5 things to remember when attending a fair for the first time

As a self-proclaimed certified barista (I took a short barista course last year!), I was more than excited when I was asked to attend the Café Malaysia fair, the first international café equipment, supplies and technology exhibition. Truth be told, it was my first time attending a fair and my visit has taught me a few things to keep in mind when attending fairs. Below are five things to remember when attending a fair for the first time:

  1. Get as much information as possible on the fair that you will be attending. Find out the vendors that will be in attendance, the fair’s target audience and some of the highlights that will be held during the fair such as activities, contests, etc. You will get a better idea on what the fair has to offer, which will then help you prepare for the event.
  1. Expect a crowd on the day of the fair. I did not think there would be so many people at the fair, so I decided to come an hour later. As soon as I entered the building, however, there was a long queue – attendees waiting for their turn to register for the event. Keep in mind that some fairs are only open to the public on certain days, and for other days, they are by-invitation only. Be sure to check which days you are allowed to attend.
  1. Know your business well. In order for you to get more information from the vendors (eg. quotes), you need to have full knowledge of your business such as the type of business you are running, the capacity of your business, etc. This will give the vendors a good idea on the status of your business.
  1. Remember to bring your business cards on the day of the event. If you do not have your business cards ready, you can always print your contact information on a piece of paper. Most vendors at the event will have a contact form that you can fill in so that they can get in touch with you.
  1. Take notes. This is very, very important, especially because there will be too much information given to you that it can be a bit overwhelming. Most vendors also provide brochures and leaflets for their businesses, along with their contact information to make it more convenient for you to get in touch with them in the future. A word of advice: Summarize your findings as soon as you get home while your memory is still fresh. This will help you identify the vendors that might be suitable for your business.

How I became a Dato’ for 12 hours

maskMalaysians often put a lot of value in Datukships, an honorary title awarded by royal families or state governors supposedly to honor contributions to the country/state. It’s a common name drop in social functions and festivities:

“Ohhh I know Datuk…he’s my good friend, I play golf with him!”

*Talking loudly on his mobile* “Hey Datukkk! That deal ahhh no problemm wannn!”

For those having to deal with any sort of administration in Malaysia, be it government departments or hotel service, saying you’re a Datuk gets you immediate respect and attention.

Despite a Datukship’s high standing, Malaysia has probably one of the highest numbers of royal title holders in the world, with some several hundred Datuks being anointed annually and often given for dubious reasons. Jackie Chan, a Hong Kong movie star, recently received a Datuk title “because he is an actor with many fans in Malaysia and can promote Malaysia especially Kuala Lumpur and is deserving.” Shah Rukh Khan, another movie star also received a Datukship because one of the movies in which he starred was shot in Malacca, and this has purportedly increased tourism to the state. Instead of honoring worthy contributions to the country or the state, Datukships are now being used as a tourism gimmick.

What is worse is when such titles can be bought, especially with certain states being notorious for being generous with their Datukships. In November 2014, a mining company from China claimed that they had spent USD100,000 per Datukship to curry favor with Malaysian politicians.

The self-styled royal Raja Noor Jan Shah Raja Tuah Shah (2nd left) and his wife Zaidatul Mardiah Yussuf (2nd right) posing for picture on a throne with their 'Datuks' at a palace in Gombak, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. – AFP pic, November 12, 2013
The self-styled royal Raja Noor Jan Shah Raja Tuah Shah (2nd left) and his wife Zaidatul Mardiah Yussuf (2nd right) posing for picture on a throne with their ‘Datuks’ at a palace in Gombak, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. – AFP pic, November 12, 2013

The most entertaining perhaps are Datukships awarded from the “Sultan” of Malacca. Malacca had one of the oldest Malay Sultanates but when the Portuguese took over in 1511, the Sultanate was effectively ended. Today, it only has a Governor. A rich property businessman, however, by the name of Raja Noor Jan, proclaimed himself a Sultan, claimed royal blood and started awarding his own Datukships. Hundreds of applicants were willing to give cash donations in exchange for Datukships from this self-styled Sultan. He even has a rather entertaining blog. Thankfully, he was arrested in early January 2014 and the International Court of Justice confirmed that his Sultan certificate was fake.

One night over Chinese New Year drinks, while I was listening to people talking about VIPs, I really wondered how often do people actually look into the validity of a Datukship? I joked with my friends that with some social media postings and having a few friends join in the fun, I could possibly fake that I was awarded a Datukship. After all, if Raja Noor Jan could pass himself off for a Sultan with a bunch of fancy regalia and a certificate, surely it was a lot easier to fake becoming a Dato’?

