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Making a fortune – the secrets of Asian business success

One of the best ways to learn how to succeed at anything (including business) is to emulate people or groups that are already enjoying that success.

Asian-owned businesses in the UK are one such group. These now crosses from first through to second and third generations and span manufacturing and services, entertainment and fashion, hotels and property, food and pharmaceuticals.

Spinder Dhaliwal, author of Making a Fortune – Learning from the Asian Phenomenon, has identified six key traits of the Asian business success phenomenon in the UK, that we can all learn from.

  1. Tenacity
    TV programmes like The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den have popularised the idea of the brash go-getting entrepreneur. The truth is that hard (and “smart”) work, perseverance and true grit that has driven the Asian business community in the UK. Most Asian-owned businesses are more famous than their owners – for example not many people associate with its founder Dinesh Dhamija. Jim Collins in his book Good to Great showed how sustained success is more likely in businesses with lower profile leaders.
  2. 24/7 work culture
    Up until the first big wave of Asians arriving in the UK in the1960s, Britain had a 9-5 working culture. The Asian entrepreneur gave us with the open-all-hours corner shop and the late night take-away restaurant, fuelling the UK’s development of a 24/7 economy. This resulted in entrepreneurs like Gulam Noon who credits the restaurants for opening the doors to his supermarket ranges of Indian chilled and frozen foods. The same is true for Karan Bilimoria and Cobra lager. In adapting this for our own benefits it is of course crucial that life/work balance is not lost.
  3. Family
    Of course, a few high-profile successes disguise the fact that in reality of a multitude of small firms struggling for survival. Many of the corner shops so closely associated with Asians would not be financially viable if you costed in the true family labour costs. Now, these shops are going into the hands of the next generation of immigrants as younger Asians opt out of working the same hours as their parents. That generation is much less accepting of the working habits of their parents (this applies across all cultures of course, not just Asian).
  4. Woman
    Women have played a pivotal role in the success of the Asian family business (despite cultural, social and economic barriers). But until the recent emergence of high profile Asian female entrepreneurs like Perween Warsi of S&A Foods, women were rarely given the limelight and remained the secret weapon in the Asian family business.
  5. Multicultural and linguistic advantage
    Even if the next generation of Asian entrepreneurs lack the motivation that drove their mothers and fathers, they are gaining competitive advantage by capitalising on their linguistic skills, cultural knowledge and business contacts both here and overseas.
  6. Self-reliance and adaptation to change
    The success of the Asian business community is based on self reliance, family involvement and incredibly hard work – all qualities which have built small businesses in the UK for centuries. As an immigrant population however, the Asians have had to adapt to a huge amount of change and their story teaches us the value of flexibility.

The E-Myth
Of course, every business can be made more successful by taking on some of the lessons of books like Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited. All of the above traits can be built upon by clearing defining personal and business goals, empowering the team, creating systems and all the other things that Michael Gerber talks about. The ability to harness this extra potential depends on a willingness to invest time and money to learn new skills and embrace new ideas. (I will discuss in a later blog the characteristics that K&H’s most successful clients share based on years of working a huge range of small business clients. This includes being open to new ideas, including reading books like The E-Myth.)

If you would like to know more about the Asian business success, have a look at a book by Dr Spinder Dhaliwal Making a Fortune – Learning from the Asian Phenomenon (Capstone) £14.99.

Please let me know your thoughts on this, and let me know if you think there are other reasons for the success of Asian-owned businesses.

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