Artikel : Tips To Be a Successful Business Man from Daim
MANAGING BUSINESS, MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
TUN DAIM ZAINUDDIN
I was appointed two years ago as lecturer but I regret that until today I have not delivered a single lecture. Just as in the case of students who don't attend a single lecture, this University has asked me to repeat my term for another two years.
I have not chosen any special topic for my lecture but as this was an invitation from the business school, I thought it appropriate that we talk about running and managing a business. As I am no expert, I can only base it on my own personal experience.
I retired in 1977 after making my money. I thought I deserved a rest so I took time off, went back to university to study, to recharge my batteries, but before long, the then Deputy PM asked me to come back to help at UDA. I came back and started Peremba. I also went back to business but this time,I found a new area to make money - the stock market
- but don't let anyone tell you that that is the easiest path to making money. It was as worrisome as when I was in Maluri. In 1984, I joined the government and in compliance with government directives, I had to sell all my shares including shares in a bank. As 1984-1985 were the years of recession, I had to sell at very low prices. I could have realized more from my assets if our economy was not in recession.
I left in 1991, after seven years as Finance Minister. I went back into business, back to the same playing field that I was very familiar with. Whilst I am now actively back in business, I also give free advice to those who sought my advice.
While I have been successful, Alhamdulillah, I cannot guarantee you will succeed based on my advice. But those who have worked with me in Peremba - Tan Sri Azmi, Razali, Dato Halim, Hassan, Dato Samsudin Hassan have all become millionaires in their own right. No company has produced so many successful people that Peremba was dubbed "the University of Peremba". I don't know if they followed my guidelines but I know they all worked very hard when they were with me. There are other Bumis and Non-Bumis who sought advice and help from me and are now very successful. I shall not mention their names as I do not want to take credit for their success. I am happy for them.
Some of you I am sure would like to know if you follow faithfully what I have to say, would that be a guarantee for success? In life, the only guarantee is death. Let's face it. If all of you go out from here and straight away go into business, not all will succeed. My advice is merely a guideline and unless you try, you will never know the ultimate result.
For tonight's lecture, I suggest I spend half the time talking and the balance for a question and answer session. This way, we will be able to exchange views. While I will talk to you about business in general, I will focus specifically on Malay Business.
Notwithstanding common misconceptions, Malays have been involved in business for centuries. Malays were traders trading with Sumatra, Java, China and India. However, the British policy of economic segregation coupled with their immigration labour policy led to
the concentration of Malays in the agricultural sector. With Merdeka and the economic boom
activities of the 50s and 60s, the Malays were not content to remain in the kampongs while the wealth of the country was in the hands of foreigners and non-Malays. Their discontentment erupted in 1969. Then came the NEP. The NEP was not formulated to provide for handouts and charity to the Malays. It was a vehicle to level the playing field for the Malays, to enable them to catch up with their more advanced fellow citizens. Even in golf, if you are a beginner playing with a more experienced person, you are given a handicap.
The NEP has produced many Malays who are successful in business and in other economic and non-economic endeavours. Now we have many Malays who are millionaires and billionaires. How did they become successful in business? Yes, there was the NEP that gave Malays the chance but not all Malays who went into business are successful - there are just as
many bankrupt Malays.
The question you should ask before you embark on any business venture is whether you really want to succeed. If the answer is positive, ask yourself - how strong is your desire to succeed? Do you have the strength, stamina and discipline to succeed? Are
you prepared to give your all, your time and money and are you prepared to work and study to achieve your ambition? If again the answers are positive, you have the makings of a successful person. These qualities segregate the successful ones from those who fail.
There is no magic formula to starting and maintaining a successful business. You start with the technicalities and practicalities of starting a business. Whether to have a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a company, each has its own pros and cons, its own risks and benefits. Then you have to think about office space, location, staff, support
equipment, factory space and land, as the case may be. All these cost money and it is not, I repeat, not necessary to ensure success that you must have a big office, many staff and a Mercedes Benz. These are burdens that you don't need when you are starting. The time for fancy cars and a fancy office will come later, if you insist that you must have
them, but remember to make your money first before spending it. I shall tell you a secret - you also do not need to play golf to be successful. (If you do not believe me, you can ask the Prime Minister.)
What kind of business should you get into? What would determine your choice? You look, you read, you listen, but in the end you have to make your own decision. You have to decide. You may like some businesses but they make little money. In some, there is big money but you may not like it. But remember, you go into business to make money. No one wants to go into business to end up a bankrupt. However, there is no point in going into a business
that you have absolutely no interest in. You can't run a sports shop if you can't tell a badminton racquet from a squash racquet, nor be a contractor if you can't stand being out in the sun. You must like what you are doing, it must interest you when you start and hold your interest as you go along. Work should be satisfying, something you look forward to, otherwise you will give up at the slightest hint of a problem. If, however much you like the business, but it is not profitable, then you have to stop being a dreamer and be practical. If you can marry what you like with what that can make money, then I would say that you are indeed a very lucky person.
