In the early 1990s, friends of mine in the events business sought me out, knowing I took part in treasure hunts and asked if I thought I could organise them. I relished changing sides from participant to course-setter. So, I took the challenge, and, to my pleasant surprise, the feedback from their clients was very positive.
Then came the big break. Thanks to my friend, Alan Pereira of Comedy Court fame, who was one of the directors there, a production company, planning a game show on a TV station with a treasure hunt element, called me in. They asked me to help conceptualize the game show, set tons of trivia clues and run a treasure hunt for viewers. Hence, Goldquest 1995 rolled out, and with that project, Time Out Solutions was established. It was well-received and only spurred me on to make a career of it and bring the sport to as many corporates as I could.
I started with simple flyers those days and many phone calls. And the jobs began to come in. At that time, one month was good enough for me. Recces took time, and since those days were well before digital photography and Excel programs, the turnaround for one job was longer. Shooting answers on slide photo cameras and presenting answers on carousels was tedious. Then, we started to use digital cameras, so we had to invest in a projector (with low lumens) that cost RM15K. But they made the production a lot easier.
Our first office was in the attic of my 1 ½ story house in USJ. In 1996, the moment we started to grow, we took a room in the MAPTB building off Jalan Syed Putra. Then in 1999, we moved to USJ 1. Today, we have our own premises in USJ13.
By 2010, my team grew from 1 to 3 to a dozen. Today, there are 9 of us. First to join me was Jagdev, then Ravind. Then turned up my most senior team member and super sleuth clue writer and trainer, Lim Soo Khian. What an asset he has been to this day! Lee Si Si is our full-time, part-timer you can still engage for piano lessons, but she wears many hats in the team, everything from accountant to production to chef. A hotelier, named Honey Khoo, and an aptly named young man, Hung Teng, joined us for a time, too. Next, we were blessed with Tan Wei Shean. She wanted a part-time job while passing through but could never leave. With multifaceted talents and capabilities, she has become one of the backbones of my team. Nina came along from Astro, and what energy she brought. Today, she is a successful entrepreneur. Catherine Ng was my next find; she is a hardcore hunter who came in and discovered her many talents and passions for not just hunts but as a trainer, emcee and a marketing genius, too. Then came Sam Chen, a well-rounded talent, be it on stage, in production or sales. A driver of people and an inspiration.
Then came TOS 2.0 – the Next Generation of our team. Our part-time marshals who joined us full time. Alan Fung was the accounting world’s loss but our gain, a pillar in my team and much loved by clients and colleagues – a leader by example, an ideas man, emcee and trainer, all in one. Then came Jason, who joined us and followed in Alan’s footsteps and revealed a depth of character and leadership of his own that till today holds our production team together. Then, there are our latest two. Nasha – what a wealth of talent, ideas, energy and dependability. And finally Cyrus, the quiet accomplisher of many tasks, big or small.
My first drive hunt was for Bank of Commerce from KL to Kuantan in 1993. I was then a freelancer, working for my friend in the events business. It was on that race that I found our iconic sounds-like clue signboard, “Tuck Oon Tong,” in Bentong. The rest is history, they say, but allow me to mention here some of our landmark events.