Ng Kok Cheong, General Manager of Kong Weng Glass Sdn Bhd
It is easy to fall into a lull after doing business for 20 plus years. Ng Kok Cheong, General Manager of Kong Weng Glass Sdn Bhd, overcame a long period of business inertia after joining Vistage. The motivation and positive push he received from his Vistage group and Chair helped him to take action to boost the company’s bottom line.
Ng Kok Cheong, General Manager of Kong Weng Glass Sdn Bhd, took over a glass wholesale and trading business from his father in 1984. He closed the original factory in Penang and set up base in Klang in 1995. The company diversified into various types of processed glass for door, furniture and gift manufacturers.
Over the years, Kok Cheong had been cautious in business expansion, haunted by a past experience. At a young age, early 20s, he jumped into the plywood laminate industry and got himself burnt. “We were fighting a war without ammunition,” he recalls. He and his partner bought machinery, raw materials and took bank loans without getting enough customers and orders. “All was loss but the experience was priceless,” he admits.
As a local SME, Kong Weng Glass also suffered crisis when competitors from China took the local market by storm in the early 2000s. That was when China’s economy boomed and the country became the manufacturing mecca of the world. “While we had 50 glass processing factories in Malaysia, they had 2,000 in Guangzhou alone. Their finished product prices were
almost equal to what we paid for in raw materials. We were really hit, and suffered low sales and low profits,” he reveals. For a long time, Kok Cheong saw “no way out” from this predicament. His business stagnated for close to 10 years. “It was like knocking your head on the wall, really painful. I needed motivation to carry on,” he discloses.
Diversifying into the niche markets for chiller glass door, glass trophies and tempered sight glass helped the company to stay afloat. But business and profits only turned for the better after Kok Cheong joined Vistage Malaysia in 2009. He says Vistage’s group dynamics and the counsel of his Chair helped him to build confidence and enthusiasm. Having gone through traumatic times, he needed a positive push from outside. “I found that I could maintain my energy level, passion and enthusiasm to work,” he points out after joining the VEE-12 group. This contributed to a positive state of mind and motivation to succeed. “You mix with the right group of people who have positive values. You get peer pressure to perform,” he acknowledges.
Kok Cheong says he became more conscious of different ways of looking at problems and solutions. This, he garnered from the issue sharing and processing sessions. “Vistage is like AA to business people”, is how he describes it. “We spell out our issues but sometimes we discover the real issue is something underneath. We have to get the issue out of the closet.”
His entrepreneurial skills were complemented with the best practices of strategic planning and methodology. “You don’t make impromptu decisions. There is a structure and method in solving problems and doing things,” he explains.
He highlights the issue where he delayed making an important business decision. This was related to the process of making tempered glass, which required financial investment and the support of a TNB sub-station near his factory (because the process consumes a lot of electricity). Without this facility, he had outsourced the tempering process to a third party, which resulted in a high 30% reject rate. After joining Vistage, he felt the encouragement to take quicker action. With an investment of RM2 million and the set-up of a sub-station in 2011, prospects at Kong Weng Glass turned brighter. The company began reaping rewards in sales and higher profit margins a year later. It chalked RM 8 million in turnover with staff strength of 50 in 2013.
Moving forward, Kok Cheong is focusing on getting ISO certification and doing R & D on more niche glass products. He exudes a high level of optimism, not worried about the country’s minimum wage for workers and the shortage of staff which affects all manufacturers. He says working conditions in his factory are comfortable and not stressful. Office staff are on a 5-day week while production staff are paid overtime if they work on weekends. The boss himself, Kok Cheong, is a firm belief in work-life balance. He works only four days in a week in Kuala Lumpur. The rest of the time, he travels to hometown Penang and enjoys time-off for his leisurely pursuits.