Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sir Richard Branson Makes Me Sweat...

I'm about 80 per cent through Sir Richard Branson's risquely-titled new book, Screw Business As Usual, and I'm sweating profusely with inspiration from chapter to chapter, page to page. In this book, he champions his mantra: "Do good, have fun and the money will come". He illustrates with examples how "businesses, from commercial enterprises to those run by social entrepreneurs, can grow and thrive by doing the right thing". Here are three examples that I like.

Having been in the education industry for the most part of my working life, I'm inspired by his story about a dyslexic,  Peter Avis, and how he makes it good at one of Branson's businesses. At the age of 17, when he was looking at the various career options open to him, his headmaster told him: "Some people are made to sweep the streets and, unfortunately, you are one of those people". Peter, the no-hoper, who started off as a dishwasher, battled the odds and went on to manage Babylon, a restaurant owned by Virgin Limited Edition.

Yet, before Peter Avis worked at Babylon, whenever success stared him in the face, he would resign for fear that his dyslexia would be discovered. His transformation is only possible because, as Branson explains, "Virgin people are happy people...and because of that they love their jobs and stay in them. It's not just that the staff like working at Virgin- we value and respect them". In 2008 Peter Avis was voted Restaurant Manager of the Year and in 2009 Babylon was named Toptable Best Restaurant.

Branson's story about how at the age of 15 he decided that he wanted to get into the world to "continue my education in life" also makes inspiring reading. Like Peter Avis, he is also deslexic. Quite interestingly he nurtured a secret ambition to be a journalist, and at age 16 started Student, a magazine that would engage people to talk about "issues facing young people in the sixties, like the Vietnam War, racism, sexual health, and son on". An old letter he wrote to his school principal to explain  his reason for wanting to quit his school at Stowe shows the self-assurance and confidence that continue to serve him well in life and in business: "By leaving this summer I feel I can give more to Stowe and Britain..." Wow!

I also enjoy reading his anecdote of a KwaZulu woman who stopped him while he was visiting Ulusaba, Virgin's private game reserve in South Africa. "Mr Richard," she said, "I've heard you are a very generous man. Can you lend me money to buy a sewing machine?" Branson gave her the $300 she requested and she said she would "repay it within three months and employ six people full-time". When she left, Branson thought to himself that he would probably never see his money again. Three months later, when he visited a village to open some community projects supported by Virgin Unite, he was surprised when six women came up to him and gave him "a gift of the most exquisite cotton pillows and tribal clothes which they had made. And to complete my surprise, they returned the $300". But the entrepreneurial seamstress was nowhere to be seen as she was "off to the market selling the products".

Friday, December 21, 2012

Can you do this?

Go to this LINK to read more.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Biz Writing - When Do We Jargonize?

Generally, in business writing, it is advisable to avoid the unnecessary use of jargon. For example, it is perfectly alright for a doctor to call up a pharmacist to send some sidenafil over to his clinic. But a patient from a non-medical background who is suffering from a flagging libido would only be nonplussed if the doctor tells him that he needs a prescription of  sidenafil instead of the famous brand name, Viagra.

Back in 2001, I took my children to Bangalore, India. On the very first night, both of them came down with fever and vomiting. I took a cab to a private hospital and went straight to the dispensary. The pharmacist who attended to me looked puzzled when I asked him for some Panadol. Then he asked me what it was for. After my explanation, he said what I needed was paracetamol. It was then that I realized that Panadol is the brand name used in Malaysia, but in India, paracetamol is sold under a different brand name. In this instance, I knew what paracetamol was, and there was no information gap between us. The message wasn't lost.

In business writing, it's always important to understand your audience. if you know that your readers are technical people, by all means shoot your jargon at them. In most situations, your readers are likely to comprise both technical and non-technical people. And bear in mind that the person who decides whether to give your company the job or not may be a non-technical person. So, if you have to use jargon in your writing, you can include footnotes or a glossary to explain the jargon used.

