In West Malaysia
Early in my career as a public auditor, I became concerned of my lack of independence as a public auditor who is paid by the client to produce a set of accounts that is supposed to reflect a true and fair view of the financial position of the company. I soon gave up the profession and many years later, the dissolution of the world famous Arthur Anderson accounting firm because of the Enron Corporation scandal truly justified my decision. (Read about the Enron case here)
I moved on to become a management consultant instead and created companies under the ITC Group & Associates banner covering a multitude of disciplines including management consulting, computer hardware, software, seminars and workshops and last but not least direct sales. Somewhere in the middle of my career while conducting & facilitating seminars and workshops, the FASTLANE logo was born. I felt that it truly represented my purpose in life, that is to rapidly connect, synergize and futurize the world for the betterment of individuals and communities. It involves human emotions, thinking, technologies, systems, principles and all there is in life that we are constantly learning about. (See the group profile page here)
Eventually, I carved myself a unique profile due to my diversed accumulated experiences to become the man that can help individuals and organizations achieve break through results. I became the man with the paper qualifications, the necessary experience and a good track record poised to help any individual or organization achieve positive and successful change.(See the consultant's profile page here)
It was my first time walking into the management of a MLM company and one with drastic problems too at that time. I resorted to my pool of expertize in management, technology,finance and people skills to turn around the company within a year to be finally acquired by an investor group from the US. I had by that time put new management in place, new distributor leaders, better financial controls and systems which overall uplifted the image of the company to later on become one of the leading MLM companies in the country. The legal counsellor who later became president of the company after several merges and acquisitions remains a close friend to me today.
I had discovered from my experience with the first company that I was like 'a duck in a pond' when working in the MLM industry. Not long after my contract had ended , the same friend that introduced me to the first company introduced me a new American company with just a single product and asked me what I thought of it. My confidence had already increased by then and told him to tell the founders I could to start up operations in Malaysia from ground zero with the promise that I could gather 10,000 distributors at their opening convention. They immediately flew their VP of International to see me in Kuala Lumpur and I was immediately given the mandate to proceed. The end result was that I grossed RM100 million for the company in just one year from ground zero in the beginning with 50,000 distributors in the database at the official opening ceremony of the company. (Read the media coverage) I believe my leadership contributed to putting Malaysia on the map ranked 12th in the world for direct selling. (Read Direct Selling News July 2006)
My contract with the American company lasted for 5 years. Following that I assisted a Singaporean friend, who was also managing an American based MLM company in the region, for its Malaysia operations. He faced a tougher time with the management of the American based MLM companies and went through several US companies faster than I did. From his experience combined with mine, and the information I have gathered from several other Asian managers in the region representing American MLM companies, I have become influenced to make certain conclusions on the fate of American companies in Asia.
One that is quite obvious would be the way Americans like to push their ideals to the local people. There is 'ONLY ONE WAY' to do it and as a result, their great marketing initiatives with strong financial backing may attract the crowd in the beginning but all too soon, the problems of leadership in management takes their toll and sales begin to tumble faster than it grew. One of the biggest deception is when an American manager speaks the local language and one would think he/she would understand the local culture and will be able to make optimal decisions. WRONG as I had witnessed such managers being rejected by an entire country's distributors and was sent home. Many more silently move on to other companies with no feedback to management at all when such leaders continue to manage the company.
Culture is one that takes years to develop or learn. I have been friends with Americans for more than half my life and have criss-crossed their continent many times, visiting my true blooded American friends. I still cannot say I can fully understand the American mind or culture and I still enjoy many meaningful conversations with my good friends who try to help me understand their culture. Experienced Asians living in America tell me their native colleagues love to communicate with bullet points or give single line responses. I often wonder how can there be optimal communication between the two cultures or even between their own country men?
In the recent Olympics in Beijing, there have been strong criticisms from American media of how false the young singer was who was lip singing her song at a performance. I guess the Americans do not appreciate what it means to 'save face' by the Chinese people that when they promised a great show, they will do everything to make sure it runs with clock work precision. I faced this with a previous American company who marketed to the world they were technologically advanced. However when things broke down, I had to manage the office with many staff working manually the same way that you might have seen in the East Indian movies where the electric fan seems to be turning automatically but behind the wall are many laborers pulling the ropes to make it turn! Americans are quick to forgive but may not realize Asian customers may not be so forgiving. Didn't I say there is a cultural gap?
