This week SunBiz gets the thoughts and views of Nuffnang Sdn Bhd country manager Kausern Hieu

Success: The Insight Story – Don’t spend time building the ‘perfect’ strategy

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Wasted potential and missed opportunities during my secondary, tertiary education and even in my early 20s made me the leader I am today. Being the eldest child in the family, I had to figure a lot of things out myself when I was growing up.

For whatever reason, my high school teachers would select me to be the leader of various groups. I had to go through the school of hard knocks to figure out this leadership business. The only leadership style I knew was the authoritarian leadership because I learnt it from TV – watching military programmes. If my team wasn’t following orders, I would crank it up to 11 and go really hard on them. As a result, I’ve chalked up a reputation of being a horrible person.

This traumatic experience scarred me and as a result, I stayed away from any sort of leadership opportunity in university. But things took a turn in my 20s when I started serving in the church’s youth group. I went through proper leadership training and had mentors who spent time with me... guiding me to become a better leader. Thus, I made it my life mission to empower the younger generation to be all they were created to be because I believe they are not leaders of tomorrow, but leaders of today. All they need is someone to believe in them.

What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?

As a leader of a service-based company, hiring the right person to join the team is an important (management) job. During the interview process, there are three areas which I look out for and the corresponding questions that I would be asking:

> Competency (ask skill-based questions, both hard and soft skills)

> Drive (ask ambition-related questions)

> Shared values (ask value-based questions)

Nuffnang is a subsidiary of ASX-listed Netccentric Limited (NCL), and we have a visionary leader NCL executive chairman Ganesh Kumar Bangah. The NCL group is driven by a team of passionate individuals who think and work like entrepreneurs. Hence, talent that we look for, besides the three qualities I outlined above, are individuals who are able to help us fulfil this vision as we progressively take the group to new levels of growth.

How do you think the industry you are in will evolve?

Recently, influencer marketing has been booming simply because consumers tend to trust endorsements as approvals from credible third parties. It is the “X-factor” to win over consumers within today’s digital economy and a fitting supplement to Google and Facebook ads.

Influencer marketing is as close to the real thing (word-of-mouth) as brands can get and still retain some creative control over the message and audience. This form of media integrates products into influencers’ lives that their followers seek inspiration from and can relate to. As a result, it potentially increases consideration and purchase intent.

Today, Nuffnang has a comprehensive network of some 15,000 celebrities, personalities and content creators across all levels of society and diversity with a collective reach to more than 20 million consumers in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

On this note, we are venturing further into influencer-led live commerce as we believe this field as being the next frontier of growth for the company. Although the field of live commerce is still in its infancy compared to China, we foresee tremendous growth in the years ahead and it would set to complement our influencer marketing strengths.

Influencer-led live commerce is essentially live video streaming combined with the ability for online shoppers to interact with charismatic sellers and influencers to buy immediately. It’s the next big thing for consumer marketing.

What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business?

If I can go back in time, the one piece of advice I would give to my 20-year old self is to intentionally build up these five buckets: skills, knowledge, network i.e. business relationships, reputation and resources.

We all know about the industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution ? Your thoughts.

Yes – 2020, 2021 and possibly even 2022 brought us frustrations and even tragedy, but I’m optimistic what the fourth industrial revolution will bring us. Klaus Schwab (executive chairman of the World Economic Forum) mentioned that Industry 4.0 Revolution is “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between physical, digital, and biological spheres”.

To me, what this revolution simply means is that current technology and emerging technology such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, etc, will empower human beings all over the world to be better.

Coupled with our awakening to the need for systemic changes, from the climate crisis to the acceptance of diversity and inclusion, this new revolution will force us to re-think a different economic model and the need for a different type of leader to drive a more equitable growth.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional life?

The greatest gift a mentor or a coach can give to a client is their time, attention, and perspective. Great coaches are deep listeners and ask thought provoking questions. They cut straight to the chase. I will always remember this one time where I was playing the victim and being whiny. My mentor just went, “Stop blaming. What if you’re the problem?”

What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?

I believe we are called to leave this world a better place than when we got here. I want to live in a world where the older generation believes in the next generation as equals, that the old and the young can work together to solve global systemic issues now.

I believe large corporations that subscribe to the triple bottom line (profits, people, planet) will be able to make a bigger dent in solving our current global woes. I recently came across this quote which resonated with me: “Companies with a higher purpose are more profitable than those that just think about the bottom line”.

Hence, my five-year goal is to work towards making all these aspirations a reality for Nuffnang and the NCL Group.

Best piece of advice you ever got on your career.

Best business/career advice I’ve received: Don’t spend too much time and resources to build the perfect boat. You will miss the tide completely. Sail your imperfect boat now and patch the leaks along the way. In other words: “Strategy is execution – jump first and seek forgiveness if needed instead of coming up with the perfect strategy which would take a long time or never come.”

Best life advice I’ve received: Actions speak louder than words. Don’t be easily mesmerised by a charismatic storyteller. What matters most is their track record and body of work. It will always clue you in on how they may act in the future.

Most-admired business leader? Why?

There is a multitude of people who have inspired my beliefs and work ethic. Among them are Simon Sinek and John Maxwell.

Their ideas have shaped how I run Nuffnang Malaysia. We strongly believe in “winning as one” so that we can prosper together. At our company, we aim to provide and create a safe workplace environment with a strong sense of autonomy and belonging. By doing so, our employees will be more willing to innovate, take risks, or push the envelope with the purpose of creating wow moments for our stakeholders.

How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?

The digital advertising and marketing industry is constantly evolving at lightning speed. To keep a pulse on the industry, I subscribe to relevant Youtube channels, podcast, and trade newsletters. On top of that, I will make it a habit to connect with my network of industry friends to exchange notes.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced? What did you learn from it?

The courage to confront a non-performing staff. I’m definitely much better at this today but I still struggle. We avoid such difficult conversations because we tell ourselves we care for them and do not want to make them feel bad. That’s a lie we tell ourselves.

In reality, the person we do not want to hurt is ourselves. We don’t want to be the bad person. In my opinion, it’s a self-serving act to be holding back a developmental feedback because we will be depriving our staff the truth they need to hear in order for them to grow.

What man-made innovation confounds you? Why?

Apps in a smartphone. It may seem obvious to us today, but if you think about it, in order to get from point A to point B these days, all you need to do is tap an icon in your phone and your transportation will “magically” appear at your doorstep.

Malaysia’s greatest brand.

AirAsia. It accelerated digital adoption back then. I remember older folks who rejected digital technology forced themselves to book tickets online.

What made AirAsia so memorable and unique when it first burst onto the scene? It was intellectually confounding (RM1 flights) and the benefits of “everyone can fly” moved us emotionally – we experienced new places through the joys of travel.

What are the top three factors you would attribute your success to?

1. I’m a passionate idealist. I can pursue ideals with a single-mindedness that may sometimes catch people off guard. I rarely settle for “good enough”.

2. I’m aware being an idealist may not please everyone hence I’m grateful I have an altruistic side to balance out. I believe in the well-being of others by empowering them to be all they were created to be.

3. The other factor is my faith. There were countless times God provided me with His wisdom to say or do the right things at the right time. When I look back, I know I’m not that smart to be able to come up with those creative ideas and insights. Thanks to my faith, people have remarked that I have the uncanny ability to pick up their true motivations, feelings and needs.

Tell us a joke.

Since I’m in the marketing business, I’ll tell a branding joke.

You know the tiger image on the Tiger Beer logo? Question: Is it a male or female tiger?

Answer: Obviously, it’s a male tiger. If it’s a female tiger, it would have been branded as Tigress Beer.

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