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Learning & Passion: Necessary Entrepreneurisms for Success

We identified “Nine Entrepreneurisms” or behaviors that successful entrepreneurs exhibit, either as individuals or as part of a team. They are; Self-efficacy, Risk-taking, Passion, Learning, Realism, Persuasiveness, Opportunism, Innovation and Energy-action-bias.

Self-efficacy and not Self-confidence

We prefer, “self-efficacy” which is a must-have, or basic requirement, since without competence or ability you are not going to be able to build a product or service. Efficacy means the ability to produce a desired or intended result. Self-efficacy then, means one’s personal conviction about one’s ability to produce a desired or intended result.

The Importance of Learning

Ikea, founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad is a great example of a “Learning” mind-set. Their innovation was “flat packaging” which dates back to 1956. Significant though it was, this has been copied the world over and remains pretty much the only invention they came up with. However what they have done with a passion is learn and understand the customer - people who want a one-stop, buy-everything from retailer to furnish an entire home. No secret to what they do and how they do it, yet no other company has emerged as a competitor!

We recently met with Raj Lorenz, Group CEO of company GHL Systems Berhad. Whilst existing banking stocks are being hit by nervous investors, as a result of ‘Uberisation’, there is interest in online and mobile payment companies. A major factor supporting the growth of these startups in the US is the open regulatory environment. Outside the US, few countries offer much wiggle room, as specific regulatory approval is required for initiatives like these.

So what is GHL trying to do?

Well for many years they were selling credit-card terminals and losing money. Lorenz joined in September 2011 to lead the transformation and according to him; “It took us two years working with my team to get our +600 staff, who were so used to selling hardware terminals to banks and retailers, to understand we were now in the business of acquiring merchants off our own back.” Pivoting the business meant developing a risk assessment capability. GHL is now a major player in Malaysia, Philippines and a footprint across ASEAN.

Passion or Competence?

Ben Horowitz puts this message across very eloquently at the 2015 Columbia University commencement address. Horowitz makes a strong case for not following one’s passion and says; “Has anybody ever watched American Idol? Just because you love singing doesn’t mean you should be a professional singer.” Instead one should focus on one’s competence, which is why Self-efficacy and Realism are two of the 9Es.

In discussions with local entrepreneurs we find they have stayed closely focused on the core competence of their founder or teams. Clement Loh, started his career with NCR serving the banking sector. He subsequently teamed up with his school buddy, Joel Choo to found eProtea in 2000 and later Finexus, the outsourcing arm. It’s been 17 years and business continues to grow, they now offer a repertoire of banking and payment solutions. When asked about where his perseverance comes from, Loh, a person of faith, says “on his bended knees” and this he says, keeps him on the “straight and narrow” path.

Do entrepreneurs make moral choices?

Datuk Azrin Mohd Noor credits his parents for instilling in him the desire to succeed. After obtaining a legal degree, he spent his early years with Measat Broadcasting, now known as Astro. Azrin went into business for himself building Sedania Group. They offer airtime sharing, credit top-up, transfer, billing via its mobile applications. In conversation with Azlin, a spiritual person, he speaks of morality in business. He says; “If you lose your ethics, your credibility is at stake. Make the right moral choices and take care of those around you.” Not all entrepreneurs take this approach.

There are several stories of the ruthlessness of Bill Gates and the scheming mind of Steve Jobs. When Allen was scaling back time spent at work while receiving treatment for cancer, Gates wanted to buy him out on the cheap! It was only many years later that Steve Wozniak realized that Jobs had cheated him out of his share of the fee (and bonus) paid by Atari for a game he had developed.

Passion can lead to a Killer-Instinct

There is no denying that Gates and Jobs were extremely passionate about promoting both personal and company interests. There was a passion to win! The 2015 scandal over Volkswagen Group (VW) installing illegal software to control engine emissions is perhaps an illustration of a passion to win leading to a killer-instinct.

When management action is driven by greed.

Were VW’s leadership team driven by a killer-instinct or pure greed? We think the latter, but these are extreme examples of a killer instinct, or plain greed. It seems according to Malcolm Gladwell, that US entrepreneurs don’t really consider the morality issue. He says; “The greatest entrepreneurs are ‘amoral’ because they are ‘completely single minded and obsessively-focused on the health of their enterprise.” We will leave you to be the judge of this! However it is comforting to know that our local entrepreneurs have a clear sense of right and wrong and have said; “when it becomes about money, that’s the end of entrepreneurship”.

++++ The full article, appeared in DNA under the title "The ‘entrepreneurisms’ necessary for success"

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