Interview with Tsan Li Xiang – Ex-YE Managing Director
Written by JA Malaysia Alumnus – Richelle Khor
Core Enterprise was established in Pay Fong Middle School Melaka under Young Enterprise programme 2020. Embracing the culture of lifecycle-based thinking, the company logo- a growing seedling, represents their philosophy to remedy the environmental crisis with innovative entrepreneurial ideas. Tsan Li Xiang, Managing Director and an environmentalist, views the programme as an effective platform for students to spread green awareness through entrepreneurship. The initial generation of ideas that accompanies each sales inspired them the most as they had to adhere to the eco-friendly guide without neglecting the commercial feasibility of the product. In the process, their understanding of sustainable development was polished as they recognised green entrepreneurship as a wholesome, all-encompassing concept.
“Everyone shoulders the obligation of preserving the environment. The movement will be made more successful with the co-operation of entrepreneurs, large corporates that have more financial resources.” Li Xiang expressed his gratitude towards his corporate sponsor, Julie’s Manufacturing for their unfaltering support and assistance in the making of their main product – Eco bag. Defective biscuits that were about to be discarded became their main source of materials; by weaving bags out of the plastic packets, the team managed to reduce the wastage to a minimal level. Under the constraint of manpower and expertise, profit was second in their considerations as their objective was to promote prudent management of resources. To expend earth’s resources recklessly is self-centred as our future generations would inherit the ecological debt; when push comes to shove, mankind will suffer the repercussions.
The position of Managing Director was not Li Xiang’s first leadership role. Nevertheless, his leadership style adopted a more coherent form as he gradually discovered other attributes of a decision-maker, “I really appreciate JA Malaysia for bolstering my self-development process. It helps me in becoming an asset and despite being a science student, business has risen as one of my future considerations.” He considered communication between team members as one of the most important aspects in building an undivided team. There were times when members felt overwhelmed by the arduous internal operation, not to mention the pressure was often exacerbated by academic stress. They might lose control of their emotions, giving comments that might invoke resentment within the team. A company needs a conducive working culture to be able to function and it is then the leader’s responsibility to maintain the emotional well-being of the team. Coordination of team dynamics became Li Xiang’s management principle.
When asked about his advice for his upcoming juniors, he preferred to leave them with the dictum, “Teamwork is always the key to success.” No one is perfect and this is precisely the reason major projects are often executed by a team despite the cumbersome need of tolerance and understanding – to make up for each other’s shortcomings. In team discussions, any form of hierarchy ought to be abolished. Listening and speaking must come about in two-way because the leader may not be able to oversee the full construction and the follower may not be able to perceive the full vision. The belief that everyone is an irreplaceable asset should be upheld as everyone of us is blessed with our individualistic talent and aptitude. Ego and inferiority are detours that side track us from making judgments.
It is Li Xiang’s comment on members’ attitude to not make any unnecessary complaints that reverberates strongly within myself. At times, we may resort to incessant grumbling to subdue our exasperation, without realising that such negativity may adversely affect the team morale. Everything still coins back to Li Xiang’s advice for his juniors – to place teamwork in the first place and prioritise the team dynamics. All in all, he strongly recommended students to participate in the Young Enterprise programme having awakened to the capacity of entrepreneurship as medium to express certain ideologies. The amount of practical work involved gives students not only a taste of entrepreneurship but also the brutality of failure yet at the same time, promising a space safe enough for them to challenge. This is the value embedded in all JA programmes, being an organisation that embraces ambiguity and celebrates setbacks as an essential element of the learning curve.