One of the most important things start-ups wonder about is how to build a successful business. This is a critical and practical consideration, as the failure rate of start-ups is actually quite high. According to Deborah Gage in her article published in The Wall Street Journal, three out of four venture-backed start-ups fail.
That was why AmBank organised the AmBank BizRACE – a business challenge designed to enable SMEs to scale and grow with further executive learning experiences and media exposure. Season 1 in 2017 was highly successful, so they followed with Season 2 in 2018, which was launched on 27 November 2018 at Connexion @ Nexus Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur.
The AmBank BizCONFERENCE was also held concurrently at the same place. Panel discussions were part of the programme, and one of them was on the topic of how to build a winning organisation, where two winners from Season 1 and the COO of Reapfield were invited to share their knowledge and expertise with the audience.
Purpose and Passion
“The founder’s original purpose for creating the company is very important. The founder of Reapfield wanted to get out of a situation that was very challenging, and so he created his company as a platform that enabled people to grow and have breakthroughs in life,” said Jonathan Lee, Group COO of Reapfield Properties.
“In fact, our core values are ‘In God we trust. In family we cherish. In business we excel.’ And this is very clear in the DNA of the organisation. So the purpose is really important,” added Lee.
“I was an engineering student who didn’t like engineering. Students who were good in mathematics were supposed to study engineering, and that was how I ended up like that. In my final year, I was going to graduate with bad results, so I forced myself to look for something new that I liked in engineering. That was when I found solar technology,” said Ko Chuan Zhen, co-founder and CEO of Plus Solar Systems, which won second place in the AmBank BizRACE, Season 1. “It changed my whole life.”
Recruiting the Right People
“I founded this company with my friends based on my passion for solar technology. And when I recruited, I also looked for similar likeminded people who had a passion for this technology,” explained Ko.
“I also like to hire people who are very passionate about their work, even though they might be in HR or marketing. When we hire the right people, we can shift the culture of the organisation positively,” shared Ko.
“If you ask me why my company is successful, I would have to say it’s because of the people. I have a very hardworking team. And we always hire the right people to do the right thing,” said Azri.
Doing Things Differently
“Beverage is a saturated market, but that is why we entered this market. This saturated market is heavily monopolised by the big boys from the old generation. But the market now is Gen Y and Gen Z,” said Azri Zahier Azmi, Director and CEO of The Boom Beverage, which won third prize in the AmBank BizRACE, Season 1.
“The big boys use the old way of marketing, but we use new ways, with heavy usage of social media, and participation in lifestyle events. But before all that, we designed a nice-looking product, because people will see first before they buy, and they want to buy something that looks good,” added Azri.
“If you have a restaurant business and you want to expand, then you have to open a branch. And that is a big investment. However, for beverage, you can sell it anywhere. The potential is unlimited,” said Azri. He is proof that branding and doing things differently can really make an impact.
The Danger of Complacency
“Reapfield has been around for 35 years, so people who have been in the organisation for a long time might become complacent. But they can’t do that. They have to fix their blind spots and gaps. Because we can’t attract the new generation of talent out there if we don’t,” added Lee.
“There must be open communication and open conversations. Your team members must know the direction of the company. They must know what’s in it for them. We have to come out from our silos to a flat organisation where people can talk easily,” Lee emphasised.
All in all, it was a very enlightening session, to the benefit of the full house. It is hoped that representatives from SMEs who attended the panel discussion gleaned useful and practical knowledge to add value to their companies.