Focus

Monday, 24 April 2017

The entrepreneurial equation

LIFE is never as simple as balancing the books for The Origin Foods Sdn Bhd executive director Ben Wong Seng Tong, 48.

The accounting profession has always been associated with the ‘golden rice bowl’, or better known as a stable profession. But accountant-turned-entrepreneur Wong has no regrets of leaving the safe haven sector in pursuit of business.

If things don’t turn out well, Wong figured he could always fall back on the profession and begin life all over again.

However. his time as an entrepreneur has taught him something else.

“I realised that when I fall, I get up from where I am and move on. I did not go back to the start. Likewise, since becoming an entrepreneur, for every business venture that has failed, I just pick myself up and explore another business venture,” he says.

He emphasises that when one becomes an entrepreneur, there is always that determination to succeed and there is usually no going back to becoming an employee.

Although he likes accounting, and mathematics, Wong also realises that life was about doing things through people.

Numbers will remain as numbers if they can’t be translated into real actions or products which require buy-in from people.

Contrary to popular belief that accountants only work well with figures, Wong has an easygoing relationship with people. His clients always think that he is, perhaps, a food technologist or a marketing person.

“We have to champion the products and services that we are offering and I have to be at the forefront, doing the selling,” he says, noting that people skills were important.

Wong is an extrovert who loves networking activities. His circle of friends is not constraint to just accountants alone.

“I remember when I first started as an auditor, I took files back home to work. But I also realised I wanted to do more and being an entrepreneur enabled me to make a better life for others and for myself,” he says.

But learning to keep a balancing act has served him well over the years as an entrepreneur,

“An accountant is conservative in outlook. A lot of the focus is on cost cutting and being cautious in disbursing funds. But as an entrepreneur, you have to look at potential and take risks,” he says.

“As a prudent accountant, you can’t lose when you don’t invest. But in marketing and operations, one can win or lose, depending on the decisions you make and how it was carried out,” he adds.

Having been at both sides of the equation, Wong has learned to look at investing in operation and marketing activities as a necessity but with much caution.

“We have to look at the quantity of raw materials needed to start a new product, how fast we can move it to the market and how quickly we can recoup our investments,” Wong says.

Apart from that, Wong is pretty much a family man.

“I always spend time with my children. We travel overseas at least once a year together,” he says.

But his daily interaction with the children is an extension of how he conducts business.

“I always tell my children that in society, it is not so much your knowledge that will get you far but rather, your attitude as a person,” Wong says.

In business, Wong says they do not overpromise and it is important to be sincere and honest with clients.

Likewise, he expect his children to be honest with him as well.

“As parents we would be dissapointed not so much because they are wrong but rather because they did not let us know the truth.

“In business, earning profit without earning clients’ trust is a short term way of doing business. We are here for the long term,” he says.

That is what entrepreneurship is all about and it looks like this ex-accountant understands the entrepreneurship equation well.

Related story:

Origin-ating a venture from health foods

Tags / Keywords: origin foods , contract manufacturing

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