Promoting women entrepreneurs; mind your finances


Do we need specific initiatives to help female entrepreneurs? Some say no, because men and women face similar obstacles in business. However, there can be no denying that women face challenges not experienced by their male counterparts.

LAST May, the SME Association of Malaysia organised a talk on women entrepreneurship at its regular SME Club get-together. We were worried that the topic would not be interesting, but to our surprise, the event was well received.

About a hundred people participated in the talk.

When we told the SMEs that we were going to have a talk on women entrepreneurship, some of them asked: Why talk about women entrepreneurship? Does it matter? Why bother?

After all, business is a men’s world. The place for women is at home.

Others said there was no need to differentiate women entrepreneurs from entrepreneurs in general, as many of the barriers faced by female-owned SMEs were similar to those faced by male-owned SMEs.

To this, I would say: Yes and no.

While male and female entrepreneurs may face similar constraints in general, women face specific barriers and challenges not experienced by their counterparts.

While women make up about 50% of Malaysia’s population, less than 20% of the SMEs are owned by women. Even though the number for women entrepreneurs is small, it’s nonetheless encouraging as it shows that women no longer buy the stereotype of business being a male domain.

There are several key reasons for women to get into business. Running your own business provides flexibility in managing career and domestic responsibilities.

Also, it gives some degree of personal freedom to women who are dissatisfied with “fixed” employment. Job flexibility, like work hours, office location, environment, and the people they work with, is appealing to many women.

Other reasons for women to start a business include income security and career satisfaction. Some women become entrepreneurs due to some personal circumstances, like being laid off, divorce, or the retirement of their spouse. They start a business to improve or maintain their social or economic status.

Some women who do not have any previous work skills or experience start a business in order to prove that they can be productive and useful.

The majority of women-owned businesses are smaller outifts than those owned by men, and they are mostly concentrated in the service sector (about 90%). Many of these businesses are likely to be unregistered micro-enterprises operating in the home or on temporary premises, with few employees and limited capital for expansion.

Access to financing is one of the biggest challenges. They are less aware of the options relating to loan and grant opportunities. In addition, women usually lack the collateral required compared to men, stemming in part from restrictions on asset ownership.

Women entrepreneurs are also less likely than their male counterparts to have a history of interaction with formal financial systems, lowering their credit-worthiness and potentially raising interest rates on loans assumed.

They also encounter obstacles in accessing opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills that underpin successful entrepreneurship. This may be due to impediments in access to education, training and job experience. These are usually compounded by the demands of domestic responsibilities.

Time constraints further limit women entrepreneurs’ formal networking, which, in turn reduce access to skill and capacity-development opportunities. Formal networks, such as business associations, provide a wealth of information on business opportunities, access to government officials, grants and support programmes, as well as credit credentials and access to loan packages, to name a few.

Good networks provide good access to information and resources. First-hand information allows entrepreneurs to move one step ahead and grab the opportunities. A good pool of resources would help entrepreneurs to survive in bad times and to expand more effectively.

The Government needs to take a proactive role in promoting women entrepreneurs. We need to put in place gender-responsive policies and capacity-building initiatives to address the structural, institutional and socio-cultural inequalities.

It would perhaps be best to start by enhancing their access to finance, which is essential in building a good business foundation.

By Datuk Michael Kang who is the national president of the SME Association of Malaysia.

Mind your finances

Up to 36 of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the ACCA. —123rf.com

IN GENERAL, more than 50% of startups fail within five years, and up to 36% of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) entitled “Financial management and business success – a guide for entrepreneurs”.

The report says many entrepreneurs are not equipped to make informed and effective decisions about their financial resources.

“Having the right financial capabilities remains vital throughout the life of a business, whether you are just starting out, have an established business or are looking towards a final exit from a firm,” explains Rosana Mirkovic, ACCA’s head of SME policy.

“Businesses are changing and innovating more rapidly than ever, and the financial management needs of organisations must continue to evolve alongside their developments. Recognising the right financial management capabilities is therefore imperative to their success,” she explains.

Mirkovic adds that understanding financial information is vital for offsetting the risk of business failures as it reveals the early warning signs of impending problems.

The report by ACCA addresses the financial literacy skills gap, potentially serving as a guide to those starting their own businesses and are new to financial management.

Business planning plays a critical role at every stage of the business, says the report.

“Preparing a business plan pushes you to identify and assess the opportunities and threats facing your business. It helps ensure that you have an in-depth understanding of your market, the competition and the broader business environment,” it elaborates.

Effective planning takes into account long-term goals, objectives, strategy, tactics and financial review.

ACCA also advises startups to seek good financial advice and involve their accountants or individuals with financial expertise at the planning stage to take full advantage of their expertise in areas such as business planning, raising business finance, tax planning and setting up financial management systems.

Significant financial expertise may be needed to understand and evaluate the different financial options entrepreneurs may have. This includes knowing the company’s financial strength, financing cost, financial flexibility, business control, financial risk, personal finances and business strategy.

“Good financial control offers far more than just keeping track of purchases and sales. Rather than approach financial control as a chore to be left to the bookkeeper, your aim should be to see how the right capabilities can improve your business,” the report advises.

ACCA notes that business owners should gradually develop the capabilities of their in-house financial team.

“Choosing the right solution for your particular business takes careful planning. Your overall investment in financial capabilities — whether you are paying for additional employees, higher salaries for more skilled employees, training costs, use of external providers or upgraded systems — must be affordable and offer value for money,” it adds.

