LAST_UPDATESun, 22 Apr 2018 10pm

What Is The Secret To Success? Young M'sian Entrepreneurs Share Their Stories

Success. The word carries such a huge bearing on our lives. Our whole life, we are hounded by the word.

During our primary school years, we needed to achieve success in our UPSR exams. In secondary school, it was our PMR/PT3 and SPM exams. And then it goes on and on for our Diploma, Degree, and in our careers.

Nowadays, even retirement is gauged by the word, with the term ‘successful retirement’ being bandied around, as a buzzword designed to have people chasing their so called success. And we are taught that the only success that matters is financial success, or financial freedom.

But in all actuality, the word success itself is so subjective. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word success’s definition is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

But that doesn’t mean that one type of success, is in any way inferior to another. It just means that for every person, there exists a specific idea of success in their mind.

So, in order to better understand the idea and meaning of success, Malaysian Digest decided to reach out to a couple of successful youths, who were both listed in the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

“I've Learnt That No Matter What Business You Are In, It Is Always A People Business"

Jan Wong, who at only 30 years old this year, is truly a bonafide entrepreneur, having tried his hand out in 8 different companies before finding his true calling with OpenMinds, a digital marketing consultancy that specialises in social media marketing, digital analytics and technology development.

“I recall the day when my primary school teacher told my parents that I will not succeed in life due to my poor performance in my studies," Jan Wong said about success comes to those who persevere.“I recall the day when my primary school teacher told my parents that I will not succeed in life due to my poor performance in my studies," Jan Wong said about success comes to those who persevere.

Jan told Malaysian Digest that he jumped into his first business venture at only 17, without any prior business experience.

“I started my first business when I was 17 in college with no prior business experience and funding. Since then, I've bootstrapped 8 businesses and eventually found my focus on OpenMinds after a series of learning, experiments, success and many failures,” said Jan.

“OpenMinds will be turning 5 this year and we have yet to raise a single cent in funds, taken a loan, or even a personal capital injection.

“We grew from 0 to today, a team of 35, with offices in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, with a total valuation of over USD5 million servicing some of the biggest brands spanning across Asia Pacific and Europe and is featured as a company with one of the best workplace culture in Malaysia,” Jan added.

Although that might sound impressive to you, it is made even more amazing to you, after Jan shared that along with his business ventures, he also somehow managed to find enough time to acquire a Masters in Technology Management, and makes time to give back to society by sharing his experience at speaking engagements and workingpart time as a lecturer.

How can a person who is barely 30 years old, have the time for all this, we asked Jan.

At which Jan remarked, that he doesn’t have a singular role in OpenMinds. He said that his role changes according to the needs of the company, even acting as the janitor of OpenMinds at one point.

“OpenMinds is a digital marketing consultancy company that specialises in social media marketing, digital analytics and technology development. We help brands tailor a digital strategy that will help them better their presence through an integrated, informed and trackable approach.

“As for me, my role changes to suit the phases and the needs of the business. I've been in HR, finance, operations, administration and even the janitor over the years at OpenMinds.

“Today, I play an active role in the business development and scaling aspect of the business, focused on optimising and identifying new business streams, partnerships and expansion possibilities,” said Jan.

When asked what was the 'Aha!' moment in founding OpenMinds, Jan described the success of his company as more of a process, rather than a big defining moment.

“The original idea (of the company) started back in late 2009 where it was intended to be an app startup. It never launched, but through the process, we started generating a lot of interest in our go-to-market strategy instead of the app itself.

“The original team of four eventually disbanded and the decision to pivot to become a digital marketing consultancy company happened in 2012,” said Jan.

“There were several big breaks that happened within our first year and one thing led to another. It started with our first paying client (that enabled us to start a bank account with it), to our first major client from the retail sector (that is still our client until today) and to hiring our first full time team member.

“These may sound nominal to some, but it was a huge thing to us as we spent zero on advertising, no cold calls and no knocking on doors - clients came to us as they discovered us via digital means. These breaks were strong proof of concepts we had and enabled us to build up to what we have now today,” added Jan.

Being wildly successful at an early age, must carry quite a burden to Jan. After all, as people say, ‘success changes a person’. We posed this question to Jan.

“I've learnt that no matter what business you are in, it is always a people business and that is important to put people first. As much you want them to help you succeed, you need to first help them to succeed. There's no other way around it,” Jan confessed.

Jan also explained that his success taught him that it is entirely possible for someone to succeed purely on their passion, perseverance, and grits.

“Part of the process also showed me that it is possible for someone with no prior business experience, funds, network, good grades and outside assistance to come this far through pure passion, perseverance and grit.

Jan also shared an anecdote during his schooling days, reminiscing how one of his teacher said he will never cut it in life.

“I recall the day when my primary school teacher told my parents that I will not succeed in life due to my poor performance in my studies, and I'm glad to say that I survived that foretelling, and it's possible to achieve what you want to achieve if you put your mind to it.” Jan said.

How does Jan himself perceive success?

“The definition of success changes from one to another and to me, success means having found contentment in the things you have set out to do.

“Always celebrate small wins, and celebrate it with the people you hold dear. Material achievements mean nothing if you are not content and have no one to celebrate it with. Even worse if you have to sacrifice them to be perceived as successful, be it your team, friends, family or loved ones.” concluded Jan.

“To Be Successful, You Need To Be Humble”

29-year-old Victor, or more fondly known by his friends as VC (which also doubles up as an acronym for his profession Venture Capitalist), has achieved quite a number of notable achievements in his young life, including making it on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and  contributing to the Malaysian business ecosystem.

