15/2015 – An Entrepreneur’s Dilemma (Unpublished article)

unpu(Author’s note: This article was not published in The Star)
Saturday, 1 August 2016

Ever since I went into semi retirement some years back, I have tried to spend as much time as I can with my three kids. Well to be honest, as much as they allow me to be included in their ‘space’.

They are now my boss and I exist only for the sole purpose of working for their future. Maybe it is just me making up for lost time, paying the penalty for not being there for them in their growing years.

As all three of them went overseas for their higher education, I involved myself with their moving in and out of their dorms, checking out and helping them decide on their choice of universities and just being there for them when needed.

It is a joy just being able to have a one to one chat with them on anything and everything. And when they give me a hug or two and calls me from wherever they are to wish me happy birthday, I felt blessed, connected and loved.

To all the young entrepreneurs, you will not understand this old man’s tale of an entrepreneur’s dilemma. The world is your oyster and you have every right to forge forward and make your mark in life and society.

Your dilemma starts when you marry and start a family. Running a business will take up all your energy and time. When your business becomes more successful, you will have even less time for your spouse and children. It is a vicious cycle. You console yourself that you are building a better life with financial security for your family. Sacrifice now for a better tomorrow.

As you progress further in your business there will be times when you come face to face with moral and ethical issues. There will be occasions when you will lose the contract if you do not provide kickbacks and your competitors do. Should you shortchange your customers since cost has risen and retail prices have gone down? Have you been treating your staff fair and square or have you made your suppliers spin in circles squeezing their margins like a python until they could not breathe? Short term profits or long term sustainable business partnerships?

When your business is fighting for survival, you are forced to take drastic actions. Moral and ethical considerations take a back seat. Live today so that you can fight again tomorrow.

Even when you are doing well and a great opportunity (though a bit dodgy) comes along to make even more money, will you hold on to your righteous beliefs and reject the offer?

How will you handle such dilemmas when you cross path with such issues at the junction? Go right or go wrong? No money or easy money?

Most entrepreneurs manage moral and ethical dilemmas with their heads thus ensuring safe passage for their businesses. Those that manage with their hearts tend to be risk takers but normally hold firm to their moral beliefs.

The recent turn of events that resulted in the suspension of The Edge Malaysia and The Edge Financial Daily took me completely by surprise. No I was not surprised by the suspension as the authorities were hell bent on shutting them up.

I was surprised that the owner, Datuk Tong Kooi Ong allowed the continuous coverage of 1MDB despite the show cause letter by the authorities. At first glance I thought Tong was reckless and irresponsible towards the welfare of his 350 strong employees. The Edge was the most successful niche publication in Malaysia with an extremely strong brand name and they have beaten off all their imitation rivals.

What on earth made him take such risks? Was he not thinking right? Did he react with his head or with his heart? As if almost like an apology, he offered to pay the staff full salary over the suspension period.

Is this an issue of an entrepreneur’s dilemma based on moral and ethical ideals? Or is it something more? Did he developed a conscience? Why is it so important that the 1MDB story must be told?

According to opposition politician Tony Pua, this alleged 1MDB scandal was the mother of the mother of all scandals in Malaysia. According to The Edge reports, a small group of Malaysians and foreigners allegedly swindled our country of billions of ringgits. As it allegedly involves key politicians, this was a massive coup (news wise) for The Edge. No journalist worth his salt will walk away from this.

But Tong is not a journalist. He is the owner. A maverick entrepreneur extraordinaire. Having founded and built the Phileo Allied Bank in his thirties, he made his fortune very early into his entrepreneur journey. He has been buying and selling companies across many borders but he has kept The Edge Media Group close to his heart.

Frankly speaking, Tong could have used his head and walked away but he did not. He solved his dilemma by following his heart which tells him to do what is right. Ironically, doing the right thing brings harassment and inconveniences, such is the state of affairs prevailing in our disenchanted country.

And when I met up with him recently, I asked whether all these efforts was really worth the troubles and irritations. He whipped out his phone to show me two messages from his children. They were concerned for his health and safety, they support what he has done and they were very proud of him. ‘Love you dad’.

For a moment, I thought I saw a faint glow on his face. A contented father.

Not an entrepreneur in dilemma.


11 thoughts on “15/2015 – An Entrepreneur’s Dilemma (Unpublished article)

  1. Hi Thiam Hock (my 2nd attempt to say Hello) Big Hello from Down Under The Barossa Valley. Got to learn about your fantastic works on this blog via Yan Peng, Bee Lan, Jennifer, the Accounting mob. As I typed here my memory flashed back to my very first experience of a good wedding speech you delivered at Kah Gek’s wedding, I laughed very loud when you equate Olympic champion’s speed to Ong’s pursuit efforts. Since then the highlight I look out at every wedding is good wedding speech. Over the years I have come across grooms saying to their best man “don’t care about everything else, make sure your speech is good” and those speeches sure made the day.
    Your blog is inspiring to every Malaysian who is seeking that light at the end of the tunnel. Keep it Up! We say Health is very important no doubt about it, however I would throw in this analogy I think Humour is number 1 important, more so than Health. Biologically our days on this earth are lived with good and bad days of health, and beyond our control but Humour is one thing that no matter what kind of day, it sees us through. And in Humour we have control, it’s our decision to live our days with or without Humour. So Keep The Humour flowing, it adds punch to everything we do, say, interact with others. Take Good Care. Warmest Regards

    Chai Hua, Loke
    (aka Mrs Murray who lives on Murray St :))

    This time I hope I have mastered the art of writing comments on someone’s blog…….gosh what age is this today and here I am fumbling……


  2. You’ve got a great blog, Thiam Hock! Keep the writing going as they are inspirational especially to the entrepreneurs-to-be. I was alerted about your blog by Yan Peng in our Accounting Class group chat. Cheers!


  3. Another great article many can easily relate to. FYI, many of your MU ’84 accounting graduates mates (you were in Business Division) have been following your articles and are on the same page as you. We may not be as brave as TKO & his the Edge team, but we will all certainly make our votes count come GE14.
    The rumbles on the ground from the full spectrum of society are so loud and clear that only the deaf and guilty ones fighting for their desperate survival chose to deny. Their time is however running out with every passing day. Twisting and turning truths to appear otherwise doesn’t work. At best it only delays the inevitable.
    I am sure your children too are proud of their father….you certainly will not be an entrepreneur in dilemma!


  4. Always a joy to read an article by a person who I believe “walk his talk”. Not many of such entrepreneurs around.


  5. Thank you Mr Tan.
    All of us, small and big entrepreneurs, can relate to this dilemma. You’ve articulated it for us very succinctly.
    And for Mr Tong and his editor Mr Ho, they will shine among the greats for their courage and conviction


  6. There are few brave people in this world who dare to push the human moral boundaries to the Edge to leave behind a great legacy. We salute these brave heroes.


  7. I’m glad there still are men of such distinction in our midst. We must not let this sacrifice be in vain; it is our duty as Malaysians.


  8. We are a child, a parent, a spouse, an employee, an employer, a colleague, a subordinate, a leader, a middle mgr etc etc. I guess there will always be an appropriate role vis a vis time & place and we shall act accordingly.

    In our role as part of the Rakyat, I guess we shall do our part to stand up to things which to our conscientious mind are bad for the nation and hence need to be stopped or corrected as we go forward.

    We pray there are enough like-minded people incl. MM, MM, MY, MC, TKO, HKT to chart a better path.


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