Tag Archives: SME

Don’t sabotage your media coverage

The below is an extract of a timely article reflecting what I’ve been shouting out to our local entrepreneurs for the longest time while carrying my duties as a journalist and editor.

Published on Forbes.
com (By Elizabeth MacBride), 13 August 2014

5 Ways Entrepreneurs Sabotage Their Own Media Coverage

I talk to many entrepreneurs and business owners as a journalist. Many are eager for more coverage. Lately, I’ve been speaking with entrepreneurs in emerging markets, who seem to want stories written about their companies even more. But often, entrepreneurs shoot themselves in the foot during the interview or as I ask questions afterwards.

In the interests of better communication and less wasting time, I put together this list of mistakes, sort of a very mini-media training, for entrepreneurs seeking coverage.

Media relations

1. Not sharing numbers.

Numbers mean everything. If you are not prepared to share at least some hard facts about your company, why bother to get in touch? That’s especially true if you are making assertions about your company. If you say you are the largest, by what measure? If you say you are the fastest-growing, by what rate and measured against which competitors? It is routine for privately held companies to share year-over-year revenue figures and, if they are VC-backed and haven’t started generating significant revenue yet, their funding totals and their investors, plus some other number, like the number of trials or customers.

2. Lying. This should be obvious, but: Don’t lie.

I have encountered a handful of outright lies over the years. When I was covering health care as a very young reporter, the CEO of a local hospital used to lie about his competitors, the other hospitals and surgery centers in town. Before I figured out what he was doing, I wasted a lot of time chasing down bad tips he gave me.

3. Obfuscating.

Lying is pretty rare. Obfuscation is common. For instance, entrepreneurs might say they are the leader in a particular market, or introduced a technology. Later, I’ll find out that objective observers think another company deserves the credit. The hubristic claims weren’t out-and-out lies, but they still cause me to mistrust the entrepreneur. At best, it makes me doubt the entrepreneur’s ability to separate truth from ego.

A better approach is to explain why you’re making a claim and add what an objective observer might say about what makes your company different or better. You get a lot of credit for being up front.

4. Hiring public relations people who deliberately stir the pot.

Some PR people are great. They help shape stories, pin executives down and wrangle interviews. Thank you to all of those.

But some, unfortunately, prove their worth to clients — that’s you, entrepreneurs — by creating conflicts with journalists and then solving them. Especially after a story is published, the public relations team will call an executive, flabbergasted at something published in the story. It’s often a minor thing: a word choice that’s not quite in the lexicon the company has decided is best, or a phrase with a debatable meaning.

A PR company that seizes on the issue can argue that it’s a disaster, which leads to the conclusion that you not only need the PR team to call the media outlet, but that you must hire the PR team to manage all of your media relationships for you.

Meanwhile, the PR team is doing a lot of damage to your relationship with the particular reporter and sometimes the media outlet in question. A better approach: If there’s a mistake in a story, tell me. I’ll fix it or make sure it is fixed ASAP. If there’s a nuance I didn’t capture, call me to tell me about it so I can incorporate it into a story next time around.

Journalists don’t need the drama created by public relations companies whose main interest is cementing their own revenue stream in the short term. You don’t, either.

5. Avoiding emails and calls.

If you’re not going to tell me something, just tell me that. It’s a journalist’s job to be persistent, and we will be. But it would be great if you just let us know if there’s something that you don’t want to share, and why. Then we won’t waste time in a fruitless endeavor, and you’ve won appreciation for being straightforward.


OCBC named SME bank of the year

Published in The Star Online (August 8, 2014) 

OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd (OCBC Bank) has been adjudged Malaysia’s SME Bank of the Year by Singapore-based Asian Banking and Finance.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in Singapore recently, Tim Charlton, publisher and editor-in-chief of Asian Banking and Finance said for this year, OCBC Bank performed admirably both in Malaysia and across the region, bagging also the top award for Indonesia and overall Asean SME Bank of the Year title for the fourth year running.


“OCBC Bank’s success lay fundamentally in how it uncovered the various lifecycle stages that require varied business solutions. This helped them develop a seamless suite of products and processes that could assist businesses in their growth along their lifecycle.

