I wrote this much earlier, right after I attended the SME BizFest full day seminar at Equatorial Hotel on 22 May last year but it sat in my draft folder and I never got around to posting it till now.
The SME BizFest was basically a way for Telekom Malaysia to put up a glitzy road show in 4 cities in Malaysia – KL, Penang, JB and Kuching – to promote themselves and sell their services. (Which is rather strange because I thought they easily monopolised the market?)
The TM SME BizFest is coming up on 19 May this year in Penang but personally TM does such a bad job of promoting their events. With their budget and resources, you’d think they’d be smarter. I linked to their event because I know you won’t be able to find it. Their website is like a jungle of everything where you can’t find anything!
It was a big no-holds barred affair – with huge screens (think cineplex screens) and the full sound and lighting works. Personally it kind of felt too corporate! Well I guess if you can’t wow them to death, you wouldn’t consider it a successful roadshow!
Anyway, I went primarily to hear one of the speakers – George Ang.
Here’s what his bio said in the brochure:
“The group owns more than 50 restaurants in the region with more than RM150 million in revenue in 2011. He was named the Young Entrepreneur of The Year in 2008 at the Asia Pacific Entrepreneur Awards. Under George, The Manhattan Fish Market won the Franchisor of The Year and International Franchisor of The Year at the FLA Awards Night in Singapore, the first time the brand won both awards.”
He wasn’t flashy – in fact he was a regular down-to-earth guy in his 40s. He was affable but not overly so. He shared about personal entrepreneurship – much of which he learnt the hard way when he was just starting out in the tough F&B industry.
I particularly enjoyed the way he spoke about his team. Here are some interesting nuggets which I picked up from George’s session.
Consistency is the secret of successful businesses. George mentions that a McDonalds burger is consistent no matter where in the world you eat it. It doesn’t have to be a superior burger but it needs to be a burger.
Instil core values & tell stories to connect. Instil openness & honesty in your team. One of the key things George spoke of was his meetings with his team. He meets and speaks with them about living or exemplifying core values. It isn’t just about mouthing concepts – you must walk your talk. Share stories of how people live the values of honesty especially with examples from within your own business lets your team learn and remember. (See how important stories are?)
Appreciate people. Personally we’re big on appreciation. I like being appreciated and I like appreciating friends and clients (we like giving surprises to our clients too. Clients are people so treat others how you’d like to be treated!). So this is a key concept I liked best. George reiterated how crucial it is to openly appreciate your team.
In the food and beverage business (as George says), it’s about empowering your team so that they can take care of your customers. If you don’t take care of your team, they won’t take care of your customers.
In this aspect, he spoke about being generous and sharing the success with your team financially. They share part of the profits of the month with the managers. When the managers are well taken care of, the managers see to it that your restaurant runs smoothly.
It’s easy to check if a restaurant is doing well. If you see the restaurant’s waiters and waitresses happy, it means their manager is doing a good job.
Ask managers to be accountable and empowered for their plans and ask how they intend to carry out an idea. They who implement or instruct must buy into the idea. There’s no point for the CEO to keep badgering or shouting instructions.
Use the four wall method.
In the early days, George recounts that he had little money for advertising. He used the “four wall method” which meant that within the four walls of his restaurants, he aimed to treat his customers so well that they became his “advertisers”, bringing in other people to try his food.
He also mentioned that if you are new, allow people chances to try out your products. You could offer a “Buy one, free one” voucher to get people to come into the restaurant. Get people in to try your offerings and if needed, give them a guarantee.
Know your market before you enter it.
Know if you want to sell soya bean drinks at the night market or sell fish and chips at the mall. George recalled the early days when he’d sit in malls the whole day and count the traffic going into similar restaurants, just to see if his restaurant could be sustained if he opened in that particular mall.
He did his own market research by going into fastfood restaurants and even checking out the weekday versus weekend population of the mall.
“Know what kinds of people to target based on your eatery concept. Tony Roma’s does not open in Tesco because Tesco is mainly a family shopping area. On the other hand, Tony Roma’s opens in higher end malls like Pavillion and KLCC. All these boil down to the kind of crowd you want to attract into your restaurant.
These days, he does not need to do his own market research anymore – he engages a market research firm to help him survey the market before he enters. His advice is: invest in research before you enter new markets. It could save you a lot of heartache.
He gave a good piece of advice for anyone intending to run a restaurant – design a simple kitchen which anyone can operate. This probably harks back to his days when he was working in Pizza Hut. A simple kitchen means anyone regardless of cooking ability can use it. And once you have a simple kitchen, keep on improving your kitchen to simplify it even more. If you currently have 10 steps in your kitchen processes, whittle it down to 5 steps if you can.
Always offer quality.
He spoke about offering quality products which I think is an important aspect of running a business. Far too many people think they can get away with offering sub-standard stuff. I am glad he thinks quality is crucial. Recently I heard an Internet marketing guru say this nonchalantly, “You don’t have to be good, you just have to be there.” Like really? This thinking in mediocrity strikes me as the “disease” in the Internet marketing world. It cons everyone into thinking that they can be as lousy as they want and still earn money. So back to George. He remarked that people buy because of quality and they know quality instinctively.
Focus on systems.
Another core thinking of his which resonates with me is his belief in systems. In Redbox Studio, we believe a lot in systems. That is why we can function with a lean team – with the kinds of web design projects that we do (and manage), it’s often surprising to most people that we have a small team.
When you have systems, you don’t need a big team. That’s what technology and leveraging technology is all about. That is what most small business owners in Malaysia should do – because you’re limited in resources, you need to be smart in using your resources. One of the biggest helpers is technology. Use automation, use software, use websites – all these can help you do more without more staff or overhead.
So George says that you need to put systems into place. That is how he managed to grow his restaurant into a chain. He told the story of his friend who is running a restaurant and still wonders why he is just a restaurant owner and not the owner of a chain of restaurants. Systems, say George, is the key. Duplicate yourself by training others to train and manage on your behalf.
In the early years, he did almost everything but he now spends time motivating his team across the countries which he operates.
Have a mentor or a group of peers whom you can share with, especially those from different industries. You can learn and apply new ideas from other industries. Again, this makes perfect sense. After all you can’t be sitting around thinking up ideas on your own. There are shortcuts to success and one of them is a peer group or a mentor who can guide you. Again, this is what we totally believe in too. Have a peer group or join a mastermind group to help you reach out to better people or gain other resources (time or money). This is again what we have incorporated into our card game for business, Big Timer.
And finally, know your business model. Many people mistake a strategy for a model. It’s good to tie your business to a real purpose because entrepreneurship is more than just making money, says George. In this regard, he mentioned that MLM or brokers are not in the business of real businesses.
We absolutely agree. There’s nothing wrong with being in MLM but know that it’s not YOUR business. You can’t decide to change the rules of the game. You’re tied to a HQ or a mother company which dictates what you can or cannot do.
If you own and operate your own business, it means you can control what you sell, when you want to sell it and at what price. You can decide to run a sale or add on bonuses if you want to. If you can’t control any or either of these elements, you’re basically someone’s agent. No offence if you like being an agent. Just that you should not confuse being an agent with being an entrepreneur.
So there you have it – some true entrepreneurial gems from George Ang, the man behind the Manhattan Fish Market and other restaurant chains in Malaysia.
We’re a web design company but we’re also big on entrepreneurship. We created our own game for business and we teach unconventional marketing strategies to our clients.
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