Friday, November 23, 2012

How much does it cost to cross a street in Bandar Sunway?

One Academy student was trying to cross Jalan PJS 11/28 to her class during a heavy thunderstorm about a week ago, and she had to fork out RM12.00 to make it to her class on time. No, she wasn't fleeced by some notorious taxi driver. She had no choice  but to pay RM12.00 for a parapluie to take her across!

I'm sure it must have occurred to those who live, work, or study there that the developer should provide a few covered walkways to connect the blocks of shops. Just think: You're standing at KFC overlooking Persiaran Lagoon and you can see the person you're supposed to have an appointment with standing on the opposite side of the road - both of you separated by a massive downpour!

Maybe I should go into the business of selling parapluies at this time of the year! BTW, parapluie is French for the humble umbrella the student bought.  

Quel dommage! Sorry, I've been sneezing French; it must have been the monsoon!  

Au revoir et a bientot!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Warning : Don't Drink Grammar at Old Town White Coffee !

Gentle Readers

Never mind the grammar error in the use of reported speech in this "Yum Cha" ad that appeared in The Star of Monday 12 November 2012. Go savour the robust flavour of freshly-brewed coffee at Old Town White Coffee kopitiam.

Is this is an instance of the copywriter exercising his creative licence to break grammar rules for effect and impact? The man in the ad should have said: "The doctor said I wasn't sick enough to be on medical leave." Perhaps the copywriter's use of the present tense is deliberate as it reflects a common mistake in Malaysian English. The practice of employees taking MCs - medical chits- is a common complaint of Malaysian employers. I suppose the combination of Malaysian English and the MC culture has the effect of helping (Malaysian) readers identify with the ad campaign?

Waiter, give me a cuppa!

Monday, October 22, 2012

 Of Avian Flu, Alvin Tan , Vivian Lee and our changing standards...

Brace yourself. A new strain of bird flu is hitting Malaysia: Alvin + Vivian = H5N1 Avian. It was recently reported that Avian flu jumps from birds to seals and could potentially threaten humans and animals. I wonder if the couple had been smoochiing seals of late.

It's indeed astonishing how fast our standards change with the advent of the Internet. A female friend and I were discussing the brouhaha over the Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee bare-it-all scandal on the Internet. She said that if the young couple had been featured on the centre page of Playboy mag, it wouldn't have been so bad instead of them posting their sumptuous erotica on their blog for the whole world to see. I know this lady friend wouldn't have said this even a year ago. It's like Alvin and Vivian have raised the benchmark. I'm sure, it wasn't long ago that it would have been quite shocking for a woman from Malaysia to be featured in Playboy. Now that we have Alvin and Vivian, the bar has been raised several notches. Perhaps, in another ten years, when another couple do something even more daring or outrageous than what the two have done, who knows we might just react: "If they had done what Alvin and Vivian did in 2012, it wouldn't have been so bad."

Monday, October 1, 2012

You don't really have to go all the way to Bali or burn your pocket paying for pricey "package" trips to Pulau Redang to find good beaches. Recently, I drove up to a beach in Cherating, Pahang - somewhere close to the famed Club Med resort. As my wife and children aren't sun lovers, I left them in the hotel. Except, for an elderly Caucasian couple, I had the beach all to myself. Not that I needed the whole beach. But think of the bliss, the peace, and the sheer joy of simply doing nothing!

Monday, September 17, 2012

This NOKIA Lumia banner ad is seen stretching above the road outside Kuala Lumpur Megamall's North Court. In my opinion, this ad copy has made clever use of the idiom "run in the family", which is more commonly used to refer to people. As an example, when you say this to a Miss Malaysia contestant that "beauty runs in her family", you're not only saying that she's beautiful but also that it's a common trait in her family. As the banner ad is about Nokia's Lumia, it has the effect of tellingly suggesting to anyone who sees it that Lumia is a work of beauty and that "beauty" is a common trait in the Nokia family.