“The Bank’s key strategies paid off when they were finally able to deepen market share from less than 3% in 2006 to almost 9% last year, grow its total income by 18%, become number one in loans growth, achieve a more than 100% growth in case count from 2012-2013, and reach a high level of employee satisfaction, thereby further entrenching the Bank’s name in the SME scene,” he said.

The winners are judged on their levels of innovation, effectiveness and dynamism to react to changes in the market and take on progressive opportunities. The selection panel comprised judges from KPMG, Deloitte Consulting, Ernst and Young Advisory LLP and Accenture.

OCBC Bank’s Head of Emerging Business, Mr Wong Chee Seng, said the award represented the culmination of years of listening to and addressing the needs of SMEs in Malaysia.

”Winning a prestigious well-known Asian award like this gives us further conviction that we are on the right track in delivering innovative products and services, serving the community effectively and being dynamic when seeking to meet customers’ various lifecycle needs. Living up to the OCBC business proposition of being simple, fast and convenient also means acknowledging a continuous commitment to positive changes in SME markets and regulations,” he said.

Wong says he expects the Bank progress with the SME industry to grow exponentially in time to come. We would like to play our part in the government’s plan for SMEs as a significant contributor to the country’s economic growth,” he said.

Call for SME ministry, university in Thailand

Something I have been advocating for over the years and hoping to see happen in Malaysia.

Published in Bangkok Post (By Phusadee Arunmas - 30 July 2014) 

The military regime is being urged to set up a new ministry and university dedicated to small and medium-sized enterprise development and promoting SME clusters to cope with higher competition from imminent regional economic integration.

Aat Pisanwanich, director of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce’s Center for International Trade Studies, said a centre study found Thai SMEs had very little marketing and investment exposure in Asean markets compared with those from other countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.

Tokyo SME University

Tokyo SME University

“One of the ways for Thai SMEs to tap into regional marketing and investment opportunities is to set up SME clusters and trading companies to promote investment, particularly in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia.

“They need to follow the business model developed by China, Singapore and Vietnam in promoting foreign investment by their SMEs,” he said

Mr Aat also urged the junta and new government to set up an SME university and ministry to promote and support Thai SME development, citing Japan, which now has nine SME universities.

Those universities play a vital part in helping to develop quality, packaging and marketing for popular Japanese SME products, he said.

Mr Aat said given the relatively high capital requirements and operation costs, individual Thai companies, especially SMEs, were finding it tougher to succeed in expanding abroad.

59 Seconds With… Nicholas Chan

Nicholas Chan

Nicholas Chan

Nicholas Chan
Founder and Chief People, Performance & Potential Officer (C3PO)
Yellowshorts Consulting Sdn Bhd

He teaches adults to play with Lego, runs training sessions like a Navy Seal bootcamp and he names himself after Star Wars’ C3PO. Yet, somehow thousands have taken Nicholas Chan seriously enough to benefit from what he has to offer.

What is Yellowshorts Consulting about?

“Yellowshorts Consulting was started in 2011 after being involved the industry for nearly 10 years. We are a learning and development house that emphasises on the consultative process and psychological personality types as a platform for engaging our clients.

“We pride ourselves with innovative methods in conducting training and development programmes all over the world, including in Malaysia, Singapore, China, Maldives, Mauritius, Iran and Taiwan.

“Other services that we offer are Lego Serious Play facilitation, Open Space Technology facilitation, strategic planning session for corporations and the newest addition to our services, the CEO and Executive retreats.”

What inspired you to start this business?

“I’ve always been passionate about training and developing people, I’ve always had an innovative mind on how training and development should be deployed even if it means additional steps and methodologies to get the client what they need to enhance their training needs.”

What have been your biggest challenges?

“The biggest challenge for me is really to ensure that I am up to date with the latest news and technologies in the industry, and staying ahead of the competition.

“Another challenge is that in order to ensure the client gets what they need, sometimes I need to tell them the hard truths and that proper investigation and research must be done before a proper training can be deployed for them.”

What are the key achievements to date?

“I personally have plenty of it but I do not use it as a yardstick as I don’t want to be complacent about it. I work hard and smart to get my client what they need to fulfil their training needs.

“Every training I conduct is an achievement for me; the look of earnestness and comprehension on the faces of my participants, the kinds words on my performance makes me proud every single time I step in front of the crowd. It is what keeps me going strong year after year, in bad and good times.”