“The ones who endure will eventually get to where they want to be," Victor Chua shared his observation.“The ones who endure will eventually get to where they want to be," Victor Chua shared his observation.

Victor is also Vice President of Gobi Partners, an investment company shares with Malaysian Digest how he managed to climb to such lofty heights of his career at such an early age.

“Everyday, it is really about engaging entrepreneurs who are looking for support, exploring new investment opportunities for my funds as well as figuring out how to help the entrepreneurs that I have invested, in solving their problems or expanding their business.

“I have done over 30 investments across ASEAN and each of these companies have their own set of DNA. Hence, my daily routine is always linked to what I can do to support them. Working closely with my team, we try to figure out how to make things more efficient.

“We also need to make sure investors who have entrusted their money with us are satisfied with the progress of the investments. The other important focus that I am doing on a daily basis is to talk to the larger traditional corporations about innovation and how to encourage more collaborations and partnerships,” said Victor.

At only 29 years old, Victor also has achieved a lot in his relatively young life but the successful venture capitalist is modest about his success.

“I honestly don't think I have achieved much. I am still very early in my journey. But I am fortunate enough to have met many great people who have become my friends, mentors and comrades.

“These people have put their faith in me to do the right thing and shared knowledge with me. For me, to be able to go far and get to where you want, I think the most important values are endurance and integrity,” said Victor.

Victor also added that more than talent or aptitude, endurance is more important in order to achieve success.

“The ones who endure will eventually get to where they want to be and a man or woman of integrity will always invite the right opportunities.

“So to me, I always remind myself to be consistent and honest in what I do, because no one wants to work with someone who doesn't hold true to their words,” addded Victor.

His impressivve track record shows that Victor does walk the talk on endurance and being consistent.

“I have worked on an online tutoring platform before with two of my closest friends, I have dealt with the larger institutions such as EPF, Apple, Citibank etc through my consulting days. So all these different kind of experiences have led me to where I am today,” said Victor.

On finding success, Victor says it comes with responsiblities as getting recognised also means you have to prove that the recognition is well deserved.

“Again, I wouldn't say that I am successful. But I don't think any of these pat-on-the-back moments have changed who I am. I think it shouldn't.

“Because at the end of the day, you have not just yourself to answer to, but also to people who have trusted you,” added Victor.

As to the secrets of his success, he narrowed it down simply to staying humble.

“My hypothesis is this - to be successful, you need to be humble, humble enough to listen and learn. Because in any conversation, the one who listens absorb more value than the one who just want to talk.

“I think the determining factor in reaching our goals is our willingness to reach out to different people and mentors; and to be humble enough to believe that there is always something out there for you to learn and worth your curiosity.

“So, never stop learning.”

And finally, when asked for his definition of success, Victor said that to him, success means being able to achieve his ambitions and people’s trust in him.

When asked how he would define success for himself, Victor put it in the context of his job as a venture capitalist and being a trusted “catalyst that unlocks the potential in others” to achieve the objectives that investors place in him.

“I think I will only call myself successful if I am able to achieve two things: my ambitions and to return the trust that people have invested in me,” Victor concluded.

“If You Want To Be Successful, Then You Must Chase Your Passion”

Malaysian Digest also spoke to the President of Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs Association of Malaysia (IKHLAS), Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah to get an idea of Malaysian youths and their apetite for pursuing success.

““If you want to start a business, first tip I will give you is not to get a loan," Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah advised young entrepreneurs thinking of venturing into business.““If you want to start a business, first tip I will give you is not to get a loan," Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah advised young entrepreneurs thinking of venturing into business.
Mohd Ridzuan pointed out that one of the best ways for Malaysians to become successful financially is to try their hands in businesses.

And according to him, in recent years youths are more interested in starting a business.

“Nowadays, more and more youths are more open to trying their hands out in businesses. And that is very good. Malaysia is a very good country to start a business, as we have a thriving economy,” said Mohd Ridzuan.

Mohd Ridzuan also shared that nowadays, parents are more open to the idea of students or youths trying their hands out in business.

“Before, in old times, parents are more apprehensive about letting their children opening up a business.

“Because at that time, parents used to think that owning a business is very unstable. Therefore, they prefer their children to have a normal 9-5 job,” said Ridzuan.

And Ridzuan added that nowadays, parents are more open as they believe that a normal 9-5 job is not sufficient to cover rising living costs.

“But nowadays, parents are more open because they understand that business is the best way to attain financial stability,” said Ridzuan.

Ridzuan also shared some tips for young entrepreneurs who wants to begin their startup.

“If you want to start a business, first tip I will give you is not to get a loan. Instead, try to use your connections to secure advances, and pay according to what you can afford.

“Most of Malaysian start-ups fails, because they find themselves unable to pay the loan they took while starting their business.

“Which is why for me, if someone tells me that they need to take a loan for their business, then I tell them that they are not suitable for business,” stressed Ridzuan.

Ridzuan also said that for young entrepreneurs, the most important thing to ensure their business thrive is to have good connections.

“The most important thing in business for me, is to have good connections. Good suppliers and purchasers will goes a long way,” said Ridzuan.

Ridzuan also stressed the importance of pursuing something that you are really passionate in, instead of just following everyone.

“If you want to be successful, then you must chase your passion. If you’re just delving into businesses because your favourite artist is doing it, or your friend is doing it, then you won’t get far.

“If you are passionate about clothes, then sell clothes. If you are passionate about food, then sell food. Don’t just sell whatever other people are selling, just cause you believe that it can give you the most profit.

“To me, true success comes when you have the courage to pursue your passion,” Ridzuan concluded.