Sunday, December 07, 2008

"Be More Like Mark Chang"

Karamjit Singh from The Edge wrote an article on "Be More Like Mark Chang" and it definitely highlights many of the qualities that Mark Chang displayed as a CEO and his personality has definitely been instrumental in setting how employees function.

Below is a reproduction of the article from The Edge, issue of 8th December 2008. I couldn't find the URL online.

The folllowing article is typed fully from The Edge to share with my blog readers.

Be More Like Mark Chang

By Karamjit Singh

I have known Mark Chang since 2000 when I started covering the tech sector and one thing I have learnt is that you probably have a better chance of selling ice to an Eskimo than getting Chang to cough up some money for any advertising or promotional activities. For example, in March 2006, his Kuala Lumpur -based company moved office from what was a musty, somewhat dingy office on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (I have been there before) to their own building, Wisma , on Jalan Sultan Ismail.

Instead of the typical congratulatory ads, Chang got free publicity by getting staff to march from the old office to the new one at peak office hours. He even managed to get his chairman, the prim and proper Datuk Ali Abdul Kadir, to take part in the short march.

Their press release read, "Led by chairman Datuk Ali Abdul Kadir and CEO Mark Chang, the staff marched gloriously along the road carrying the banner proclaiming 'Your Career Our Passion. Move With Us". A strong 45-piece band from SMK Seri Garing 1 added pomp and pageantry to the procession. Traffic policemen halted traffic from all directions to enable the procession to walk in the middle of the road for 10 minutes. The street belonged to for a temporary moment." That's typical Chang for you. I thought it was a cheesy move, but he no doubt thought it was cheap and canggih.

And so it was a pleasant surprise to me, and no doubt the tech industry too, when Chang and were honoured on Nov 28 at the Malaysia's Most Valuable Brands Awards ceremony as the 19th most valuable brand in the country. ranked right up there with the largest companies in the country. I spied Chang during the pre-event cocktailis leaning against the wall and being his quiet self (his company was among the 8 out of 30 winners which did not buy a table). However, he knew how to maximise the opportunity too as he was wearing a bright yellow A1 Team Malaysia uniform of which is apparently a sponsor (he was the only winner not in a suit). When I asked Chang how much they paid for the sponsorship, he laughed, "I am embarrassed to mention it." I had to laugh too. It was typical Chang for you. Indeed, only came in for two races - one in Shanghai and one in the UK. Does this hint at where they are going to expand next?

One thing all technopreneurs can learn from Chang is the strong emphasis he puts on delivering a great product and service. When interviewed by my colleague on his win, he self-effacingly described himself as, "an idiot in branding and marketing", and goes on to say, "as a company, we are not brand driven". But he intuitively knows what the real essence of branding is as he went on say that he believes the right way to brand is by building a strong offering that satisfies the public, "and let the public give brand recognition".

I also happen to believe that one's staff also serve as a company's brand ambassador and I think Chang does a stellar job of keeping his people challenged and fulfilled because I have always been impressed by the intelligence and energy of the staff I meet. Indeed, it was on that night that I got an answer and some light on a dark question that has depressed me for a while now. Why have we not, despite strong efforts by the governmetn and a talented entrepreneurial pool, produced at least a regional tech champion? Which technology company of ours has gone global and is flying the Malaysian flag high?

I have come to realise that Chang has built to not only become the most successful company from Malaysia's Internet-hype days, but also Malaysia's regional champion. It has ben for a while now, but he has done it in typical chang style: quietly and without much fanfare. If only Chang has the gift of the gab and charisma that Air Asia's Datuk Tony Fernandes has, would be much better known in the region and the world. But that is wishful thinking, Chang already does a great job and in fact, even came out ahead of Air Asia in the Malaysia's Most Valuable Brands ranking!

But one thing Chang can really do more of is share his time with the tech industry here. He is not active in any industry body, not is he a mentor to any entrepreneur. He also does not invest his money as an angel investor. He has done a lot for his company and his shareholders, but he needs to do more to help grow and inspire our other entrepreneurs. We need more Mark Changs.

After reading this article, it really makes me feel very proud to be one of the employees at . Looking back at my decision to move to several months back, I have to say that I have really learned a lot, and there is still a lot more for me to learn. The mentorship provided by Mark and many others in has been great learning experience. It is a great inclusive learning experience and we get to really try our best in contributing to the growth of the company.

Learning how to really do the right thing for the employers or job seekers. Once we do that, everything else would fall into right place. Ethics is always being stressed highly and we must always be guided by that.

What Karamjit highlighted really embodies what I feel after working 7 months in . It is a firm with great discipline, where I still remember what Mark shared in the video in my Day 1 of my orientation "For every dollar that we don't spend, that's one dollar in the profit". It is so true. I had rather spend less a dollar, rather than working harder to earn an extra dollar to pay for that dollar that has been spent.

Despite Mark and other top management have made it, they still stay very humble and live a very modest live. They are always very approachable for anyone in the firm, and in fact, Mark can be contacted within a click by all employers which use . They can tick to cc him in the "Contact Us" that employers use to feedback to , and he would reply personally to them.

The journey ahead for is still very far. We still have a lot to enhance, and keep on running, to ensure that we can benchmark ourselves, not just with our peers in this region, but hopefully one day, could be a global brand that we can truly say that we now have an Asia champion or better still World champion. Karamjit's article has definitely spurred us to work even harder.

Click here to read more of Chen Chow's posts

Would encourage any of my blog readers to share with me any event that you come across. As long as the event/activity/initiative is education/charity/youth oriented and is not-for-profit, I would be more than happy to post it to share!

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