To determine whether you are going to be successful in what you are planning to do, you would not go far wrong if you ask yourself what it is that people want or need. If you can meet either their needs or wants, then you are halfway there.
People need the basics of food, clothing and shelter. People's wants are limitless. If you are in the business of satisfying needs, there will always be a market for your products - a humble rojak man will still be in business alongside multinationals like McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Whether the rojak man will be just as successful will depend on his product, the rojak. If it offers the right combination of price and quality and a consistency of these two factors, he will in his own way be successful.
The food business is indefinite - from "mee abu" or the burger stall to conglomerates. You can be a stall owner selling satay or you can set up a chain; you can be a farmer planting padi or you can practise integrated farming where fish and prawn breeding can fetch handsome profits; you can sell beef or lamb at the local market or you can supply and distribute internationally - think of the Haj when millions of cows and sheep are slaughtered. You can sell fruits by the roadside or you can run fruit plantations. It is the same with other needs and wants of your customer. You are only limited by your
imagination and your ability to work hard. If your finished product costs less than your competitor's and has zero defect the market is yours. Once the market is yours you are on the right road.
In my case, I went into the business that answered people's basic needs and wants. First, I went into the salt business - I thought, what can go wrong? Everybody needs salt. What would our food be like without salt? So my partners and I went to Japan, Thailand and Taiwan to study the process. We studied weather reports to see where we should site our salt fields and factory. We knew everything there was to know about salt and then we opened our salt fields. Then came the rain and washed away our salt, our hard work and our money. We persevered and tried again but this was followed by the big flood of 1970! We nearly became bankrupts. I had to make that tough decision - cut losses or continue. I knew my strengths and my limitations and whilst I knew I could control some things in business, the weather was not one of them. So I closed down the business. But I never said die and I never gave up - so I went into another basic need - housing.
We identified the land, drew up the plans, then went on the merry-go-round to get approvals. That was not easy at all. We had to deal with so many government departments and financial institutions. It was a very frustrating process. By then, I knew business
was not easy. Business is very complex where sometimes one is confronted with problems to which there are no easy answers. But we must not be dismayed if we take a long time to find answers to the questions. We persevered and months later got all the necessary approvals and permits.
Then we were ready to start business. But I was inexperienced and the contractors, architects and engineers knew that this was my first project. I, however, made it clear to them that I may be new at this but I was not stupid. I was at the site every day; I watched everything; I read up; I asked questions and at the end of the day, I lay in bed
going over the day's problems and how to solve them. I built Taman Maluri on ex-mining land. When we were laying the pipes for the sewerage, the engineers suggested that we go 40 ft. down. I knew that if we were to go down 40 ft., we would have water gushing out. I thought about it and suggested that we used pumps instead and it worked. Were they
testing me? I don't know but I knew that my solution earned their respect.
I was at the site day and night to solve any problems that could arise. I never put off to
tomorrow what I could do today. Every day of delay costs money. Interest accumulates even when you are sleeping. I was also everything from manager to office boy. I had only three or four staff when I started. One secretary, one messenger boy and one sales staff. I ran a very lean and tight office. The engineers, surveyors, site supervisors, contractors
were not my employees but all were engaged as consultants for the project. As such, I need not worry about EPF, SOCSO, medical and insurance benefits. I took no salary but only an allowance to cover my family's needs. I had to keep costs down because until you sell, there is no income.
I was worried that we could not sell the houses. So I made sure that the houses would not only meet the standard of buyers but gave more than they expected, better quality and better design. We made our roads wider. We provided a letter box, a place for rubbish; at that time this was something different, something special. Now these are standard features. Where the minimum ceiling requirement was 10 feet, we made it higher. These things do not cost much more, but it made our houses different and better.
We also made our houses affordable. Our single-storey link was sold at RM17,500; double-storey link at RM48,000. Alhamdulillah, the houses sold like hot cakes and we have never looked back. Success tastes even sweeter in the aftermath of failure.
I may have made all this sound simple. All my years of hard work condensed into a few paragraphs. But it was sweat and tears and there were times when I despaired of ever making it - we faced it all - from sleepless nights, long hours in the office, begging
banks, in particular bank officers, running so often to government departments and sometimes having to deal with petty-minded officers with big egos and big stomachs. We were given the run-arounds enough to test the patience of a saint. I swallowed my pride and learned to be patient. At the beginning, nothing is easy. Things only look simple after you have succeeded and your bank account is no longer in the red.