What’s ahead for Yellowshorts Consulting?

“This year we’re looking into incorporating methodologies such as Gamification into all our training programs. We will also be using Lego as a platform to introduce a brand new concept of play and learn for adult learners.

“We also have a brand new company under the Yellowshorts banner, which is Yellowshorts Alliance, whose main product is PR, Social Media and CSR strategies, which is run by my new partner, Sheryl Ho.”

Boost your team’s performance with Nicholas Chan and his team at: www.yellowshorts.com.my.

59 seconds with… Jovita Lo

Jovita Lo

Jovita Lo

Jovita Lo
Chief Planner
Jovita Lo Weddings

Her website declared: “We know the expected and the unexpected… we can tell you if you are getting the right value for your money.” Wonder if she was referring to the event or about the bride or bridegroom?

Ever-enterprising, Lo started Jovita Lo Weddings in 2004 after having went through the ordeals of planning her own wedding occasion. “It was stressful,” she declared.

What services do you offer?

“We provide wedding planning services; our team helps couples to plan, coordinate and execute their wedding preparations and the wedding day itself with pinpoint precision.

“We strive to make every wedding event an enjoyable and memorable occasion for the couple, their family and the guests attending the celebrations. Our strength is our attention to detail, being focus on each client and having established strong vendor relationships.”

What brings tears to a wedding planner?

“Wedding planners like me often have to help the couple out as they often become overwhelmed with all the details and specifics of individual tasks involved in each wedding event.

“We need to have plenty of patience, be attentive to customers’ demands and be prepared to pick up a situation and help out. We have to flexible in making crucial decisions on the spot, especially on the day of the event.

Why do you continue to do what you are doing?

“Anytime the bride and groom come up to me to show their appreciation after a wedding event, it makes me feel proud that I was part of their big day and that I have contributed towards its success.

“It is a great thing to become a part of peoples most cherished memories and that I did my best to ensure that the wedding day would become the foundation for an amazing future ahead for them.

“But most of all, I simply love and remain absolutely passionate of my job!”

For the perfect wedding, read more about Jovita Lo at www.jovitalo.com

New retail experience @ Nu Sentral

Centrally located within the Kuala Lumpur Sentral CBD, the Nu Sentral retail mall is set to bring urban and fresh retail concept to market with its soft opening today. Nu Sentral is an iconic expression that there is always something “Nu” for everyone at the retail mall that is specially designed for those who seek the ultimate urban lifestyle. 

NU Sentral

NU Sentral

Offering connectivity, investment opportunities and an international lifestyle, Nu Sentral has huge growth potential with its location in the Kuala Lumpur Sentral CBD, Malaysia’s largest rail transport hub with direct link and passenger check-in facility via the Kuala Lumpur City Air Terminal (carrying the IATA global code XKL) at the Stesen Sentral Kuala Lumpur (SSKL).

With more than 30,000 already living and working in Kuala Lumpur Sentral CBD, and a crowd of 160,000 commuters frequenting the SSKL daily, Nu Sentral captures the footfall from four rail networks, and soon with the MRT and KLIA2, hundreds of thousands more will add to the current footfall here.

The nine-storey Nu Sentral adopts sustainable and green building practices and is designed in compliance with Singapore’s BCA Green Mark and Malaysia’s GBI certifications, with a GFA of 1.3 million sq. ft. and GDV of over RM1 billion, offering 287 retail lots for lease.

This mall has one of the largest green rooftops with entertainment spaces, alfresco dining and other unique features which beacons its positioning statement as a new urban shopping haven.

In the first phase of opening, the major anchor tenants which have opened for business are Parkson, Hush Puppies, Sephora, Machines, L’occittane, Starbucks, O’Brien, Focus Point, Loaf and many more occupying more than 200,000 sq ft.

Other well-known brand in this mall include Cotton On, Levi’s, Sushi Tei, Coffee Planet, Wesria Food Court, Tony Roma’s, My Lucky Gem, Focus Point, Sam Groceria are some of the labels that will be opening soon.

