EXPORTING products abroad is often seen as a daunting task for many small and medium enterprises (SME), but achieving the first ever sales will change that perception.
Timberdeck Sdn Bhd marketing and operation manager Jimmy Chong said entrepreneurs just need to step out of their comfort zone and go for it.
“I noticed that many Malaysians don’t really like to step out of their comfort zone and are afraid of failing. But when we achieve our first overseas sales, we will enjoy it and will want more,” he says when sharing his own experience in exporting his products abroad during the SOBA LAB at M Roof Hotel and Residences last Wednesday.
In order to export, he adds, it is necessary for entrepreneurs to do sufficient research into the respective countries’ business culture and market.
“We need to find out about what can be done and what can’t, the red tapes and all the necessary data. It is important that we adapt to their culture.
“It is also important to learn to speak their language. Simple and basic greetings will do and they love it,” he says.
Chong notes that having the “human touch” is equally important in maintaining business rapport with customers.
“There was a client from Saudi Arabia who suddenly stopped taking orders from us. I later found out that they had changed their general manager (and the new person) didn’t speak English,” he says.
“I Google-translated an email, sent it to him and reconnected my business with him,” says the quick-thinking Chong.
He also encourages entrepreneurs to utilise the services provided by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade).
“We can get market data of other countries from them. We can also call Matrade to help us set up meetings with potential clients or business partners.
“They will also take part in or hold international trade fairs and it’s best to join these to expose ourselves (to the international market),” he adds.
In an earlier panel discussion, titled “Engine of Growth”, Digi head of corporate and SME Allie Tan says most people want to adopt digitalisation and technology when expanding their businesses but they do not know how to go about it.
“They have concerns about the cost and time and would often adopt a look and see approach. My advice is not to over-complicate matters,” she says.
“From an SME’s perspective, I think they should prioritise and first find out which area (of the business) that needs it (upgrade in technology),” she adds.
RHB Bank Bhd SME banking head Yip How Nang says companies should avoid fuelling sales with aggressive expansion.
“Based on our experience and encounters, we learned that there will always be ups and downs with business sales. So it’s important to plan ahead and conserve cash to avoid cash flow issues,” he says, adding that it is also good to have friendly ties with bankers to be able to negotiate payment plans.
“It’s always good for the owners to know what’s going on with their company, especially on financial matters,” he adds.
Yip also advised companies planning to expand their business to look at some financial schemes offered by relevant governmental agencies.
“There are plenty to choose from. Just find one that suits you,” he says.
Meanwhile, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd chief operating officer P’ng Tean Hau says having a strong working culture would shape the direction of a company.
“As business owners, culture starts from the top. It’s similar to how we run our household,” says P’ng.
When every employee embodies a common culture and corporate identity, it will help drive the whole company forward together, he says.
The panel was moderated by Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers SMI sub-committee member Won Foo Yee.
Attendees also learned about how entrepreneurs could get loans for business expansion from Credit Guarantee Corporation Malaysia Bhd (CGC) bumiputra development and products senior vice president Mohamed Azman Mohamed Taufik. Azman says having a good payment track record will help entrepreneurs have a good chance of getting financing.
He says entrepreneurs need to show that they have the capabilities to pay off things like credit card bills consistently.
Azman also says those seeking financing could approach CGC for assistance and also advice.
“It is our role to help SMEs get financing. CGC is less stringent when compared to other financial institutions,” he says, adding that they are linked to about 16 relevant financing agencies.
“We can also match entrepreneurs with financial institutions that suit their needs,” he says.
Attendees also heard two inspiring talks by MyNews Holdings Bhd founder and chief executive officer Dang Tai Luk and RE2 International Corporation Sdn Bhd CEO Catherine Teh, both of whom shared the ups and downs of their entrepreneurial journeys.
SOBA LAB is organised by STAR MEDIA GROUP BHD in conjunction with The Star Outstanآding Business Awards (SOBA) 2019.
The next SOBA LAB will be held in Johor Baru (Aug 1) and Penang (Aug 8).
SOBA 2019 is organised by Star Media Group with Digi, PKT Logistics Group and RHB Bank as main sponsors, CGC as co-sponsor and Matrade as official trade promotion partner.
It is endorsed by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, supported by Bursa Malaysia and audited by BDO, with dimsum as the official media partner.
This year’s SOBA competition is open for submission from all locally incorporated enterprises that are not part of a multinational or listed group, and with foreign equity not exceeding 50%. Those interested in participating can download the submission pack at www.soba.com.my.
The deadline for entries is Oct 7, 2019.
For more information on SOBA 2019, call The Star Events Business Unit at 03-7967 1388 ext 1857 (Pei Wen) / 1529 (Kimy) or visit www.soba.com.my .