Monday, September 3, 2012

 God's Coffee

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said:

"If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink.

What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us."

God brews the coffee, not the cups.......... Enjoy your coffee!

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything."

(I chanced upon this lovely anecdote on Facebook)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

  A few quotes from renowned educationist, John Dewey.

"Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living".

"Anyone who has begun to think, places some portion of the world in jeopardy".

 "Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another".

"Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination".

"Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes".

"Man is not logical and his intellectual history is a record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical basis".

Sunday, June 24, 2012

 Pissing English

 The management at Shiok Kopitiam must have had a stinky hard time dealing with male customers who patronise their cafe with a misguided aim. This frank and in-your-face notice says as much : target your discharge inside the toilet bowl, and not on or outside the bowl. Yes, "it will be more grateful". The pronoun "it" appears to be ambiguous: Does it refer to the toilet bowl or the management? We know the toilet bowl is an inanimate object and therefore the expression of gratitude should come from the management. Maybe someone at Shiok Kopitiam has a literary bent and has decided to endow the toilet bowl with human qualities? In other words, the toilet bowl is being personified. However, I think the personification is accidental and the notice should have read: IF YOU CAN TARGET INSIDE THE TOILET BOWL, WE WOULD BE MOST GRATEFUL". The use of "can" here seems to imply that there's a possibility some customers really have a problem with their aim and need to consult a urologist. Furthermore, why "would" and not "should"? The latter carries the weight of obligation that is absent in "would". Hokey, dokey. I'd better get myself out of this stinky business. I would suggest that the notice be worded thus:  IF YOU TARGET INSIDE THE TOILET BOWL, WE SHOULD BE MOST GRATEFUL" This way, there's no ambiguity and no male customers will suffer the ignominy of having their noble aim questioned.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dateline: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Here's a book club meeting with a difference. This young Saigonese lady approached me - propositioned me with a stack of books in a restaurant in the tourist belt of Phang Ngu Lao street. I'm seen here with a Bill Bryson book, but we didn't discuss Bill Bryson. Neither did we discuss any of the other books in the whole stack. So, what's she doing with the stack of books? Flaunting her knowledge to tourists like me?  Click HERE and you'll know why.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Self-Love Can Destroy Your Organization

Corporate guru Poojya Swami Sukhabodhananda warns about the danger of self-love - "the addiction to one's point of view, one's dogma" - which can lead to disorder in an organization. He explains this by way of an analogy:

“Who is flying the kite?”
The egoistic person says, “I am flying the kite”.
The breeze says, “I am flying the kite”.
The tail of the kite says, “I am flying the kite”.
The string says, “I am flying the kite”.
Existence voice says, “Oh child, we are flying the kite”.

The value of the team is very important and that is possible if one’s love is not restricted to the self but to the whole. This ethical mode should be valued and respected in the organization, apart for honouring people who reach their targets. Such a value spontaneously brings in the power to give, the power to contribute, the power to serve.

You can find the whole article in  The Star's Metrobiz, 18 April 2012.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

 McDonald's I'm lovin' it
NEXT time when you’re spending a blissfully intimate moment with your beloved, you might want to coo into her soft tofu ears: “I’m loving you.” I’m not sure how she would react, but what I do know is that McDonald’s tagline – I’m lovin’ it – sure has a way of getting our attention...

 Read the rest of this article at:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Thirteen-year-old schoolboy and fledgling history buff  Benjamain Lerman Coady will go far.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Model for Personal Branding
Enterprising Internet Marketing Entrepreneur Ricky Soo holds an MBA and a B.SC in Computer Science, with a major in software engineering. A voracious reader, Ricky writes on subjects ranging from jokes, ethics, Internet Marketing to technology and Search Engine Optimization(SEO). Here he shares with us a model he has created on personal branding.
In business and entrepreneurship, we often talk about “business models” and “revenue models”. Put simply, a business model describes how a business works and competes.  A revenue model says how the business earns its revenue and profits.
This is the first time I've come up with a formal model on real- life problems. It is not meant to be complete or entirely accurate.  A model is just a representation of the real world.  It is meant to help us make decisions on real- life problems. It has weaknesses and we should not depend entirely on a model.
The model doesn’t try to cover everything about personal branding. Nor does it explain why we should brand ourselves, or how to go about doing it. But it’s more on the elements of personal branding and the kind of questions we should ask ourselves when developing and evaluating our own personal brand.
Ricky's model on personal branding

