MOST people with entrepreneurial aspirations tend to forget that a big part of running a business is about managing people.
Acestar Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Natalie Sit was once like that.
When Sit founded her company in 2008, she thought she would be able to get by doing what she was good at.
“At the time, I thought business was about sales, and since I was good at sales, I thought I could handle it,” she said.
She soon realised that being a good employer and leader was just as important as being a good entrepreneur.
When Sit started her IT firm, she was only able to hire two workers. That meant she had to do most of the work on her own, from sales to deliveries and accounts, among other things. She became more of an operator rather than a business owner.
Sit and her small team worked very hard to grow the company and the stress took a toll on all of them; Sit ended up having to take long medical leave twice and her employees resigned.
“I wasn’t a good leader at that time. Everything depended on me. I thought giving my employees a salary to work for me was good enough, but I didn’t build my team and I had no confidence in them,” she admitted.
When she came back from her second medical leave to an empty company, Sit considered quitting the business. But the support of her husband and friend spurred her to continue her journey as an entrepreneur.
Only this time, she aimed to do things differently.
“I became clearer about our vision and mission. Earlier, the leader wasn’t leading the organisation so the team didn’t know where the company was heading,” she said.
Sit attended a business course in the United States, which inspired her to build her team with the right culture in her company.
She started spending more time with her employees and looked into opportunities to train her staff and help them develop their potential. She makes it a point to get to know her employees on an individual level and remains connected with her team.
By spending time with them, Sit was able to better assess their strengths to place them in relevant roles.
This also helps her find out what motivates them to do better.
“You need to put them in the right position to fully utilise their potential. You need to know their strengths and ask yourself whether you need this strength in the company or not. If yes, then develop them and send them for the right training,” she said.
Even company trips are opportunities to train her team.
Her employees take turns to plan the trips, including researching itineraries and logistics arrangements. They also take turns to be tour guides during the trips.
Sit said this gives them the exposure and experience to plan and organise events and also gives them confidence to carry plans out.
She also ensures that her team remains energetic and passionate about their work.
To start the week, the team at Acestar gathers for their Monday morning dance. It helps to get everyone at their peak energy level, said Sit.
The weekly dance apparently has worked out well for the team. In fact, it has worked so well that Sit often carries out a dance routine at Acestar’s events to get the participants pumped up.
“It’s not just about your business, but about your team,” she said.
When the team is taken care of, they will, in turn, take care of the clients, she said. This will ensure the business continues to do well.
Her new approach helped Acestar grow on better footing.
With a stronger team in place, Sit was able to explore other business-related activities.
But building a team is not a one-off effort, she added.
“Employees are not just about giving them a job and a salary. They are our biggest asset.
“We must provide a platform for people to gain confidence and grow. We need to enable our employees to be the next group of leaders,” she said.
Sit noted that Acestar’s practice is different from the IT industry norm.
For going the extra mile, Acestar won the Silver award for Best Employer in the Up to RM25mil revenue category at The Star Outstanding Business Awards 2016.
Sit also took home the Female Entrepreneur of the Year in the Up to RM25mil category.
“Being a business owner is not just about making money but about growing people. At the end of the day, people stay with you because they see a future here. Always invest in people, not just reward them,” she said.