But financial management is at its most powerful when used to drive improvements in business.

Moreover, for many entrepreneurs, it could also lead to a successful business exit. Preparation for a successful exit typically begins far in advance of its final date.

Effective exit planning needs to start early and take into account a whole range of issues like timing, succession, management systems and tax efficiency.

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Journey To The West: More Monkey business; Monkey do, Monkey don’t


 

 No, I don’t have a daughter for you to marry and we’re not going on a road trip to hand out wedding invitations. this isn’t that kind of Journey.’- Photos: GSC Movies

Journey To The West gets a slightly Westernised treatment this time around, and turns out better than the first movie.

The Monkey King 2 Director: Soi Cheang Cast: Aaron Kwok, Gong Li, William Feng, Xiao Shenyang, Chung Him Law, Kelly Chen

CGI- heavy blockbusters from China, Hong Kong, India, or any other Asian countries for that matter – except for maybe Japan and South Korea – have always been hit- and- miss affairs.

Despite scoring US$ 168mil in China alone, there’s no denying that 2014’ s The Monkey King was plagued by cheap- looking and even just plain bad CGI and visual effects, not to mention a slapdash narrative that barely made sense despite being based on something as familiar as Wu Cheng’en’s classic novel Journey To The West.

Returning to the director’s seat for this sequel, up- and- coming genre whiz Soi Cheang ( of cult hits like Motorway, Accident and Dog Bite Dog) again directs this one without any of the cool edge and personality that made him so beloved by Hong Kong genre fans across the globe, but makes amends for the many sins of The Monkey King.

Probably because The Monkey King 2 concentrates on the more familiar chapters in Journey To The West, scriptwriters Ran Ping, Ran Jianan, Elvis Man and Yin Yiyi have kept things simple, linear and relatable, concentrating on the push and pull between the personalities of main characters Sun Wukong, aka the Monkey King ( Aaron Kwok, taking over from Donnie Yen) and young monk Xuanzang ( William Feng), to generate drama and emotion.

After 500 years of imprisonment beneath Five Element Mountain, Wukong is accidentally freed by Xuanzang and is then tasked by the Goddess Guanyin ( Kelly Chen) to escort the monk on his journey West to retrieve some ancient sutras.

The impetuous, impulsive Wukong and calm, benevolent Xuanzang’s contrasting personalities are severely tested when Wukong’s “kill first, ask questions later” approach and Xuanzang’s “enlighten instead of killing” philosophy clash almost every step of the way as they meet all kinds of demons, dangers and challenges.

Also joining them on their journey are Wujing ( Chung Him Law) and the gluttonous, horny halfman/ half- pig Baije ( Xiao Shenyang). Because this sequel is obviously set on Earth instead of the heavenly settings of the first movie, the use of real locations here helps immeasurably in making the CGI and VFX look much better and more believable.

There’s even an obvious attempt to make the fantastical imagery slightly less Chinese and more Western- friendly, with one of the kingdoms they visit looking more like something out of The Lord Of The Rings or Game Of Thrones rather than Legend Of Zu.

This is even more apparent in their approach to the villain of the piece, the White Bone Spirit Baigujing, played by a radiant and show- stealing Gong Li, whose outfits and character design will no doubt evoke memories of Angelina Jolie in Maleficent and Charlize Theron in Snow White & The Huntsman. Even her back story echoes that of Maleficent, in which an innocent young woman is driven to evil because of others’ wrongdoings.

Soi Cheang even gets the humour right this time, thanks to the absurd combination of Aaron Kwok’s slightly more macho approach to playing Wukong and the general monkey business that monkeys get up to, not to mention Baije’s antics whenever he comes across women and food ( yes, in that order).

Ultimately though, these are still very minor updates to a story that’s been told countless times, and it certainly doesn’t come anywhere near the bold approach of crowd favorites like Jeff Lau’s A Chinese Odyssey movies or even last year’s animated hit The Monkey King: Hero Is Back.

But as a Chinese New Year holiday blockbuster to bring the whole family to, it’s done more than well enough to do even better at the box- office than The Monkey King. It is, after all, the better movie, and definitely an entertaining and enthusiastic enough welcome to the Year of the Monkey. Review by Aidil Rusli The Star/Asia News Network

The ‘Monkey Do, Monkey Don’t

 

 

Talk about ‘Planet of the Apes’

“What got you here won’t get you there.” – Marshall Goldsmith

Someone once said, “I love people, I really do, it is just their behaviour that I cannot stand.” When it comes down to what really frustrates organisation leaders, it is not the lack of skills or knowledge of their employees. Rather it is a shortfall of desired behaviours.

As we usher in the Chinese Lunar New Year, it is a timely reminder that new results and new performance expectations cannot be achieved with the old behaviours of yesteryears. BAU (Behaviours As Usual) cannot be an acceptable leadership culture if the organisation desires to move collectively towards the place of sustainable high performance.

Upon the threshold of any fiscal year, company leaders are usually abuzz about the strategies going forward and are eager to witness a transformation in results and key performance indicators.

Yet, we all instinctively know that a well-written proposal and a persuasively-designed PowerPoint presentation cannot guarantee the delivery of results. Here is one often-neglected truth about performance – culture produces results.

Here’s one simple diagnostic question to ascertain if behavioural issues are holding your organisation back from achieving the intended key results: If everyone in your organisation continues to think and act in the same manner as they do today, can they achieve the expected results in the stated timeframe?

