Cutting the levels of hierarchy


KUIH lapis is something Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh would not touch although how tempting. And he says he gets allergy when he hears the word “supervisor.” 

To him, an organisation can do away with supervisors and cut the levels of hierarchy (akin to kuih lapis) so that an organisation is leaner. 

“If you have a supervisor, then you are planning your organisation to fail. People must be knowledge workers and be accountable for their actions,” Nadzmi said. 

In his view, the methodology of managing a company is the same; the only difference is the industry in which it operates. A CEO makes the biggest difference, but the ability to manage cost and marketing are crucial aspects for success. 

One of the first things he did when he took control of Mara Holding Sdn Bhd in 1996 was remove the many layers of hierarchy, reducing the staff strength from 160 to 38 at the headquarters. 

The biggest challenge then was changing the work culture, while streamlining the operations was something manageable. Now it is a profitable venture and has five core activities. 

With no experience in the bus trade, his challenge was to reduce cost and manage the supply of spare parts to reduce abuses and mismanagement; and opted for float engines to reduce downtime when there was a breakdown. 

The concept of using float engines turned out to be a very good proposition for it did not only ensure mechanics productivity levels rise and that they had something to do all the time; there was also greater availability of buses which resulted in higher productivity levels. 

The ticketing system was computerised, marketing enhanced and work culture changed to focus on efficiencies and higher productivity. 

The economic crisis may have been hard for some, but it turned to be a blessing in disguise for Transnasional. Its biggest competitor sank into liquidation and Transnasional got its ridership back. Today, Transnasional is the biggest bus operator plying 234 routes and carrying 60 million passengers a year. 

After leaving Proton to become an entrepreneur in 1996, Nadzmi opted for a two-prong strategy. 

One was to set up a new company from scratch and that was Trisilco-Folec, which is now a regional player. His second strategy was to buy an existing concern and bought Mara Holding the same year. It is now called Nadicorp. 

His businesses has since flourished and grown many fold. He said: “It is a combination of luck and being in the right place at the right time. Most importantly is having the skills to build and manage a business.” 

Knowledge is key, he said. Having access to knowledge can be via reading, experience, and interacting with/and observing others in the business arena. 

One of the first things he did when he took on his Proton job several years ago was to meet several chairmen and CEOs of global car companies, and it was through this interaction that he picked up some of the tricks of the trade. 

He said: “On-the-job experience gives you a feel of how things works in the business world and that gives you confidence. Interaction with foreign businessmen gives the global perspective that is crucial for knowing global trends and market direction. 

“But when you want to go into a business, you must ensure there is a huge potential and you must have big dreams. Also, be aware whether the business is in the sunset or sunrise industry.” 

Dream or no dream, this man is surely making waves in his own way. But he still is very much a man who enjoys small things like cooking, reading and swimming. He reads mostly management books but cooks all kinds of dishes from Korean and Japanese to nasi ulam, nasi dagang and nasi lemak. 

He likes “mechanical stuff” and is fond of flying, big bike riding, and engaging in remote control helicopter and airplane games. 

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