Business-in-Asia: Your revised edition on your new book The
Entrepreneur : 25 Golden Rules For the Global Business Manager includes
much new material. I had read the original version but it seems
to me that the new version
is so much stronger and has so much more material and examples for
who is involved or interested in business. What led you to write
the book, did you find putting it together to be difficult and how ever
did you find the time given your busy schedule?
Mr. Heinecke: The
main impetus was my desire to share my experiences with today’s
of young entrepreneurs. Although times and market forces change, I
there are some fundamental principles of being an entrepreneur that
Yes, finding time to put the book together was difficult but I think
that part of being a successful entrepreneur is one’s ability to find
make things happen.
first rule in your new book is “find a vacuum and fill it” and your
is on the importance of “doing your homework”. It seems these two
are linked in that how can you know if there is a vacuum unless you
really researched things and truly understand what you are
How does a prospective entrepreneur know that he or she really have
their homework” and how much of business failures can be tied to poor
incomplete research, planning and intelligence?
Mr. Heinecke: The key is confidence. If
you do your homework correctly, you’ll feel confident and that’s the
light to go ahead. When you’re investing your own time and hard-earned
money, your research tends to be much more thorough. I know I’m ready
proceed with a project when I get a feeling of confidence from the
and figures I’ve gathered.
I would say that 50% of business failures are down to incomplete
homework. In business, preparation is an area in which you cannot
Business-in-Asia: On page
58, you state “If I was starting out in Bangkok today, I don’t know if
I could make it by myself.” Can you explain this observation and
explain how open or closed you see Thailand and S.E. Asia being today
potential sites for someone from outside the area wanting to start a
like your early ventures?”
Mr. Heinecke: The Thai economy is so
advanced today that it would be much more difficult to start out with
amount of capital with which I began. There are still certain countries
where I think a young entrepreneur could make the sort of start I did -
Vietnam, parts of China and maybe Indonesia which is going through
of a rebirth. Times have changed and Asia’s markets are much more
today than when I started out in the late 1960’s.
Business-in-Asia: Rule 6
emphasizes the importance of goals, discusses the concept of vision and
later in the book you discuss the importance of benchmarking. How
do these differ and relate and how much of your own success do you
attribute to your life long habit of setting written daily goals and
monitoring of their completion?
Mr. Heinecke: In both benchmarking and
goal-setting, the idea is measurability. How can you know how well you
are doing if you’re not measuring your progress or success?
Benchmarking means finding something to measure yourself against. In
the case of the Pizza Company we had a known competitor, Pizza Hut, to
benchmark ourselves against.
Goal-setting is critical to any entrepreneur as it allows you
personally to measure your progress - whether that be on daily, weekly
or annual basis. Being structured about my day, setting clear and
realistic goals has definitely helped me to manage and develop the
Minor Group from a small advertising
agency and office cleaning company, to a public corporation that
over 12,000 people.
Business-in-Asia: In Rule
you give your views about the importance of learning to sell. You
note this is crucial for the entrepreneur. In business selling
one of the things many people in the company would prefer to avoid and
seems to be an area that many if not most are best to avoid because
lack the enthusiasm, persistence, determination and other related
Is the “art of selling” really critical to the future entrepreneur and
is the best way to learn and perfect your ability to sell?
Mr. Heinecke: If you can’t sell, you
shouldn’t be an entrepreneur. I’ve often heard people say they can’t
sell, but if
you get a person talking about something they are passionate about,
they can sell as well as the best salesman. There is a misconception
to be good at sales, you have to be an expert at the hard-sell. That’s
true. You just have to be enthusiastic about and believe in what you
selling. The number one quality I look for in all our staff is passion.
Business-in-Asia: On page
67 you write “The key is to look at things in the context of a very
idea. If it works, it is very easy to expand and grow.”
you counsel the budding entrepreneur to follow this observation and has
it been one that you continue to follow?
Mr. Heinecke: Absolutely. Whether you’re
starting a restaurant, an office-cleaning company or a hotel, the key
is to start
small. Set small, measurable, achievable goals and when you’ve achieved
those, go to the next step.
I think once again, measurability is the key here. You need to have
identified what your measure of success will be. Once this has been
can move on and expand or grow.
Business-in-Asia: You note
several times in your book that you consider Thailand to be one of the
best places in the world to invest and do business. You also
write at many points about your respect for the Thai people both
working with you and as a whole. I note also that you have become
a Thai citizen which further demonstrates your commitment to
Thailand. Can you explain why you see Thailand
as such a good place to invest, do business, live and work?
Mr. Heinecke: Thailand has many
but I think His Majesty The King, the world’s longest reigning monarch,
has brought tremendous stability to Thailand and made it a truly great
both in which to live and to work. His Majesty is a great example and
inspiration to all Thai citizens and he is someone for whom I have
I am very proud to be a Thai citizen.
