Conquering the fear of failure

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GTF2015 - Idris Jala article 2

Fear of failure can be crippling. Taking that purposeful step forward to a seemingly impossible task may be daunting but the brave that preserves and triumphs… ah what a tale!

Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) CEO Dato’ Sri Idris Jala invites successful Malaysian entrepreneurs who have  harness the courage and entrepreneurial spirit needed to win it big in and outside the country to share their tales with his team, so that they could be further shared to a wider audience.

“In our pursuit of socioeconomic transformation and heightening Malaysian competitiveness globally, nothing inspires more than hearing the good news from the people who have conquered their fear of failure,” he says.

Idris has long been a proponent of winning the “game of the impossible” and is always thrilled to hear game-changing ideas, especially among Malaysian companies that innovate with intent, direction and purpose.

He shares the story of two very enterprising Malaysian firms from the oil and gas sector – ProEight and Uzma – as examples.

ProEight started as an engineering consultancy. After thoroughly understanding its position in the market and identifying gaps, it developed its own products. Today, not only is its portfolio of mechanical seals and pumps one of the best in class, its after-sales service in the region is unparalleled, says Idris.

“Led by Azhar Zainal Abidin, ProEight’s innovative core lies in its capability to reverse engineer and create products and solutions which are fit-for-purpose. In terms of innovation, others generally focus on technology, whereas ProEight focuses on internal processes. Its mechanical seals are not exorbitantly over-specified, making its price line more competitive while, at the same time, delivering compatible, if not better quality offerings,” he says.

Idris highlights that ProEight is impressive in how it deals with conquering the fear of failure. “It champions a culture where anyone who reports a general or technical failure weekly is rewarded RM50. The failures are vetted and used as a source of learning. Staff reporting a failure must explain what went wrong and why. This also prevents them from trying to cover up or fix mistakes that generally make the situation worse.”

Meanwhile, Uzma started out as a provider of drilling project management and geoscience and reservoir engineering software services. Today, it offers integrated solutions across exploration, development and production operations. With growth driven by organic means and acquisitions, the firm is now a leader in the regional oil and gas upstream services sector. An analyst report by CIMB in 2014 had mentioned that Uzma was “Malaysia’s own Schlumberger in the making”.

“For founder Dato’ Kamarul Redzuan Muhamed, sophistication doesn’t always win it when innovating. Armed with experience from large multinationals like Exxon Mobil, and Roxar, he saw a dire need for a real Malaysian based oil and gas technology company to win market share from foreign companies that had dominated the space for too long. He also observed that many industry solutions from these companies tended to be too complex, with some impractical functions,” says Idris.

“The direction Kamarul took was to build proprietary technology with a focus on simplification. That naturally carved out not only a product line for Uzma, but a competitive advantage for the firm as it was able to keep prices lower by focusing on delivering only functionalities the clients needed,” he adds.

Kamarul led Uzma through a listing exercise in 2008 and as of today the company does work in 36 countries, for 52 clients.

“As evident with ProEight and Uzma, survival in a liberalised, competitive environment is not beyond the means of Malaysian companies. Instead, it was the fervour with which they conquered the game of the impossible that unlocked opportunities for them to emerge as global players in a tough space,” opines Idris.

“Azhar‎ and Kamarul are Malay entrepreneurs running medium-sized businesses. Unfazed by competition from much larger enterprises with deeper pockets and clout, they focus on the things they do best and nail it. They do not hide behind the New Economic Policy (NEP) to seek Bumiputera privileges. They did not set up their business to depend on government contracts. They did not succeed because they obtained financial incentives or soft loans from the government.”

“Instead, they focus on only one thing: Every day (and I mean every day), they continually examine all aspects of their products and innovate to achieve superior, better and cheaper ones than those of their international and local competitors. They are obsessed about innovation and being competitive. They welcome the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) because it gives them access to more markets overseas. They do not make it a habit to just sit down and complain about many things that are not perfect around them. And this is why they have been successful,” maintains Idris.

This in an age where education, technology, human capital advancement, trade agreements and other contributing factors are rapidly increasing opportunities for brave organisations to carve their success stories. There are bound to be many other success stories such as ProEight and Uzma out there, says Idris. “The hope I have is for more Malaysian champions to harness the courage and entrepreneurial spirit needed to win big in and outside the country.”

“For businesses that have successfully done so, I wish to invite them to reach out to my PEMANDU colleagues and I so we can share these with hopes of encouraging other Malaysian entrepreneurs to rise above the fear of failing to embrace this can-do spirit,” he urges.

Dato’ Sri  Idris Jala welcomes all reasonable comments at [email protected] */]]>

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