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[SPONSORED] PARTNERS IN POWER

Three couples who’ve said “I do” to spending both their personal and professional lives together share the moments that drive them.

PORSCHE & ROGER DUBUIS SPECIAL

WHO’S BOSS?
DR HUANG ZHIXIONG & DR KIM KOH Veterinary surgeons, The Visiting Vets Clinic

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On Zhixiong: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton with Micro-rotor in white gold. On Kim: Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Skeleton Flying Tourbillon in white gold with diamonds. Car: Porsche Cayenne S

There wasn’t really a specific moment when we knew we were meant to be,” Kim Koh muses. Huang Zhixiong concurs, but that’s where the agreement appears to end. The two veterinary surgeons met as freshmen at the University of Melbourne, where they were pursuing veterinary degrees.

On her first impression of Zhixiong, Kim says: “I thought, ‘What kind of weirdo introduces himself as Hero?’ It was a nickname he got in high school in Adelaide. We weren’t romantically involved until after seven years of friendship.”

Since then, however, the family-oriented couple has gone on to not only get married, but also set up their own veterinary practice.

SHARED JOURNEY
Working together has its fair share of perks and pitfalls. Each admires the other’s strengths: Zhixiong praises Kim’s ability to put clients at ease, while Kim cites Zhixiong’s quick-thinking, confident manner with patients as a plus.

Working together does mean that they often talk shop till way after work hours. Kim says: “We know exactly what happened to each other at work during the day, and are constantly discussing cases at the clinic.

“We have to make a conscious effort to not talk about work in the evening, and plan get-togethers with friends and family whenever possible.” – Dr Kim Koh

Another apparent downside? When there’s no clear distinction as to who’s boss between them. “We both think we’re right,” states Kim.

“We have an ongoing power struggle. There’s been a declaration on both sides to fight to the end,” Zhixiong jokes with a poker face.

Deadpan humour aside, he admits: “Working together gives me the confidence that someone really has my back. It also helps to have each other for support when cases don’t turn out well. We trust in and comfort each other, especially if there is a need to grieve.”

MANDATORY ME-TIME
When not at work, the couple enjoy spending time with their extended families. Family holidays and cooking together in the kitchen feature heavily in their time off.

That said, Zhixiong adds: “I think it’s important to take time out every day for me-time. Even if it’s just a matter of us doing our own thing in different parts of the house in the evenings – I like to spend some time gaming on my computer.” Kim, on the other hand, wakes up early a couple of times a week to indulge in her love for horse-riding.

She notes: “One of the sweetest things he has done for me is to chip in on the cost of my horse, as he understands how important showjumping is to me.” She makes it a point to get back in time to have breakfast with Zhixiong before they head to work.

She has to. After all, she had Zhixiong’s car traded in so that they no longer have separate rides to work. According to him: “I was invited to go look at cars with my mum-in-law one day, and the next thing I knew, my wife had traded in my car so she could buy an automatic model instead to share.”

Kim chortles: “He wasn’t very impressed.”

Looks like we already know who’s boss at home, even if not at work.

CHEMISTRY BY DESIGN
PIETER IDENBURG & CHERYL CHEN Managing director & design director, ICIA, an interior architecture practice

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On Pieter: Roger Dubuis Excalibur 45 Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon in titanium. On Cheryl: Roger Dubuis Excalibur 36 in pink gold with diamonds. Car: Porsche 718 Boxster S

What do you get when you throw two self-confessed “eccentric control freaks” together? The answer may surprise you – Pieter Idenburg and Cheryl Chen found love and a creative partnership that practically gives off fireworks.

The couple met when Cheryl worked as the designer of the interior renovation to Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre in 2011, which Pieter helmed as chief executive officer.

ROAD TO ROMANCE
“It wasn’t love at first sight,” Pieter clarifies. “But I had enormous respect for the way she worked and her uncompromising love for design.”

Cheryl describes Pieter as the most difficult and picky client. “We had a very professional client-designer relationship and that’s probably why it has worked out! No false fronts to impress me romantically. He constantly challenged me throughout that project. It was tough, but I found myself growing as a designer and even as a person.”

She candidly admits: “Considering the age gap, I initially thought that he wasn’t right for me! But as I got to know him better, I felt very acutely that I just had to be with Pieter.”

MENTOR VERSUS MUSE
Even after deciding that they belonged together, plans to set up their own business were put on hold until they returned from a three-year Abu Dhabi posting.

Pieter shares: “I know Cheryl prefers to have creative control, whereas I insist on giving my creative input and take the lead on most of our business-related issues. It made sense for us to come together and set up our own company.”

As the design director, Cheryl regards Pieter as equal parts mentor and muse. She says: “I always want to know what he thinks about my design. When we are working on a layout and he gives me his opinion, we get this little eureka moment.”

Pieter is only too happy to oblige. He says: “I enjoy how, when I make a little suggestion and she takes it, the work becomes the product of our little orchestra of two.”

