LEARNING does not just take place within the confines of a classroom; sometimes it happens over a chat and it can be just as rewarding, if not more so.
Certainly, this was the case during the Bizsmart Academy CEO Chatroom Session, when the 20 finalists of the Alliance Bank SME Innovation Challenge 2015 had the chance to pick the brains of successful business figures.
The said personalities were EcoWorld Development Group Bhd chairman Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin and EcoWorld president and chief executive officer Datuk Chang Khim Wah.
During the sharing session, Chang emphasised the importance of branding and how to strengthen this area.
He pointed out that strong branding was founded on three key elements – unmatched products and services, commitment to delivering on promises, and last but not least, a strong and loyal customer following.
“The key is in delivering on promises. Don’t deliver anything less that what you promised,” he stressed.
He said enterprises must be committed to keeping to their word and to walk the talk when it came to realising quality products or services.
“This is key to winning the confidence of customers, and it’s what, in turn, will help to foster good branding,” he added.
On top of imparting industry experience and insights, Chang also noted that there were a few things that new business owners needed to evaluate from the get-go.
“You need to clearly set out your vision and mission as well as your company value, from the outset.
“You must know your target market; understand their needs, expectations and aspirations, and pay attention to competitiors,” he said.
He added that it was vital to have a strong team to be able to do all these.
In a casual question-and-answer session, the finalists took the opportunity to ask questions of Liew and Chang, who gladly fielded their queries. Among other things, they talked about management styles and corporate social responsibility.
“One thing I really took away from this session was the synergy that Tan Sri (Liew) has: how he transfers his vision to his team and impress it upon all his employees,” said Freshcart Grocer co-founder Jonathan Oh.
“It’s not just about making money. He has created a whole working culture around his vision – this ‘we are all in it together, we are here to build something for tomorrow, and to leave a legacy for the future generation’.
“The first thing I would apply in my company would be to have a similar culture. It’s important to take care of the people working with me. Everybody should have a sense of belonging,” said Oh, who has nine people working with him.
Chopstick Diner founder Elaine Ho said Chang’s emphasis on engaging with the community and giving back to society was something that she could relate to.
“I would really like to apply this aspect to my business. As a food scientist by profession, I’m all about educating people on healthy eating,” she explained.
“I want to use the knowledge from my education and share it with more people, especially the young.
“When they are ingrained in the habit and know-how of healthier eating from a young age, they can bring this to the next level as they get older,” added Ho.
The chatroom session is part of a two-month structured business coaching and mentoring programme for finalists of the SME Innovation Challenge 2015.