Business Opinions & People

Girl power vs superman

by Samar Al-Montser

Founder and CEO of Serba Dinamik, Dato’ Karim, and founder and CEO of LifeWorks, Sharmini Hensen, who’ll be speaking at WIEF’s Women Entrepreneurs Strategic Workshop this 28 – 30 August 2018 at Tamu Hotel & Suites in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, explain their different management styles. They also share advice for entrepreneurs and tell us what they’ve observed to be the challenges of women entrepreneurs today.

Men and women may differ in management styles just like people of the same gender differ in their thinking about these aspects. That’s why Sharmini Hensen founded LifeWorks and the Sistas Network as a growing support group for women entrepreneurs in 2006.

Sharmini along with CEO and founder of the engineering services company, Serba Dinamik, Dato’ Dr M. A. Karim will be sharing more of their expertise about entrepreneurship and women at the upcoming WIEF Women Entrepreneurs Strategic Workshop this 28 – 30 August 2018 at Tamu Hotel & Suites in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Sharmini leads by example and coaches other women along their entrepreneurial journey. As a social entrepreneur, she tries to stay grounded and believes that the mind can do the hard work and that life will work with great ease.

Dato’ Karim, founder and CEO of Serba Dinamik

Another inspiring entrepreneur is Dato’ Karim. After almost three decades as an engineer and now almost another three as an entrepreneur, Dato’ Karim says that his ‘walk the talk’ management style has been proven to be effective in achieving goals.

Sharmini almost did the same as she had to start a coaching business to support her family and lead her team of seven coaches by example. ‘I only offer to coach them when they are stuck and give them space to learn and grow at their own pace,’ she says.

Her management style paid attention to a little more detail. She explains that using the least amount of resources, like time, energy, people, material and money to do her best work, creates a surplus of positive energy, instead of over consuming energy which ultimately will negatively affect our fragile ecosystem. That’s how she defines LifeWorks.

Sharmini Hensen, founder and CEO of LifeWorks

‘It’s a way of giving back to Mother Earth in the purest, unadulterated way. I would label my way of managing as zen evolution, allowing all factors and all partners to come into a natural alignment towards a common vision in its own time and space. There’s no need to push or pull or rush, everything comes together with ease at the perfect time,’ she explains.

Here, they both share some advice and a few points about their entrepreneurial experience.


What was your biggest milestone?
Dato’ Karim: The biggest milestone achieved was when we managed to get the company listed on Bursa Malaysia. It was very meaningful to me because this enabled the company to tap into public funds which was very crucial to grow the company to the next level.
Sharmini: When I was asked to run my very first empowerment and entrepreneurial programme Mengecapi Aspirasi Diri (MAD) or Living My Aspirations, in 2012, for urban, underprivileged, women. It was a huge milestone as my own personal aspiration was realised. It was even more meaningful as the programme was in the same village I grew up in.

What was your most memorable failure as an entrepreneur?
Dato’ Karim: That must be when I was taken to court for failure to pay employees’ EPF due to cash flow problem at that time. It was overcome by borrowing money from my parents. Lessons learnt is that we must plan ahead and able to see the forthcoming challenges, failure to plan is planning to fail.
Sharmini: As a coach, one of the first things you learn is that there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. The most important feedback I learnt was to never compromise your values. Values are your inner guidance of what’s really important to you. When you get into a partnership or a business deal that is not aligned to your values, it causes unnecessary headache, heartache and stress and nothing good will come out it. Never compromise your values for short term rewards, it’s not worth it.

What are the benefits of entrepreneurship in Malaysia compared to other countries in this region?
Dato’ Karim: I think Malaysia gives entrepreneurs a more open avenue to forward critiques and ideas for the good of the nation. I believe we will get robust investments in the near future as the eradication of corruption is vital for a friendly business environment.
Sharmini: Malaysia encourages entrepreneurship unlike other countries in the world; you can set up a table and place your product and start selling. How much easier and fuss free can it be? Malaysians are so supportive and are loyal patrons of local products especially if it’s value for money. The climate for entrepreneurship here is robust and thriving. The new financial security is starting your own business.

What have you observed to be challenges that are unique to women entrepreneurs today?
Dato’ Karim: I believe sexual harassment is a real challenge to women as men are deemed physically stronger.
Sharmini: Comfort. This is the greatest obstacle for a woman to venture into a new business or even to grow her existing business. Women are creatures of comfort. We need to adopt an attitude of constant growth and break through areas that scare and intimidate us. I remember the author, businessman and motivational speaker, T. Harv Eker’s quote, ‘If you are not growing, you are dying!’

What are a woman’s strengths that differ from a man’s in running a business?
Dato’ Karim: Women are more passionate and have better discipline in running a business.
Sharmini: Women are naturally creative and nurturing, which are the two best strengths we have. We create unique solutions to existing problems and at the same time we consider the impact on our clients, families, the marketplace and the environment. We can’t help it. We want to save the world, sustainably and effectively! We will do it too! In our very unique way.

What should be the key factors for success for women entrepreneurs?
Dato’ Karim: To me, success is a journey and not a destination, it applies to all.
Sharmini: Do what you love and make it pay. I heard that from Oprah a long time ago and I did it with my life coaching. As a result, I’ve never worked a day since I started LifeWorks. I never complain about how much I work and the effort that goes into it and I don’t really care if I get paid either. I love what I do and I would do it for free. So, that is the other factor, women entrepreneurs need to learn to value their work and determine their worth which will eventually affect how they become profitable to sustain and grow their business.

What are your top three advice to an entrepreneur?
Dato’ Karim:
First is to persevere, second is to focus and implement improvement and third is to have a proper strategic plan.
Firstly, everything we do is for or because we don’t have love, love for what we value the most as a human being. So, put love in what you do and you will do well. Secondly, Count your blessings and stay humble. Remember where you came from and be thankful for everyone in your journey. Thirdly, When you completely stop complaining and start looking for all the answers within, you will access your full potential and along the way, your fear will be replaced with unconditional faith. Eventually, you’ll embrace that your journey, as an entrepreneur, is also your spiritual awakening to finding your true purpose and mission here on Earth. That is how awesome it is!


Main photo credit by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo credit ‘women vs men’ by Juan Marin on Unsplash

10 Aug 2018
Last modified: 3 Sep 2018
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