Sunday, January 25, 2009

Finite Disappointments

A beaver’s skill in building a dam is only as good as the tree parts that are used to construct it. The flair that comes with its innate skill is only matched by the propensity flaunted to attain the finesse in which the twigs, the branches and the stems can offer.

This was how I perceived the interaction between the participants when I attended my company’s Regional Demand Summit held in Singapore a few days ago. The water embodies the market where we work in. The twigs personify our regional counterparts. The beaver exemplifies us, the demand planners.

It was my first business trip with the company and I was extremely excited and motivated, but not before skirting precariously on the edge of disenchantment. It was a huge step in strengthening our relations. I never would have imagined that meeting all these individuals could really augment our collaboration to new heights. The mere act of just setting the faces to the many names, e-mails and voices that I have been working with for the last year can truly propel our bond with each other by leaps and bounds.

Furthered by the fact that the last summit was held 7 years ago, it was high time the regional office thought it proper to assemble all the demand planners collectively under one roof to align on new regional objectives, leverage on best practices and devise innovative solutions to improve performance. With a new futurist avant-garde at the nexus of the regional vessel, it was inevitable this summit ensued.

Underlining all these, there were a few events which occurred that I will deem as sweet memories…

Suffice to say that I was privileged to have the acquaintance of someone of high import. The circumstances that we interacted in and the revelation I acquired of the nature to his query of me was truly a sycophantic adulation indeed.

In a separate incident, I learned that what goes around will eventually come around. It was folly of me to even consider losing hope and succumbing to the song of the sirens. No good work will go unnoticed or unrewarded. It was truly gratifying when I learned something sanguinely insightful of myself through the custodian of my providential fate from a provincial comrade.

Be that as it may, I am convinced now I have found the answer to the question of my verdict not so long ago when I exchanged my sword for a rapier.

Ultimately, as a human life in verity, we must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Absence of Reality

I learned a lot about myself in the last week. I realized that somehow I may need to compromise my nature in order to better coalesce with my contiguous environment. Sometimes, it is these innocent adages expressed by sympathetic souls and their solicitous ideals that lend to my self-imposed reflection. It is not a path I wish to tread but it is also not a path I can afford to stride through. Sometimes we trample on the path we chose to walk, only to comprehend that the path now left behind is secreted from the next hiker.

At first I was contented in jubilant reverie. Later, I realized it was all ephemeral. The fleeting rickety of my familiar persona was nullified into oblivion. The void of my abysmal emptiness has left me with a smear. The blemish is now irrepressible. I can choose to let it steer my ship's course as that would seem the wiser choice or I can dictate the consequences of these imparted adages to affix a sense of worth into my moral fiber.

In another contemporaneous reality, I discovered a revelation. The Rays of perpetual brilliance has been glittered down to only a glancing glint. What was formerly a luminous and radiant beacon of latent amity is now only an ordinary flicker. The Rays have become the Ruins of a crumbling foundation of familiarity. I have seen what the long years will do to it and can only regret when I've trespassed this sanctuary. These Ruins will fade in time and become only a footnote in the annals of history for departed devotion.

I now look to the near horizon. Into the crashing waves from the Sea of infinite reaches of likelihood. The Sea will provide the breeze that I need to weather the searing heat predicted in the days ahead. This Sea will also bring forth the Sand that will become the foundation to my feet, to soften when I'm laden with burden, to harden when I dash for the victory lap, and to caress with its coarseness when I need my scars to be smoothed.

Most importantly, I look to my Cavalcade for the definitive answer. I am still learning how to lead this procession because as of late, the columns of dedication have been faltering but I stand resolute at the point. I will not yield in the face of expected impediment, like all other pilgrimages. For inside the lead caravan lies my only hope of Conscience that will lead me back to idyllic reality.

In the months ahead, I have to constantly remind myself that happiness is just an illusion caused by the temporary absence of reality.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Being Alive

It has been almost a week since I experienced one of the most enlivening and gripping trips with a bunch of people in a long time. It still feels like the escapade only ended yesterday. The Sales & Marketing Company Conference was truly a magnificent jaunt. It was held at a land which I've visited thrice in a short space of 12 months...none other than the land below the wind, Sabah.

It was gratifying. The Conference exemplifies the very quintessence of mind and body revitalization. The abstract was a good year where we achieved all our major company objectives and performed above expectations. All these thanks to the great aspirations held by all who were involved.

It was edifying. While taking in the pleasures of the surrounding, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Johnson's Baby No More Tears formula and brand. I learned that the eyes of a baby are the last senses to develop after birth. They have delayed "blink" response and are less able to protect their eyes from splashes and products. An infant's vision is nearsighted and is most developed at the periphery.

It was exhilarating. The activities laid out were so full of fun and excitement that I could hardly pause. I would have never imagined myself doing some of the things I did. Somehow, certain things were fated and all the trepidation was unfounded in the end. I even surprised myself and when it was over, I couldn't be more spirited than I allowed myself. Many others surprised me too.

It was invigorating. I love beaches and relish at the opportunity of basking in one whenever I can. The physical activities that came with it was also to my liking. Everything that was planned fell right into my very own puzzle of contentment. The energy harnessed from all these will provide me with enough supply of zeal and ardour for a considerable length of time.

