Conversation with a CEO : Apeiro Performance and Sheroxi Managing Director, Ms Kelly Xu
Do you know the three similarities that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have in common? The first two would be obvious enough: these two are currently the top two richest men on the planet and they are both CEOs of high-profile companies. The third might not be quite so conspicuous: both of them run more than one company. Bezos shuttles between Amazon in Seattle and Blue Origin in Kent, Washington, while Musk transports himself between Tesla in Fremont, California, and SpaceX in Hawthorne, California.
Bezos and Musk are not the first multi-tasking CEOs of huge companies. There was another person who did it earlier and was just as prominent. He is none other than Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple and much later purchased and headed what became Pixar. However, Jobs took charge of both companies for only one year. His description of the time when he had split responsibilities? “Rough, really rough, the worst time in my life,” was Jobs’ recollection.
Most of us are stressed out with just one day job, so having to wear two corporate hats at once may be a task many of us will labour to accomplish. That is the exact feat that Ms Kelly Xu, Managing Director of Apeiro Performance, a local gym and fitness centre, and Sheroxi, a cosmopolitan cosmetics brand which has just landed in Singapore from Shanghai, manages day in day out. Running constantly between Income@Prinsep and Sheroxi’s flagship store at Holland Village, we managed to catch up with Ms Xu and got her to speak about health, diet and how to maintain peak performance in this issue’s Prime Interview Series.
Good morning, Kelly. We are grateful to have caught up with you. First off, congratulations on the opening of Sheroxi in Singapore. We are sure it was a whirlwind experience having to set up a brand new presence in Singapore, while running an existing business. We hope the hectic work schedule has not affected your health and well-being. To start, do tell us what these (health and wellness) mean to you personally.
MS KELLY XU: A very good morning to you too! Yes, it has been a very busy period for me and my staff, but we are doing great. Thank you for asking!
Let me start by stating that I believe we all realize the importance of health as soon as we start working. I think the carefree lives we lead when we are younger as students are vastly different from the responsibilities and stresses we face as working adults. And that is when we realise the value of health. We certainly cannot fulfil our working and personal responsibilities if we are not well.
Hence, for me, health is about preventing illnesses. Health preservation should be a way of life. It is an integrated discipline. It involves good life habits, psychological adjustments, positive mental health, fitness and exercise, and work-life balance. My suggestion is that we have to do our due diligence and ensure we go for regular check-ups as well as do other things that help us deliver peak performance.
Do you think you have done whatever is necessary to keep yourself in good health?
KX: I believe I have maintained a healthy lifestyle and done the necessary. I have a regular physical examination every year. I am also constantly learning, and absorbing new knowledge about ways to prevent common diseases to keep myself and my family healthy.
One of the many things which we can do to keep ourselves healthy is watching the food we eat and how we eat. Are you conscious about your diet?
KX:I do pay close attention to what I eat as well as what my family eats. I believe it is very important to be balanced in our diet. For me and my family, I always try to make sure we include both meats and vegetables in our meals. I think it is important to eat three meals regularly. Eating three times per day can keep us full and reduce hunger. Eating fewer than three times a day may put one at risk of overeating and choosing less healthy foods during mealtime. Also, the food you eat can help with other things, like hunger management and weight loss.
So what do you normally eat for your meals?
KX: I will normally have milk, eggs or bread for breakfast. The priority for breakfasts should be about nutritional value, and not quantity. For lunch, I will have a mixture of meats and vegetables. This is basically a meal with high protein and low carbohydrates to keep my energies and focus up. Finally, in the evening, I will choose to eat a light meal, or take in some low-sugar fruit instead. This diet is helpful in maintaining my drive throughout the day and keeping me in good shape.
Are there any difficulties in conciliating your dietary intake and your family meals?
KX: Actually no. The two can be complementary and influence each other. Like I mentioned, we usually include meats and vegetables in our family meals. This is what I have for my working lunches as well. My husband and my daughter do like a combination of Chinese and Western style meals. So, we tend to switch between the two styles, but always making sure that the diet is balanced.
Beyond the three meals you consume, do you take in any tonics or supplements?
KX: Outside of my three meals, I consume bird’s nest as a tonic. This is something I take in regularly. I think bird’s nest is a nourishing tonic for women. It helps to keep me in good health certainly. The glycoproteins and essential trace minerals contained in bird’s nest can help to boost immunity. This may be especially helpful for the busy career woman. My habit is to take it with milk in the morning or evening. This adds more nutrients to the tonic and also gives it a rich taste.
Let’s go beyond diet and talk about physical activities/exercise. What is your philosophy and experience on this, including any activities you do with your family or spouse?
KX: My thoughts are that no matter what kind of physical activity or exercise you engage in, as long as you persevere and keep at it, it will benefit your health after a while. This is the key to gaining benefits from exercise.
For myself, I have to confess that as I am often preoccupied with work, I am not very consistent in my exercise habits and choices. Thus, I rely heavily on my personal trainer to help and guide me to keep fit. This improves my exercise efficiency and avoid wasting time. I am lucky that we have great trainers at Apeiro who are very professional in their guidance. I work out three times a week, and my husband has also developed a perennial fitness habit. He works out with a personal trainer five times a week and his body has improved a lot.
Our discipline in maintaining our fitness has made a great impact on our health. It has given us a lot of passion and positive energy. Outside of health, the need to fit in time for fitness sessions has also made us much better time managers. A devotion to fitness is certainly a good habit to form!
Speaking about time management, how do you manage your rest time? And how do you cope with stress?
KX: It is important to have a consistent amount of sleep every day. We need to have adequate rest to have energy for the work we do the next day. So I always try to sleep about seven to eight hours a day. For me, if I do not have enough sleep, I will have low energies for the rest of the day. That is not good for work!
Occasionally, I do feel a lot of pressure in my life. We all have our own ways of mitigating stress. My way of relieving stress is by regular exercise. It is an extra incentive that this is also a very healthy way of relieving stress.
We now move to the final part of our interview. First off, we know about the busy schedules you have. So you, maybe more so than most others, would know about the challenges of keeping fit and staying healthy in spite of a busy work life. What do you think are the challenges for busy professionals in keeping healthy, and what advice do you have for them?
KX: In my opinion, there are three key challenges: time allocation, expectations about the improvements brought about by exercise, and perseverance. It is important to have a good and correct understanding of yourself, and your needs or wants. The amount of improvement you see from your commitment to exercise is a reflection of the changes you see in your physical and mental state.
I do not actually have specific advice on what to do. It is all up to the individual. If you really want to exercise, you will do it indoors or outdoors, rain or shine. You will make time for it. If you do not want to exercise, no amount of advice will give you the drive. And no time is a good time to start.
Like I said, it is a physical and mental state. Once you see the positive changes exercise has on you and you want to commit to it, your physical and mental state has and will change.
Do you see people around you having these “bad” physical and/or mental states?
KX: Of course, there are! I notice the good and bad among family and friends. For those with “bad” mental states, I will bring up the topic in conversation with them, try to encourage them towards good habits and support them to change.
Any final thoughts to impart for Prime readers?
KX: Pay more attention and focus on yourself! First, you need to take good care of yourself before you can go on to love and take care of your family, and do the things you want to do.