There is no guarantee, of course, that if you venture into the housing industry, you will succeed. What if the market crashes and buyers withdraw to cut losses? What if consumer tastes change? What if, for example, you have these rows of houses, built and ready but no one buys? If you can sell, you prosper; otherwise you suffer. These are the challenges that you will face, and you will face challenges in whatever business you choose.
Whether you will be able to weather the challenges really depends on you. You have to face the problems and try to sort them out. Problems have to be solved; they will not go away however much you hope and pray that when you wake up and like magic, they have disappeared. Whether you will be able to solve the problems or not depend on you and your
preparation before you even embark on the project. Even if some things are beyond our control, if you have done a thorough study and know your market, the chances are you will have anticipated the problems and be able to solve them. You would have alternative plans and answers. Whilst you see abandoned projects, abandoned factories and businesses, you can also see that some sell even in the worst of time. Why? Because they know how to
read the market - their product sells, whatever the market or economic condition.
Your organization is also important if you want to succeed in your business. Have a proper organization and draw out a management chart. Authority flows from the top. It is people that makes your business a success. Choose the right type. Get those who are hard working, disciplined, dedicated and honest. You can make the stupid learn. But the lazy, you will find them a great burden. Reward your staff for good per-formances. Take good care of your staff and they will take good care of your business. But the lazy ones must be sacked. Don't allow them to destroy the good ones. Be firm but fair. Be compassionate to those who are willing learners, but show no leniency to the lazy. Bad influence is like
cancer and unless attended to, it will spread easily. Good behaviour is not that easy to acquire. So train your staff to be efficient and cost conscious. Remember in business, there is always competition and competition is good. It keeps you alert and on your toes all the time. Only your costs can decide if you will do well or otherwise. Cost and quality will determine your market share. Control these two and your market is safe. So show them leadership. You must be the first to come and the last to go. After all, it is your organization. You have to lead, be a good leader so that your employees can trust and count on you. If you are playful and undisciplined, the rest of the staff will take their cue from you. If you work hard, they will work as hard. Therefore, instil good qualities,
i.e. honesty, hardwork, thrift, discipline and deter-mination; make sure time is never wasted. Every-thing must be done on time. Remember, time is money.
Other than tight control on staff, you must have a tight control on finance. Discourage waste. Make sure every single cent is accounted for. Remember 100 cents make a dollar. It is from cents that you will make your millions one day. It is your money not your staff's, so you have to be diligent and ensure proper control. Saving money means making money.
You may have the best management team, you may have the finance, you may have the contacts but whether you succeed or fail will still depend on you. You must have in you the qualities that will determine success. What are these qualities? I believe they are:
First, hardwork, hardwork and more hardwork. Rewards come to those who are willing to work hard. Business is hard work and sacrifices. Don't waste time looking at the clock. There is no such thing as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sometimes, it is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You may have to give up your leisure and holidays, be on call 24 hours a day, available at any time to make decisions, give directions and solve problems. You have to be dedicated and have perseverance. It is a sacrifice and if you are not prepared to make the initial sacrifice, you cannot enjoy the benefits later. I have yet to come across a success story with the main character not putting in any effort. There is no substitute for hard work.
Work hard to make your dreams come true. If you believe strongly in what you are doing and want to make it a success, the fight to succeed is worth all your time and sacrifice. Never stop until you succeed.
Second, you must have a passion, a fire in you to do well. It must keep burning in you until you succeed. The determination to succeed will help to ensure success. Without strong determination, you will be unsure of success. Your strong desire for success will motivate you to work hard. The determination to succeed is the prime reason many achieve their goals. Success breeds success, and with success comes confidence. If you want something badly enough, it will happen because you will make it happen but it will only happen if you work hard at it. If you want to do something, try it. Don't be afraid. You must believe you can do anything you want to do. If you work very hard to achieve it,
once you set a goal, persevere to accomplish it. You should not accept defeat and refuse to quit even when faced with failure. You may stumble, but if you have the determination, you will get up and move on. You will be conscious of future pitfalls but when you are down, there is no where else to go except up. Trust your instincts and commonsense. You should know yourself. Have confidence in your decisions, your ability and your judgement; if you believe in yourself, others will too, but if you make a mistake, do not be afraid to admit it and to learn from it. In short, never give up. Never stop learning.
