Last weekend I was invited to run a training programme for a family owned company based in Penang, which specializes as a dealer and maintenance provider for commercial vehicles.
Having entered the commercial vehicle segment in the 90's, they have worked hard by providing excellent service and established themselves as a market leader in this sector in the Northern Region.
The company was started about twenty years ago when owner, Kathirveloo Govindasamy left his job at a reputable heavy vehicle company, to set up UP Service Automotive Centre, in Perai.
Armed, only with skills and self-confidence, he got out of his comfort zone to set up this business with a handful of staff. Some years later, he managed to convince his eldest son Purna Chandran to return from his cushy job overseas to join the venture.
His son had to change industries from the financial sector to automotive service. For this he had to upskill and go back to school and start from scratch. Today, the founder still comes to work every day and works on the shop-floor maintaining and servicing heavy duty trucks.
With their leadership the company has grown to over 35 staff and currently operates in 3 locations, including the prestigious Changi International Airport in Singapore.
I was impressed and completely buoyed by their success.
How does a small company with limited resources establish themselves as a market leader?
As I conducted the training programme, I noticed that the most enthusiastic person, who followed my session fully, answered questions with youthful vibrancy, and was first in the class after every break, was the 67-year old, Mr. Veloo.
I found my answer, right there.
The biggest challenge facing Malaysia, from a human capital perspective, is preparing our workforce for the onslaught of technology as well as the need for ongoing re-training.
The key trait that successful people seem to have, is their commitment to life-long learning.
Cultivating the habit of developing your mind through constant learning, will guarantee that you get results. When you dedicate yourself to continuous learning, you will progress in all areas of life.
Even when choosing an employer, people who are successful will investigate how much learning opportunities that company might offer. They will check if their potential employer has a track record of training their staff, and their decision to join an organisation will be based on this.
The most effective people I know also read a lot. They attend conferences and conventions. And they go to numerous talks and forums. They are interested in anything and everything that can help them become more effective, and get results.
As you learn, you gain competence. And, as you become competent at what you do, your confidence increases. I ask all the people in my leadership coaching sessions to remember this.
Your confidence will boost your self-efficacy, and you become more adaptable to change when it happens. Learning will challenge your entrenched beliefs. This allows you to be receptive to new ideas.
And, this is what I found with the indomitable Mr. Veloo.
I believe there are two primary motivators for continuous learning. The first is learning for personal satisfaction, and the second is learning for professional development.
The start point is to cultivate life-long learning for personal satisfaction. It is a core habit that everyone needs to nurture.
In fact, it is a prerequisite for long lasting mental health.
Research published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States, one of the world’s foremost medical research centres shows that people who continue learning new things throughout life, while challenging their brains, are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The second reason for continuous learning is for your career development.
Having qualifications alone will not ensure that you get a rewarding job. In the modern context, the people who hire you are very interested in whether you have “transferable skills”.
These are skills or abilities that are relevant and helpful across various disciplines. For this, you need to demonstrate that you are keen to learn and develop multiple skillsets.
Lifelong learning also makes sense from a financial stand-point. The more skills and knowledge you amass, the more you become an asset to your company.
This will accelerate the chances of you getting promoted, and earning more.
Some time back, I had a chat with a friend who is a cardiothoracic surgeon. Incidentally, he is one of the most sought-after heart surgeons in Malaysia. But as he’s reaching the age of sixty, he was curious about what transferable skills he had.
We talked about how he could pivot into a new career as a professional health advocate and speaker.
I was interested on why he wanted to continue to work. Surely, he had achieved financial independence being so in demand as a surgeon.
His response was that he was evolving and growing, and he wanted to contribute to others.
So, if you want growth, don’t stop learning, like Mr. Veloo and my friend, the surgeon.
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”