The plan started a few days later when I decided to trawl the internet for some pictures of Pahang and its palace. Pahang awards some 100 Datukships each year so it was a good state to stage the prank. I trawled the internet for pictures of Pahang and looked for high quality yet amateur pictures. At first, I posted this picture of Pahang without any description.

1st pic of Pahang
Posted at 2:26 PM, this post garnered 14 likes and two comments.

At 7.22 PM, I executed the second part of my plan by posting the next picture. Once again, no captions, just a location tag that I was at Istana Sultan Abu Bakar. A friend of mine who wasn’t in the know as to what I was doing, jokingly posted “Dato’ Yap?” Within an hour, I started getting congratulatory texts and WhatsApp messages, but I quickly let them know the truth and told them they were free to congratulate me on the Facebook post to spur on the fun.

Capture

The post caught like wildfire and there were 62 likes and 30+ comments in a matter of a few hours. It got a bit scary when my colleagues started asking me if I was a Dato’ and work clients were calling in my other colleagues to ask if it were true. I was mortified that someone would actually buy a newspaper ad to congratulate me! So the next day, early in the morning, I took down the post and posted up a clarification post to ensure there were no more misunderstandings. All good fun, no one hurt or fooled for more than a few hours but it did highlight a few things:

  • I have nice friends that believe I deserve a Datukship and thought it was because of my contributions to internet privacy (which goes to show how little it takes to get one nowadays)
  • It is slightly depressing that despite my posts having no captions, the first reason people think of when visiting Pahang’s royal palace is the granting of Datukships.
  • It is probably pretty easy to social engineer a Datukship. It only takes a few people to start calling you a Datuk, get yourself some official looking certificate, post the obligatory regalia picture and there you have it, you’re now a royal title holder! The whole ruse could have been made more realistic if the post coincided with the Sultan’s birthday which is traditionally the day in which these awards are given out.
  • We have way too many Datuks and there is no national registry to verify Datukships. An attempt to find all the titles given out in 2009 – without referring to the respective state departments – did not result in a comprehensive list.

Although more than a month has passed since the prank, I still get referred to as Dato’ jokingly by some friends and I wouldn’t be surprised if bystanders actually believe it’s real! The real takeaway from all of this is, what’s truly in a Datukship title nowadays?

 

Special Thanks to Guest Contributor Reuben (Not a Dato) Yap; a true jack of all trades.

 

The first steps of change … starts from within

When you speak to people on whether they would like to see change in their organisation, chances are their responses will go something like this:

“Yes, change is necessary,”

“We must evolve with times.”

“It is about time.”

Most if not all people will agree that the only thing constant in this world is change.

Rarely will you get a response that vehemently states, “No, we should stay the way we are.” (Though admittedly there will always bound to be contrarians and traditionalists.)

Yet when you take the conversation to the next level as to what they would like to see changed, very often the tone will go along these lines of a recent discussion that I had with a sales team at one of our clients.

Q: “What would you like to see changed?”

A: “We need to be more competitive. We need to get an exclusive distribution agreement. Our competitors are winning because they have exclusive distribution agreements.”

Following up on that statement, we probed if the exclusive distribution agreement was truly the cause.

“Do you know if your competitors are offering cheaper prices?”

“Do the competitors have exclusive distribution agreements for all products?”

None of the members of the sales team could definitively answer the 2 questions posed.

Throughout the discussion, there were many hurdles highlighted but limited suggestions given, and where suggestions were given, rarely did it involved actions that were to be taken by the individuals themselves. Which brings us to uncovering another prevalent mindset in organisations: “Change is good … if it happens to someone else”.

Shifting this mindset within key individuals, in my opinion, is the first step to effecting change in any organization. What does this entail? First is awareness. Awareness for the need to change; and that change comes from within.

Beyond paying lip service, an leader will have to demonstrate a change not merely in tasks performed but habits to jumpstart change. For example, if the sales team does not actively track numbers, it is because that management does not require them to do so. So, if the sales teams needs to start actively monitoring sales against targets; the manager has to go beyond asking them to submit their numbers. The manager has to monitor, ask questions, and addresses issues that arises on the same frequency as the sales teams members are required to do so. This involves the manager adopting new habits; which is the first visible step to effecting change in any organisation.

The pertinent question now is: How can we guide managers in taking this step?

[More to come … in upcoming blog]