After his extensive experience of owning 6 businesses and letting them all go at once, travelling to around 22 countries to meet influential people all around the world, Thriving Talents founder named Michael Teoh has interesting stories to be told when it comes to his accomplishments as an entrepreneur as well as the journey he had to go through to finally reach where he is today.
During the MaGIC Academy Symposium held last month, Michael talked about personal accounts that transpired throughout the past 4 years of building his company and the ups and downs that came along with it.
Here are the 4 lessons he shared with the audience that he managed to pick up along his pathway of becoming a true entrepreneur.
1. Be laser focused and be damn good at what you do.
Being the co-founder of 6 established businesses, Michael found himself in a complacent position in his life. Generating a good amount of income and having a steady career made it seem like he was truly blessed but after a horrific near-death experience where he was almost involved in an accident, Michael questioned how ‘happy’ he truly was.
It was then he remembered the advice of two of his close friends, Joel Neoh who is the founder of KFIT and Bryan Loo who is the master franchiser of Chatime in Malaysia, who told him to always be laser-focused and to be good in what you want to do.
“Bryan told me that it’s admirable how much I travelled around the world and met all these people yet still many aren’t aware on what exactly it is I do. People don’t know what I’m doing because I was doing so much. That’s when I knew what I needed to do,” said Michael.
So he quit and sold his stakes at all his businesses and started Thriving Talents in 2012, which is a talent development company that allowed him to pursue his true passion of speaking and giving motivational talks.
But just being laser-focused was not enough. He needed to be good and known for it. So the next 6 months, after seeing how the smaller enterprises weren’t biting into his prospects much, he went straight for the big guns and got in contact with Microsoft.
“Microsoft did not want to deal with me at first since they didn’t hire external vendors but I was so persistent that they gave me a small project to work on for a first contract. 4 years later, Microsoft is still one of our main clients,” shared Michael.
When you are laser-focused and you perfect the art that you do, big names such as Microsoft will be able to recognise it and provide you the opportunity you need. Thriving Talents now deals with popular brands such as Intel, AIA, Sony and more just because they noticed how Microsoft was using their services so they wanted to give Michael a try as well.
“Since humans naturally follow the herd mentality, instead of aiming small, try going as big as you can and go for the big companies to persuade them into using your services. Once they have, shout it out loud to attract the rest to join you. Trust me, they will,” said Michael to the audience.
2. Your team is your extension.
Through the 4 years of Thriving Talents existence so far, Michael admits that while they have been growing strong, they have also made a lot of sales and hiring blunders.
“Hiring is such an important role in any company. I always get asked on how do we know who to hire. The first thing I learnt in my experience of hiring people is to always look to see if the person you’re considering is a reflection of yourself,” said Michael.
He then shared a story on how he was almost about to hire a fresh graduate with a superb resume but was then stopped by his investor who told the candidate to head outside and collect 10 business cards in under an hour. The candidate said he couldn’t do it, which led to Micheal’s investor saying that he shouldn’t be hired then.
“My investor taught me that we shouldn’t be hiring people whose attitude doesn’t reflect the attitude of the team we’re trying to grow. So now I focus on looking at experiential skills rather than what is written on paper,” said Michael.
He also elaborated on how he invested in cultivating a good culture within his company. Bringing them to meet celebrities or influential people and showing them the different big companies Malaysia has such as Google headquarters are some examples of how Michael goes the extra mile to make his employees fall in love with the company.
“Some may think as an entrepreneur, we should hire those who complement us. Yes, they can complement your skills but in terms of attitude, the person should have some resemblance to who you are. When you make a wrong hiring decision, it will actually cost you more money which you as a startup want to avoid,” said Michael.
3. Focus on relationships, than transactions.
Business in itself is a relationship. One of the things that people tend to forget is humans rely on connection. So forming relationships is crucial when it comes to building up a business because without it, no transactions will be made. Invest in relationships first and foremost.
When he first started Thriving Talents, Michael shared his experience on how he approached General Electric. He at first found them on LinkedIn and used that as a platform to initiate a connection.
After 6 months of persistence, he finally managed a meeting with a representative from the company who told Michael that GE was not interested to work with an external training provider when they already had their own in-house resources that were possibly better than whatever Michael could offer.
“I then had a decision to make. I decided to still pursue them because I didn’t see any harm. Every month, I’d send over one of our newsletters and occasionally kept in touch through WhatsApp. After a year of determination and stubbornness, GE caved in and gave me one project to work on to test my abilities. Now this year alone, GE has already engaged us to do training with them 4 times,” said Michael.
4. Don’t be afraid to have your voice heard.
One of the highlights of his life was his meeting with Sir Richard Branson, who is best known as the founder of Virgin group, which comprises of more than 300 companies.
Due to sheer luck on his part, Michael was able to attend an event where Sir Richard Branson was present. At the end of the talk, the host opened up the floor for any questions to be asked to Sir Richard.
Out of the 400 people present during the event, no one took that opportunity to ask such a prominent figure anything. Michael decided that there was no point in overthinking and delaying time furtherm, so he raised his hand and asked his idol a question. And it was because of that question that made Sir Richard notice and acknowledge Michael.
“I realised that the reason people weren’t asking Sir Richard any questions was because they weren’t sure whether their questions were good enough. I say, no question is bad. So be brave and be courageous in getting your voice out there because what is the worst thing that could happen?” said Michael.
Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) aims to build a Sustainable Entrepreneurship Ecosystem by catalysing creativity & innovation for long term nation impact. For its third installment, MaGIC Academy (#MA2016) gathered serial entrepreneurs, founders, philanthropists, investors, corporate leaders and startup enthusiasts from across the globe. You can follow MaGIC on Instagram and Twitter for more information: @magic_cyberjaya
Feature Image Credit: @michealteoh on Twitter