Friday, May 4, 2012

I met Mohd Firdaus, Marketing Manager of Youth Marketing Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. at the recent biz book club soiree at Starbucks, Amcorp Mall on Monday, 30th April, 2012. YMM  is a youth marketing firm which specializes in providing consultation and services to corporate clients that help target their products and services at the youth market. Here's Mohd Firdaus's take on the importance of branding in business:

"Branding is about creating an impression of your business in your client's mind. That impression needs to be consistent every time people see it, it needs to be consistent in the direct (obvious) & indirect (less obvious) visual cues, and the messages in all your sales & marketing must not clash with each other. It's about getting your clients to remember one thing about your biz, and remember it well. And it's our job to make what they remember is our business's unique selling point that makes them choose our business over others."


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I attended this book club soiree held at Starbucks, Amcorp Mall. Two books were shared: Frank Lane's Killer Brands and Wallace D. Wattles' s classic The Science of Getting Rich. This new book club meets on the last Monday of each month and the next meeting is on 28th May 2012 at 7:30 p.m. Find out more at this link : :

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kaizen Theory in life - Constant Improvement.


Kaizen - Constant Improvement

Prolific New Delhi online writer Jacobkuttyta discovers Kaizen...

I came across the word Kaizen recently.  It is a Japanese word used for the constant improvement.  We have seen quality product from Japan.  Made in Japan tag means a quality product.  I remember, in India we go after Japan products in the 1980's and 1990's.   Kaizen - theory played a vital role in the improvement of quality products made by Japan.

Not only it improved the quality of product, they are now using this theory to making money.  They travel all over the world and making money by teaching the principles.  Many companies used the method and made a fortune by adopting the theory. 

Kaizen means constant small improvements in the product and the way of work.  It requires the participation of the workers who are involved in the manufacturing process.   When they are aware of the need and benefit and the part played by them to improve the quality of the product, they are happy to put more efforts to play their part. 

To the success of implementing the Kaizen way of work depend on the participation of all level of workers and management of the organization. It is a proven theory and many companies established their name in their respective field by implementing the Kaizen technology.
See all 1 photos

How we can use the Kaizen theory in our personal life

Now the question is "How we can use the Kaizen theory in our daily life?"

As per the researchers there are many peculiar qualities in the Kaizen theory which yield its success in the business. One of the peculiar quality of Keizen theory is that it aims for a small improvement at a time. Many are easily achieved this improvement without much difficulty. There is some psychological effect behind the achievement. They are aiming for a small improvement. Which is attainable. And the workers believe that they can achieve the goal. A 1% improvement is easily achievable.

In the beginning they are not asking for a 10 % or 20% or 50% improvement. Only 1% improvement! That is very easy and believable. We can adjust small changes in the way of our life. Human beings are designed to resist to any changes in a big way. But small changes for the betterment of our life can be easily accepted. It is easy for us to make a small change in the way of our thinking and believe the possibility in a small way.

Basically, the improvement is small. But when you constantly do that, over the period it make a big difference in the product and the way of their working.

In our personal life, we can implement easily the Kaizen theory and achieve more and reach greater heights. Let me explain. You know that 1000 quality hubs will generate more traffic and it will yield you a lot of money. 1000 hubs in a day is not possible. At least one quality hub in a week is possible and achievable. If you have more time, you can do one quality hub in a day.

