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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - An Interview with a business specialist

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An Interview with a business specialist

Khim Sok Heng, is director and chairman of the Learning for Success Institute, human development specialist at HEDC international and an entrepreneur himself. Over the course of 10 years he has taught and motivated 100,000 Cambodians in seminars and workshops – not counting the many more people he has reached through radio and television. Sok Heng speaks with Lift’s Julius Thiemann.

What kind of attitude should a young entrepreneur have?
Entrepreneurs should be willing to create jobs and be creative, innovate and differentiate the products he introduces to the market. They should also be able to motivate themselves to be confident. Commitment in the face of challenge is very important too. Entrepreneurs should be able to motivate others to help them with funds for example. They should also be consistent and not do too many things at once so they lose the focus. At the same time they have to be flexible and keep an eye on the change of the environment.

What are flaws in the attitude that can endanger the business operation?
Regarding things as too easy can result in a lack of preparation and then you can make fatal mistakes. If you are too positive and think that things will just work out themselves because they have potential you tend to lack the necessary structure and technical support. Many people also underestimate the importance of leadership.
In Cambodia specifically we have the problem that mostly elder people don’t trust each other in business. They can start an operation together, but once money is involved people fall out with each other and seek their own advantage only because they expect the others to do the same. Luckily trust among younger people doing business with each other is increasing in Cambodia.

When do you know a start-up has failed and you should stop?
Personally I have no experience with this. But what I hear from people around me are three main factors that lead people to abandon the business: They don’t make enough profit and the returns are smaller than newly invested money. Another aspect is the lack of leadership and direction. People lack the know-how to control the operation and stay focused on the idea. Some people also fail and should stop because they lack openness and don’t ask questions while they should learn from others.

How attractive is it for young people to start their own business these days?
It is very attractive because there is the chance to become rich and famous. That appeals to the human need to be recognised. Being employed doesn’t make as much money as an own business can. At the same time people can create jobs through their own business. The business world is changing, especially through the ASEAN integration and the foreign investment that is coming with it. There are many opportunities…

Does the ASEAN integration make you optimistic for the country’s business development or does it give you a headache?
Both, though I am mostly positive. People can learn more and faster through the experience of more foreigners coming in. Cambodians lack the challenge so far and there is no survival without challenge. I always call the ASEAN integration the “best exercise”. We are a small country and need to learn from the rest of the world. The foreign investment that is coming will also push development.

On the other hand there is a lot of hardship to be expected for those who don’t prepare themselves. They will have difficulty to compete in the big ASEAN labour market. These people need to wake up and get ready!

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