If the answer is a resounding “No”, then your organisation would need to embark on a cultural design initiative to determine the right cultural standard for achieving the right results. Companies with a thriving business do not leave their culture to chance, rather culture is intentionally designed and delivered.

Left on its own, the culture tends to degrade to a situation of territorialism whereby specific individuals create their own brand of sub-culture – their own monkey kingdoms.

How then do we address this monkey culture and rally the behavioural changes towards a common vision?

Behaviour is caught, not taught


It is what you do when no one is looking that determines the worth of your contribution
.

It is interesting that the most common feedback I receive at the end of each behavioural-related training workshop is this, “Is my boss attending the same training as well?”

This highlights our human need for a moral reference when it comes to the motivation for changing our own personal behaviours and attitude.

Here are five common mistakes made by organisation leaders when they are too quick to implement strategic plans without giving thought to the foundational need for behavioural alignment.

Communicating the results without clarifying the overall vision of the company.

Growing the numbers without a specific plan to grow the employees.

Non-performers are still rewarded – sending an inconsistent signal to those who do perform.

Sending employees for training without involving the direct supervisors.

The performance appraisal criteria do not reflect the desired behaviours.

Behaviour requires a moral standard


Everything is not relative
.

When it comes to behaviour, one cannot assume that people, by default, would know what to do.

In fact, when left on our own, our behaviour tends to degrade towards the fulfilment of selfish agendas, not that of the common good.

I recall facilitating a visioning workshop where almost everyone in the room had their own interpretation of the company’s values, and it was a challenge coming to a consensus. It was not until we were crystal clear with the expectations of the group chief executive officer that there was a decision on the way moving forward.

In other words, we needed to first establish the true north as the absolute by which all other behaviours are measured against. Without a fixed reference, behaviours are just personal preferences leading to territorial mindset.

Here are three questions to ask when communicating behavioural expectations:

  1. Are the recognition practices consistent with the behaviours we want to promote?
  2. Are the leaders aware of their own behaviour and seen to be walking the talk?
  3. Are managers trained in the skill of having accountability conversations when there are misbehaviour and attitude issues?

Behaviour reinforces values

A child is known by his actions, not his intentions.

Many organisations are too hung up about corporate values until it becomes a copywriting debate.

The fact of the matter is that corporate values are there as a directional guide while a more
specific delivery guide requires something more observable.

Here is where we need an executable concept called key behaviours. Key behaviours are personal accountability statements that are communicated as behavioural expectations for every employee.

In Leaderonomics, we have five key behaviours which operationalise our core values:

  • Be Accountable: “I take personal ownership to deliver on all expectations entrusted to me.”
  • Be Excellent: “I accept challenges and exceed expectations in all that I do.”
  • Be Synergistic: “I actively seek out and lead collaborative opportunities.”
  • Be Courageous: “I am open to honest and authentic conversations.”
  • Be Agile: “I find opportunity in all circumstances and will adapt myself to thrive in them.”

Does your company have a set of key behaviours which are non-negotiable accountability statements for every employee?

Just propagating core values alone is insufficient to set the tone for real change that will impact productivity, profits and people. If your corporate values are just statements on the walls with little behavioural clarity, then do not be surprised if the culture does not reflect the aspiration.

Monkeys vs donkeys

In social experiments, monkeys have been shown to display mob mentality behaviours i.e. they will all do what is the social norm, but it requires a few brave ones to set the tone and then have it reinforced through a series of risk-and-reward responses.

Now, when it comes to setting the cultural tone of an organisation, we can also take a cue from this observation in that we need a few courageous ones to set the tone and make a stand as to what is expected from everyone else – in other words, change begins with courageous leadership.

The other option is to go the way of the donkey which makes a lot of noise but refuses to budge due to stubbornness. In this year of the monkey, let’s not go down the path of the donkey.

By JOSEPH TAN Leaderonomics.com

Joseph Tan is CEO of Leaderonomics Good Monday. His passion is to work with performance-focused leaders to capture the hearts and minds of their employees through a strengths-based and accountability-driven approach. Much of what is shared in the article above comes from his work as a Gallup-certified strengths coach. If you would like to enhance the engagement level of your organisation, email joseph.tan@leaderonomics.com for more details. For more Be A Leader articles, click here.

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Building billions with $3.40


Global vision: Tiong hopes his food products and ships will be seen in all corners of the globe.

Sarawak’s tycoon Datuk Tiong Su Kouk learned from a young age that wealth and success comes only from tried and tested hard work.

AT his gala birthday party on Sept 27 in Sibu, Sarawak’s tycoon Datuk Tiong Su Kouk was inundated with loud praises and exclusive gifts from business partners, Chinese associations and relatives from near and afar.

But the well-crafted gift of “Three dollar notes and 40 cent coins” from Tiong’s 2,000 ­employees in his listed company CCK Consolidated Holdings Bhd was the one which stood out among the glittering jewellery, bright Chinese paintings and flattering messages.

The four rusty copper coins and three one dollar notes bearing Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait, which were legal tender in 1950s British-ruled Sarawak, symbolise the beginning of Tiong’s rags-to-riches story.

The astute businessman is known in Sibu to have built up his huge business empire from a mere $3.40 at the tender age of 14.

Tiong, 73, is one of the top five tycoons in Sibu, which is famous for “nurturing” Malaysia’s top timber businessmen of the Foo Chow clan. The clan’s ancestors braved rough seas to land in Sibu to open up virgin jungles in 1901.

