8 tips for success from award-winning businesses

Not everyone who wants to be a successful entrepreneur becomes one. That is the gruelling truth of today’s times.

While great business ideas may start from a vision, successful businesses require so much more – grit, mental stamina, and unfaltering dedication – the unsexy elements that are not always talked about.

To find out what ingredients are needed when venturing into a startup, we consult Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) winners of 2015, Plus Solar Systems Sdn Bhd co- founder and executive director Ko Chuan Zhen, and Tandop Hotel Sdn Bhd CEO Steve Low Wey Heng to find out their nuggets of advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs in Malaysia.

1. Choose your industry wisely

While your vision is to be the number one brand in the industry, this will not always be the case. Therefore, Low advises to choose an industry that will make you a decent profit, even when you are not at the top.

He gives an example, highlighting a comparison between being the top stationery manufacturer versus a property developer ranked 100th in the industry.

“Both might enjoy the same profits. However it might be harder to become the number one stationery manufacturer compared to being 100th top property developer,” says Low.

2. Know where your passion lies

“A business that is driven with passion will perform better, in terms of the impact and the value it creates in society,” says Ko.

It is not just essential to compare industries, but to find a personal connection between you and your business. Your passion needs to be deep and meaningful, and strong enough to keep you moving forward.

Says Low: “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you, and you won’t feel like you are working all the time.”

3. Build your company’s credibility

Many customers are willing to fork out a little more moolah for products and services which are perceived of higher quality. To do this, you must first build trust with your audience.

For Low, his advice is to brush up on personal branding.

“The idea of personal branding is relatively new but it is important because modern audiences are sceptical about the advertisements they see,” says Low. “Personal branding, usually done through social media, allows you to establish a reputation and an identity while still maintaining a personal level of trust and interaction.”

Ko has similar advice to give. As a service provider, it can be difficult to prove your worth initially.

Ko (left) started Plus Solar Systems with trusted university and high school friends, university and high school friends, Poh Tyng Huei (middle) and Ryan Oh (right). Ko (left) started Plus Solar Systems with trusted university and high school friends, university and high school friends, Poh Tyng Huei (middle) and Ryan Oh (right).

“When we started Plus Solar Systems, we did not have a proven track record. On top of that, we were young, which drove potential clients to question our experience and qualification,” he says.

“To address this, we leveraged on our personal global industrial experience, as well as providing niche services which competitors do not offer. Each project we received, we prioritised with emphasis on quality of service, which allowed us to build trust and an impressive portfolio for ourselves.”

4. Put together a great team

Under Low’s (pic) leadership, Tandop Hotel is now one of the top budget hotel chains in Malaysia. Under Low’s (pic) leadership, Tandop Hotel is now one of the top budget hotel chains in Malaysia.

If you want to win in the 21st century, empower those around you, explains Low.

“You have to recognise that you are not able to do everything, and that other people may be better at some things than you are,” says Low.

Another little secret that lets give is to hire female talent.

“At T Hotel, we hire a lot of women – 65 percent to be exact. I find that women think about others more than they think about themselves. Thus, keeping them happy results in happy customers.”

5. Keep up with times

With innovative new technology constantly disrupting the traditional business model, Ko’s advice is to keep ahead of the pack and make sure your business evolves to adapt current technology trends. Says Ko: “At Plus Solar Systems, we conduct group internal meetings twice a year to collect feedback on the market and our policy. We’re always on our toes to predict and work on the next big thing happening in the market.”

6. Understand the game

To win a game, you need a plan. Similarly, strategic planning plays a crucial role in operating a business. One needs to intricately understand how the industry works and the direction it’s heading, in order to fully optimise performance.

Before we started Plus Solar Systems, I spent four years in the industry to understand the whole industry ecosystem. Together with my partners who have solid experience in the banking, financing and engineering control industry, we studied the market to provide competitive advantage to our client, thus scaling our business up in a short time.

7. Find a mentor

Starting a business requires a shift in mindset, from employee to entrepreneur. What kind of entrepreneur are you going to be? The best way to decide can sometimes be by following your role model.

“We fully acknowledge the mindset of a company leader will determine the future of the company. This is why at Plus Solar Systems, we consistently seek advisory from various business mentors to learn how they think and break-through their obstacles,” says Ko.

8. Never underestimate the role of technology

In today’s time, technology plays an important role to flourish one’s business. Says Ko: “Technology plays a very important role to speed up business operations as well as communication, enabling instantaneous contact with our customer, which then affects the customer experience.” Utilising a one-stop cloud-based software for hotel management, Low recognises the importance of technology for his employees to work efficiently, as well as its contribution to his business.

“Enhancing the customer experience is a major driver of satisfaction and loyalty – both of which are vital to your bottom line. From marketing your business, to providing good customer service, to carrying out day-to-day operations, technology can highly influence your business,” says Low.