AS this year draws to a close, I am looking at setting new personal targets and milestones for the following year. With my unpredictable medical condition, it will be foolish of me to set long-term targets.
Top of my short-term list will be to attend my second son’s graduation come July 2016. Mid-term plan would be to celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary in 2017. My long-term plan is to attend my daughter’s graduation in 2018. Three years does seem like an eternity to me at this moment but I am hopeful.
So imagine my surprise when I received an invitation from my neighbours to attend their parent’s 60th wedding anniversary in two weeks time. Mr and Mrs Tan Kim San is blessed with 8 children and countless grandchildren. He is definitely a model husband as his wife stayed by his side for 60 years! Match made in heaven if I may say so.
I doubt my wife will tolerate me for another 30 years as I seem to get grumpier by the year. According to her, my hearing and focus have deteriorated every time she speaks to me. And when did this streak of stubbornness first appear? I am definitely not the man she married some 28 years ago.
Well, 30 years is way too long for me to worry about so I will just let heaven decide.
Looking back 30 years ago when I started my first trading company, I had no staff, no wife and no savings. My first staff was employed a year later and it was my sister-in-law (officially a year later) who joined me in a house office that I had just set up. Strangely enough, almost 30 years later, her daughter (my niece) has joined me in my new house office.
My longest serving staff is Hamzah who joined my factory as a general worker back in 1987 and is still being employed in our cosmetics business. He is resilience personified and our most trusted go to handyman in maintenance. He helps out with transportation, warehousing and setting up of promotional displays as well. My one leg-kick all kinda guy.
Not easy being a boss
Being a boss is never easy. I remembered the time when we took over Revlon Malaysia in 2000 and we had to absorb 94 Revlon personnel in Malaysia and Singapore. After being used to an American MNC environment, the Revlon team was stunned that a local Chinaman had taken over the business.
It took me a full 3 years to earn their respect and trust. Half the staff are still with us after 15 years and our beauty advisor in Singapore just received her 35 years of long service award carried over from her first day of selling Revlon cosmetics.
Bin Shu, our senior finance manager is the most dedicated and hard-working staff that I have ever had, first to arrive and last to leave and often working through lunch as well.
When we took over, Revlon brand was in a bad shape and our brand manager then – Chin Lay toiled for 10 years to rebuild and restore brand leadership in the premium mass market segment. It was just pure dedication and much hard work. No magic formulas.
I cringed every time I am announced as the founder of Silkygirl cosmetics. Nothing could be further from the truth. My co-founder of Silkygirl is Theng Theng and her cohorts of brand, advertising and graphic studio team. They are the real founders who had muddled through from concepts to designs to products. Theng Theng, our brand director is still at it after 10 years fighting for market share against the likes of Maybelline and Avon.
Every successful trading company has a well-organised hard-working sales team and we are no different. Ang, our general trade head personally attended all the jom heboh events held in the Malay heartland market for a good 6 years, sampling and introducing our products to our target markets. Hard selling and pushing all the time, Silkygirl is the No. 1 brand in the rural and semi urban markets throughout Malaysia and Brunei.
Not forgetting Georgie and her team of modern trade sales and beauty advisors fighting head on with the number one cosmetics company in the world.
If you are on your own, a good business model can only be successful if you are able to build a team to make it work. A team that works harder than your competitors. A team that shares your vision, confident with their abilities and assumes ownership of their task ahead.
No frills airline
Just knowing your team by name is not sufficient. Share their joys and sorrows as they share your victories and defeats. Share your rewards and be generous with your appreciation when a good job has been done. Work hard to earn their respect and trust and you will be rewarded with many years of loyalty and dedicated efforts.
If you ask Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin on how they have built such a massive vibrant organisation in such a short space of time, they will attribute 100% of their success to their team. They are brilliant entrepreneurs but more importantly, they are extraordinary leaders of their organisation.
A no frills airline cuts cost to the bones and supply service only on demand. Yet, Tony has been able to cajole and motivate his AirAsia Allstar team to perform beyond their natural abilities and provide comparable customer experience of a full service airline.
The exodus of 500 staff from his former company to join Liew at his new Ecoworld Development setup is unprecedented in terms of scale and audacity. Within two years, Ecoworld has recorded the largest sales among the property developers in the country.
But you do not have to be Tony or Liew. Being like them are unattainable milestones for the likes of you and I. However, you can be a humble boss. Have a good heart and build a genuine relationship of respect with your team. And you will do just fine.
Entrepreneurs are generally busy fronting the business and leading the charge. All the bosses will tell you that their personal assistant looks after their back office and organises their personal life. Mine was no different and I have Sarah to thank for. Ever since her retirement, I have been at sixes and seven, disorganised and untidy. Crucial advice for booming entrepreneurs – get a good PA!
Everytime I look at a Silkygirl advertisement, I would remember our late Yasmin Ahmad. Only good memories of her brilliant creative mind remain with me. Knowing how much she loves her parents, I checked with Orked and found out that their parents will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in two years’ time.
Heaven forbid, I will join their celebration. After all, it fits my mid-term plans perfectly.
To access earlier articles of On Your Own, log on to www.thiamhock.com. Honest comments welcomed and approved.