Last year I had the opportunity to interview my friend and entrepreneur Jack Ho. Since then, some things have changed. Jack took up a role as the CSR of the Malaysian National Oil and Gas Company, Petronas to better serve the community around him. Oil prices have also since dropped to a 15 year low. In this interview, I talk to Jack about:
– What new things he’s learned since our last interview
– What Jack thinks are the necessary personal characteristics for a person to survive in business
– How Jack is strategising his business to adapt to the oil and gas industry downturn
– Jack’s plans for the expansion of Yvez Industries
and much more. Read on to find out.
Jack: First of all, it’s a great pleasure to be able to be in this interview again. Let me start with National Oil Corp, my current role is Stakeholder Relations. I mainly deal with government agencies on behalf of PETRONAS, you will see me in government related events, especially community based.
So, every now and then, whenever there is Corporate Social Initiatives or Responsibilities, and also Crisis Management, you will see me running around getting the jobs done. Fairly simple, I enjoy it.
I like to help people, especially here in Miri, Sarawak. Being born and bred here, I would like to see improvement in the society I was brought up in. So in order to do that, you’ve got to be on the ground to do it and I have the perfect job. So much have been achieved this year and hopefully more can still be done down the road.
As for Yvez Industries, I no longer see myself as the Managing Director. Rather, I see myself as the Business Development person because I am the person on the ground to get things done. I’m somebody who brings businesses and profits to the company. The main focus of Yvez Industries now is to grow and be sustainable in this region.
I spend a lot of time developing businesses with a long term view be it the Oil & Gas, retails, finance and so on. It’s gradually progressing, one step at a time, so I am not complaining as I like challenges. Yvez Industries has gone from a based in Miri to Kuala Lumpur, and then now Singapore. It has been quite a journey, lots of challenges, but I still keep walking towards the sun.
Lu Wee: What do you think are the top qualities that make a person successful in business?
Jack: I still think it is important to have principles. The values that not even money can buy: integrity, faith, perseverance, patience and will. These are the principles that I carry in me and will always have with me.
To me, success is not measured by what you have and what you have done, but how you have done it and how you have survived the good and bad.
No doubt, everybody thinks success is about wealth or the luxuries you can have. But remember this: we were born with nothing and will die with nothing. So it is more about the values in principles that you leave behind as a legacy.
No one will remember how many cars, mansions, planes, yachts, watches, suits, bags, etc, you had, because once you’re dead your next generation might liquidate everything.
Rather, people would instead have memories of how things have been done by you. It is the sentimental value that you are gonna leave behind, such as the honesty, the friendships, the knowledge you share or even a helping hand.
People are touched by emotional or sentimental values which fond them at hearts and spirit, and leave a memory which worth a lifetime to be thought of. It’s how you treat people around you basically.
So, that’s what success is to me.
Lu Wee: What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running your own business for the past five years?
Jack: I can’t believe it has been 5 years, honestly. It still feels like I just started Yvez Industries yesterday. There are still many things that needs to be done on a yearly routine. In 5 years I have learned the ups and downs of running a business.
It is not relaxing and not entirely lucrative. It is adventurous, risky and can be quite a headache. It can be really good or horribly bad. It affects people around you and it stresses you mentally. But that’s just how business is.
The biggest lesson I have learned is making the right or wrong decision. Decision making is something that can be taught, it is a self-reliance instinct and subjectively based on your emotion and desire.
It’s a tough thing to do. Every decision has an effect in business. So you’ve got to be careful. Even if it turns out right, there are still unknowns that’s gonna bite you back.
I am still learning and I’ve got to say that making decision can, at times, be quite brutal. You can either be selfish or selfless.
Lu Wee: What were your assumptions about being an entrepreneur before you started and how have they changed?
Jack: I knew it was gonna be tough. It was not gonna be an easy one, so I was right all about it all along and that has not changed. But the experience is worth it, it allows you to step into the business and see alotta things from different perspectives which have changed my perspectives on many things in life and the world.
