By MATT NAYLOR
As hundreds of SME leaders packed Plenary Hall in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, there was a keen sense of anticipation in the air.
The five-part AmBank BizCONFERENCE series was drawing to a close after wildly successful outings in Penang, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.
The event packed in a phenomenal line-up of guest speakers, from differing backgrounds, but all with one thing in common – they know what it takes to grow a business.
From Vishen Lakhiani starting Mindvalley in a small New York apartment to Hannah Tan making the transition from internationally-acclaimed model and actress to resourceful entrepreneur; from Didi & Friends director Sinan Ismail recognising a gap in the market to Ganesh Kumar Bangah’s experiences at one of the world’s first social media platforms, the conference had advice from the experts in abundance.
Similarly, the conference’s attendees were from a wide range of industries, but each looking to learn some universal truths about what it takes to grow a business. Masterclasses, talk-show style interview segments, panels and presentations all made the half-day event a can’t-miss occasion.
The series of free conferences was a major statement of intent from AmBank and their commitment to growing the small-to-medium enterprise (SME) segment in Malaysia.
By having such knowledge sharing sessions, eager entrepreneurs are given the chance to learn the dos and don’ts from those that have succeeded and failed before them.
Potential For Scaling
The AmBank BizCONFERENCE Kuala Lumpur marks the final stop for the series, but the next exciting chapter in AmBank’s journey to developing SMEs in Malaysia is drawing ever closer.
Aiming to identify and assist the companies that want to scale their businesses to the next level, the AmBank BizRACE is right upon us.
SME leaders across Malaysia have been submitting their applications to be considered, by an esteemed panel of judges, to be the organisation with the highest potential for growth in the country.
Due to the overwhelming response from business owners, the deadline for applications has been extended to 29 November with thousands expected to be in the running.
A Rewarding Series coming to a close
Past conferences in the AmBank BizCONFERENCE series have featured guest speakers from across the country giving their insights on everything an SME owner needs to know in order to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace.
As the last, but certainly not the least of the events, the KL conference offered all of this and so much more.
Here’s our comprehensive rundown of what each of the 10 speakers at the conference had to say as they offered their pearls of wisdom, their cautionary tales and their motivational talks to the assembled throng.
“Most people today are starting a company based on a mission, based on the change that they want to see in the world. The best way of putting that into words is to develop a manifesto. You do that by picking, say, four to seven things that represent your core values as a business owner. When you start with your manifesto, you start with your ‘why’ and your core values. That is when you start attracting the right people that believe in your vision.
The second question then becomes – what are people looking for in a job? I’ve interviewed two or three thousand people and I’ve noticed that most people are looking only for four things.
In order of importance: Growth – with millennials, odds are they don’t care about money. It’s the opportunity to grow; Happiness – they want a job where they wake up every day and they’re excited to go to work; Meaning – they want to feel that they are somehow contributing to society; Abundance – essentially money. This is only the fourth most important thing to today’s candidates.”
CEO of Mindvalley
“100% of successful projects have a good technical solution to them; 98% of unsuccessful projects have a good technical solution to them. What this tells us is that just having a good plan is not necessarily a guarantee of success.
What drives you to succeed is the ability to enable your people to change. Above all, a leader must be clear. In many companies, we don’t have clarity and there are three types of clarity that all good leaders must have.
Firstly, we must have clarity about where we want to go. What is our end goal and how do we get to that destination?
The second is having clarity of knowing where we are today.
Often we look at where we think we are and then plan the route to the end. In actual fact, we aren’t nearly as far along the development journey as we think and are getting way ahead of ourselves.
The final clarity is that of the plan. We usually focus so much on the plan that we start to think that nothing else matters. Instead, you must marry together all of these clarities if you want people to buy into your vision.“
CEO and Co-founder of Leaderonomics
“Always be thinking about the bigger picture and the possibilities for expansion. Never feel married to a certain concept or product that you miss out on an opportunity to take on something new.
You can’t have a million-dollar dream actualised with a minimum-wage work effort. Don’t make it your goal to be successful, make it your life’s work to be disciplined and the success will follow.”
