Being a successful, young entrepreneur is a status symbol in Cambodia. As a result, many people in their 20’s are entering the business sector, hoping to make big money. However, in an exclusive interview with Khmer Times, Quach Mengly, chairman of Mengly J. Quach Education and a motivational speaker and writer, cautions that starting a business when young and inexperienced could turn out to be a disaster.
KT: What is your estimate of Cambodia’s climate for entrepreneurship right now?
Mr Mengly: The economy of Cambodia is booming right now, making the Kingdom a “tiger” in the region. This results in increased opportunities for building up new businesses. In the last five years, we have witnessed a strong emergence of young entrepreneurs, running their own companies or other businesses. This is a good thing since their businesses contribute to the national economy and create new jobs for people.
KT: How can you describe young businessmen in Cambodia?
Mr Mengly: To be honest, some of them understand precisely what they are doing and what they want while some others are doing it simply because they do not want to work for other people. Most of the former have graduated from university, worked for a few years for experience and capital accumulation and then started a successful business. The latter, on the other hand, are really in need of orientation and experience before they lose their money or worse, their businesses go bankrupt. They have money but lack wisdom and experience. They want to do business because they want to follow the footsteps of successful entrepreneurs. Ninety percent of them, I believe, failed.
KT: Do you think being young is an important material for a successful businessman?
Mr Mengly: Youth could be a plus because you have time and energy. However, it is not a good time to start a business because it also means a lack of real-world experience and networking, which are very important for a successful venture. Their parents may give them the money to found their businesses but it is not about putting money in and more money coming out. Running a company is easier said than done. Many young people do not even know how to pay tax properly or understand how microeconomics and macroeconomics work. Good executives have to do a lot of planning and supervising and have a strong network
Being too young also means not having enough formal education. Of course, you may bring up a few successful examples like Mark Zukerburg or Bill Gates. But let’s face the truth; they are all great geniuses, the only one out of thousands of people. Mark Zukerberg and Bill Gates may be dropouts but we have to bear in mind that they were accepted into one of the top universities in the world. But, how many “Zukerbergs” can you find in Cambodia? Probably less than one percent of the total population. In fact, building a business in your 30s or even 40s is never too late as long as your dream stays alive.
KT: In your own opinion, what makes a successful entrepreneur?
Mr Mengly: Many say that a successful business follows the market. That is why so many people are investing in only a few well-known industries, such as coffee shops. I do not think that is a sound move. This may sound a bit vulgar but it is a bad idea for those who want to become businessmen to act, metaphorically, like “sperm cells”. Why? In the reproductive process, there are millions of sperm cells, but only one reaches the egg.
I believe good businesspersons only invests in what they are passionate about, know clearly about and have good experience of. I, for example, enjoy teaching people. For 36 years, I have been learning about and working in this sector. So I have invested in schooling although there are already many private schools in Cambodia. The key is to think from another angle, to find something unique in order to compete without trying to ruin your rivals. Yet, the types of business are also important in making decisions. People should invest in what other people do not get tired of. For instance, everyone goes to school while everyone needs a loan from the bank.
Also, a good health is very important for a successful entrepreneur. If you are often sick or have to live with a chronic disease, you will not find success however good business plans you make or how much money you are making. Thus, although you are young, you have to take good care of your health, drink only when you need to socialise for the good of your business and avoid smoking.
KT: A stereotype in Cambodia is that people of Chinese descent are good at doing business and investment while those of pure Cambodian blood are not. What do you think is a good explanation for that?
Mr Mengly: It is not genetic. A good explanation for that is unequal opportunities in their families. It begins with the education provided by parents. Those of Chinese descent usually live in cities or town. They are making their living from doing business. Their children have opportunities to be exposed to the trades while helping their parents. That is an advantage when they study business management at universities or start their businesses. Khmer families, on the other hand, live on farms or paddy fields. Their children are only working on farms or fields, causing them to be ignorant of business-related aspects and capital management.
KT: Do you think Cambodia’s educational institutes are preparing students to be entrepreneurs?
Mr Mengly: Students at Cambodia’s schools are not taught about starting a business or how to handle their money. They do not understand the economy or how microeconomics and macroeconomics work. At universities, meanwhile, the class hours are too limited while many students do not have opportunities to practice what they have learned [by interning] at real companies. That could be because their departments do not have MoUs with private companies or companies are not willing to cooperate because they are afraid those students will affect their benefits. All of these need changing.
WATCH: Khmer Times Cross-talk LIVE with guest Oknha Dr. Mengly J. Quach, Cambodian American educationist, medical doctor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, discussing the topic "Raising the Opportunity for Young Entrepreneurs" with Mr Kay Kimsong, Khmer Times COO.Join the discussion, leave your comments below!
Posted by Khmer Times on Tuesday, 4 June 2019