But unlike other tycoons, this Foo Chow who loves to sing the Mandarin song Unity is Strength at gatherings, began his career at a wet market selling fish and prawns.

The National Hawkers Association of Malaysia, which took pride of its own fellow hawker’s success and generous donations, has crowned Tiong “The Father of Hawkers”.

“I came from a family of nine siblings. We struggled with the meagre income from my father’s fish stall. So, when he was offered a manager’s job elsewhere, he told me to take over his stall and passed me $3.40 in a sachet,” says Tiong at Sibu’s CCK headquarters, which houses a large photo gallery of his achievements in the past 50 years.

Humble beginnings: The four rusty copper coins and three one dollar notes bearing Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait, which were legal tender in 1950s British-ruled Sarawak, symbolise the beginning of Tiong’s rags-to-riches story.

“I was a bit bitter then. Why choose me among nine and make me stop schooling at 14? Perhaps it was because I was a fast and hardy rubber tapper (from age eight to 14). But looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. I am the ­greatest achiever in amassing wealth. I might not be where I am today without making a sacrifice early,” adds Tiong in Mandarin, at a three-hour interview with the Sunday Star..

After netting success in fish trading, Tiong went into the frozen seafood business at the age of 27. His seafood products are still a common sight in the market and supermarket till today..

Ten years ago, he ventured into the poultry industry and prawn farming. His food products have entered other areas in South-East Asia, China, Australia, even Europe and the United States..

Apart from the food business, grouped under CCK listed in Bursa Malaysia, Tiong ventured into boat-building some 40 years ago under the name Nam Cheong. Today, this Singapore-listed company is a leading global marine player and Malaysia’s largest builder of offshore support vessels (OSV)..

Under his privately held S.K. Tiong Group of Companies, Tiong has a hand in housing and commercial property developments worth over RM2bil in the country. This group is also an agent for national car Proton and various brands of beverages in Sibu..

Recollecting his early days, Tiong said he used his “two hands and brains” to do business. He was perhaps the first fishmonger to “customise” service for his customers to suit their needs. This was perhaps why within a short time, the young fishmonger became the biggest seafood trader..

Remembering his roots: Tiong giving donations in Minchiang, Fuzhou, where his ancestors came from, in 1986.

With success came recognition. For the past 20 years, Tiong has been an active community leader, holding top posts in many associations. He headed the Sarawak Chinese Chamber of Commerce and was deputy president of the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM). He was also a member of the Government’s special economic consultative council when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister.

Tiong, known for his business acumen, is seen as a good boss. He showed compassion to his staff who did not have a roof over their head in Sibu, and sold them houses at cost price. His name also appears in many charitable bodies.

Tiong was conferred the Panglima Jasa Negara, with the title “Datuk”, by the King in 2001.

The friendly and unassuming businessman, who describes himself as “happy as an angel”, shares his success recipe and life philosophies. Below are the excerpts:

How did you break away from the wet market?

I worked very hard, 16 hours a day for 12 years in the wet market. So when a foreigner recently asked me which university I graduated from, I said: “Market University.”

In the market, I customised my service. When someone wanted to cook curry fish for a family of four, I would pack the right type of fish for her. When I delivered the fish to her home, it came with curry powder and vegetables.

But as fresh seafood gets stale fast, this trade could only expand to a limit. So I went to Japan to learn the food freezing technology.

I started the first frozen seafood outlet in Sibu at 27. It was tough selling. People said frozen foods were stones, not edible. For three months, there was no business. To win customers over, I gave them (the food) for free. I said: “If edible, come and buy. If not, you can forget me.” After that, there were no more issues with frozen food.

Please talk about your food ­business and CCK.

My food products are sold in Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, Europe and the US, among others, via more than 70 retail outlets. My target is to have at least 100 outlets. I am also importing food products.

In terms of food processing, I have two factories in Indonesia and a chicken meat processing plant. I have a large prawn farm in East Malaysia and we export frozen prawns and related products.

Birthday joy: Tiong with his wife at his birthday celebration in Sibu on Sept 27.

The current slowdown has affected our business slightly, but not much, as food is a necessity. The share price of CCK at around 75 sen/unit is low but as the company is solid, I am not concerned. I don’t buy or sell CCK shares.

(CCK posted a net profit of RM5.75mil and revenue of RM245.53mil in the first half of ­calendar year 2015. Its net asset per share stood at RM1 as at end-June 2015).

How is Nam Cheong Ltd doing?

Orders for shipbuilding have been hit by the plunge in crude oil price.

Some customers have delayed their buy orders but none have cancelled their orders. During this period, we have to be understanding towards our customers. Due to bad market conditions, we may hold back any expansion plan.

However, I believe 2016 will be a better year for Nam Cheong, as the market is likely to improve in the first half of 2016.

(Nam Cheong posted revenue of RM518.9mil and net profit of RM49.8mil in the first half of this year.)

Please tell us more about your property investments.

I have never encountered any major failure in my property investments in my buy-low sell-high strategy. Currently, I have housing and property development projects in the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak.

During 1997/98 Asian financial crisis and 2008 slowdown, I picked up cheap deals. When I could make reasonable gains, I let go. Before the
current down cycle struck, I had sold a property project in Iskandar Malaysia. I am holding back on my hotel project in Danga Bay, Johor Baru.