Third, you must have pride in your work but do not be too proud to ask and to learn. Pride in your business is important - this will urge you to succeed and do well. You must want to be the best in your chosen field. If you have a sense of shame, you will make sure that you will not fail. If you do not want to fail, you will plan well and work hard to
ensure that you will not fail. But do not be too proud to learn from others, to ask for opinions, to seek advice, consult people. Don't be shy. Be prepared to learn. Be humble, be friendly - you may never know whose help you may need. Be particularly friendly to your bankers. Banks have the habit of asking back for their umbrellas when it rains. If the officers are sympathetic to your problems, you will get another chance.
Fourth, a good education is fundamental. You need education appropriate to your goals. Read everything. Education does not end when you graduate. If you read, you will learn new things and may even find the answers to your problems. Read about your business, about management, about finance, about new innovations in the market. Read the law on companies, duties of directors. Some Malay businessmen want to be directors and at the very least, Managing Directors, if not Chairman. They are under the wrong impression that Directors
have no responsibilities other than attending meetings and entertaining people. Read the Companies Act and you will know what it entails being a Director. The first word of God was "Iqra" - Read. Read also for pleasure, widen your horizon, do not be a person who is encyclopedic about his business and knows nothing about the world around him. Nurture an intellectual curiosity about everything around you.
Fifth, you must want to be in business and you must love the profession to give your all to it. Some Muslims believe this world is for the non-Muslims, that Muslims should only pray and think of the hereafter. So why go into business and make money? You can't take the money with you when you die. For the Malays and Muslims, we have to change that
belief. It is a wrong interpretation of the Islamic faith. I have yet to come across any religion that discourages its followers from doing business. As long as it is not haram and your business practices are not immoral, I cannot see any reason why Muslims cannot pursue a career in business. As long as in the pursuit of success, you do not forget your
religious obligations, I think it is possible to be both a businessman and a good Muslim. Going into business is to make profits, but your ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life of those around you and to contribute to the nation. It is the people that make the country. If they work hard and succeed, then their success is the country's success. If the people do well, the country will do well, and your contribution to the country's success however small, is an act of charity.
Sixth, you must, like the Boy Scouts, be prepared. You must go in with your eyes open, realistic of the risks and benefits, of the pitfalls that await you. In business, you take risks but you must not be reckless. You must be prepared to face challenges, not be afraid to face problems because you have already anticipated the problems and are prepared to
meet them. With time and practice, you will be able to handle problems with ease; you will acquire the ability to respond to problems, to train yourself to think quick and fast. Like all fields, in the field of business, you need brains to succeed. It is not
the strongest or the fastest man or woman for that matter who wins. It is the person who thinks that wins; therefore be a strategist.
Seventh, Discipline. You must exercise both mental and financial discipline. Discipline also means that you should do today what is needed to be done today no matter how tired you are or how tempting it is to put it off. Discipline also means that you keep to
appointments, to promises, to time, to schedules _that you deliver what you say you would, when you say you would; that you honour your word; that you keep to your budget and control your cost; that you are honest notwithstanding the temptations that await you; being disciplined in your thinking and plans mean that you do not get carried away by
grandiose plans, straying into ventures that have no relevance to your core businesses; that you are well organized and orderly in whatever you do. It is very important to develop early your priorities, values and sense of proportion and spend your energy and
resources to achieve your desired result. When you are disciplined - mentally, physically and financially - you will have the ability then to handle whatever comes your way. In other words, have focused concentration.
Eighth, be brave, be innovative, be creative and imaginative, be unafraid to take calculated risks and challenges; think the unthinkable, dream the impossible. Sometimes, when you let your mind wander, unfettered by conventional thinking parameters, you might just find the right solution to your problems. But do not be foolhardy - your bravery must be tempered by practicalities, not recklessness that would jeopardize your business and
your future. Business is an adventure. It is not for the timid and the indecisive, those so afraid of failure that they dare not take the first step. Be brave and take a risk - a ship in harbour is safe but it is not what a ship is for. Business is an adventure that is both exciting and exhilarating and yet full of unseen dangers lurking at corners, but
at the end of the day, it is an adventure worth undertaking and most fulfilling if accomplished well.
Whilst you must be realistic about your expectations, you must also think big. Not big cars, big houses but to think about your business. You have to start small but you must plan ahead not just for tomorrow or the next few years. You must think about how big your business is going to be 10 years, 20 years down the road. And to plan that far ahead,
you must have a picture in your mind, a dream in your head about the future of your business. As Robert Browning said, "Alas, but a man's dream must exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for?" Keep dreaming and turn your dreams into reality. That is the hallmark of success. Aim to be the best and if you achieve it, you will be noticed and will be remembered. Set your ultimate goal but you must also plan your intermediate goals. In order to reach the top, you move up step by step.
