The accidental entrepreneur

  •  Hopes his technology will help ordinary people do extraordinary things
  • Coach and Grow Programme helped him to rethink his business model

 
THOSE who have run a portfolio of projects know that one has to sacrifice a lot more than a good night's sleep when trying to keep it all under control. Usually, family life suffers too, as it takes a back seat to pressing work-related concerns.
 
But what if there was a way to complete all work projects and still have time leftover for a fulfilling personal life? Ultimately, this is what project management solutions, ePMO is designed to do. Created by eCEOs, ePMO is designed to help people deliver projects with more ease and efficiency so they can regain a work-life balance.
 
On top of things
The accidental entrepreneur"Our ePMO enables people to be connected with their projects irrespective of where they are," explains eCEOs founder Jailani Mustafa (pic). "It is a powerful feeling when you can be on top of your projects even when you are not physically at the project site."
 
Incorporating best practices from real projects, Jailani helps companies to get their projects done on time and within budget. eCEOs has huge growth potential as its solution is flexible and can be customised to meet specific client needs.
 
Pursuing a passion
Jailani, who was a consultant with Accenture for 15 years, always enjoyed managing projects and exploring new ideas on how to make them run more efficiently. In 2006, he decided to leave Accenture, having had enough of consulting and in need of a break.  However, his passion for project management remained. So, the following year, he started eCEOs as he believed that he could use his skills to help people to handle complicated or multiple projects.
 
With a strong direction and clear intention in mind, Jailani set out to build a successful company but was immediately hit with a host of challenges. As he had been living abroad in Singapore and Indonesia, for almost a decade, he didn't have many local contacts to promote his new venture. Consequently, it would be a year before Jailani finally managed to secure a few small projects.
 
Host of hardships
It was certainly a relief to start working on real projects but as it turned out, this was just the first hurdle. Due to the fact that a number of Jailani’s clients did not pay him on time, he ran into severe cash flow issues. Recalling those hard times, he says, "I had to use my children's savings to finance our working capital for several months. At times I felt I was a few steps away from closing the company." 
 
But through it all, Jailani stayed positive and focused on making his clients' projects a success. His biggest challenge in developing his business has been in getting skilled people to join his company. "We are in a people business," he explains, "So we need good people who can identify new innovations, sell, and deliver projects for our clients.” Unfortunately, Jailani discovered that the best university graduates usually prefered to work for more established firms.
 
This hasn’t dampened his determination, however. While eCEOs is not able to take on very complex projects at the moment, Jailani knows that it is only a matter of time before his company’s technology will change lives by helping ordinary people do extraordinary things.
 
Brighter days
Thankfully, it’s not all about hardship and challenges for eCEOS. Although it is a relatively new company, it has already garnered notable success. For example, since its early days, many eCEO clients have been large and important institutions from government agencies and telecommunications companies to corporations in the oil and gas sector.
 
Due to its outstanding performance, eCEOs has ranked No. 52 in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Asia Pacific 2015, a ranking of the 500 fastest growing technology companies in Asia Pacific. In the previous year, eCEOs was at the 146th position and was the only Malaysian company to make the grade. In addition, eCEOs ranked 2nd in 2012 and 2013 on the Southeast Asia Deloitte  Technology Fast 50, which is a ranking of the 50 fastest growing technology firms in Southeast Asia.
 
Branching out
Now widely recognised as a specialist in project management, business intelligence and consultancy, eCEOs is developing an education programme with the Malaysian Institute of Supply Chain Innovation (MISI). According to the eCEOs-MISI memorandum of understanding signed in December 2014, the programme is intended to assist Malaysian companies with supply chain innovation and management. Today, eCEOs has helped MISI to co-run some of its project management courses.
 
Though success and financial returns are of great importance, Jailani has not lost sight of why he loves what he does. "What I enjoy the most is to see many young people developing their career and growing with us and being really good at what they do," he says.
 
Best in ASEAN
Though he has always had a clear vision for his company, Jailani says the Coach and Grow Programme (CGP) that he joined in 2014, has helped him to rethink his business model. In addition, the programme gave him that final push to make the decision to deliver a web-based solution, a decision that he would have otherwise postponed. "The coaches reconfirmed that we were on the right track and so we went all out, with confidence," he shares.
 
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In the next year, Jailani hopes to establish eCEOs as one of the best project management companies in Malaysia, and to be considered an industry leader. He has also set his sights on turning eCEOs into the best project management and technology company in the ASEAN region that can compete with some of the best consulting companies in the world.
 
Offering DNA an update on the company performance in the first 10 months of the year, Jailani acknowledges, “We have not been immune to the regional economic slowdown and the downtown in the oil and gas industry. This has impacted our Malaysia business in the first quarter.  However we have seen recovery in Q2 and the rest of the year is looking very positive for us.  The better news is in Indonesia where we are expecting more than 300% growth,” he says.
 
Freedom to try
Although he describes himself as an ‘accidental entrepreneur,’ Jailani says he would never trade being an entrepreneur with any other job.  However, he admits that he initially pursued creating a project management solution, as a hobby. At that stage in his career and personal development, he says, he needed the freedom to try new things.

"Before you strike out on your own, be sure to master the knowledge of the domain you are pursuing," he advises. "Run your business like it's your hobby!" He also cautions aspiring entrepreneurs to keep their priorities straight. "Never pursue your business at the expense of your family."
Discover eCEOs at www.eceos.com

The above is an excerpt from the book Startups to Scaleups published in October 2015 by Cradle Fund and Proficeo Consultants, the programme manager for Cradle’s Coach and Grow Programme. DNA will be featuring every entrepreneurial story from the book in a special commercial arrangement.

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