Article 25 – Coming out now? Why not?

by Tan Thiam Hock

You can feel the sombre mood of the American participants in the lecture hall as the American Professor tore into the subject of unsustainable deficit spending by the US government.

High unemployment, high consumption and zero savings. And then he highlighted the massive economic problems of the European zone and the high 20% unemployment in Spain. If unresolved, the European malaise would drag the global economy down by five percentage points.

In today’s globalised economy, Malaysia is not immune to a worldwide economic slowdown. If we are not careful, we will catch the cold that is sweeping through the western world right now.

So is this a good time to come out on your own? Or should you stay employed in your cushy job? Or are you unemployed and you feel that you have nothing to lose. So instead of looking for another job, you would like to strike out on your own. Finally.

Entrepreneur wannabes from all over the world share the same values and the same fears. Like Phillip and Ian, two good friends who left their respective global banking/private equity world recently and joined this eight-week course to broaden their knowledge and to reinforced their resumes.

Phillip, a 38-year-old German married to an Italian, lives in London while Ian, a 39-year-old Brit married to an American, lives in Singapore. Phillip’s spoken English sounds better than his German and Ian is telling me about pubs in Singapore that I have never heard of before.

As you can imagine, both are good looking, smooth talking and highly intelligent. Global citizens, street-wise beyond their age and very confident. But at this moment, unsure of what the future holds for them. They both want to strike out on their own. Willing to uproot their families to seek their fortune anywhere in the world. So everyday, I see them networking extensively with the other 167 participants from all corners of the world.

Another good looking fella, Nicolas, a 44-year-old French economist, is definitely setting up his own private investment advisory services once he gets back to Paris. Since he is ex-International Monetary Fund (IMF) of some years back, I had great fun lambasting him over IMF’s antiquated fiscal austerity model during the Asian 97/98 crisis.

And our table had a good laugh over the recent IMF sex scandal involving his countryman who had the potential to be the next President of France. Then he looked at me and said in his French accent “same story in Malaysia too, eh?” There you go, gutter politics is gutter politics. From New York to Paris to Kuala Lumpur.

Then you have Gab, a banker and Dutch mother of four kids who once advised IOI on the purchase of Loders Croklaan palm oil refinery from Unilever Holland. With the continuous upheaval in the European banking system, many senior bankers like Gab are disenchanted with their employers. Very soon, you will find many boutique financial advisory groups sprouting up all over Europe. A spring revolution of some sort.

So if you ask me whether you should come out on your own, my answer to you will be “Why not?”

If your heart tells you, it is time to do so. Never mind that your head tells you it’s bad timing, or deteriorating economic conditions or rough weather in the horizon. Why not?

If you believe you have a superior “sure win” business model and you have a competitive advantage in your market space. Why not?

If you think you are the only smart player in a crowded field. And your charm and guile will ensure your so called business contacts and customers will follow you to your new outfit. Why not?

If you have sufficient funds to carry you through the next 24 months of uncertain income generation. And you have an understanding spouse and supporting family. Why not?

If you have good political contacts and able to get government grants and soft loans based on an inconsequential project. Why not?

Entrepreneur wannabes the world over, love to dream and share the same vision. A vision of hope, the smell of freedom and the anticipation of success.

All great entrepreneurs are great dreamers. If they can avoid scandals, these great entrepreneurs will become great politicians. Imagine Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar as Prime Minister, Tan Sri Francis Yeoh as Finance Minister and Tan Sri Tony Fernandez as Trade Minister. Malaysia Inc.will take over Khazanah, PNB and Maika. Malaysia Inc. will be bigger thanSingapore Inc. Ask yourself. Why not?

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