Seeing the big picture really helps

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 May, 2009, 12:00am

For roughly 20 years, Mason Ang helped to build up the family plastics business and, along the way, became highly proficient in the art of troubleshooting. When required, he could tackle an operations problem or get to grips with an issue in marketing or finance, but even though the firm was doing well, he felt increasingly that something was missing.

'I needed to see the big picture,' said the general manager of Manila-based Licton Industrial Corporation. 'With the Ivey EMBA, I now have a more holistic view of how to attack a problem and have been able to learn from the mistakes other companies have made.'

In his case, he said, the most obvious impact had been in the area of financial management. Previously, he had always struggled with the concepts used to describe a company's financial situation and gauge it against different measures. The course, though, had shed light on various ratios, the principles of sound investment, how not to put your business at risk, and the best financial practices of good organisations worldwide.

'It helped me to analyse our company and convinced me that the 70:30 debt to equity ratio we had was putting the business at risk,' Mr Ang said. 'We are now working towards 40:60 and are in a more relaxed situation.'

He added that through course modules on entrepreneurship and communications, he had also come to see the importance of building an organisation to last. This meant looking beyond issues of product development and short-term profit or turnover targets to establish longer-term goals and a common sense of purpose. 'During the programme, I realised the need to hire based on shared values,' Mr Ang said. 'The right skills are important, but if you don't have trust and shared values, it is difficult to move in the same direction.'

For that reason, he had asked the company to come up with a system of values to guide all employees, strengthen relationships, and make it easier to manage by something more than results.

While praising the programme's case-study format and its combination of theory and practice, Mr Ang said the interactive style of learning had been less formal and far more fun than he had expected.

'It was a really enjoyable journey,' he said. 'I was fortunate to be with a very good group and had the chance to talk about our company's business problems and learn from peers.'