Thai Lee is a billionaire.
Thai Lee owns one of the largest female-owned businesses in America and is the largest Minority and Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) in the U.S. Her company SHI International Corporation, which started in 1989 now has $6 billion in sales and 3,000 employees worldwide. SHI has 17,500 customers including the likes of Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, and AT&T and has seen positive sales growth every year since it was founded. Forbes Magazine conservatively estimates her net worth to be $3 billion dollars.
With so much success why have we not heard of Thai Lee? Why does she not have her own executive or personal assistant? Why does she still book her OWN flights? And finally, WHY is she still parking in the middle of her parking lot instead of having her own reserved parking?
Thai Lee has her own leadership style.
Thai Lee believes much of her success is due to her wonderful employees. She does not seek fame and has continued to keep her company private. When Forbes asked about how much the company is worth, Thai answered "... a dollar amount could never accurately convey the respect and admiration I have for the employees of SHI.”
Thai Lee was born in Bangkok, Thailand and grew up with a father who was a prominent Korean economist. She is the second of one son and three daughters and spent most of her childhood in Korea. Growing up in such a diverse cultural family, she learned how to work from the ground up, how to be modest, and how to give back and treat others with respect. Her unique leadership style is rooted in humility, empathy, and fairness. Lee is obsessed with keeping her customers and employees happy."It's culture at this point," she says. "We have no executive parking... We don't have a special executive compensation plan. We try to make sure that everybody feels valued."
Thai Lee is a planner.
When Thai Lee was young, her sister always warned her “If you’re in Korea, you have to think about what would happen if North Korea invades.” Her sister Celeste said that Thai was the most focused person she has ever met and was always planning for the future. Thai grew up knowing that she had to be able to provide and take care of herself because of living in fear of invasion from neighboring countries. This fear lit a fire in her to plan a life of success, rooted in hard work. In her adult life, she worked for 2 years at Procter & Gamble and then two years at American Express. She knew she wanted to learn all about business and got the best experience in her young adult life.
Thai Lee is fearless.
Thai Lee moved to the states in her late teens where she attended high school in Amherst, Mass and then later at Amherst College. She double majored B.A. in biology and economics because she said these subjects could avoid English as much as possible. As an immigrant, she struggled with her accent and speaking English, but she did not let this stop her from pursuing her dreams of getting a degree. She overcame her fear of discrimination and racial prejudice because of her bigger vision to become great.
Thai Lee is a visionary.
In 1989 she married Leo Koguan, a Columbia-educated lawyer and this same year she realized a magnificent opportunity. She found a failing software company in New Jersey called Software House and it was only down to a few customers but some of them were huge (like AT&T). Thai Lee purchased the business for less than $1 million with savings and some small loans. She later named the company to reveal her deep roots: Software House International.
Thai Lee is a self-starter.
When Thai Lee took over Software House International, the business had very little to show for itself. The business had little inventory, little money, and barely any market presence. However, what the business did have was a woman with a vision and who was ready to work from the ground up.
Thai Lee is modest.
Thai Lee is one of the most humble business owners. From the small things in her life, she shows her modesty. Owning a billion dollar company, she does not have an executive assistant and she does all of the small tasks like booking her own flights. She has a vast parking lot for her office yet she parks in the middle of the lot when she could easily have created reserved parking for herself. It is the little things that she does that show her character. Her background of being raised in Korea taught her to be modest and act with humility. She never let fame or fortune distract her from her roots and she never lost sight of who she was or where she came from.
Thai Lee embodies greatness.
Thai Lee embodies greatness because she lead by example and inspires others to reach their fullest potential. She empowers her employees by treating each one of them with kindness and respect. Even after achieving all the successes she has had, Lee still gets up and works almost 7 days a week just to motivate those who work with her. Her ethnic roots and core values have not wavered throughout the years, from times of uncertainty and stress to times of abundance. During her life, especially in college, there may have been times where people mocked Lee due to her ethnic background. However, little did they know, this was her source of motivation and a true secret weapon. Lee works in silence and never forgets where she comes from. Here at LeCerre, we celebrate each other’s unique ethnicity and cultural background. Our ethnic differences are what make us special and we believe it is worth celebrating.