Assalamualaikum wbt Prasad. How do you see 2019 from Darul Haq Global Ventures perspective?
2019 is going to be a fantastic year. We started off the year flying when we received the opportunity to be part of the Malaysian Association of Professional Speakers and we also received the best Coach of the Quarter award from the Centre for Entrepreneur Development and Research (CEDAR) under SME Bank. Currently, DHGV is working closely with industry players from across the disciplines to create a collaborative movement in the Coaching and Training Industry. We hope that these joint ventures with strategic partners will open possibilities to create a lifelong learning ecosystem in Malaysia.
Can you share with us a little bit about yourself, Darul Haq Global Ventures and your role in the organisation?
I am the Chief Executive of DHGV and a minority shareholder. I was responsible for changing DHGV’s business industry from selling high-end books into the coaching industry. And we made the change in mid-2016 and it was very timely indeed. Today, most of our competitors in the bookselling industry, whether they are based in the United Kingdom, India or Australia, has since closed or scaled down tremendously.
We drove the business model aggressively and began with projects with MARA and subsequently with CEDAR.
In June 2018, I proposed to the Board of Directors to alter the business model of DHGV from a profit maximising firm to a profit optimisation firm. This effectively makes DHGV a social enterprise. We made the change to help micro-entrepreneurs who could not afford coaching or training fees. We hope to roll out our micro-entrepreneur assistance program by June 2019.
In general, entrepreneurs need to be empowered by 3 things in their journey to success – knowledge, network and money. Which combination of these you’re assisting entrepreneurs out there?
I have coached more than 100 entrepreneurs in the last 3 years and based on my observation, there are three ingredients for success. Entrepreneurs need Mindwork, Network and Hard work. I focus on the first two, while the third is entirely up to the entrepreneur.
I say mind work because, as opposed to providing knowledge, we strive to trigger the mind to work in an innovative and disruptive manner. We trigger the mind to think critically on information and to show them where and how to find such information. This allows for a sustainable approach long after DHGV Coaches are out of the picture.
Networking is a crucial aspect of business today. We have taken DHGV towards strategic alliances with other trainers and coaches, government agencies, financial institutions and associations. With this network of affiliations, we always redirect our clients to the respective network based on their specific needs.
Even though hard work stems from the entrepreneur themselves, we instil a sense of discipline. We avoid motivating the entrepreneurs because motivation only gives rise a short term excitement. And entrepreneurs depend on the motivation juices to run the business.
By instilling discipline, we stress the importance of consistency – doing it, even when you don’t feel like it. With discipline, we make motivation less important (it is still important) and emphasize more on perseverance and consistency. The entrepreneur doesn’t have to “like” every aspect of the business, but he still needs to do it.
Sales or marketing?
Let’s talk a bit about Marketing. You’ve been assisting local entrepreneurs about this year-in-year-out. From your point of view, what are the things that they lack the most?
Entrepreneurs miss out on many opportunities because they do spend time on coaching and they do not spend money on Marketing. In many instances, I had to disrupt and reset the mind of entrepreneurs to look at marketing as a necessary investment.
Marketing builds brand awareness and presence. It reaches clients ahead of time. By the time the salesperson engages, half the battle have already been won. The brand presence and awareness have already broken down the initial barriers of scepticism.
Other than the lack of understanding marketing, the lack of training for sales staffs is another major issue. We see entrepreneurs pushing and driving their sales staffs to perform better. But, almost in all cases, the sales staffs are not equipped with the basic skills to sell. This causes a high turnover rate of salespersons when they do not achieve their set targets.
At DHGV, I pay close attention to internal training. We ensure that our sales professionals have adequate product knowledge as well as decorum and knowledge to close a sale.
90 percent of the reasons people purchase from you is because of your product quality and user experience they had from your brand. Only 10 percent is from your marketing stunt. What do you think of this statement?
This is a partially true statement. You need to look into your mechanics of marketing investment that is bringing in the 10%. If your market segmentation is incorrect or your message is obscure or confusing, then your marketing investment needs to be honed and re-strategised. You need to keep close track of your Return on Investment (RoI) of your marketing activities.
Do you believe personal branding can really help entrepreneurs in pushing their products better?
Definitely and DHGV actively promotes entrepreneurs to do so. DHGV has a collaboration with magazine publishers in the East Coast and we recommend entrepreneurs to be promoted via their magazine and publications.
This year, we are planning to spread both my own personal branding and DHGV’s branding.
Why is that?
Similar to product branding, personal branding helps the entrepreneur to build trust and makes clients feel comfortable. Personal branding also helps the entrepreneur to distinguish himself from his competitors which helps to form a lasting impression in the minds of the customers and clients. Without a compelling personal branding, you will find yourself struggling to build a sustainable business.
Along with this line of thought, most of our coaching sessions also include grooming, fashion and decorum. It helps the entrepreneur to project the image that is in line with the brand. Projecting personal brand allows the media to capture the entrepreneur and also allows his network to expand.
Anything you wish to share with budding young Malaysian entrepreneurs out there?
Forget motivation. Hard work and Consistency is key. Every successful entrepreneur that I have coached, exhibited three main characteristics – grit, sacrifice and discipline.
Grit is the essence of getting up every time you face failure. Get up and be accounted for. Every successful entrepreneur knows that success is not cheap. Work needs to be put in to reap the rewards. In the entrepreneur’s world, you must work hard AND work smart. Finally, the key trait of Discipline. Discipline is grinding through and still doing it even though you do not feel like it, or you are not motivated. This disciplined perseverance is a common trait I find in many successful entrepreneurs.