Fruit of his labour: Tiong and his family are all smiles at his home in Sibu.

But my commercial projects in Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Miri and Johor Baru will go on because there is still demand.

I think property prices have not hit bottom yet. We may see the bottom in one to two years.

I have plans to list my property business. We need to face pressure in order to progress and work efficiently. When we list our entity, the management will be centralised, we will have to be more disciplined, transparent and accountable.

Like in the case of Nam Cheong, we had to comply with rules on corporate governance. I am proud that Nam Cheong won the The Most Trans­parent Company award (in foreign listing) in 2013.

What is the recipe for your ­success? Did ­connections and ­politics play a part?

I work very hard. I am sincere and trustworthy. Hence, professional bankers trust me and give me financial support. As a businessman, I have also shown that I am sharp, able to make the right decision and act fast.

As a boss, I am lucky to have the strong support of my staff. They treat the company like their family. Every year, they celebrate my birthday. I am very touched by their gesture. I remember during the anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia in 1998, the staff there put up a 24-hour vigil to protect the factory.

I daresay my business has largely depended on our own hard work – not politics, though I have friends who are influential politicians.

For chicken farming, you have to start work at midnight. And in shipbuilding, it is work 24 hours. You have to follow the rules of work, not politics. Businessmen cannot rely on political support too much. It is too risky to do so.

And as a person with little formal education, how do I overcome obstacles? I hire the right people to help me. Some are experts with doctorate degrees. Their advice help turn me into an expert like them. With these people around, I have become a Zhuge Liang (the legendary genius and military strategist who masterminded the rise of Shu Kingdom in the Romance of Three Kingdoms).

What are your greatest ­achievements in life and business?

In life, my greatest achievement is having my family living harmoniously together. I enjoy reunions with my siblings and friends.

In community service, I am proud that I was the first Foo Chow in the world to become president of the Foo Chow associations at the local, national and world levels simultaneously. I am also proud that I spearheaded the construction of the World Fuzhou Heritage Gallery in Sibu. It is the first such gallery outside China and it houses antiques and exhibits depicting the history of the Foo Chow in Sibu, their early hardship, customs and culture.

In business, I am glad to have two listed companies and see my staff working happily. A few years back, when I moved house and offered to sell my old house to any staff without a house, there was no taker. Every­body has a house. That was one of the happiest moments in my life and also my pride.

Since 1986, I have donated millions to help the financially backward Foo Chows in China. This was the wish of my late father.

Is there any advice you wish to give to young entrepreneurs?

There is no golden advice. Just do it. Build your brand name. Don’t be afraid of failure. As the Chinese saying goes, failure is the mother of success. Once you earn the first pot of gold, the next is easy to come by.

Who will be the ­successor to your ­business empire?

Whoever has the most wisdom and best performance will take over the lead role. Although as a Chinese, I am inclined to follow the Chinese custom and tradition of handing over the baton to the ­eldest son, this may not necessarily be the case. It’s all based on merit.

I have three sons and a daughter. My sons, as well as my son-in-law, are in CCK and Nam Cheong taking up important positions. They will be judged by their performance. But they should know that whoever takes over the leadership, he will have to face the greatest pressure and responsibility while enjoying the most prestige and happiness.

As a successful ­businessman at 73, what else would you want to do?

I still have to do some work for ­society. I am doing a lot of charities. About 19 years ago, I set up a RM10mil foundation to help schools, poor students and the under-privileged. I plan to give out more as helping people makes me happy. But business-wise, I still have a vision. I like to look out at the world from my Singapore office. I hope one day my food products and ships will be seen in all corners of the globe.

BY HO WAH FOON

A strata property living nightmare: leakage


The party responsible is not your upstairs neighbour but the management

 
Stiff penalty: Whoever fails to give access to the party carrying out the inspection commits an offence. The fine imposed is up to RM50,000 or imprisonment of up to three years or both, under regulation 63(2).

IF you live in a high rise building and have an inter-floor leakage issue, you can be rest assured that you are not alone. Inter-floor leakage is without a doubt one of the biggest problems faced by many dwellers of high rise buildings.

Whilst the leakage may appear only in a particular parcel, the source of the leakage may lie in the parcel above or even elsewhere. The cooperation of more than one party is therefore required; without which one cannot even begin to identify the problem, let alone solve it.

Two issues must be identified when there is an inter-floor leakage. Firstly, the source of the leakage and secondly, the person or body responsible for repair or rectification. Who is supposed to identify the source of the leakage to start with? The person or body responsible of course, you may say, but how do you know who is responsible before the cause of the problem is ascertained? A bit of a chicken and egg situation arises.

New Act

Will the new management Act answer to all ceiling leakages?

In February 2013 the Strata Management Act 2013 (SMA) was passed by Parliament. With that came a presumption in law, under Section 142 of the SMA, that if the leakage is on the ceiling, then such leakage is presumed to be from the parcel above unless it is proven otherwise. So, if you have a leakage from your ceiling, go to your upstairs neighbour and tell him/her that he/she is responsible and must therefore find the source of the leakage and do the repair. What if he/she disclaims responsibility? Simple, You just quote Section 142 of the SMA. What a magical section with a “one fits all” answer to ceiling leakages! I thought so too when I first read Section 142, but I was not completely right for the law does not place the entire responsibility squarely on the upstairs parcel owner.

