KUALA LUMPUR: In recognition of his ongoing contributions to his British alma mater, logistics guru and entrepreneur Datuk Michael Tio has been selected to receive the first Hull Alumni Laureate award.

“Can someone without a family business or assets hope to be an entrepreneur? Is it possible for anyone starting with nearly nothing to raise business capital?”asked a young aspirant from the audience.

Tio’s response reflected his empathy for budding entrepreneurs.

“This is the most fundamental and crucial step to building businesses. I get this question even from undergraduates who have not begun to do business.

“Even if there could be shortcuts, don’t look for them. Don’t rush towards success. Build it patiently. Those who reach the top quickly also have the tendency to lose everything even quicker.

“Bersusah-susah dahulu, bersenang-senang kemudian (Suffer now, relax later),” he replied in Malay.

Tio revealed that while he was studying accountancy in Britain, he started a used car business.

“To raise the capital to buy my first car, I worked many jobs. I was a waiter in a fish and chips shop and I was even a baby-sitter. I saved my money to start the business while keeping up with my campus work.”

Tio is in a different league today as the group chief executive officer of PKT Logistics Sdn Bhd.

He came to Penang recently to give a charity talk entitled Journey to be a Creativepreneur organised by Kalyx Consultants at Wawasan Open University (WOU).

The chartered accounting firm in Seberang Jaya invited Tio to speak to its network of business people .

A total of RM31,680 was raised for the House of Hope to support the tuition fees of its underprivileged students.

Tio ran through with more than 100 participants his process of transforming PKT, his father’s freight-forwarding business with a turnover of about RM2mil, into a multi-parameter logistics giant raking in more than RM500mil a year.

He divulged strategies – practically trade secrets – on how he dealt with financial crises, beat the competition and diversified into lateral markets.

The audience soaked up his revelations, thanks in no small way to the fact that PKT is the Malaysian Business of the Year in Star Business Awards (SOBA) 2012.

Tio himself bagged SOBA 2012’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

He advised entrepreneurs to arm themselves with accounting knowledge on top of domain knowledge particular to their industry.

“When you are familiar with accounting and financial management, you will have the ability to plan for both growth and crises.”

Another question from the audience – on managing employee morale – drew a frank answer from Tio and made him refer to Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

“You must always project energy and positivity. Even though I have issues bothering me, I project an upbeat spirit everywhere I go and especially when I’m talking to my gang.

“In Sun Tzu, the confidence of the general is all-important. Your spirit as the leader will set the pace for your team.”

Tio’s rundown of PKT’s focus on keeping employees happy – and healthy – are nothing short of inspiring.

The company spent RM300,000 on enough equipment to fill a 2,000sq ft gym, and allocates about RM60,000 in incentives to ensure the staff will pump iron and do yoga daily.

They are rewarded in manifold ways for many acts of merit, even for just being honest.

“It’s every business person’s dream to have a happy staff. You want to walk into your office and see everyone from the cleaners to the chief financial officer smiling happily because they are glad to be where they are.

“This is a goal you must constantly work for because a happy workforce will give you a productive team,” he enthused.