Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Edge Interview Last week

1. What does your job entail and what do you like most about it?

Basically I will clarify goals, set directions, the pace of the organization and make sure that everybody runs at the same speed but faster than the competition. I also teach and write the (training) programmes. I like my job because I’ve managed to create a profitable business that allows me to promote my social cause at the same time.

2. What are the main programmes conducted by the company?

Our main programme is called MAD – Making a Difference. It is a change programme that companies can use to help their people move from where they are right now to where the corporate objectives are. Let’s say a company had just gone through a merger of two different cultures and they want to build a new culture; we help them build the culture. The MAD programme is a very good tools to help companies achieve their soft goals.

3. Who are your main clients?

Our clients are multinational companies and local companies, big and small. We also deal with small boutique companies. My partner and I decided years ago to have a diverse list of clients. You see, before 1998, I decided to focus on one or two big clients. But when the (1998 Asian financial) crisis came, it hit me because when I lose one client, I lose everything. In 1999, when I relooked at my business, I decided to have as many clients, in that way our business is more stable.

4. What is your management style?

We are very casual and relaxed in the way we run things but we’ve serious in the business. In other words, the substance is very serious; the form is a lot of fun. The way I manage is I like to see my people happy and performing. So if they’re happy but not performing, I won’t accept it. if there’re performing but not happy, then I’m not happy. I want to make sure they’re both happy and performing. I create an environment whereby people will be having a little bit of fun but are also doing their job.

5. How do you achieve the balance between employee who are happy and
performing at the same time?

Get people to learn to be happy when they perform. Here we are very laissez faire, we call each other by name, they can laugh at the bosses, and they can poke fun at us, it’s no problem. Work is work, fun is fun.

6. How do you handle conflicts that arise in the workplace?

We deal with it quite directly. With key people in my company, I always have one-on-one sessions with them. In other words, I like to engage my people and I also ask them to do SWOT (Strength-Weakness-Opportunity-Threat) analysis on themselves, the company and myself. In other words, everybody is given a chance to say what is good and bad for the company. Normally this is the time of the year that I will ask everybody to send me a SWOT analysis of the company. After I listen to everyone, I will go back and think about it and form next year’s goal and direction.

7. What has been your worst management decision and in hindsight, how
would you have done it differently?

I find it hard to pinpoint because I’m a very slow and steady person. I don’t take high risk, I don’t take low risk; I’m a very medium-risk taker. Because of that, no really bad thing has happened. Anything that happened in the past that’s not good may turn our for the better. Because of that you learn, you make things even better.

8. What’s the best management advice you’ve ever received and from

They are a few, but the best advice I have, whether in running a business or life, is the Quranic statement that says, ‘Don’t hold everything until you choke, don’t let it go until you lose everything.’ There’s always a balance you have to find.

9. You have taking out unity-themed advertisements in newspapers since
2000. What sparked the idea for the ads?

Well, I’ve wanted to do it since I was young. I was just waiting to have money! When I have really a lot of money, I’ll go on TV, billboards. Now we have Facebook. We’ve going to find as many avenues as possible to spread the message of unity.

10. How much have you spent in placing the ads so far?

Around RM 1.5 million.

11. How has the ad spend affected your bottom line?

Well, the company has survived since 1994, and it has grown since 2001. Since I advertised, the company grew about 10 times. But the advertisements are a small part. You see, a lot of people don’t understand that advertising only works when your product is good. In fact, the best way to kill a lousy product is to advertise it.

12. How has unity added value to your company?

Well, bcause out approach is ‘many colours, one race’, we have clients who represent the whole of Malaysia. That’s the reason out client are so varied. We do not confine ourselves to one particular race or to one particular group of people. Our business also reflect that. We add value to the company because unity at the end of the day is the goal of humanity and obviously, my company is moving towards it and people will follow.

13. What do you think of the 1Malaysia concept?

I think it’s a very nice relaunch of the Rukun Negara. The brand ‘1Malaysia’ is so easy to remember and very well done so that it become a catchphrase. What we need to do it to take away 1Malaysia from the perception that it belongs to (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib or Barisan Nasional. 1Malaysia has to become a hak rakyat. I support 1Malaysia and I think we need to take it away from the politicians, bring it down to the people and make it Malaysian-owned.

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