It was to be another couple of years before the SMA was implemented in June 2015 but the good news is that with that came also the implementation of the Strata Management (Maintenance & Management) Regulations 2015 (SMR). Many thanks to those (including HBA volunteers) who worked tirelessly on drafting and fine tuning the provisions of the SMR, we now have some definite answers on what to do if you have a leakage from your ceiling.

Who is responsible?

In dealing with inter-floor leakage one must not just look at Section 142 of the SMA but also Part XV of the SMR. Indeed it is Part XV of the SMR which tells you what to do if you discover dampness, moisture or water penetration from your ceiling or if you were to go home one day only to find that it is raining in your apartment.

Go to the developer if you are still covered by the defects liability provisions.

If the leakage is still covered by the provisions of your sale and purchase agreement (SPA), follow the provisions of your SPA. For homebuyers, these are typically cases where the leakage or defect occurs during the defects liability period, and which the housing developers are required to rectify, as provided in the statutory SPA.

JMB/MC/Management first in the line of responsibility – regulation 56

If the leakage is not one which is covered by the SPA, then notice may be served by the owner of the affected parcel on the developer or the joint management body (“JMB”) or the management corporation (“MC”) or the subsidiary management corporation (“sub-MC”), as the case may be.

This is provided for in regulation 56(1) of the SMR. What regulation 56 essentially means is that you serve notice on the body responsible for the maintenance and management of the common property, which for convenience I shall refer to as “the management”. So, now you see, the party first in the line of responsibility is not your upstairs neighbour but the management.

Once notice is received, the management must, within seven days, carry out an inspection to determine the cause of the leakage and the party responsible for rectification (regulation 57). Thereafter, the management must issue a “Certificate of Inspection” stating the cause of the inter-floor leakage as well as the party responsible for rectification (regulation 59). A standard form certificate for this purpose can be found in Form 28 under the Second Schedule of the SMR.

So, what is the purpose of Section 142, you may ask? Section 142 merely creates a presumption that the defect lies in the parcel above. In practical terms, this does nothing towards resolving any inter-floor leakage issues other than perhaps as a starting point for inspection. After all, one cannot possibly rectify a defect which causes the leakage until and unless the actual defect is identified. The legal implication of Section 142, however, is perhaps best left to those much more qualified than I but I do wonder if this statutory presumption alone can be a valid ground for holding the upstairs parcel owner responsible and if so under what circumstances in light of the provisions of the SMR.

Determining factor(s)

Under regulation 58 of the SMR, the management must take into account not just the aforesaid presumption but also the following matters which to my mind are far more relevant once the defect is identified:-

(1) that any defect in something which serves more than one parcel is a common property defect; and

(2) that any defect in something which serves only one parcel is a defect of that particular parcel even though that something is situated in common property or in void space.

In other words, the determining factor is not the location of that defective something but which parcels that something serves. If it serves just one parcel, that particular parcel owner is primarily responsible and must rectify the defect failing which the management shall carry out the rectification works and charge the expenses to that particular parcel owner. I say primarily because whilst regulation 61 of the SMR imposes the obligation on a specific parcel owner such obligation is expressly stated to be without prejudice to that parcel owner seeking indemnity from someone else.

That of course begs the question of who can be held liable for such indemnity; a question which is beyond the scope of this article but I certainly will not rule out any parcel owner, including the affected parcel owner, who contributes towards the defect or any delay in the rectification of the defect.

The decision of the management is, as expected, not final. Anyone not satisfied with a decision made against him/her may refer to the Commissioner Of Buildings (COB) who shall ascertain the cause of the leakage and the party responsible in accordance with regulation 64(1) & (2) and the decision of the COB shall be complied with by all parties concerned.

Grant access for inspection or risk prosecution

It goes without saying: that neither inspection nor rectification works can be effectively carried out without access to all relevant parcels and common property. Hence, the imposition of a statutory obligation on all relevant parties to give access as provided by regulation 63(1) of the SMR comes as no surprise at all.

Whoever fails to give access to the party carrying out the inspection commits an offence! And the punishment is severe too; a fine of up to RM50,000 or imprisonment of up to three years or both, under regulation 63(2).

Given that the lack of cooperation on the part of some parcel owners/occupiers has remained one of the main causes of delay in resolving inter-floor leakage problems, these provisions are definitely a step in the right direction. It does puzzle me, however, that whilst a failure to give access for inspection tantamount to an offence, the same does not seem to apply to a failure to give access for rectification.

Some of you cynics out there may be tempted to brush this aside as something unlikely to be enforced by the authorities but do you want to take that chance? Do you really want to risk prosecution over something as simple as giving access for inspection and/or rectification?

Beside, now that the Strata Management Tribunal has been set up you may be slapped with an order much sooner than you think.

By Chang Kim Loong Buyer Beware

Chang Kim Loong AMN is the honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association: http://www.hba.org.my , a non-profit, non-governmental organisation manned purely by volunteers.

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The best leaders are learners


One year ago, at a youth camp, a student who had been put in charge of his group confided in me that leading his team members wasn’t going as well as he had thought it would. “I’m just not cut out to be a leader,” he said, as he related to me what he thought a leader should have, which he didn’t: humour, confidence, wisdom and courage.

My reply to him, as one still understanding the ropes of what it truly means to lead was, “all these can be learnt, if you put your heart to it”.

It is said that there are approximately 50,000 books on leadership that are published annually – and this number may well be a conservative estimate – but if there is one indication that there is no final “destination” in this journey of becoming a leader, it is the countless number of resources that teach us how to better develop our awareness and management of ourselves and others.

