In Chapter 11 of New Retail + New Platform, Senheng’s Managing Director KH Lim gives us a personal peek into a turning point in his business - and his life.
Ever wondered why Senheng places such strong emphasis on customer service?
And what does George Soros have to do with any of it?
George Soros’ claim to fame was the day he raked in $1 billion dollars within a single day by short-selling the British pound.
He then came to be known as “The Man who Broke the Bank of England” and is largely said to play a big role in the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
For KH Lim however, Soros was his saviour.
Like many young businessmen who chance upon their first fortune, Lim allowed the success to get over his head.
“I gambled, played and was constantly accompanied by alcohol during that period. Looking back, it was really terrible. My colleagues and suppliers did warn me about the issues we had in the company but I did not pay attention – to me the company was making money so I continued to enjoy my life. If not for Soros, I would not have woken up in time, and Senheng as a whole would be gone and bankrupt within three years.” Lim recalled.
The turning point came during one fateful morning in 1997. Out for his usual cup of tea, a newspaper headline which read “Financial Crisis Is Here” reminded him of the 1987 financial crisis which plummeted him to rock bottom.
Back then as a college graduate, Lim secured a sales job at an electrical appliance store where he worked for a mere seven months before being promoted to store manager. A few years later when the 1987 financial crisis hit, the store sadly had to close down - leaving Lim jobless during one of the toughest economic downturns of the century.
“That was my first job, and I worked very hard at the time. But there was nothing I could do when the shop was closing down. I was penniless after I lost the job and went back to the rented room hoping my roommate could buy me a meal. But he was penniless too! Both of us had to turn our mattress over and search for dropped coins everywhere. Finally we found seventy cents and bought a pack of white rice with curry gravy to share. That was an unforgettable period.” Lim recalled.
But fate had big things in mind for Lim, and he soon found another job at another electrical appliances shop.
The bold headline brought Lim back to his past, and made him wonder about his business.
How would Senheng fare in the face of a recession?
That was enough to jolt Lim to his senses and set him on a path towards tightening his reins on the company.
After discussing with his department heads, Lim found that every department from logistics to procurement to HR were filled with hidden issues. In total, there were 100 problems discovered within the company. The biggest issue which stood out were customer service complaints, with everything from product negligence to poor after-sales delivery being brought up as an issue.
Lim came up with a creative (and extremely effective!) way to improve customer service - a “WANTED” poster.
The poster encouraged customers to report directly to Lim’s office line if they had an unpleasant experience with any Senheng employee. In return, the customer would receive an RM100 Senheng voucher, cut directly from the said employee’s paycheck!
For Lim, it was Soros and the newspaper headline that saved Senheng. Now, he dedicates an entire chapter in his book New Retail + New Platform to the public, in hopes it may enlighten those who are just as lost as he once was.