59 seconds with… Karen-Michaela Tan

Karen-Michaela Tan

Karen-Michaela Tan

Karen-Michaela Tan
Director of Editorial Services
Write Pix Unlimited

Established in 2008, Write Pix Unlimited is the story of a writer and a photographer working together from the bedroom to the boardroom. Offering writing and photography services over a broad spectrum of genres, the company is an expansion of Tan’s original sole proprietorship writing services business.

What inspired you to start the business?

“Many companies – both large and small – as well as small business start-ups have editorial needs that they do not know how to meet. Large companies, such as banks and insurance agencies want to have an internal newsletter but do not necessarily want to hire a writer on their permanent payroll as that person’s hiring may not be able to be justified if they only produce one newsletter every other month.

“On the other hand, SMEs often fail to attract the proper calibre of writing talent, as they may be seen as being too small to offer growth prospects. Also, their budgets may be limited and they may not see the need to have a permanent writer on their payroll, even though there is a need to write text for their promotional brochures and A&P material.

“So we step in and provide contract editorial and photography services. We suggest pagination, items to feature, and once approved, we write and take the necessary photographs, lay it out and turn over the final artwork to the client to print as most have printers they usually use.

“We offer short and long-term consultancy services, either on a project basis or a month to month basis, which give them access to professional writing services that they need not keep on their payroll indefinitely.”

What have been some of the challenges along the way?

“Trying to make people understand our area of business. We are not an advertising agency; we do not buy media space, nor do we have in-house creative directors, but we can execute all the below the line stuff a small client needs.

“We are not a PR firm; we do not have a media list and we do not invite media, but we write the press releases and upkeep client websites. We write. We take great photos. Along the way we make clients sound really great, and help them define their brand voice and image.”

What are your proudest achievements to date?

Early on in my career as a writer, I wrote Mercy Malaysia’s book on their response to the Asian tsunami.

Two years ago, I was contacted by some members of Mercy who had gone on to Khazanah Nasional, the government’s investment arm. They wanted a book written and were generous enough to tell me that they considered no other writer, as my approach to writing was exactly what they wanted on a book they were commissioning.

This book, Sandpipers & Mudskippers, is a travelogue/guide and story of the wetlands of the Iskandar region in Johor. Write Pix Unlimited wrote, photographed and designed the book.

“We went from a simple knowing of mangroves, to becoming great admirers and champions of these fascinating eco-systems. This book has travelled all over the world as part of Khazanah’s presentation material for international wetland congresses.”

What’s in store for 2014?

“Hopefully our writing services will help uplift the standards of editorial offerings in a certain English daily. Our work will also be seen and read at Sunway Medical Centre where we have written a series of informative, yet not too medically technical outreach material on certain procedures offered by the hospital.

“We take a great interest in Malaysian entrepreneurship and are happy to extend our services to new businesses that need business papers or proposals written up. “

Let Karen-Michaela Tan find the “write” words for you at www.facebook.com/WritePixUnlimited

59 seconds with… Raymond Chou

Raymond Chou

Raymond Chou

Raymond Chou
Regional Managing Principal Consultant
Redynamics Asia

Having finally realised that he can’t change the world for the better with his under-appreciated sporting abilities, Chou has turn to his IT talents and training skills to at least make it an easier place for us to live and work in.

How different is Redynamics Asia?

“Having established the business in 2002, we are today a focused IT consulting company offering services related to the designing, implementing and training in areas of systems management, virtualisation and cloud.

“We are one of the few pure-play experts in our field, and we currently service clients from all across South East Asia via our dedicated offices in Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka.”

How did you get bitten by the entrepreneurship bug?

When I was an employee in companies I used to work for, I was very passionate in doing everything and undertaking anything I can to improve the organisations’ IT infrastructure. Most of these projects were done within a year.

“After which, things became very operational and less challenging for me. In a way, I quickly became bored of my tasks. I needed to be in an environment where I could continuously challenge myself, and continuously work to try and help different companies and people improve their operations.

“So I started out working as a freelancer on my own. By being my own boss, it provided me with the ability to make decisions towards helping others. This was vital kick-in-the-butt that I needed.”

What were some of the roadblocks along the way?

“Time and money. No matter how much anyone tells you to start small and to slowly evolve the business, there is also a dilemma of whether or not what you want to achieve can be done in your preset time.