Leadership is a relational endeavour; one cannot claim to be a leader without being able to inspire an action or a reaction in others. And because relationships are complex, one can only lead to the extent that he or she learns.

On the surface, it is painfully obvious that learning is imperative for any human enterprise – but I’d argue that in the long run, learning qualifies you to lead more than anything else (beyond promotions, positions, placement and power).

Here are three reasons why:

1 Learning equalises the years

How often have you heard the Chinese adage (often spoken by the elderly to the young), “I eat more salt than you eat rice”?

What is it about being “older” that makes one a wiser and better decision-maker? I’m convinced that the difference is not a matter of “years”, but a matter of “experience”.

We learn from our experiences, and our past outcomes that resulted in both positive and negative actions inform us as we negotiate between present choices.

But if experiences make us wiser, how do we attain more “experience”? Is “experience” purely a byproduct of the passing years, or can we, in the words of Sir Isaac Newton, see further into the future “by standing on the shoulders of giants”?

When we capitalise on the learnings and lessons of others and apply them in our lives, we are able to short-circuit the common bind of “years equals to experience” and accelerate our growth without wasting the time others have wasted.

Great leaders often ask themselves, “How can I avoid making the same mistakes, or how can I replicate others’ successes and take them further?”

2 Learning keeps you humble

Learning and humility feed off each other. On the other hand, the antithesis of humility, which is pride, has the sinister ability to deceive anyone into believing that he or she has “arrived”, that there is no need to adapt or change further, because he or she is superior and above reproach.

In contrast, great leaders are often the most humble people who are secure in themselves and do not see the need to put others down to elevate themselves.

John F. Kennedy once said “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.

Interestingly, most US Presidents were avid readers who invested much of their time in learning, despite their busy schedules.

It is said that Theodore Roosevelt read two books a day, while Abraham Lincoln, who had only one year of formal education, attributed his successful political career to his habit of reading.

A strong learning posture allows you to see from different perspectives, live in the experiences of others, and most importantly, empathise with other points-of-view.

It is only when a person is an avid learner that he or she is continually challenged in his or her current views, and thus able to grow in convictions. It is only when a cup is empty, that it can be filled.

Maintaining humility allows us to be intellectually curious – and curiosity always precedes discovery and creativity.

3 Learning enables you to give

Somewhere during my college years, an epiphany occurred to me: How much can I learn and grow, if I were to dedicate all my transit and waiting moments to learning something new?

In my frustration of waiting and chasing for buses to get to college, I found a treasure chest.

I had realised that an average Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley resident would spend approximately 10 to 15 hours per week travelling, either by inching through heavy traffic or waiting at bus stops and light rail transit (LRT) stations, and what a waste of time it would be if all that time was given to staring into space or letting one’s thoughts run idle.

I then made a concrete decision to listen to podcasts, audio books (when I would be driving) or to read (when I was waiting for the bus or LRT), in order to redeem that precious time.

I have since listened to over 700 hours of podcasts on topics related to public speaking, general knowledge, story-telling, leadership, faith and personal development.

My greatest learning moments are no longer in the classroom, but in my car, when I am alone and can learn something new.

During the course of the last two years, as a teacher in a high-needs school and a church leader, these moments of learning and reflection allowed me to pass on what I learnt to my students and congregation.

Those opportunities gave me great pleasure, as I was communicating to others what I had learnt and internalised for myself. I never felt “burnt out” because the stream of learning was always flowing.

Leadership may have many faces, but all leaders have the same outstretched hand of giving. And we can only give from what we have learnt. The good news is that leadership can be learnt – if we put our hearts to it.

Contributed by Abel Cheah

Abel Cheah is associate manager in the Talent Acquisition team at Teach For Malaysia. He believes that leadership is something that is nurtured and cultivated. If you are interested in listening to podcasts, he highly recommends Umano (an app that narrates articles). He believes that the best leaders are great lovers of learning. You can get in touch with him at editor@leaderonomics.com

Setting the right CEO for Malaysia Airlines (MAS)


MAS Planes

Essentially, there is little time to shape up MAS before its competitors eat into its share of business. Khazanah should cast its net wider beyond the GLC fraternity and also look globally.

Don’t compromise on setting things right for MAS. The airline needs a true blue aviation expert as new CEO

MALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) needs a true blue aviation expert as its new chief executive officer (CEO), and that is something Khazanah Nasional Bhd has to come to terms with.

The time to test the waters by hiring non-airline experts is over.

MAS is like an injured entity that needs to be operated on fast.

The national carrier needs a leader who knows the trade given the complexities of the airline business – someone who can differentiate between a full-service airline and low-cost operation.

The person must not be cajoled into believing that selling seats at the expense of yields is the best business strategy, and at the same time get the workforce to rally behind him to achieve success.

This is critical if Khazanah wants to see returns from its RM6bil investment that will go into saving MAS.

Bear in mind that Khazanah has not recovered the RM7bil investment it had already poured into the airline.

No doubt Khazanah does not want to set a new record for investing RM13bil in MAS without getting anything in return.

To recap, Khazanah had announced a 12-point plan to revive MAS. It will take it private, delist it, transfer the airline into a new company and relist it later.

It will cut 6,000 jobs, focus on regional profitable routes, and hopefully pay market prices for supplies.

To do all that and return to profit in 2017, it needs a new man at the top, someone with impeccable abilities and knowledge of the industry. The obvious choice will be someone from within the company, if there is one.

