Vision for Success
On a recent drive from Penang to Kuala Lumpur on the Malaysian North-South expressway, my wife and I stopped at our usual rest area. We have been stopping here as long as I can remember and have always patronized this one stall. On our previous stop here, a couple of months earlier, we ordered our usual plate of curry noodles and chicken rice. We didn’t see the man who normally took our order and I didn’t recognize any of the staff in the stall. When we ate the food, we were surprised that they didn’t taste as good as it used to. So we decided that we have to buy our meal from another stall.
During our stop this time, we walked down the stalls and were having difficulty deciding what to eat. We found an empty table and sat down. I walked up and down the stalls again. On my way back to our seat, I saw this familiar face in the stall that we used to buy from. I was excited and told my wife that the man is back. She then quickly went over to the stall and I can see her having a conversation with the man. She returned with a tray with two bowls of curry noodles.
She told me that she complained to the man that the food didn’t taste good the last time. She inquired where the man went and he said that he was away developing another stall somewhere else. The man offered to treat my wife and me to hot drinks. I saw him going into the drink stall and soon, he came to our table with 3 drinks. He sat down beside me and a wonderful conversation started.
Firstly he apologized for the food during our previous stop. Then he began his story. He told us that he had a total of 6 stalls along the highway. He tendered for a stall when the highway opened in 1994. Very few people wanted to bid for the stalls in the rest stops. The thinking then was that people will not want to pay to travel of the toll-way. Stalls were practically given away free. He told us that his parents were upset and didn’t want him to slog it out. He said humorously that they even offered him the money not to start his business there. He knew that there was great opportunity cooking halal Chinese cuisine. If the taste is good, he catered for nearly all races and religions in Malaysia.
I was amazed that this man had such a great strategy when he was expanding. As he grew from one stall to two, he took staff from his first stall to start off the second stall. This was a promotion for the key staff in stall one. In this manner, the stall started being profitable quicker with the right staff. When he started stall 3, he picked his key staff from stall one and two. The third stall became profitable even quicker with the right staff. He continued this process with his stall 3, 4, 5 and 6. His start-up time became amazingly short.
He also mentioned that he partnered with another person to open a halal restaurant serving Chinese cuisine in a nearby town. His partner, a chef, was nervous when he mentioned his intention. However, on opening day, his partner was a busy man cooking dishes for a good crowd of appreciating diners. He had worked with his network to help bring customers to his opening. He organized buses to ferry them to his restaurant and back. As a good gesture, he did not charge for his food during this day. It is like his appreciation for their intended patronage. Today, that restaurant is very successful and well known among the community. Customers still come from the nearby factories and offices to patronize his restaurant.
This is an amazing man. He left the academic world at 11 years old to help his father in his business. This bright young man is a graduate from the “School of Hard Knocks.” What impresses me is that if you meet this man on the street, you would not have even suspected that he is a successful entrepreneur. I can say that he works hard managing the stalls and the restaurant. He is highly successful because he is willing to invest in his people and partners to make them equally successful. He is also generous in remunerating good people. His staff trusted him to make them successful if they are equally willing to work diligently.