BALANCING ACT
Even orchestras have the occasional discordant notes. Pieter thinks it has to do with Cheryl’s workaholic tendencies. He says: “I’m Dutch. In Holland, we have this obsession with being on time for all our appointments. But with Cheryl, the concept of time is elastic at best.”

In her defence, Cheryl cites her neverending to-do list. Pieter concedes: “I thought I was a workaholic – until I met her. She’s always on the computer working, or on the phone, or on-site with the contractor or suppliers and clients.

“And she does all that while being a dedicated wife and full-time mother.”

STOLEN MOMENTS
While dinners out together were very common in the past, it has taken a back seat since Pieter and Cheryl had a baby. Their eight-month-old daughter, Frankie, not only joins them on-site at times but keeps them more attuned to the needs of clients who have young children too. With Frankie, the couple have become more considerate and grounded as a result. But, even when they are done for the day, they often stay up late discussing design.

According to Cheryl, however, that’s just fine by them. She says: “I think it’s always going to be that way.”

PERFECT TIMING
JIMMIE LEE & ANNIE SUN Chairman & Group CEO, Dynaforce

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On Jimmie: Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Skeleton Flying Tourbillon in white gold. On Annie: Roger Dubuis Excalibur 36 in white gold with diamonds. Car: Porsche 911 Carrera

Some relationships thrive on partners taking time out from being together and doing their own solo activities. Not Jimmie Lee and Annie Sun. According to Jimmie, they don’t even need any breathing space.

A MATTER OF TIMING
Jimmie remembers meeting the charming Annie when she was working for a client he had tried to pitch his company’s products to.

It wasn’t love at first sight for Shanghai-born, Melbourne-educated Annie. She says: “I didn’t like living in Singapore at the time. I didn’t believe in long-distance romances either. In fact, my former boss once advised me to never date a Singaporean man!”

Despite his initial attraction, Jimmie bided his time. “I wanted to ask her out, but didn’t want to appear too presumptuous. Almost a year after our first meeting, I found out that she had resigned and was alone in Singapore. I called to enquire after her.”

As it turned out, his timing was fortuitous. Annie says, smiling: “Many men wanted to get to know me – perhaps they thought they could get to my boss that way. After I left, most of them disappeared. So when Jimmie called me, it was refreshing. With plenty of time on my hands, I agreed to meet him for a meal.”

DREAM TEAM
“We were a classic case of ‘opposites attract’,” Jimmie shares. “She’s more of a hands-on person, and more meticulous than I am. At work, I set the vision and direction, and she executes it. I only step in to help when she needs me.”

Which is not to say Annie is a follower. She says: “Jimmie makes it clear that since I help to make the money, I can spend it any way I want. Even if I make a wrong judgment call, he encourages me to take it as a lesson learnt.”

LEAP OF FAITH
However, things weren’t always so smooth. On the work front, Jimmie readily admits that their company, Dynaforce, faced dire straits about a decade ago. A decision to change the main brand that it was distributing resulted in the departure of most of his staff, who didn’t agree with the decision. “The company is 27 years old and has always been a leader in the wellness industry. At the time, only a handful of loyal staff remained,” he recalls. “Annie stepped up to the plate then, and told me that she would help me achieve my vision.”

She is candid about how trying it was at the time: “Nursing a company in crisis was stressful. We hardly had time for each other despite working together and I didn’t have direct experience to undertake such a pivotal role. It was really a test of our Christian faith to keep going.”

Jimmie says: “She had to learn everything from the ground up – the products, logistics, how to deal with the cash flow. However, we were profitable from the first year, and have grown from strength to strength since – both in our business and relationship.”

TIME TO TAKE A STEP BACK
Now that the business is back on track, the fitness enthusiasts spend as much time together as possible – daily devotions each morning, mealtimes and exercise after work. With all that face time, surely there are sources of conflict and disagreement. Their secret to avoiding unpleasantness?

“We follow the biblical advice on roles in marriage. I focus on loving my wife, not correcting her. I was a very strong-willed male before we married – an alpha male,” confesses Jimmie. “Annie is strong-willed too, but having worked with several tycoons previously, she is good at dealing with alpha males like me.”

Annie adds: “It’s not always easy, but I believe in honouring him when he makes a decision.”

Even so, Jimmie believes he’s learnt to choose one’s battles and doesn’t quibble over the things that ultimately don’t matter. “Being supportive is better than being overly corrective. Most importantly, one has to love more.”

SNEAK PEEK
Better together: Join us behind the scenes, as we find out how they navigate life as spouses and working partners.


Perfectly poised: Pieter and Cheryl were at perfect ease during the shoot.


It’s all in the details: See each couple share intimate moments during their interviews and photo shoots.


Strike a pose: Jimmie and Annie heating up the camera by the Porsche 911 Carrera.


Keeping watch: Timepieces from Roger Dubuis lend a touch of class.


Finishing touches: Kim and Zhixiong having their hair and makeup seen to by the team.


Tender loving care: Jimmie checking out the Roger Dubuis timepiece while waiting for Annie to get ready.