Being in the news and staying there

How times have changed. During my younger days – which was not as long as Liverpool’s last English league title – I recalled obediently waiting at the front door each morning eager to flip through the broadsheet-sized newspapers to read up on the latest news around the world. When it rains or the delivery guy calls in sick, there was a disquieting void to the day.

These days, rain or shine, the daily dosage of news comes through to us, but in place of ink-stained fingers that requires more than a handful of Zip detergent to deal with is now a slightly sore pair of thumbs relentlessly swiping across the tablet computer or mobile phone screen. Do they already have a name for this condition (such as carpal tunnel syndrome for extensive keyboard usage)?

A pleasant news article – which are rare these days with natural disasters, wars, ludicrous politics and increasing fees of Indonesian maids flooding the headlines – recently caught my attention that I believe augurs well for the future of the country’s SMEs. Via tools such as RSS feeds and Google news alert, one is able to acquire specific news that regular local newspapers may not deem important enough to cover in their publications.

According to a research by Give A Grad A Go, 82% of UK graduates surveyed revealed that they would get better job satisfaction working for SMEs, while 92% also believed that SMEs allow greater creativity. Although the survey unveil that 91% believed that larger firms provide higher pay, increased job security and better career progression than SMEs, it showed that many graduates believe that the work life balance in SMEs surpasses that of larger corporations.  

Even though this was not an international survey, this article goes towards supporting my own long-standing conviction that our workforce, particularly amongst the younger generation – that would likely not have heard or seen Liverpool at the top of the league standings over the last two decades – should look to the SME sector to amass their work experiences and skill sets. With fewer bureaucracies, direct access to the top management and wider job scopes, SMEs undoubtedly offer en employee a faster way to learn and do more.

However this conviction of mine was sternly tested during two different incidences earlier this month. During my regular rounds in soliciting potential corporate communication projects, I had the opportunity to conduct business discussions with two separate SME owners; coincidentally both just listed their companies on the local stock exchange.

The first entrepreneur unashamedly declared that he dislikes today’s internet technology citing that it was “too open for everyone to know what you are doing… and encourages others to disrupt your business.” The serial businessman in his late 50s firmly asserted that they “don’t really need technology to grow their business,” and that they have been “conducting business long before email and internet appeared and would continue to do so.”

There goes the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s chief declaration at the APEC SME Ministerial Meeting held last month out the window! Amongst the key mentions was that SMEs globally needed to adopt new technologies to reduce the cost of doing business and to take advantage of cloud computing to improve productivity, efficiency and reduce business costs.

I cannot fathom the thought of any of the graduates in the above-mentioned survey working in this once-SME owner’s organisation if they are not granted access to the internet or other online social media tools.  

On the other hand, the second entrepreneur, in his 30s and having inherited the initial financial muscle from his family to set up the IT services company less than a decade ago, is an ardent advocator of technology, evident by the constant messaging on his BlackBerry and iPad throughout the three occasions when we met.

In between the periods when he was not messaging or replying to an email, he shared that the way to his business success was to “simply copy what others are doing.” According to him, as Malaysia is “always behind the rest of the world,” they just needed to emulate the technology and services that is available in other parts of the world and provide these same services to the Malaysian market. “Why the need to spend money and resources to innovate?” he argued.

I guess that way of thinking explains a lot of Malaysia’s less than persuasive standing in the latest Global Innovation Index of 2009-2010. Ranked 52nd out of 132 economies around the world, Malaysia is far behind leaders Ireland, Sweden and Hong Kong.

As I swiftly recovered my faith that most Malaysian entrepreneurs do appreciate the benefits of technology and consider innovation and uniqueness as key ingredients in their success, I hope that there are not too many out there would rest on their laurels to think that “what got them there would be enough to keep them there”. Let Liverpool’s cobweb filled trophy cabinet be testament to that.


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