Successful Hard-Working Businessmen Aren’t What They Seem


Growing up, my parents drilled into me what it takes to be successful - hard work, hard work, hard work. My father always said, “without discipline, you can’t achieve anything in life.” (He was a disciplinary teacher back in his teaching days).

As I built my career around being a consultant, I noticed that there was more to success than hard work. My dad previously worked in very reputable organisations like Toyota, BMW and UMW. He learned a great deal about the Toyota way, fortified with great people-managing skills developed when he designed a training program for all Toyota workshop managers in Malaysia. It wasn’t just his hard-working character that got him to where he was, it was also his management skills.

After learning about that, I started asking around among my consultant seniors, and realised that they all had some management training on top of their basic hard-working values. One of my mentors - who was the ex-general manager of my family business - placed heavy emphasis on systems and structure. He had a process to everything and standardised many key workflows - and that was his ticket to success.

Another one of my father’s good friends had great experience in distribution and logistics. He knew how to establish a distribution network of whatever he was trying to sell and scale it up to the entire nation. These were great learnings to me because growing up, I only knew them to be “hard workers” and nothing more. But in reality, there was a lot more to their skill sets and capabilities than met the eye.

Understanding success is not a straightforward process, because most people do not share the entire picture of how they got to their version of “success”. Perhaps they don’t fully understand it themselves. In addition, due to societal pressures that emphasise modesty, I am usually unable to get much meaningful input during casual conversations amongst seniors, as they tend to laugh and brush off a lot of the significant things they have succeeded in pulling off in their careers. Learning how to dig deeper (politely) and reading between the lines will give me more insights on how to strive in this SME industry.


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