The Star Online, January 9, 2010
Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, YTL group managing director answers....
1. What is your advice to young Malaysians who aspire to become successful entrepreneurs in this era of booming information technology and borderless world? – Benson Ting, KL
To be successful in any given moment, the fundamentals have to be right. I always say, master the three languages first. The language of God – integrity and long term perspectives; the language of Man – ability to articulate a vision and inspire confidence; and the language of Machine – ability to innovate with technology and skill-sets.
Once the DNA is correct, excel in what you are good at. Then be smart in coming up with cool products and services that people actually need or want, like the iPod or Facebook. Why force onto the market what no one wants? By all means, capitalise on the Internet. Use it wisely to brand and accelerate the exposure of what you could offer, especially in Asia.
But make sure you deliver – on time! Finally, timing! Be ready to work your socks off to build a solid business. Quick fixes do not get anyone far. Just look at the mess in the global economy today.
2. Any plans for the group to explore Port Dickson’s huge potential given that there are many international-type resorts such as The PD World Marina Resort and so forth? – I.K. Yeo, Petaling Jaya
We already have many award winning hotels and resorts like Pangkor Laut and Tanjong Jara, but we do keep our eyes open for opportunities to expand the hotels division. However, we will only investigate places with unspoilt natural habitat and avoid areas bent on crass commercialisation like Patong Beach.
If you study Pangkor Laut, we have preserved nature by blending everything built into the existing ecological footprints. The 2 million year old virgin forest on the island is untouched. While our resident naturalist, Uncle Yip sees to it that the ecosystem is kept that way. Needless to say, every YTL resort after Pangkor Laut adheres firmly to this discipline of environmental conservation. If a location in Port Dickson fits our strictest environmental criteria, we would be happy to investigate.
3. As a wealthy entrepreneur, how do you wish to contribute to your countryman? There’s a perception that the group doesn’t contribute enough to the hard-core poor or the sick. Is that true? – Jennie Lai, Johor
Helping the poor and the sick is more than corporate social responsibility or moral obligation. It is a biblical command which I obey diligently. I believe in giving sacrificially and I deplore tokenism and boastfulness. However, I also observe Jesus’ teachings that “when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and (God) your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
Philanthropy should not be boastfully paraded. I can accept the premise that high-profile corporate philanthropy could help promote a particular cause or campaign, such as the environment. And YTL has been pushing the green agenda not only within the entire group, but also by actively supporting campaigns and charities.
4. In terms of the consistent success of a big corporation like yours, is the board of directors’ decision equally important as the management team’s hardwork? Teo Thiam Tech, Selangor
We do not measure success in those terms. YTL has a very fluid system. Our directors routinely roll up their sleeves and get stuck-in alongside staff to implement projects, myself included! It is very common for staff to be given the opportunity to lead and run expensive projects that they have conceived. Yes, we throw them in the hottest soup, but of course, holding their hands at the same time. How else can they become the next generation of dynamic leaders?
YTL’s emphasis is always on “ownership.” Whenever directors and staff have that “sense of ownership” of the company, they are more passionate, more willing to take hands-on initiatives, more innovative, and certainly more committed to excel. They make better leaders because they will think about the company and their colleagues beyond the one or two immediate projects.
5. What do you value most, and why? Bulbir Singh, Seremban
I treasure my daily quiet hours spent reading, praying and in reflection. Everything comes from my Maker, from Whom I derive joy, insight and strength. Without my Lord, I am nothing! I am also a family man who loves his family to bits. I treasure the time spent with my wonderful children, my parents, my siblings and their families. Of course, I also give time to my friends.
Life is very short. The richness of one’s relationships is what defines him or her. Not wealth, not knowledge, not fame!
6. Your wife passed away several years ago. What if you meet someone whom you’d like to spend the rest of your life with, then? Would that go against your religion? CT Lim, Selangor
Christian teachings on marriage allow a widow or a widower to remarry. My decision not to remarry is my own choice, in honour of my wife whom I love dearly.
7. Do you believe entrepreneurship and being business savvy is innate or can it be acquired/nurtured? Yong Bih Cheng, KL
Whether entrepreneurship is innate or acquired, the real issue is how well you make use of what you have. Many business folks I know are highly successful, but you would not think they are naturally inclined towards entrepreneurship.
And then there are those, like me, who are naturally more entrepreneurial. But some have succeeded in business, whilst others have not. It just goes to show that innate talent is not a recipe for success. The key word here is nurturing! My innate entrepreneurial tendencies were recognised early by my father. He not only encouraged me to exercise my talents, he took major risks by allowing me to pursue new business opportunities on behalf of the company.
My father is a brilliant mentor. He kept a close watch over affairs and patiently guided me, as I moved from building properties, to power plants, to high speed trains and to acquiring utility assets. My father certainly taught me how to accept and learn from failures.
Because of this “nurturing”, my fellow directors and I routinely use the same methods on the next generation of leaders in the firm. No doubt, it is a challenge for companies to cate r to various talents and YTL is no different. But at YTL, we welcome entrepreneurs, as much as the managers. If anyone is passionate, hungry and willing to learn, we will break our backs to train and mentor them.
8. As a devout Christian, how do you keep yourself righteous from unethical business practices, especially in the construction field? – Mong, Sunway
Given YTL’s long term perspectives on our business interests, we cannot do without credibility. Otherwise, we would certainly have failed in buying public utility assets abroad like Britain’s Wessex Water or Singapore’s Power Seraya. My point is this – in business and in life, integrity and trust are priceless! Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
There are principled folks in the business world, in the construction industry and not least, in governments. Our preference is always to work with them. Having honest partners spares us many headaches. We know we can trust them to be transparent, as well as to uphold our values.
If I mention some of their names, you would instantly recognise them as those already advocating and upholding moral leadership in their own spheres of influence. To avoid being in “compromising positions,” we do not go into certain businesses – even if the money is good. And whenever we do pursue new ventures and investments, I do openly inform our potential clients and partners of our values and ethics. But always only after the most stringent due diligence. Finally, we find places to invest and operate in where transparency is promoted and the rule of law upheld.
9. What are the challenges you expect to face in rolling out WiMAX given that there are many experienced players competing for their share in the market? – Sue Ling, Selangor
YTL Communications will roll out a nationwide infrastructure that will be very different from existing players. We promise consumers a very cool and exciting WiMAX package, backed-up by Clearwire, Cisco and Samsung. Trust me, we will offer entirely new value propositions that are very affordable and also with a “wow” factor. All this will become clear when we launch our WiMAX this year. In the mean time, our challenge is of course, to get everything up and running. By the Grace of God and with very hardworking YTL engineers and experts, we will get there.
10. What is the one big personal goal you would like to achieve in 2010? – Sunita, KL
My personal goal is always to walk in the footsteps of God. Whether in 2009, 2010 or God willing, in 2050!