Preamble – context…
Spirituality, reality and business are 3 very big words with often many conflicting narratives. But I found the 3 concepts to be inextricably linked on my personal journey on the road less traveled.
I would date my journey into consciousness back to 1997. It was the year of the Asian financial crisis and as group corporate director of a multinational development and construction company I had brought a deal to the board that could have saved the company. But instead, what happened was it was used to try to discredit me. And all around us things were falling apart. A few short weeks later the company folded and hundreds of our staff lost their jobs and none of the directors escaped unscathed. Everybody lost out. Those last few weeks were seared into my memory. I just couldn’t believe how destructive and short-sighted people I highly respected till that point could be under pressure.
Shortly after that, I was introduced to the work of M Scott Peck. It absolutely intrigued me. I bought every book he had written and poured over his many works. My gut told me he was on to something but I just couldn’t see it. In particular, his work on Community Building in Business really resonated but in my mind’s eye. I couldn’t see it practiced in a “real business” under competitive conditions. But what he advocated stuck in my mind.
After the collapse, I went on to be an independent consultant and deal maker for other companies. Fortune 500 as well as other large companies. From that experience, I gained further insights into the corporate world. This time as an outsider bringing deals to their boards. In that “3rd person” capacity, I saw clearer that deals were not made to benefit the company as a whole but to strengthen the hand of one faction or the other to further their grip on power. So I had to choose sides. And the deals were almost never to the benefit of the company as a whole. And this left a bad taste in my mouth. In the end, I decided to throw in the towel. I’ve had enough.
Curiously I was then asked by Shoi to assist her in building her online design business. And I decided why not? The year was 2002 and just after the dotcom crash. Now Shoi was not a business person and she had the most intriguing way of looking at things. For instance, we would attend a seminar and in the post mortem I would point out the logical inconsistencies of the speaker. And she would say, but he sounded genuine and honest. I could see this was going to be a challenge. Still, we persevered and I worked on the business model while she worked with her clients. Another point of note is Shoi is the gentlest of people while my own approach was more hardnosed given my background in construction. But her way worked. And in time designbyshoi.com was born.
In 2005 my son emerged as our State Champion for Chess and again I moved on. I became a Chess coach and did small tournaments for pocket money. I stayed on the circuit for 10 years since my son played for the State for 5 years and then for the Country for the next 5. And in Chess, I began to understand more and more how pressure affects our thinking. And I got further clues to what actually happened back in 1997.
Then 2 things happened that brought me back to the business world. By then I had resigned myself as an itinerant Ronin for hire doing small deals just to get by. The first was I was asked if I could find a way to help our craftsmen to sell their products online and the second was I was invited to meet my former Chairman at his Hotel. (The last surviving business in Malaysia from the huge conglomerate back in 1997) This meeting was surreal. He had a small office at the back of the hotel instead of the penthouses we used to conduct our meetings in. The lighting was dialed down and we had a very somber and quiet meeting. Gone was the hustle and bustle of yesteryear when it seemed we were always pressed for time. Now he said one thing that would ring in my mind for a long time after. He asked me, “Mr Siew, what is it that you think that you know about business?” A lightning bolt. And this was coming from my mentor. The man I would go to for advice when I got stuck. So I knew it wasn’t a put-down. He had a last message for me. He passed away shortly after.
Then it hit me. My role in the Company was to bring in the deal and his role was to make it happen as only he knew how because he put it all together. He knew everyone, their strengths and weaknesses, what worked and what didn’t and the order things had to be done because he understood the business model the company was built on.
So I said yes, to undertaking the online store for our craftsmen and I was then introduced to potential investors, one of which is a very old friend who told me he would invest if I can show proof of concept. And I began putting the Team together for the new venture now named Nusantara Collection. And from what I have learned from putting this together, the trials and tribulations, the emptying, bracketing in putting the business model together I see glimpses on how it could be built with the values Scott envisaged.
I hope you enjoy posts of my journey on the road less traveled and I hope it makes sense to you.
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