Get input, listen to advice

the-sun-image Dennis Martin

Article was originally published by The Sun Daily

THIS week we get thoughts and views from credit score company CTOS Holdings Sdn Bhd group CEO Dennis Martin.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
From a very young age, I learned that success does not simply occur. You need to make success happen with hard work, perseverance and a little bit of luck. Something else that I put vital importance on was working out who to listen to and who not to — good, sound mentors can make a vast difference.

What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?
The first trait I look for is attitude. The best candidates have an urgency in what they do and get things done. Secondly, I’d look for someone who has a positive can-do approach. However, there isn’t one perfect candidate – I look for people with different personality traits, as balance makes a good workforce. Lastly, they got to have the requisite skills, depending on the role they’re playing. A capacity to do their job and the capacity to learn are important.

How do you think the industry you are in will evolve in the future?
The industry that we operate in revolves around data. Data is becoming more of a commodity, so it is what we do with data that is evolving. Technology, science, analytics: anything within these evolving technologies is where we can help add value to our customers. We are also looking at helping Malaysians conduct their business with confidence at home and globally. With every business opportunity, people need data and information to know if it is worth the risk to conduct business with another. That is where our products such as KYC Screening and CTOS ConneX help our customers understand their clients or partners better before proceeding with their transactions. Conversely, foreign direct investment can be facilitated with confidence by utilising our latest products.

We all know about the industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution? 
I think we are in a technological evolution, not revolution. It is not one instance of technology that change things, but a continuation of the change that we go through.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional life?
I have been lucky to have some very good mentors in my 30 plus years of career. They absolutely made a difference, and each give me something different. I had mentors who had been direct bosses, mentors from different industries, and personal mentors who make your professional life more efficient. I don’t believe one mentor can have it all. Enhancing your professional and personal life means learning different things from different people.

What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
As the group CEO at the helm of CTOS, the next five years is about making CTOS even more successful than it is today together with helping consumers become more financially literate and helping to grow the Malaysian economy. As the largest credit reporting agency in Malaysia, we have a duty to our customers and the public, to continue to maintain our high standards, and to continue innovating to introduce products and solutions that enhance our economy.

How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?
One is through a strong global network. Secondly, is to be involved with functions, seminars and workshops, both local and international. Thirdly, is by reading- keeping in touch with what’s going on out there. I try to seek out new innovations or companies who are aligned to but may not be directly involved with our industry industry.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced? And what did you learn from it?
A number of years ago, I was a manager of National Australia Bank (NAB) in New Zealand. NAB was a small business in New Zealand at the time. NAB ended up buying Bank of New Zealand, so I was a manager of a small organisation that bought a much bigger organisation, and I was put in charge of that organisation. My first task was to downsize. I had to downsize a significant number of individuals whom I didn’t even know. The lesson from that is that sometimes you have to make the tough calls. The second lesson was that to be a leader, you can’t always be friends with people you work with. One must build team dynamics and work well together, but not necessarily be best friends. The team, the customers and the organization always take precedence over your personal friendships. The third lesson was to listen to advice from others. Get input- don’t make uninformed decisions. The last lesson was that sometimes you can’t get everything right: living with the decisions you’ve made is probably the toughest.

What man made innovation confounds you? Why?
People who have brand bias, positive or negative, rather than getting to know the organisation they are dealing with, what they’re buying, that’s what confounds me. People often choose a brand which is not backed-up by product, innovation, service or cost but may be influenced by history often amuse me.

Malaysia’s greatest brand.
I’m a huge fan of AirAsia. I’m a frequent flier with AirAsia and I think they do a fantastic job for both customers and the way they have developed their business. I have read the story of the founders, of how they got to where they are and the journey they went through. It represents Malaysia very well, and is a true Malaysian success story.

A must-read for every business owner/manager is …
There are a couple that I have read multiple times, namely Who moved my cheese and My iceberg is melting. These books are a constant reminder to always be willing to adapt and change with the times.

What are the top three factors you would attribute to your success?
Finding good mentors, always pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and lastly, luck!