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Coronavirus: Lessons for big company bosses from a sole entrepreneur

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JD Lovrenciear trains the spotlight on one businessmen who is taking care of his workers during these difficult times.

A story in Free Malaysia Today about a sole entrepreneur (“Hours and profits halved but neighbourhood workshop boss vows full wages for his mechanics“, 9 April 2020) caught the attention of many.

Hopefully, this big-hearted story will send a strong message to the many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and even large organisations on what it actually takes to be in business.

Hearing from this tiny, shanty motor workshop owner-operator, Mohd Osman Abdul Wahab, it is evident that care for workers comes ahead of his own business interests.

“I am still paying them their full wages. Before Covid-19 we usually made good profits,” he said. “So now it is time for me to look after my staff’s welfare.”

But how many of Malaysia’s profitable business set-ups these past decades are willing to say and do the same?

Even before the first two weeks of the movement control order, there were threats of “we will have to cut back on jobs” or “we are losing business” or “millions will lose their jobs”.

Osman’s compassionate disposition enables him to see through the hardship. “They too have families with kids who need feeding.”

Although hours and profits have halved, this neighbourhood workshop boss has vowed full wages for his mechanics.

This humble, unsung hero, who runs a shanty motorcycle repair workshop in Lembah Subang, offers precious lessons to our nation’s big and small business communities, including those with foreign investment.

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Despite the losses arising from the much-needed movement control order, he clings faithfully to the credo of good business ethics. “Cutting the salaries of any of his workers is the last thing on Osman’s mind. He is determined that his workforce will always be paid as if times were normal.”

“Before Covid-19 we usually made good profits,” he says. “So now it is time for me to look after my staff’s welfare.”

How many of our big corporations and SMEs that hit the headlines over the years on how well they have performed, can match the simple commitment of this ethical businessman?

Osman is not going to raise his prices to make up for lost revenue once life returns to normalcy. He has his customers at heart. They are predominantly the from the bottom 40% of households living in the low-cost flats nearby.

He admits he is finding it difficult to pay his men their full wages at a time when the business is only generating half its normal revenue.

Although SMEs qualify for government aid, including wage subsidies of RM1,200 for each employee for three months and an interest-free loan, this exemplary workshop owner does not intend to apply. “Keep the aid for others who really need it right now.

“When we really need it ourselves, then we’ll apply for it. Or if need be, I’ll apply for a loan or cut my own salary.”

This is the kind of national heroes of business that Malaysia desperately needs.

Indeed, in these soul searching moments of truth that Covid-19 has forced upon us, our local business communities need to reflect deeper on this true story of Osman.

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Business ethics calls for a belief system. If it is working for Osman, the same should ring all across the nation. Only then can we build a nation that will be resilient enough to face future challenges.

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