At the end of the year you would be having 52 quality hubs in a year if you do one quality hub in a week. Or if you make one quality hub in a day, you will be having 365 hubs at the end of the year. Isn't it amazing. Isn't it believable. Isn't it achievable. Amazing, achievable, believable and attainable goal will increase your faith and you will manifest it at the end of the week. It will increase your experience and the faith in yourself. You will be doing it more often at the end of the year.

When you do that, it will fetch a lot of money into your account without any struggle. Materialized money will motivate you to do more. Finally you don't have to put more efforts to change. The changes will take place by itself. It will become the part of autopilot within you and you do it automatically. Do not forget. Your aim is a small improvement in the right direction.

Constant improvement means increasing the quality of the hub. If your hub provide more information to the reader, they will return to your hub very often. So increasing the quality of hub is the key of success. In the desire of creating more hubs you may create more poor quality hubs. It will not generate traffic or money. At the end of the year, you will be having many hubs without any traffic, which is useless. So be careful in creating ensuring quality of your hubs.

The above is just an example for you to understand the way the Kaizen theory work in your life. You can practice Kaisen other areas of your personal life. You can try it in your relationship. If you put a small effort to change in the way of your behaviour with your spouse, it will make a big difference at the end of the year. You would be loving each other more than before. Small steps like appreciating your spouse for the good food, or the help he or she does for you. Ignore the mistake of your spouse and show your love and care. At least thank her for being with you once in a while will build your relationship in the positive way. I am sure, small steps will make big difference in your personal life.

Do you doubt a hike in your pay cheque if you put Kaizen theory in your work. Small steps in improving your work will also make big difference in your performance. Small goal is believable, reachable and attainable easily. You can believe it and attain it. As every action of a human being is based on his faith, it is important for you to set an achievable, believable goal. Kaizen is connected to your faith. You know the secret of the manifestation is the faith.

Put Kaizen theory in every walk of your life. While socializing with your friends, in your work, in your relationship, in your spiritual life, in your dealings make small improvements constantly.

Continuity of the improvement is the another factor which affect the result. So make sure, you constantly making improvements. If continuity is not there, you won't expect much difference in the end result. So maintain continuity.

Wish you all the best in leading a successful life.

(To read her other articles, please use the link on the right)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Datuk Anne Eu, Chairperson of one of Malaysia's most respected brands, Eu Yan Sang, took over the helms when her husband Joseph William Yee Eu passed away five years ago. She has this to say about her success in leading Eu Yan Sang: "What I didn't know in the business I asked about until I could thoroughly understand. It takes passion to make a job work. And passion has taken me this far". 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I've seen this ad on the back of our city taxis and it never fails to get my attention. The main aim in business writing is to communicate with the readers. So, if you can get the attention of your  target audience with your business proposal' title, introduction or executive summary, it would ensure that your proposal gets past the first hurdle of being considered for further reading. The business owner of really knows how to get our attention. Watch out, cheating spouses!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Business Proposal Writing
What can we learn from this advertisement?

"What has inspired countless Haiku poems will also inspire you".

What can business proposal writers learn from this Malaysia Airlines advertisement which appeared in local dailies just a few days ago? What's the purpose of this ad? Obviously, it's using haiku, the famous form of Japanese poetry, with presumably Sakura cherry blossoms to entice newspaper readers.The choice of the soft pink-white petals with the beckoning golden yellow filaments could induce in the readers a spring-is-in-the-air mood.

For the business proposal writer, are you able to make your readers see or feel what really matters to them: providing a solution that will solve their problems and bring them the benefits they desire? Will you be able to help them visualize the problem-benefit equation?

Yet, I don't feel quite persuaded by the ad. How many Malaysians out there really know about the Japanese haiku? It's like you put out an ad in China with this line against a picture of our hibiscus flowers: "What has inspired countless pantun poems will also inspire you". Just as the majority of Chinese will not be able to relate to the pantun, it makes me wonder how many Malaysians can relate to the haiku.Why not just show us a famous haiku poem written about the famous cherry blossoms? I would say the cherry blossoms are more well-known than the haiku. Anyway, how can one be so sure that what has inspired countless haiku poems "will also inspire" us?

