Monday, August 19, 2013

Keys to winning for Tony Fernandes

Keys to winning for Tony Fernandes
Business & Markets 2013
Written by Kristina Mariswamy, (contributor to    
Monday, 19 August 2013 11:45

AS Tan Sri Tony Fernandes wrapped up his story, quite a few of the professionals dressed in business suits in the full auditorium had tears in their eyes.

His story reminisced on when he received a "tub box" he had during his boarding school years in England.

"A good friend of mine called me and said he had found it, so I said, yes, send it over, and when I received the box, looking at it, it was an incredible feeling for me," he said.

The box he got back, had three stickers on its exterior that he had placed when he was 12 years old.

"On one side, there was a Qantas sticker. I've always wanted to own an airline company. There was a sticker for an F-1 team, the Williams team. When I was a kid, I could never afford F-1 tickets, so I used to camp outside of race tracks. And on the other side, there was a West Ham sticker, I've always wanted to own a football club. Those were my dreams.

Today, Tony Fernandes owns AirAsia, a successful budget airline company, the Queens Park Rangers Football Club, and the Caterham F1 Formula One team.

"When I looked at the box, I realised dreams really do come true, and I urge you all to dream," said the clearly emotional Tony as he spoke at the Global Malaysia Series, organised by BFM and Pemandu, last Tuesday.

Running a successful business takes well thought out plans and smart investments, and Tony was generous in sharing his experience.

On planning and investing

When a member of the audience asked Tony if he envisioned being where he is today when he paid the infamous RM1 for AirAsia, Tony wittily replied, "You'd have to be on really good drugs to have that kind of vision."

Instead, he said, it was more a matter of survival.

"My biggest fear then was that people would lose their jobs, so it was more about survival. I wanted to build a great brand, but I didn't have a well thought out plan at all. But that is a big lesson I learned, not to plan too long.

"You have to be quick to make decisions, if something doesn't work, you have to be quick to change it, not take forever to analyse the problem and such, That's analysis by paralysis," he said.

According to Tony, a big part of his success was due to his staff. The airline tycoon said he was a firm believer in investing in his staff, to create individuals that were passionate about working for the company.

"When we started to make some profit, we had eight planes, and a big decision was whether or not to invest in more planes or put it in a training academy.

"And I decided to put it in a training academy, because you can have all the metal in the world, but if you do not have proper staff working for you, then it would be of no use," he said.

He added that compromise was not an option when it comes to his staff.

"I will fight 100% when it comes to my staff because I am where I am because of my staff."

On branding and managing the 'AirAsia Way'

Tony stressed that a big part of AirAsia's success was due to its branding, something most Malaysian companies don't focus on too much.

"We don't focus on branding too much. When we invest money we always want to see returns, but I can promise you that AirAsia wouldn't be where it is today if not for branding.

"We made a lot of bold moves. We were a small Malaysian company with seven planes and we sponsored Manchester United, which was a very painful decision by the way because I hate that football club," he joked, before adding, "But you got to be a prostitute once in a while."

Tony agreed it was a bold move. "There we were a small Malaysian company on the same billboard as Vodafone and Audi. But you have to believe in yourself, it's not arrogance, it's confidence," he stated. "Don't put barriers in front of yourself before you get there."

Responding to an audience question on what was the "AirAsia Way," Tony said that it was pushing the envelope.

"The AirAsia way is to compete with yourself, and ask yourself how you can be better," he said.

"AirAsia doesn't take no for an answer. We have the ability to communicate, the ability to innovate, strong power delegation but yet centralisation, and most importantly the ability to dream.

"If you have the ability to say, I'm here now, where can I be next, it's a powerful force that can push you to do what you want to do.

Tony concluded that the AirAsia way was to win.

"Us Malaysians, we focus on the negative things too much, we have to focus on being winners. People only remember the winners."

Publish date: 19/08/13

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