Entrepreneurs, are you in contact?

Clad casually in a sports jacket and jeans, the speaker seated at the centre of the stage repeatedly asked his audience, “Are you in contact?”

Throughout his 60-minute long presentation, every few minutes he would interject with another “Are you in contact?” query, each time followed by a seemingly eternal pause. Most speakers have been trained to not repeat one phrase too often or to pause for too long between words.

But Dhyan Vimal was not just any speaker. He is a renowned author of more than 50 books on philosophy and business management, founder of the four disciplines on mastery meditation and a successful entrepreneur.

At the Gathering of Great Minds event last month, he held the audience captive as he reminded us that “the current state of humanity is a direct result of mankind living without accountability… created a very shallow and selfish mindset which has mutated into the very poison we live by.”

Strong words perhaps, but the moment you look around and observe the impoverished around the corner, the lack of empathy amongst the society, and the deteriorating environment surrounding us, his message becomes apparent. Vimal was keen to get us back to being in contact with our inner-self and “be an active participant in the development of humanity”. He was telling us to make our presence in this world count.

During another “Are you in contact?” pause, I found myself thinking if there are many entrepreneurs out there, from manufacturers to small offices, that are truly in contact with their customers, communities and the world they operate in.

Sure, there are those that do their fair share of charity for the destitute and carry out their annual visits to the old folks homes as part of their CSR programmes. But away from the media entourage and tax-deductible incentives, are they making enough effort towards guarding business ethics, respecting employee rights, ensuring equality and fairness to their customers, and making the lives of communities around their business ecosystem better?

Making the lives of others better is what the following speaker does amazingly. Appearing on stage dressed as a clown and with ponytailed locks that almost reached his waist – more so considering his well over six-foot frame – he immediately commanded attention. When Dr Hunter Doherty ‘Patch’ Adams summoned everyone present in the auditorium to the stage to participate in various demonstrations, no one dared decline.

As the founder of the Gesundheit! Institute, Dr Adams – whose life story was portrayed in the Hollywood hit Patch Adams played by Robin Williams – is a globally respected icon who travels the world as a street clown revolutionising the medical industry as he believed that “laughter, joy and creativity are an integral part of the healing process and therefore, true health care must incorporate those aspects of life.”

Back on stage, all of us were paired up with complete strangers for several exercises, including hugging, declaration of unconditional love, and the stroking of the head as exemplification of his teachings. For well over an hour, I can safely say that we were definitely in contact!

Explaining that “the most revolutionary act one can commit in our world is to be happy”, Dr Adams asserted that as individuals we must be able to become sincerely personal with everyone around us and in everything that we do throughout our lives.

“To become personal with others, you must first learn to love yourself and the world at large,” he said.

As the heady scent of the lady’s perfume lingered on hours after our awkward but surprisingly heart-warming hug and traces of clammy hair gel on the man’s head still evident on my palms, I found myself believing that Dr Adams’ ideas of becoming personal with everything that we do could be widely applied to all Malaysian entrepreneurs.

If business owners made their customer services more personal, we would enjoy better dining experiences. If employers got to know their staffs better, this would lead to increased productivity and lower turnover. If food manufacturers made products that he and his family would consume themselves, there would be no tainted products out there poisoning our future generation.

I’m not saying that an entrepreneur should go around each day to hug her employees, or that she should stand right in front of their noses to declare her enduring love for every single worker. What I’m saying is that as a business owner, you have a duty to enrich the lives of those that work with you, be held accountable for the customers that you serve, and participate in keeping the environment safe for all.

If all it takes to achieve the above means you have to go around the office or factory plant every 15 minutes throughout the day asking yourself and your staffs “Are you in contact?” I don’t see why not!

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