It will be hard to believe that Khazanah cannot find one person to run the show from the nearly 20,000 employees in MAS.

If that is the case, either the airline’s succession planning is non-existent or absolutely hopeless.

Airlines will normally employ from within the company or from other airlines to fill the top post.

In the case of Singapore Airlines (SIA), it has often been a home-grown candidate that has worked for 20 to 30 years with the airline.

MAS and SIA were formed from the same parent company decades ago.

SIA has become one of the best airlines globally although it grapples to keep its feet on the ground.

The current SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong came on board in 1990, worked 20 years, and became CEO in 2010.

His predecessor, Chew Choon Seng, joined SIA in 1972, and after 31 years became the CEO.

Chew took over from Malaysia-born Dr Cheong Choong Kong. Cheong was a mathematics lecturer in Universiti Malaya before he joined SIA in 1974.

After 29 years with the SIA, he was appointed CEO.

Unlike MAS, SIA has an unbroken record of profitability even through turbulent economic times.

Qantas head Alan Joyce is also a true aviation man, after his stints at Jetstar, Ansett Australia and Aer Lingus.

If no one from MAS can fit the bill, then obviously Khazanah will have to search from within the government-linked company (GLC) fraternity.

But should Khazanah make that compromise again?

Khazanah is said to be talking to several local and foreign candidates. Datuk Seri Shazally Ramly’s name has been mentioned several times although no deal has been hammered out yet.

Essentially, there is little time to shape up MAS before its competitors eat into its share of business. Khazanah should cast its net wider beyond the GLC fraternity and also look globally.

If Maxis Bhd can have Morten Lundal in its payroll, surely MAS can find someone prominent in the airline industry as its CEO, as long as it is willing to make that compromise.

Rob Fyfe, the former Air New Zealand CEO, is someone who has a proven track record in the aviation industry as are some people in SIA and even Cathay Pacific.

Khazanah must get the most capable talent to help MAS recover and for the agency to recoup its investments. Hopefully this will be the last revamp for MAS as nobody can stomach yet another restructuring three years down the road.

Contributed by BK Sidhu Reflections, The Star/Asia News Network

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Are the problems of Malaysia Airlines, symptomatic in other government-linked companies?


MAS logo_girlsLots of public funds will be spent to make things right at MAS, and it will start with the RM1.4bil takeover of the airline.

THE events of MH370 and MH17 have soured the operations of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), where the extent of the damage from these events on its financials will be more accurately shown when the airline reports its quarterly figures next week.

While these tragedies have led to MAS’ major shareholder, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, offering to not only take the company private but also undertake what appears to be an exhaustive overhaul of the airline’s operations, the problems at MAS have been simmering for a long time now.

The airline has been losing money for some time, and previous turnaround plans, in hindsight, were akin to applying bandages when major surgery was needed. Previous turnaround plans might have just delayed what needs to be done now.

But all gloves are off with the upcoming overhaul when it comes to salvaging MAS. Political will appears to be there, judging from comments made by the Prime Minister and the airline will undergo a big transformation on how it operates.

Lots of public funds will be spent to make things right at MAS, and it will start with the RM1.4bil takeover of the airline. The overhaul of MAS should be more than just cosmetic or quick fixes.

While the airline’s revenue will surely slump, MAS also has to deal with its cost. As it stands, experts have pointed out that the size of its cost structure is one that supports a far larger network than what MAS currently operates.

Tackling costs won’t be easy also, given that it is a government-linked company (GLC) with social obligations. In fact, MAS, like its other GLC brethren, has commitments that most private companies just don’t have.

Will the overhaul of MAS take into account just how far it needs to go to remove a certain portion of such obligations, and if it is happening in MAS, are other GLCs too shouldering the same kind of burden as MAS is?

It has been long suspected that the airline has been losing lots of money due to leakages and some have even alluded to political interests having their fingers in the pie.

Khazanah should undertake a thorough review of the supply chain, and conduct forensic accounting if needed to ensure corruption is weeded out of the company. MAS needs to make sure that the services and supplies bought are at market rates and of a fair value.

For Khazanah, it needs to revisit its GLC transformation programme and see whether it has been as effective as what the market expected it to be. There has been a series of colourful books and manuals issued, and among them, the red book. Just how far have the initiatives of the red book, which deal with procurement, been successful in reducing costs?

But the need to ensure support for its social obligations can be tough on a GLC. For one, if the contracts given or services and goods acquired are inflated beyond an acceptable amount, then it will just balloon cost. Social obligations that relate to the need for support to help companies grow in scale is understandable, but not handouts.

Even Petroliam Nasional Bhd president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas has inferred that there is pressure from Government interference and the need to back vendors that charge quite a bit above market prices.

If such pressure is existent in the national oil company that is different from other GLCs, then one can hypothesise that such pressure is prevalent among GLCs.

There needs to be a balance between social obligations and market value. GLCs cannot go on supporting programmes at inflated costs if the companies they are supporting have not shown improvements or are detrimental to their own well-being. This is because doing so will have a telling effect on the performance of the companies.

Should its costs become inflated as a result of such support, then there could be implications on the performance of the GLCs. For one, investors will make that distinction and attach a lower market multiple for GLC companies compared with its private-sector peers. Some will say that it is already being seen in some GLCs.


By: JAGDEV SINGH SIDHU The Star/Asia News Network

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