For the business proposal writer, I would say: make sure that your readers can relate to the solution or idea that you are trying to sell them. For example, avoid using jargon that may confuse them. Do not assume that just because you are the specialist in your field, your readers should know the subject matter as well as you do.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Business Proposal Writing: What We can Learn from Roshan Thiran, CEO of Leaderonomics

I'm a firm believer of learning from the world around us. So, after reading Roshan Thiran's Don't Kill Your Talent in his column Talking HR in StarBiz (Thursday 27 March 2012), I asked myself: How can I use his ideas in business proposal writing? I won't delve into the details of the whole article, but I'll just focus on one quality that caught my attention that made me want to read it till the end.

How can a headline like "Don't Kill Your Talent" ever escape one's attention? Roshan is advocating that business leaders should also source their talents from within the organization. He opines that business organizations are unwittingly killing their own talents by not allowing their own people "to fulfil their potential". He suggests giving their "inexperienced" people a chance to realize their potential. His battle cry: Keep pushing your people outside their comfort zone. They need experiences".

OK, I digress. What has the headline got to do with your business proposal writing? It shows me how important it is to have a title that catches the attention of your readers. You may not write a stare-in-your-face title the way Roshan wrote his, but the same principle applies: you need a good title that tells your reader what you are proposing in your proposal. Just imagine Kentucky Fried Chicken with a bland or cliched tagline like The best chicken in town instead of the memorable It's finger lick'n good. Now, you're not going to write a proposal title like a tagline, which would be frivolous. But that's the point: get your readers' attention with an appropriate title so they will just nod their heads and say, "Hey, that's what I want".

Roshan Thiran is the CEO of Leaderonomics who describes  Leaderonomics as "a social enterprise focused on inspiring people to leadership greatness."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is Psychology Important in Writing Business Proposals?

Whether you are writing a business proposal to secure funding or to get your submission selected by your readers, how you present your proposal is extremely important. The ‘how to’ has a lot to do with language and style. And psychology...

To read the rest of the article, please go to the link below.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Writing Business Proposals : How Do You Make Your Ideas Stand Out Like a Rockstar?

 Graphic Courtesy of One Academy Undergraduate 2012

If your job requires you to write business proposals to solicit for business or funds, your job depends on your ability to write your proposals well.

Someone says that "Every communication that leaves the office is a sales letter" and that includes  business proposals. Putting in the facts and figures require much background research and thinking, but how do you package and present those facts and figures in a way that is convincing or persuasive?

The presentation of your business proposal is more than just the neat layout and attractive binding- those things do give a good first impression, but they are superficial. Your readers may be the CEOs, directors, managers, accountants, or technical staff. They are busy people who will most likely have other business proposals to read. Just imagine, your proposal is but one of several that they have to read. Put yourself in their shoes. What are they looking for? What will make them want to read your business proposal out of the several that are on their table?

Chances are, the busy CEO or director may not even have the time to read your 50 page business proposal. If s/he likes what you have written in your introduction, s/he might think there's merit in your proposal and ask others in the company to look into it more thoroughly. However, s/he may decide not to read beyond the first paragraph of the beginning of your report. Worse, if they reject it outright after reading just the introduction.

How do you write in a way that will give your readers the A-ha effect? What will make your readers want to go beyond the Executive Summary? How can you use language and style to make your ideas stand out? Your proposal is one out of 10 proposals on your reader's desk. How do you make your ideas stand out like a rockstar?

You may have an excellent product or service, but if your reader is not convinced, your product or service will not stand a chance for consideration. And a lot depends on the language and style that you use in order to convince or persuade your reader.

This PSMB Write Winning Business Proposals Training Program focuses on the effective use of language to sell your ideas to your prospective clients.

This training program is HRDF claimable.