Compensation plans can be configured in many different ways whether they are the step plan, unilevel or binary in nature but unfortunately many are not designed to help the little guy or part timer become successful. They favor the big leaders and volume producers so the larger mass of distributors soon will become inactive or DDs (Dead Distributors) It is a case of then having many Chiefs but few Indians!
In a short meeting with one of the executives, I realized I had misjudged the company due to my wrong assumption of American companies. They didn't come out with a book merely to be popular but as I had thought. The executive explained to me that their years of management consulting experience with American companies made them realize that no management strategy can be applied if a company did not have an environment for a 'Crucial Conversation' to take place. This is defined as when the Stakes are high should the conversation fail and the emotions of the two parties being strong with opinions that vary or differ! The senior executive revealed to me that in American management, the boss speaks and the subordinates keep quiet! Wow!... that was an 'Aha' revelation to me as I had always thought Americans are always vocal, free and independent from all the TV shows I had watched. All the while I had thought only Asian companies had dominating bosses who push their opinions and make everyone accept them. The same was true also in America????
Suddenly my experience in the former company I was with rushed through my mind. In the early days of the company, my hand would always be up in a top level management meeting in the US with all the corporate staff when the VP for Sales would announce a market launch that affected my area. I would politely give what I thought was positive feedback on how the plan could be improved. To my surprise one day, the Chairman of the company came up to the front and politely uttered a few words, stating how experienced this VP was and that we should all just let the man carry on without interruption. I was glad this VP was not overseeing my territory but soon after I had surpassed the RM100 million sales in one year, changes occurred in senior management and he became overall in charge of all the countries including Malaysia. There were the unique Asian problems occurring in the market place and every time I was sent to the US to corporate management meetings, I could not raise these problems nor my solutions to be discussed because he was controlling the conversations. I found it strange that after a few smooth presentations of his that took up the early part of the morning, we would all then take a break and golf the rest of the day! Needless to say, most of the Asian markets came tumbling down and I believe the other markets of the world were declining too as a new man was called to take his position. A positive note for American companies is at least they can remove the head by vote whereas in Asia, the head of a country could hog a position for many many years whether he was effective or not! The important truth I had learnt that day was that American or Asian bosses have the same problem, they always think they are right and the rest are too afraid of their jobs to voice out otherwise. (See Group Intelligence)
3 reasons led me to start to believe that this could be something different:
Number One is due to Jedd Nielsen, a humble person who introduced me to the company. He has so impressed me with his character and professionalism from previous dealings with him that if he was willing to associate himself with the company, I was willing to spend time to know more about eXfuze.
Number Two is that I learnt that the Founder, CEO and Chairman of the company, Rick Cotton had previously served 10 years on a Christian mission for impoverished children in a third world country in South America. Well I had only previously served a 2 year mission and I felt that if he was one who could serve that long in a third world country, his heart must be in the right place and that he would understand the Asian countries much better then.
Number Three is that I met with the company's leaders like Randy Heaton and their top leader Steve Campbell who has the most impressive record and personality I have ever known in the network marketing world. A CEO himself in his lifetime, a partner of Richard Marriott of the famous hotel chain in a previous business, he brings lots of confidence to Exfuze for anyone who has the chance to talk to him on the phone or meet him personally as I have.
The result was I started being able to dream again of what could be possible if an American company could synergize with Asian management and someone mentioned it could be a great eXfusion!
I met with Steve Campbell in his home located downtown in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is the master distributor of Exfuze. The video clip below reflects the connection he has with famous people in the United States :
I was flown to Florida to meet some of the Corporate Management executives of the company. You can view the photos of the trip below:
The 7 who flew to Florida, from left to right: Sun Fu CHONG, Randy Heaton, Bryon Belka, Shan Lassig, Jedd Nielsen, Melyn and Steve Campbell
Click below on the letter to read my appointment as the new Executive Director of Asia Pacific