Business-in-Asia: In your
book you mention the relatively slow growth of your company’s
a hotel in Haiphong and your loss of hotel opportunities in Rangoon and
Pagan which ultimately you came to believe was fortunate. Is
anywhere in SE Asia today outside of Thailand where you particularly
investment opportunities and if so in what country and why?
Mr. Heinecke: Outside of Thailand I
China, Vietnam and Indonesia present great investment opportunities.
is very much ‘in favour’, Vietnam is growing ‘in favour’ and Indonesia,
which, almost because of its ‘out of favour’ status, presents a myriad
opportunities for entrepreneurial investment.
Business-in-Asia: How have
the corporate troubles in the U.S. of companies like Enron, Dynergy and
others; the insider trading scandals and apparent overreaching of
people like the former head of Tyco had an effect in Asia? Also,
do you see any improvement in corporate transparency and some of the
other ills of Asian business
that writers like Michael Blackman and others have noted?
Mr. Heinecke: I think times are changing
and for the better. The Minor Group fully endorses corporate
We have outside directors on the boards of all three of our publicly
companies and we have strong independent audit committees.
Companies seeking stock market investment are going to have to
demonstrate good corporate governance and transparency or investors
will simply go
elsewhere. Looking after shareholders’ interests has to come first and
is something we place great importance on at the Minor Group. I think
entering an era when we’ll see better corporate governance happening
around the world.
Business-in-Asia: In the
later chapters of the book you discuss the so-called “Pizza Wars” that
your company engaged in with the large international franchising
company Yum (formerly called Tricon Global Restaurants which controls
the Pizza Hut, KFC and
Taco Bell franchises). You also note in the book that you feel a
franchise can be the best vehicle for a new entrepreneur to start and
a business. Further in the book you also write about your own
intentions to be a stronger player in franchising your own products,
and concepts. Isn’t there a contradiction here and wouldn’t your
experiences with Tricon and Pizza Hut be a cautionary tale likely to
Mr. Heinecke: There is good and bad in
all things. I don’t think you can let one bad experience, however bad
be, to completely color your judgement. I am a firm proponent of
as a way for young entrepreneurs to get into business quickly and with
limited knowledge and funds. Franchisees gain the support of an
established company with existing brand awareness in the market and
access to good business
experience. It’s a win-win situation.
Despite the situation that we found ourselves in with Pizza Hut, I
still believe that franchising is an excellent business model and it
wouldn’t deter me from future franchising relationships.
Business-in-Asia: We first
met in the late 1970’s during my first assignment at the U.S. Embassy
in Bangkok. At this point, you had already been out “doing
business” for nearly a decade. You’ve now had two more decades of
additional triumphs and challenges. One thing I’ve learned in
observing you from afar over the years and that is brought out by you
in your accounts of your own trials during the Asian Financial Crisis,
the so-called Pizza Wars, the affect of 9 -11 on Thai
tourism, etc. is never to bet against you. You are certainly one
of the most formidable if not Thee most formidable businessmen in
today. Of all the challenges you have faced, which was the
and can you please explain why it was the biggest challenge you have
so far and what you learned from it?
Mr. Heinecke: The collapse of the Asian
markets in 1997 was a critical challenge and one from which one third
of Thailand public listed companies did not survive. It took a
tremendous effort from all our staff and management to pull the company
through but we did survive and became stronger as a result.
The battle with Pizza Hut was another challenging period and one that
could have turned out far more disastrously than in fact it did. The
case scenario would have seen us closing stores and making staff
However, again, through the determination and dedication of the staff,
we came out of the battle stronger than when we went in and within two
years went from 0% market share to an estimated 75%. Meanwhile
Hut went from 95% market share down to 25%.
Both crises crisis taught me to always expect the unexpected!
Business-in-Asia: In your
final chapter, you write about the importance of belief in a higher
importance of giving back and your own wish for a wider focus to your
in the years ahead. The Bull stock market run of the 1990’s, the
com bubble and other parts of the recent past have led some observers
hope that we may be going into a less self-involved period. Do
see this happening and could you see Bill Heinecke using even greater
of his energy, organizational skills and undoubted large skein of
less in business and more toward giving back to Thailand in the years
Mr. Heinecke: Yes I certainly would like
to continue giving back to Thailand. We are heavily involved with
scholarship funds, are committed to raising money for the National
Elephant Institute through our annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo
Tournament, the conservation
of the turtles in the Mai Khao Marine national park through our JW
Phuket property and I envisage us becoming involved with other similar
I think one way that we can continue to benefit Thailand is through the
creation of employment opportunities for young people. This year alone
will see an additional 2000 jobs created within our group, many of
which will go to young people starting out in their working life.
I’d like to see many of those young people stay and grow with the
company. As an entrepreneur I think giving young people economic
freedom is one of the best gifts we can give.