"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Imagine you are enjoying the cool breeze while sipping tea with your good friends on a 1,500m mountain-top facility, which is some four to five hours drive away from where you are living.

Next, imagine there is a similar mountain, even higher at 1,800m, located about 58km away from where you are living.

Now, picture yourself as a hard-working contractor, but you are now in your 50s, with some money from your previous building projects.

Next, think about conceptualising & building a beautiful holiday resort on the mountain-top.

Experts from the Public Works Department confirms in writing that it would take 15 years just to build the access road to the mountain-top, because the mountain is surrounded with dense virgin jungle & inaccessible rugged terrain.

One more thing: you have got to go back to the sixties, where construction machinery & equipment were not what they are built today. Worst still, you speak no English.

Can you do it?

In reality, many Malaysian entrepreneurs could only see total madness & extreme foolery in undertaking such a risky endeavour, but one simple man, already in his 50s, eventually took on the arduous initiative of executing his dream project during the mid-sixties.

Cheating death six times along the way, & functioning as project manager, engineer, financial controller, labourer & trouble shooter, all rolled into one, he almost single-handedly built the access road to the mountain-top facility (on Gunung Ulu Kali, Genting Sempah) in less than four years, with all his own money, & without any financial aid from the Malaysian Government, except for their nod of official approval.

The first phase of the project with the hotel was eventually completed in the early seventies.

Today, the mountain-top facility is Genting Highlands Resort, Asia's Best International Casino Resort.

The man who took on the almost insurmountable challenge during the mid-sixties was the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, founder of the diversified Genting Group, which today has a combined market capitalisation of US$14 billion as of 30th September 2008.

For me, his acumen was beautifully exemplified in his acute power of observation as well as his keen nose for smelling good opportunities. These are often the critical attributes of successful creators or entrepreneurs.

This book, 'My Story: An Autobiography', by Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, founder of the Genting Group, Malaysia, has captured Tan Sri's humble journey, starting with only US$175 in his pocket while coming to Malaysia as a young man from Anxi, China.

Written in the form of an autobiography, in a straight-forward, succinct & yet refreshingly original way, this book has documented:

- his early struggles during the Japanese occupation;

- his early business ventures during the post-war years;

- his friendships & relationships with people he cared about;

- his successful attainment & brilliant execution of government building & construction contracts;

- his perilous endeavour in building the Genting Highlands from scratch;

- his responsiveness, decisiveness & ingenuity in problem solving, at both strategic & tactical level, over the years;

- all the way to his diversifying of the group into other businesses during the later years, e.g. Star Cruises; - until his final handing over of the controlling reins to his second son, Kok Thay, in late 2002;

In a nut shell, this book offers many valuable entrepreneurship lessons, not so much from the 'high-tech/IQ' perspectives, which one would normally find in other books, but a lot from the 'high-touch/EQ' perspectives, which are more akin to Chinese entrepreneurs.

There is an ostensibly clear emphasis on building 'guanxi' (relationship), which is typical of most if not all Chinese entrepreneurs.

In fact, another useful entrepreneurial trait from Tan Sri is what the Chinese calls 'dan da xin xi', be bold but cautious. In fact, his pragmatism & steadiness were often seen by his peers as liabilities.

Another powerful trait is the power of conviction. Tan Sri said it best:

"When I make a decision & believe strongly that it is the right one, I will go head on with it, no matter what odds I am up against . . . Once a decision is made with sound reasoning, the rest is hard work, determination & perseverance to see it through to fruition."

You just got to read this book to get to know all about the author's entrepreneurship insights from the university of hard knocks.

Nevertheless, for the benefit of readers, I definitely like to pull out one last one from his book, which said it all, truly reflecting his power of vision:

"The Genting project basically fitted my idea of an ideal business: no one was interested in it, which meant no competition".

As Tun Dr Mahathir, former Malaysian Prime Minister, has confirmed in his Foreword:

"Tan Sri's struggle can be considered part & parcel of Malaysia's (economic) development experience." I fully concur.

Tan Sri's story is a very inspiring one for all of us: beginning with nothing to his name, turning adversities into opportunities, maximising his brain-power, taking calculated risks & confronting naysayers & skeptics through sheer audacity, tenacity, perseverance & more importantly, simplicity & humility.

I salute you, Tan Sri!

[This book was released in 2004 to coincide with the 40th birthday anniversary of the Genting Group. This book is still available in local bookstores. Otherwise, try Amazon.]

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