. But really, I was at the right place at the right time with the right company. 

And again, who knows what the path could've ended up? And even in how much was due to my own skill was only due to the luck that I had to learn those skills that people I had. So I consider myself very lucky, and I want to cultivate that attitude of gratitude, if I can.

Amidst Life Changes

Tyrone Shum:   
On the matter of church, Foong is without question not done serving in the mission field and fulfilling his calling.

John Foong:
To get to church, I mean, getting three kids or two kids out the door by the church services, it is like oh, my goodness, start at 7 a.m. and maybe it doesn't happen. 

I think for me, going back to my calling, I think part of it has been the evolution of me and [indiscernible]. 

Sometimes, church will be part of my life. Sometimes it isn't. That doesn't mean that I'm serving, in this case, God, or my view of God more or less, right? That's just a part of a season. And when I was younger, it was a big serving season. Now, like my family and my work actually come first. That's my mission field. 

I don't know where it goes one day. I still have a lot of aspirations to serve there. I like serving it both of kind of like helping play music and lead groups. I really love that. I'd rather do it like, 'Hey, how can I use my board-of-director-type skills to help make wise leadership position [or] strategy decisions?' I imagine that will be the case with me one day, I don't know when that is. 

They tell me what we have when you're a bit older along the kid journey than I am,  you know, Tyrone, they tell me at this point, they go like, 'Oh my goodness, kids are crazy'. It's like they want to have nothing to do with you. This [indiscernible] a chauffeur. And maybe they'll see you like once a week. 

Tyrone Shum:  

John Foong:
And then like, what are you going to do with your time because you spent the whole life, the last 10 years, looking after them? That point will come. Having just had a third kid, that point has been reset by some years. But that'll come. 

And for me, I'm trying to take my advice to just chill out and enjoy the journey. Because one day, it'll come and it'll be a certain way, and maybe just what I think and that's okay. So that's what my mission field looks like. Who knows? 

Tyrone Shum: 
Thank you to John Foong, our guest on this episode of Property Investory.