One Island’s Success Story

We just got back from a short working trip to Langkawi. Well, it was a working trip plus a short holiday for us. The best time to take a holiday is when you think you cannot afford the time! Anyway, the break was good for us as it was time to relax ourselves, the assets of the business! (Yes, you are the biggest asset in your business. If you don’t take care of yourself, who’ll take care of the business?)

We had wanted to go for the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival this year (we went for three years consecutively starting in 2002) but we could not get the accommodation we wanted. Which was Holiday Inn right next to the Sarawak Cultural Village where the music festival is held.

Here’s a tip if you ever intend to go for the festival – make sure your travel agent books for you Holiday Inn right next to the Cultural Village. It’s just a five-minute saunter over to the festival grounds and you can walk right back to your room even when the concerts finish late. And yes, the festival is amazing. Good world music, great ambience (jungle, sea and Mount Santubong) and lots of nice people. The jamming sessions are out of this world. You have to experience it for yourself!

Anyway, this year, we decided to visit some clients in Langkawi and soak up some sun there in lieu of missing out on the fun at the Rainforest.

Langkawi is a serene place, unlike Penang with its traffic problems. And if you arrive during low season (no jostling crowds, no tourists), you have a better chance of enjoying your stay on this island.

Even in Langkawi, we learnt some useful business lessons. The entrepreneurship spirit is alive and well on the island (even Dr M has set up a bakery cum fine dining business called The Loaf on Langkawi).

One particular business which stuck with us was the fine dining business. Langkawi has some of the most affordable restaurants which serve good food in really beautiful and stylish surroundings. The owners of these establishments have gone all out to ensure that their cafes and restaurants are on par with what one finds in upmarket places like Bangsar or Hartamas.

But the restaurant business is a tough business, particularly when businesses depend on tourist arrivals.

We were particularly impressed to see the owner of a chain of cafes coming by personally to check on his eateries. The other thing is his attention to detail. It seemed that each frangipani, each table, each customer was accorded the best possible attention. The restaurant was spotlessly clean, his staff were enthusiastic and engaging and the decor was impressively stylish to say the least.

But what most people saw were his successes. What they probably didn’t know was that he dropped in to his cafes and restaurants each night to check on everything and he had been building his success for 13 years! He had seen the potential on the island from way before.

He was affable in a humble way, even after we complimented him on his gorgeous restaurant. He was modest about his success on the island. Moreover, he was a people-person. He spoke to his customers like longlost friends. None of that “I-am-a-rich-restaurateur” haughtiness.

We heard he is also one employer who takes care of his staff well. Accordingly his staff are among the most well-paid on the island. His staff turnover is low. Staff stick with him because he truly takes care of his people. And he appreciates good staff training, ensuring his restaurants are looked after by staff who know their roles.

It shows that success, be it in any business, takes time. For this man, it took 13 years but he never gave up. If he had done so, we would not have dined at his restaurant that Friday evening. We would not have met the man who epitomises many of Langkawi’s successful entrepreneurs. Also, success also means treating one’s employees right, being appreciative of the people who work for you.

All of us love success stories but let’s be honest – success stories are layered with a lot of heartache, sweat and tears, mistakes and failures but in every story, it is topped with a determination to succeed as well as infinite patience.

And this man had both. How inspiring!

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