COO of Qiibou Group of Companies
“The one thing that all SMEs should be doing is to surround themselves with good professionals. You need good lawyers, good accountants, just good people at every level of the business as you grow. To me, this is the biggest challenge that Malaysian companies face is putting their faith in their people.
Entrepreneurs love to focus on big ideas and believing that anything can be done; professionals are there to bring them back to reality so leaders tend to ignore them. It’s a common pitfall but such an easy one to avoid.
The biggest skills that you, as a leader, will need however is strategy and perseverance.
People often have the right strategy but they don’t persevere; or they commit the other crime and persevere with completely the wrong strategy. Only with experience will you be able to make that call and to know path you should be taking.”
Ganesh Kumar Bangah
Co-founder of MOL
“There have been times in history when companies have failed to keep up because they have been too late to adopt new technologies. Know your people’s strengths and play to them. If you are looking to keep your finger on the pulse of what is out there, of course it helps to have young talents that have grown up in the digital era and for whom working with technology is second nature.
Having more experienced minds in the company is equally important, the people that have been there and done that in business who can offer an
alternate perspective. It all comes down to balance.”
Lam Mun Choong
CEO of SelfDrvn Enterprise and Nettium
“These days, there is so much free data and so many free services available at your disposal that a company can have no excuses about being under-prepared and taken by surprise.
When you look at the options that social media and digital tools provide, it is easier than ever to do your market research and tap into what should be shaping the future of your business.
As an SME, it is no longer acceptable to say that bigger companies have more resources at their disposal or more money to conduct their research.
It is your duty to use the tools that are available to you.”
Vimaleswari K Ramasamy
MD of IHS Markit Malaysia
“Find creative ways to integrate all the departments of your company. When you reach a certain level, it can be difficult for the left hand to know what the right hand is doing.
If you build the right company culture, that promotes integration and harmony, then it stops the silo mentality and gets everybody on the same page for the ongoing development of the company.”
CEO of Digital Durian Animation Studios
“The biggest lesson I have learnt from my years of experience and in growing companies is the value of diversity. Growth cannot happen in a homogenous workforce. The hardest thing a leader can do is to be deliberate in their actions.
Building a diverse workforce is more than just a policy or a procedure or a statistic. It is a behavioural change and a fundamental belief that can only come about when you fully understand the world around us.
I’m one of the very few people in the world that genuinely loves change, therefore the way that I would try to analyse and fix a problem was so far removed from those around me, who were more reluctant to change.
Thinking outside the box is great, having your own opinion is great, but until you are able to tap into the way that each different segment of the market thinks, you will never fully understand and grow your business.”
CEO of REA Group for Malaysia and Singapore
“Never be afraid to walk away from a deal, no matter how good it may seem. Knowing when to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is what separates the best leaders from the rest. Take time to fully understand whatever it is you are getting yourself and your company into.
So many problems can come from ambiguities and doubt or when people are misaligned. Make sure that every stakeholder in every decision knows exactly what is going on so that you can all move in the same direction together.”
Tan Wee Tuck
CEO of Rowsley Ltd
“Companies too often reach a stage where they are contented or they are complacent and stop growing. The ones that will make the real difference, however, are the ones that aim high and are ready to break out internationally and continue their development journey.
That is where we come in. We can offer financial incentives as a short-term solution, but it is in giving companies the tools they need in order to to grow and develop themselves that is the biggest contribution a bank can make.“
MD of Business Banking, AmBank
The BizCONFERENCE series may be over but a string of further exciting events are just beginning. The AmBank BizRACE promises over RM2 million worth of prizes in the search for Malaysia’s Best SME. Free to register and open to all CEOs and business leaders in Malaysia, the competition promises incredible prizes and development programmes to give companies the tools they need to grow their business to the next level.
To get in touch, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt is a media strategist leader with Leaderonomics. He believes that, in this digital age, it is more important than ever for companies to develop an effective employer branding platform. He is an expat who has lived in Malaysia for many years now, and loves spicy food.