“We started out small but had big dreams. To achieve those dreams, we needed money… which we did not have at that time. But as we grew, there were also uncertainties. Having greater overheads and an unpredictable sales pipeline also meant that there were times where cashflow was a big issue.

“No matter how big or successful you are and even with great people in your team, cashflow issues can easily dismantle all that success. Thankfully, after 10 years in the business, we have grown regionally to a size that we are happy with and more important, being able to call the business a success.”

What are your proudest achievements?

“That we can finally call ourselves an international business. With offices in Singapore, Sri Lanka and soon Thailand, this shows that we are able to be successful regionally as well as domestically.

“We are equally proud of the people we were able to retain and remain as part of our proud family within the company. Truly without them, we will be nowhere.”

What lies ahead?

“We are in the midst of setting up our operations in Thailand. This would definitely be a different challenge altogether as language is something we have to find a way to get by with. However, this is truly exciting as we add one more country to our growing list of operations.

“We will also be performing the final hurdle of the brand merger with Infront Consulting Group to take the brand to a global level with offices in Canada, USA and Europe.”

More about Raymond Chou and his team at www.redynamics.com

59 seconds with… Jeanisha Wan


Jeanisha Wan

Jeanisha Wan
Managing director
J1 Consulting Sdn Bhd
Founder of WEVents

Despite being a relative newcomer to the country’s entrepreneurship sphere having established J1 Consulting in 2010, Wan has swiftly carved out her presence as columnist, marketing guru and public relations consultant.

What inspired you to start J1?

“I am an accidental entrepreneur. Started my company because I wanted to do more and not limit myself to do marketing for just once company (she was formerly a marketing director for an IT company).

“Also amazingly, it was at a job interview that I got this idea to be my own boss as the interviewer suggested that I do this instead!”

What have been your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?

“Talent sourcing. We are selling ‘brains’ here as we are a consultancy company. In the past four years of our journey, I’ve found finding the right talent to be the biggest challenge.”

What are your proudest achievements to date?

“Being able to achieve and perform what our clients tell us other agencies or service providers have not been able to do for them; even when it comes to doing something we have not done before.

“About 80% of our existing clients now came to us through customer referrals. Our commitment to quality work speaks for itself.”

What lies ahead for the year of the Horse?

“A new team with renewed focus on quality; and to earnestly keep to our core work culture in being curious, think and have passion for our work.”

More about Jeanisha Wan and her business at www.j1consult.com.

59 seconds with… Ivlynn Yap


Yap Cheng Theng

Ivlynn Yap Cheng Theng
Founder and managing director
Citrine One Sdn Bhd

An IT journalist-turned-entrepreneur, Yap considers herself an “old-hand” in the public and media relations industry having run her own marketing communications, advertising and promotions outfit since 2001.

Citrine One is involved in areas such as strategic marketing communications, public and media relations, content development, events and project management, social media and media training.

What drove you to start you own business?

“Following my stints as a journalist, editor, producer, regional PR manager, regional marcomm manager, I felt some agencies which I dealt with lacking the understanding of how the media actually works and what exactly clients want albeit the limitations and challenges they face.

“Hence, I decided to offer my services based on my experience and knowledge of these areas and to focus on addressing these needs.”

What are some of the obstacles you faced?

“My biggest challenge is to turn around the company and to be in the black again when one of my clients went into liquidation and owe us a six-figure amount which we needed in return to pay to our suppliers. We struggled for one year and a half to pay back our suppliers.

“However, I’m happy that despite this huge challenge, my team stuck together, especially my senior management team who have been with me for more than five years as we worked hard to pay off our suppliers.

“Despite all that, we still managed to pay our staff a fair amount of bonus albeit a smaller amount than usual, and to send them for a company trip to Bali the following year despite year-end losses.”

What are the best moments in the business?

“My proudest achievements to date are when we secured the Canon account for three years, Cartoon Network for two years, managed the Pemandu Government Transformation Programme PR initiatives and being tasked with the media relations aspects for Petronas Motorsports Twin Towers @ Live concerts for three years. Toughest job scope but the team managed to pull through nevertheless.”

What will 2014 bring?

“As we are no longer in debt, we are now looking forward to grow again. A good start to the year 2014 when we were asked again to manage the media for Twin Towers @ Live 2014.

More about Yap Cheng Theng and her business at www.citrineone.com