I am somebody who started from scratch, and I am still gonna be that somebody who builds brick by brick.
Lu Wee: What is your personal vision for your businesses?
Jack: My vision of Yvez Industries is to be able to create more job opportunities for the community and hopefully it will be self-sustainable. My vision for it is not only to be a just a place to work, but a place to create better livelihoods for the community, and environment of healthy living and educational, where work-life balance is nothing to be a concern, people can grow their skills and knowledge domestically through the businesses and industries.
I am not gonna be around on this planet for a long time, I will have to go someday, so I hope I can let go of Yvez Industries standing independently without a concern at the end of my time.
Lu Wee: What are your plans to expand Yvez Industries?
Jack: Currently, we have expanded to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. This expansion was not really in the plan at the beginning, somehow it just sprung out of nowhere. But this expansion has allowed Yvez Industries to tap a bigger region of the Oil & Gas industry of the Southeast Asia region.
We have created a better platform for materials trading in the region, thus we are also taping other industries. I personally do not believe in limitations and boundaries, thus jumping over the fence has allowed me to tap into other opportunities in neighbouring countries.
It is a slow progress, one baby step at a time, I know it’s slow but it’s good to be careful too, so hopefully I will be able to expand and develop the business better.
Lu Wee: Oil and gas industry is facing a big down-turn right now. How have you been able to keep Yvez Industries competitive? Are you diversifying your businesses out of the oil and gas industry?
Jack: This year has been the worst year for the Oil & Gas industry, it has affected every single business entity disregards of its size. We are seeing businesses running out of businesses, we are seeing people losing their jobs, and many livelihoods of the community are affected.
It is no longer at a competitive stage, the Oil & Gas is no longer in its glory days where profit margins were soaring sky high, it is nearly breakeven with a little more.
Businesses can no longer run like how it used back in the 80s and the 90s, those days are long gone. For now, it is more about survival of the toughest storm. With the Oil price uncertainty, not to mention the MYR currency crunch as well, business is either down or gone.
But there are still opportunities in the Oil & Gas industry, especially the Gas division, where it is technically specialized. With the challenge of increasing demand, there is a need of better technology required for higher production with efficiency.
Thus, to survive in these hard tough times, you gotta be adapt even if it means to lower your capital expenditure and cutting back various cost by optimizing the minimal requirement.
So, in order for Yvez Industries to be sustainable, we are also diversifying in other industries. With the current economic status, certain industries have fallen and it is easier to venture. That is still in the progress too, and hopefully we are able to move along smoothly.
Lu Wee: What strategies do you use to ensure that your businesses outlast those of your competitors?
Jack: I think the strategies are simple. You have to be on the ground to get the work done. Tell people what you can do and what your capabilities are. Don’t be shy or feel ashamed to sell your products, even if it’s a pen.
I like to play the low ball by going onto the ground and doing all the simple work, because it is nothing more complicated in business than buying and selling. It’s a simple trade yet hard to achieve success because it needs to be strategic.
In the end, it is all in the mindset – whether you wanna do it or not. I tell myself that as long as I am making an honest living, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Lu Wee: What are the aspects of your business that are critical for its success? (e.g. distributorship, good distribution channels, good network of potential buyers)
Jack: In business or in life, I believe in one thing only that is to make friends, not enemies. It doesn’t matter who they are, there will be people running the businesses, not robots. They may not be your clients today, bringing you opportunities, but you will never know when the day comes when they do. So, be friendly and be nice to people around you.
Lu Wee: What was the worst thing that has happened to you in business? (e.g. lost money, lost customers/ embarrassed yourself professionally)
Jack: Like any other businesses, I think the worst that has happened to me is making losses. Nobody wants to make losses in business, but sometimes it is inevitable. No matter how careful you are, when it is meant to be, it is meant to be. So, in business, you gain some and you lose some. In business, we just gotta be prepared for losses. 😉
Campfire is co-organising a session with Jack at Curtin University Miri on the 20th October 2015 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
Find out more about the session here (Facebook event page).