Ninth, be decisive. If you fear to go into business or are doubtful of success, you will, of course, get nowhere. Indecision is a curse. The test of an entrepreneur is the ease with which a decision is made. It does not matter if it is a wrong decision. A wrong decision is better than no decision. We have the brains to reason, to think. If you don't act you will never know the result.
Last but not at all the least, you must be interested in making money. Many think money is the root of all evils. It is greed and the love of money that is the root of all evils, when money is an end itself and not a means. It also depends on what you use your money for. It could be used for good or for evil. If you use your money to build mosques, give
to the poor and needy, it cannot be evil. Don't blame money. Blame those who use money for evil purposes. To succeed, you must show interest in money and in wanting to make money. There must be that hunger to make money. There must be that strong urge. After making money, to make more money. There is nothing immoral in this urge. If you don't have it, I think you should not go into business. Business is all about making money. You must enjoy
making money. If you don't enjoy it, do something else. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that you should only do something just for money. That alone cannot sustain you. But you are in the business to make money and that you must enjoy.
I would like, however, to distinguish between wanting to make money and greed. Do not be greedy. Greed destroys your self-respect. Do not worship money - that you would lose your morals and religion for the sake of money. If earned through halal means, God will help you to succeed in whatever you do.
There is a joke about Imelda Marcos - that she was in the 'mining' business. Every time she saw a business, she said, "It is mine, mine, mine," and look what happened to her.
When you have made money, be generous to those who have not, but only to deserving cases. Be thankful to God. Bersyukor. Just because you have made lots of money, do not then think that you are superior to or better than the next person. The small courtesies
in life are still important - return phone calls, answer letters, show up on time, be polite, diplomatic, considerate. Money in the bank is not a licence to be rude or arrogant. Neither does it mean that you have to flaunt your wealth. Conspicuous consumption only shows a weakness in character. If you have earned your money you will not need to bolster your image by surrounding yourself with excesses. Learn to value your money but do not on the other hand, be someone who knows the price of everything and the value of none. Respect others and they will respect you. Your reputation is important.
Establish a clean reputation. Make sure you are respected. Maintain a high standard of integrity. At the end of the day, success isn't money, and it isn't power. The measure of your success isn't measured by the wealth you accumulated, the awards you received, the records you broke, the battles you won but the name you leave behind. There is no price
to be placed on your name.
There is no point in being successful in business but a failure in life. Your family and your friends are important. A man with no friends and a dysfunctional family is not a happy man. It's not the money in your bank but people who make you happy. Do not confuse money with superiority. In the eyes of God, remember rich or poor, all are equal.
The above list are just some of the things that I think are important but ultimately all will depend on you. Do you have the stuff to make it? Are you soft? Are you weak? Or are you the one with determination, courage and enough strength to see the company through difficult times? Each company will have its own problems. Seldom will you find the answers in textbooks. Yet, it is important to still read and learn how others solve their
problems. All problems are unique to the particular organization, so you will have to use your head, use it wisely, sit down and analyse what has gone wrong. Then find out how best to solve your problem. Do not expect others to do your work for you.
Always remember to aim for excellence. Never settle for second best and second rate. Also remember that the road to success is never smooth. You may stumble along the way. Get up to move on. You will grow stronger and steadier. Never accept defeat or failure. Learn from your mistakes but do not repeat them. It would be a great misfortune if having tried
and failed you gave up. The strong hearted with the determination and courage and preparedness to learn from past mistakes will in the end triumph.
Some of you may wonder why quite a number fail in spite of putting in so much effort. Is it because they are not lucky? My answer is that luck does play a part. It is sometimes an important element but don't depend on it. In the end, it is 99% preparation and perspiration, and the rest is luck.
I do not presume that I have all the answers but what I have told you are some of the guidelines and qualities that you may need to succeed in business. There are so many different and some contradictory and some strange roads to riches. There are so many
paths leading to success. The best way to learn how to be a winner is to learn from winners and losers, especially the losers. Most losers lose because they take excessive risks and lack discipline. In the final analysis, it is up to you to decide what is
best. In the end, it is what is in you that determines your success. However, let me remind you that what I have been talking to you today is about how to run a business and be successful in business, NOT that to be successful you must be in business. In whatever endeavour you undertake, if you do your best, if you have pride in your work, if you work to achieve a standard of excellence in your field and if you retain the highest level of personal integrity, then you are a success. To most people riches reflect success. This need not be so. Success could be in other fields not confined to business only. So go explore the Amazon, sing at the Opera, climb the Himalayas, find the cure for cancer, conduct an orchestra, discover a lost tribe in Kalimantan. Do what you want to do - as long as it is the best.