Tony Fernandes Dreaming Big doing the impossible at Global Malaysia Series

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes is the man who need no introduction. Everyone knows him for the success of the budget airline Airasia. Not just Airasia, he also has so many businesses from telecommunication, insurance, budget hotels, Formula 1, football and recently the reality TV show the Apprentice. Last week I was inspired when I saw him live at Global Malaysia Series (GMS). Being a great entrepreneur, he is the perfect person to talk about how to bring you business to global. He is indeed a Blue Brain that has made it big. His speech is clearly blue and so much people oriented.

Here I would like to share some of the points that I jotted down:

– You must be good at your own country first.
You should be good at your product and business model – at merit. Not because of you know somebody in the government or have cable. Or have sugar daddy to support your business. If you are good at your country, you are good everywhere (with some finetune of course).

– There is no recipe. But if you don’t try, you don’t know.
Most people have good idea. But most people don’t even try their ideas.

– Malaysian parents try to push their kids at one direction.
Tony explains that when he was a baby, his grand parent already set him to be a doctor. It was the culture in Malaysia that parents want their kids to follow the traditional “go to school, get a good grade, get a good job.” Become a doctor, engineer, lawyer or accountant.

– Don’t listen to people’s advice
Previously, Tony was running a music business. Before he started Airasia, people advice him not to jump into this business. Stick to his forte which is music industry. He don’t have any experience in aviation industry. But if he listen to people’s advice, now he might be in Petaling Street fighting on the piracy issue.

– Us Malaysian rely on the government too much!
Everyone rely on the government too much. They expect the government to spoon-feed them with eveything in life. Go out there and do it!

– Diversity – we spent it on the wrong aspect
One of Malaysian unique key feature is our diversity. But most people use to much time and resources fighting on the wrong thing. We have the strength on our diversity, and we should use it to our benefits.

– Malaysian failed in succession planning
Part of the problem in Malaysian company is succession planning. When someone leaves there is no one to take over. We should have a better succession planning to sustain the business. When Tony passed the batton to Aireen Omar
(who is now the CEO of Airasia), he moved to Jakarta. Part of it is to ensure that Aireen will take the full charge of the decision, instead of always referring to him for any decision. (else she will become a messenger, instead of CEO). He was attacked by people for being in Jakarta. But later on, Idris Jala gave his opinion. Part of growing up, you need to go abroad. Just like kids, when they grow up, they will leave their home and start to grow.
Letting go is important for successful succession planning.

The importance of branding.
For Malaysian, when we spent RM10k we expect to get the return overnight. During the initial stage of Airasia, Tony bravely advertise the brands. While they only have 7 boeing 737, he already make a bold move to sponsor Manchester United (even though this is the toughest decision he has to made considering how much he hates the football club). But this has build confidence in his brand while it was line-up together with other big boys such as Vodaphone, Budweiser, Audi etc.

– Don’t be pull-off by the press. 
Sometimes press will pull you down. We have our weaknesses and most of the time we put ourselves down. Believe in ourselves even when the society did not believe in you.

– The most important role of the government is job creation. 
Government should encourage businesses to grow, because that will create jobs for the market.
Government should facilitate the business, not to run the business.
Government should not interfere in business and as much as they could, they should stay away from running business. Their job should be to facilitate business. Idris Jala agreed on this and that is what Pemandu is doing right now. However, there are some businesses that government should drive. One of it is facilities building. For example the MRT. There is no train company in the world running purely by businessman. That will not bring profit. But there is where government should help and facilitate so that other businesses can be benefited from it.

– Steward and Stewardess – We want them to be individuals
Tony said he did not designed the costume worn by their steward/ess. He gave the freedom for them to choose and later they can’t complain of wearing those. This makes the crew unique and more individuals.

– Accounting can make things look good when things are not good. With all the ridiculous standards. 
Well this is true I guess. But his message is we should not only refer to accounting numbers to determine the health of our business.

– Those days people are quarreling about government contract, that’s old school
Nowadays we should no longer looking at government contract. We should ask how we can improve our products and services.

– 2 Values that Tony have for Airasia
1. Never Give Up!
2. I will fight for my staff
Tony has mentioned 2 values that he brought to Airasia. Never give up even things are so difficult. He also mentioned that he will fight till death for his staff because his staff is the one that brought him there. Without his staff he is nothing.

– There is no short cut in life. We got to stand-up on our feet! Keep believing – keep trying.

– Spending time with people will create a great team. If you have a great people they will attract more great people.
Great people will attract great people. At some companies, especially when the HR run by Red Brain or Purple Brain, they don’t really care about people come and go. They believed in their structure and system. But Tony is different. Being a Blue Brain, he value people so much. He tried his best of recruiting the best talent. He knows who is the talented people – might be through his experience. But clearly he don’t employ people only because of their years of experience, because year of experience doesn’t mean anything if you don’t deliver result. He is more on result oriented, because the industry is though.

– The Airasia way:
i. Challenge the norm
ii. Compete with yourself – Can I be better?
iii. Our way is to be the winners!  – people never remember the second!
Usain Bolt won the gold medal during the Olympic. Everyone knows Usain. But no one remembers who won the silver medal.

Hope this sharing can benefits all of you as much as it has inspired me to do more and be more!
Finally, continue to dream big and do the impossible things!

If you wish to listen to the recorded session, go to

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