Monthly archives: September 2009

Eid Mubarak

Food lined up prior to the breaking of the fast

Food lined up prior to the breaking of the fast

For 2009, we decided to host a small buka puasa for the children of Chow Kit at Rumah Nur Salaam. With the current economic climate, the numbers of children who need food is steadily increasing. The numbers have steadily increased from 60 children in 2007 to around 140 children in 2009.

The issues with the children are quite numerous. Tunku Razaleigh Hamzah in his blog post Chow Kit described the issues very well;

“Here, in Chow Kit, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, less than a kilometre from the Twin Towers and a stone’s thrown from PWTC, life is cheap, drug users shoot up in the back alleys and children wander the streets hungry. Infants are bought and sold by syndicates, young children are supplied for prostitution and child-pornography. Hundreds of children are on the streets or homeless. They beg and hustle and sell themselves for sex. They are runaways or abandoned or neglected children, vulnerable to STD and HIV, to drug addiction and to rape and murder. Many among them have no registration papers. Although they may have been born to Malaysian parents they are “stateless” and therefore ineligible for free inoculation, medical education or education. They are abused and traded with impunity by criminals and corrupt officials because when they disappear it is without trace. They are nobody’s constituency.

Homeless children and street children in Malaysia number in the tens of thousands. They are in Chow Kit, but also in Dengkil, Jinjang, Pantai Dalam, Kepong, Selayang, Subang Jaya, Petaling Street and Pudu and in the bigger towns across the country. In Sabah and Sarawak, the problem of stateless children is acute.”

This year, we decided to sponsor the buka puasa instead of sending our clients gifts. In the spirit of Ramadhan, we invited our clients and friends to break fast with the children.

Friends waiting to break their fast

Friends waiting to break their fast

One of the issues raised by Dr Hartini Zainudin, consultant to Rumah Nur Salaam is that fund raising is often not that difficult during Ramadhan. It is the rest of the year where fund raising can be an issue. There is the need for sustainable funding for the shelter. After Ramadhan, we will be launching our Corporate Social Responsibility program. This program will start from January 15th 2010 from 230pm to 8pm. Each company is free to send their employees for this program (the minimum donation is RM1,000 and this is tax deductible). This course will be conducted by Juarez Salih Lowe and Abe Jacob to discuss sustainable development – in particular, what companies can do to help the shelter. The net profits from this course will go to Rumah Nur Salaam.

Why do this course? Our clients have wanted to start programs on corporate social responsibility.

What’s different about this course? Participants will look at the poverty just minutes from KLCC and talk to the aid workers to find out the issues firsthand. They will also have a facilitator brief them on what they can do over the long term for the shelter and what their company can do. The net profits from this course do not go to the training provider but instead go to the shelter. The participants will be sponsoring dinner for the children for that evening.

Should the take up rate be successful, this program will help generate a monthly income for the shelter. There could also be revenue from the companies that come to the course and decide to continue to contribute (e.g. banks involved in micro finance that gives sex workers an alternative income, hotels helping by building a cafe and hiring street kids).

We will keep you posted on upcoming dates for this program. In the meantime, Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri to our Muslim friends! May everyone enjoy a great break and safe travels.

Going home

Going home

Talk at Malaysian Industrial Development Authority “Improvement Towards Excellence” – sharing the story of juarezlowe corporate training

I was recently invited to give a talk to the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority for the MIDA Innovation Day 2009 themed “Improvement Towards Excellence”.  This was a forum attended by around 200 Directors and Assistant Directors from MIDA. The other panel speakers were Dr. Irfan Khairi and Dato’ Aziz Bakar.

Dato’ Aziz Bakar shared his experiences setting up Air Asia from the very beginning. None of the founding team members had direct industry experience. They would probably not have got a job working in an airline. As such, they had no problems learning from an expert who spent a month with them learning about low cost carriers. They also pressed ahead despite the many challenges that they faced from Sars to H1N1.

When we look at successful companies, we find that a positive mindset is key to success. They also have to face challenges positively and learn from mistakes.

Irfan shared his stories of how he made a million ringgit within 3 years of setting up his internet business. Some of the key points he talked about were:-

1. Focus. The larger your market, the more niche your product should be.

2. Passion. If you have passion, then work becomes something that you enjoy. Working on what you are passionate about makes long hours go by easier.

The following is an excerpt from my talk.

“We need to have our focus, niche and unique selling proposition. When I developed juarezlowe Corporate training, we looked at three things to ensure our business success :-

1. Customer focus. Our customers feedback was that training was too theoretical and many people had problems applying it to their job. There was also a large divide between classroom theory and the real world. Understanding the customer needs enabled us to develop our product. We still continously seek customer feedback to determine future trends in our market.

2. Product focus. Listening to the customer, our product (training solutions) was based on world class methodologies adapted to the local environment. For example, most Western books on body language will tell you that crossed arms are a sign of negativity and being closed off. In this room, almost half the people here have crossed arms. This is due to the air conditioning vent rather than a sign of negativity. All theory needs to be tested in the cultural environment. In addition, our programs are interactive training programs with professional trainers. Our trainers were people who had actual industry experience and were not just theorists. The interactivity aids learning and retention and most importantly, application post training.

3. Process focus. Our processes need to facilitate constant innovation and improvement. We review our material quarterly to make sure that we keep up with the latest developments in the field. When we receive a training assignment, we spend time talking to the line managers to ensure that the role plays are customized to deal with the issues at hand.

Our primary focus is in the soft skills areas of negotiation, leadership and branding/marketing. Using the triumvirate above, we were able to grow our client base that now includes Petronas, Maybank, TM, Johnson & Johnson, International Development Institute, Banking Academy of Vietnam, Bank Islam, MasKargo, Hilton and Kuwait Finance House.

How can MIDA could apply this triumvirate in their day to day operations?

1. Customer focus – the investor is now going to be more focused in Asia for growth. Malaysia therefore has to compete with its other Asian neighbours as a site for foreign direct investment. The investor will also look at facilitative government which aids investment, infrastructure and workforce. In Singapore, the longest period of time I spent in a government office was 15 minutes. The government has incentives to bring in skilled workers and facilitates foreign direct investment. The infrastructure is also first class with a very efficient public transportation system. Due to the education system, there is no shortage of an educated workforce. Can we say the same of Malaysia?

2. Processes. When companies talk about innovation, they frequently omit to put in processes to support innovation. In Air Asia, they have a flat organization structure so anyone can pass ideas or feedback to the top. The question that you need to ask yourself and your company is how easy is it to suggest and implement a new idea? Do ideas have to go through a lot of red tape prior to implementation?

3. Product. Mida’s product is its people. Look to your left and to right. That is the product. It is up to you to make sure that you perform to exceed customer expectations.

Implementation of the triumvirate of customer, product and product focus are the hallmarks of successful companies worldwide. I wish MIDA all the best on its road towards excellence. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.”

Being your own Career Coach

One of the most challenging times you can face is the job hunt . One of my career counselors was Kerry Sanderson who helped give me mock interviews prior to my McKinsey, BCG, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson & Phillip Morris interviews. She has recently become unemployed. This is frank and in your face article about being unemployed. This was posted in the Wall Street Journal blogs which also highlights which writers have since found employment. Kerry, all the best in your job search and thank you for helping me during mine.