Members of Team Capella wrote a brief each day of their experiences while in Kuala Lumpur.
By Darren Morenstein
After our 27 hour journey around the world, we finally arrived at our destination, Kuala Lumpur. We collected our bags and headed to the beautiful Mandarin Oriental hotel to truly begin our final stages of the Telfer Executive MBA program. We enjoyed a half day of leisure to get acclimated to the weather, the time zone change and the spectacular infinite pool with views of the magnificent KL business core and the looming Petronas Towers.
Sunday morning included a breakfast buffet that required a strategic plan in order to successfully navigate around the hundreds of items and the multinational cuisine. The rest of the day was for the teams to meet with their clients and prepare for the opening banquet to officially kickoff our in-country engagement.
After opening remarks and introductions of each team and their Canadian clients, we were privileged to have Her Excellency, the High Commissioner, Her Excellency, Julia Bentley, welcome us to Malaysia.
Although the end of the program is in sight, this final week will be a reminder to us all that it is the journey that counts.
By Lauren Ramgattie
Terima Kasih. "Thank you" in Malay translates literally to “ to receive with love” and is accompanied by a hand placed over your heart and a gentle bow. This simple gesture exemplifies the warmth of the Malay culture that is weaved in to their language and customs; a warmth the Telfer Executive MBA Class of 2019 has been lucky to experience since arriving in Kuala Lumpur.
We came to Kuala Lumpur expecting many business cultural differences, and were pleasantly surprised by business being conducted in a very North American fashion. Building relationships is essential, sharing food, drink with your prospects and potential partners even more so. Business meetings can often run long as each party learns about one another through exchanging stories, and finding common ground.
It follows that you will not find meetings cut short due to a strict schedule as adequate time should be dedicated to discussing non-business related matters before easing into matters at hand. The mode of communication is also more relaxed as a quick and informal What’s App message can be as effective as a long drawn out e-mail.
Even though business practices in Malaysia can be more relaxed in nature, making significant inroads requires a local presence. Companies looking to expand to Malaysia should consider making the trip the cultivate local relationships, and experience the warm and generous Malay culture.
By Yuri Motta
Procuring business meetings is not a science; there is no formula or textbook for this particular skill. We learn through our actions, and through our experiences.
It was challenging to make the best possible connections with our list of over 30 target companies while in Kuala Lumpur. Unlike scheduling meetings back home in Canada, where we have a strong supporting network, it took us longer than expected to make significant connections within the Kuala Lumpur community. LinkedIn was our first point of contact and secondly, the TelferExecutive MBA faculty advisor's network was extremely powerful for us as well.
With the assistance of our clients, our goal for the week is to connect with the purpose of achieving high-quality meetings and not merely high quantity. Prior to departure, we had a strong agenda of meetings booked for Singapore. However, since landing in Kuala Lumpur, we have increased our quantity and quality of meetings through our initial connection with Mr. Nazery Khalid, the Head Group Corporate Communications involved in the marine industry. Mr. Khalid also worked as a hub to connect us to meet other stakeholders.
Prior to departure, we also struggled to connect with Petronas, Malaysia’s fully integrated oil and gas multinational, ranked among the largest corporations on FORTUNE Global 500®. Yet, while in country, Amir Ashrafi, a member of our team, leveraged a conversation with a group of people outside of the Petronas building. This idea ended up literally opening the door into the building where we were able to make contact key stakeholders. Sometimes it takes creative and persistence once in-country to secure the highest quality of meetings.
By Amir Ashrafi
You can't downplay the importance of being on the ground, in-country. Meeting with people face-to-face will open up further opportunities to explore and ask questions that will fill in the gaps of your secondary research. Often times, one meeting will lead to making a connection with others that would lead to another valuable meeting on your schedule.
Through our research from Canada, we identified potential prospects who could be interested in our client’s services and attempted to reach out to them and propose a time to meet while we are in-country. We were successful in connecting with some that we had identified but not all attempts were successful. This led us to get creative in making contacts in order to add value to our meeting agenda while we are here in Malaysia.
One company that we had struggled to gain access to through our outreach attempts when in Canada was with Petronas. Petronas headquarters was conveniently located right beside our hotel in Kuala Lumpur, so mid-week in-country, we decided to just walk into the building and see what we could accomplish.
We stopped to talk to people who were outside taking a smoke break as we made our way to the building, understanding that employees can be the best resource for candid information about an organization. It was certainly a productive conversation as they provided valuable information simmply by us asking them questions within this casual environment. We leveraged the opportunity of open-conversation to focus our questions to whom we should be talking to within the company about our client’s services. Bingo! They dropped a few names to us, but it didn't stop there. After butting out their cigarettes, we tagged along with them in the elevator up to the reception area. We notified the receptionist that we would like to talk with these specific individuals. After a bit of back and forth, we ended up talking with the administrative staff of the persons we were targeting for discussion. Moreover, we also received their email addresses and this also lead to us learning the format of corporate email address that lead us to be able to connect with others that we knew worked within the company.
Aligning with the Malay culture, our interactions with each level of the organization were very polite and accommodating, especially when they heard we are Canadian and that we had travelled all the way to have a meeting with the right contact within their organization. They appreciated that and tried to help us make it happen.
We ended up establishing contact within Petronas - this wouldn't have been possible from Canada. This is how one simple idea, lead to a casual conversation that lead us in the door and to the connection within a company we were not able to penetrate through other channels.
By Amanda Belanger
The nature of our client's services afforded us the opportunity to travel to Singapore to expand our market assessment, especially given the short flight between the two countries.
Despite being geographically close, Singapore and Malaysia differ significantly in how business is conducted. In Singapore, business development requires clear articulation of the business benefits to the potential buyer in the initial meeting.
While in both countries, pleasantries and small talk are the norm, they are shorter in Singapore, who take a more westernized “get down to business” approach and is employed immediately after introductions. The transactional nature of relationships may be influenced by the strong financial sector in country as well as by the relations with the Chinese. Contrary, in Malaysia, meetings generally begin over food or beverage and multiple meetings are generally expected and will be scheduled near the end of the meal for just a day or two later. Malaysian business culture is rooted in the development and maintenance of relationships, an extension of the courting phase.
Singapore is a leading economy and is motivated to maintain its position regionally, while Malaysia is hungry to “play in the big leagues” pushing for innovation that will propel their economic growth. Doing business in both countries has been enjoyable and provided excellent learning experiences within each of the cultures.