Most important of all was the fostering of absolute amity. I learned more about the people in that 3 days than all the last 10 months put together since joining the team. I met many acquaintances and am able to put faces to the many names now whom I've been communicating with via electronic means for the last 10 months. I made many friends whom I feel are all a great bunch of colourful characters. Most valuable of all is that in this sea of precious stones, I discovered a few gems. These gems personifies the people that I will hold dear in my heart for a very long time. My only regret is not finding these gems earlier.

When all was said and done, I could only look forward to the next trip with these bunch of great characters. This episode of my life has really made me feel alive and I know its verve has changed me. My outlook on certain things have expanded and encompasses a greater deal of points in my board of fate threads.

It has revealed another part of myself, another card unfolded from my deck of intrepid disposition. Several incidents will form snapshots of assiduous lassitude and precariousness. The inertial upshot of the consequential horizon and ensuing probabilities may have far-reaching corollary. This is my choice.

I don't believe we are all looking for the meaning of life as much as looking for the experience of being alive.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dancing In The Rain

That's all, 2008...hello there, 2009! How diminutive this statement is, yet its nuance so profound. To abridge the last 12 months of living, endeavours, disappointments, attainment, discontent, realization, angst and triumph into two (3) words: that's all - is such an understatement in bringing forward these cultured mementos into the new year.

Be that as it may, 2009 will indeed be a tumultuous and volatile affair indeed. Its very capricious nature will be true tests to all individuals, families, companies, corporations, governments and nations alike.

As a person, a citizen or an individual, how much do we know of the global economy today? Some will claim to know it all and rightly so, but others couldn't care less and that's where the danger lies. You have to plan right to make things happen for yourself. The world will not be so merciful in the many months ahead.

The face of global economy as we see it is changing. It is morphing into an unstoppable and cruel entity. It is currently in its state of sub-prime crisis. Banking illiquidity is sprouting everywhere. Falling asset prices are their best friends. The market volatility is sweeping across the continents and the tide of recession is already hitting major economies worldwide. High food prices is one of the major symptom and shaken consumer confidence one of the main reaction. Then there is of course the mounting of unemployment or underemployment. Headcount chop or headcount freeze if you're fortunate. Growth in nucleic economies and its dependent subsets are slowing down.

When I try to make sense of our economy in the next 12 months, here is what I thought:
It could be worse.
It is a game of survival.
Cash is king.
Delayed consumer spending.

To manage the hard times ahead, you have to switch your thinking cap from a micro view to a macro outlook. You have to think big. Ask yourself this: if you were an Executive Committee, the crème de la crème in your company, what would your top 3 priorities in managing the business in the next 12 months be?

I think you have to understand the bottomline and protect it. 2009 is not the year to grow the business, it is the year to protect the business. Protect the MNI. With lower A&P for most companies in 2009, they have to manage the SG&A. It is just not affordable to throw away the GP and spend on A&P. Cost cutting is another infamous method but just for the sake of being politically correct, we will call it optimized spending here. Selective investment is another way but can only be accomplished with the utmost discipline. Increasing productivity, not just in the sense of output from a factory but also in terms of work contribution is a key strategy. Less for more. Finally, the acquisition of company is a sure bet. You will see in the months ahead there will be major takeovers or merges worldwide. Cash is king and don't be surprised that an unknown royal in Eastern Europe, a sheikh from the Middle East or a multi-billionaire businessman from China suddenly buys over Citibank. Let's not go down the list of possibilities.

I do want to highlight that the electronic and electrical industry will be the first indication to be hit. When you have less money, luxury wants are the first to go from your shopping list. 45% of an individual's wants consist of electronic/electrical items alone. That says a lot.

Many people among us still believe we are immune to this global threat. Our nation's leaders claim that we will not be affected. I am unconvinced. In Q3 2008, our country's net real export of goods and services declined by 14% (vs. 20% growth in Q2). The Consumer Price Index soared to 8.4% in Q3 (vs. 4.8% in Q2), with a backdrop of GDP slowing down to between 4.5% and 5.0% by 2008 closing. For your info, our country's GDP is valued at approximately USD200 billion.

According to FMM (Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers), 4 straight quarter year-on-year decline in orders are to be expected in 2009. Last October, exports slid for the first time in 15 months. The numbers have been dipping since.

The chart above shows our GDP growth in 2007. Take a look at our 2008 GDP growth below:

This is a great example where two pictures paint a thousand words. The steep decline in our GDP within the last few months is staggering. Our government's GDP projection of 2009 closing is only at a 3.5% growth, mainly coming from their RM7 billion spending on infrastructure for 2009.

For the last 5 years, our nation has been experiencing a double digit spending growth vs. year-on-year until last October. For the first time in 5 years, our spending growth was flat and in November, it was negative. These are all signs of things to come. You may still see families flocking to shopping malls as though the global economic crisis never happened. That is because it is festive season now with Chinese New Year coming. Once that has passed, I will be very curious indeed to see what the latest numbers are.

We cannot continue to live our life thinking this nation is protected. We are the Top 30 trading countries in the world. Therefore, we cannot make stupid statements saying that although other key world economies are declaring recession, we will make it through the year without one.

In short, 2009 will not be business as usual. We have to make focused choices to maintain a healthy business and a sustainable livelihood.

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.