Replying to evolving business needs

The headline ‘Pet peeves in workplaces around the world’ swiftly caught my attention when scanning through the RSS (really simple syndication) feed on SMEs and entrepreneurship in my email inbox on a slightly jaded week filled with run-of-the-mill news.

The survey report of small businesses around the world showed that the top five nuisances in businesses were; people not taking ownership for their actions, constant complainers, dirty common areas, starting meetings late or going long, and people who don’t respond to e-mails.

I did not have to dig far into my cerebral cortex to associate many SMEs that I have met over the years which possessed one or several of these traits. Heck, one even immediately came to mind that possessed all of the above virtues!

Amongst the other irritations revealed by the survey received from 17,000 global respondents included taking other peoples’ food from the office fridge, excessive gossiping, loud mobile phone ringtones and carrying out office pranks.

Okay, I’m guilty of allowing Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance ringtone to go on a wee bit longer than necessary on the mobile phone, and I’m not exceedingly proud of having discreetly changed the screen-saver password on a colleague’s computer, or rearranging the alphabets on another colleague’s keyboard. But these were exceptional incidences meant for entertainment rather than the norm. Although I don’t think James had ever forgiven me for the gibberish text showing up on his computer screen!  

Sunday, is the only day in the week that I usually do not meet people for business or work as it is the day that is dedicated to my sports activities. But this particular Sunday I had to make an exception as P.T was someone I was trying to meet up with for the last three months. But I should have seen the signs.

Peeve #1. Three months ago after we exchanged name cards, I promptly sent him an email the day after requesting for casual meeting to get to know his business better. A week later, no reply. I sent another email on the second week, no reply. Perhaps he was away on business. I wrongly thought that every single living being was on BlackBerry or iPhone these days.

Peeve #2. As his name card did not display his mobile phone number, I called his office to verify his email and mobile phone number. “Why you want his email ah?” brusquely asked the annoyed receptionist, “What you want to do with his hand phone number ah?” I had wrongly assumed that Viagra sellers and bank card fraudsters utilising email spamming would not be personally calling up their targets for their emails.

Peeve #3. Three months past and I finally received a call from P.T. No apologies or explanation on my three months wait. “Hi Chris. Read your email,” he coldly stated, “If you want to meet only this Sunday can as very busy.” Now there are several sub-peeves here. First, who was this calling as he did not introduce himself? Secondly, which email was he talking about? In between the 15 jokes and 25 marketing spams, I receive a never-ending list of work-related messages in my inbox daily. And I have five different email accounts he may be referring to.

Peeve #4. Thus, replacing my basketball sneakers with a pair of moccasin, I found my way to a visibly aged commercial area in Puchong. If not for a washed out signboard on the top floor of the three-storey shophouse, it would have taken me longer to find the road as there were no road signs around. I guess you do not need an attractive office location and an unambiguous signboard to be an award-winning SME in Malaysia.

Peeve #5. The meeting was arranged for 10am, yet when I arrived five minutes before time, the doors were locked and no one answered the door bell. Called his mobile over the next 45 minutes, but to no avail. As this was like the remains of an old cowboy town where time had forgotten – even the steadfast mamak restaurant had abandoned the area – and I had decided to leave, he drove up in his gleaming BMW 7 Series. As before, no apologies or explanation for his tardiness.

Peeve #6. Over the next one hour, somewhere in between him relentlessly blaming his sales manager for failing to hit the sales target, rebuking his secretary for him missing his golf times, and vehemently complaining about the lack of financial assistance by the government, we spoke about his business and his need for media relation activities. Frankly, he may not be ready for media just yet!

While my experiences have pleasantly shown me that the above scenario is atypical with many Malaysian business owners and entrepreneurs, yet there remains a few out there that is still making it hard for SMEs to lose their image of being amateurish and even shoddy in their approach to business. It is time these businesses take the first step to be globalised entrepreneurs by hitting the ‘Reply’ button on their email tool.

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