COFFEE TALK: THE RUSTED PISTOL
Updated: Feb 1
Back in 1995, our company was making moves in the market. We were recording incredible sales, and the next best option was to expand our sales overseas. Thailand was our main target since it was just a 45-minute drive from our farm and factory. Few of our staff also spoke Thai, so this decision was conscious but at the same time, necessary.
I can speak Thai myself, thanks to my father, who was fluent in Thai and Malay. While traveling by flight, officials have talked to me in Thai, even though I held a Malaysian passport. The primary issue with the Thai market was that I could not speak or understand their language. When it came to the southern region, it was better since I could spot few locals who could speak Malay.
During the inception of this organization, many of our members were Malay, and they funded for few locals in Thailand. I was introduced to a wealthy family in southern Thailand. We collaborated with them, and they were the major shareholders of the company. This did not bother me as we were doing well with the revenues that were made by the factory. Soon, many people from Thailand started joining DXN, and we could gather around 500 of them at a particular instance. It was convenient for the members to drop in on the farm and factory in terms of distance. However, there was this one weighty issue.
We let few members become shareholders of our company to diversify the market. But this did not go according to plan since there was tension between the shareholders and the members. This conflicted within our own company. Sales grew eventually, and by 1997, we were earning close to eighty thousand USD per month, which was a substantial amount at that time. Problems were brewing, and at one point in time, they were orders being placed without the payment coming from the other end.
Eventually, they stopped ordering from us and started purchasing from another company, trying to imitate our company and its policies. They called for a meeting, and I attended it with my wife’s presence. Three people were sitting in front of us, and right from the first minute, I could sense that the air was hostile. They accused us of stealing technology from the imitator company and dared to pull out a pistol and place it on the table. They threatened me to not come to Thailand ever again. I pointed to the pistol and told them in Malay that the pistol was rusted. My wife giggled, and they were shocked by our response since they expected us to be frightened by their threat. I challenged them to fire the first shot, and they were shaken by what I just said. I openly threatened them that it would not be suitable for them and their families if they were to do such a baseless and senseless thing. They tried to make things right by apologizing and offering us our coffee.
This confrontation hurt our company. We learned our biggest lesson: to be independent and not collaborate with other companies to avoid such situations. Presently, we run the business entirely independently, and we do not give too much power to local partners. After that confrontation, things went south for those local partners as they realized soon enough that they made a grave mistake by threatening us and letting us go.