Before 1Malaysia, there was already OneHeart, the story of a multi-ethnic group of young Malaysians who wanted to run a business – without being driven by profits.
Today, blog reader Mist commenting on my “Two Million Ringgit Man” posting observed:
I had spent a large part of my life in academia and I was blissfully oblivious of much of what went on in society, mostly in the corporate world. Recently I got involved in the real estate business and got to meet quite a few people in the corporate world and those who have close association with what went on in the business world. It would seemed that kickbacks are quite common. Proxies are often used to facilitate the process.
And then of course there were other rather unethical practices and I had been given the advice so often that we won’t be able to make a living if we were honest. This advice came about after a bit more than five months of relentless effort and without anything to show for it; being played out by sellers and buyers on more than one occasion.
My point is this: much of society is dishonest and everyone seemed to be out to get an advantage – honest or dishonest – to move forward. We cry foul over governmental corruption and yet it is merely a reflection of what is going on in the wider community.
How depressing! Yes, corruption and unethical practices seem widespread and entrenched in the system, not just in the public sector but also in the private sector.
Is there really no alternative way of doing business? Kelly Law, CEO of OneHeart, and husband Jeffrey, whom I met over a cup of coffee this afternoon, along with their friend and godpa Vincent, think there is.
The couple are involved in a unique enterprise, OneHeart, a “just haven” that deals in used books in Plaza Mont Kiara in Kuala Lumpur.
More than their passion for used books, it is their business philosophy or model that catches the eye. Unlike other businesses, believe it or not, they are not profit driven. While recognising the need to make some profit to sustain their enterprise, it is not the be all and end all. Far more important are the ethical and green core of their philosophy and the desire to contribute to the community – which other enterprises would do well to emulate.
So at odds with conventional economic theory that believes shareholders are motivated by profit maximisation.
Check out their alternative business philosophy:
“It determines us”
We dream of building a community of love, care and trust that will touch your lives. The community will be like the one our parents, our grandparents and even our great grandparents had lived before us. In fact, it should be better. This dream has now become our vision.
We believe in our vision and will strive to achieve it. However, we acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead of us and yet we trust we can achieve it because we have the heart to do it.
Building the community is like sowing the first good seed. As we nurture the seed with love and care, it will grow into a big, strong and healthy tree so that one day, the tree will bear the sweetest fruits not only for our enjoyment but also for our children, our grandchildren and great grandchildren.
We are not a charitable or non-profit organisation. We do not seek donations. We operate for profit just like any other business in order to be sustainable in the long-term. But unlike most businesses, our drive to succeed is not profit-driven. Instead it is vision-driven.
Our promise to you is to operate our business with honesty, transparency and integrity. In return, we want you to place your faith in us, to help and support us. Together, we can turn our society and the world a better place to live in.
A green business model that is not profit-driven and instead focuses on how it can contribute to the community and protect the environment. A business that gives more than it receives. Paradox? Idealism? Or plain naiveity? Can it work? Jeffrey and Kelly believe it is possible and, together with their team members, they are determined to make their actions speak louder than words.
Listen to ‘team member’ Ooi Keong:
Back in 2001 when I first started my career as an engineer in a multinational company, I constantly asked myself ‘What is the purpose of my life?’
I thought life was about achieving my ambition. My ambition was to work hard, earn more money to sustain the lifestyle I want. As time went by, I met new friends and people from all walks of life. I realised there are more important things to life such as family ties and lasting friendships. It is not about me. It is about us. It is about living in a loving, caring and trusting community.
Only through cultivating meaningful relationships with people, I learned about the gifts of giving and sharing. I wish I can spread this gift to more people but I did not know how until Kelly approached me with an idea to build a community filled with love, care and trust. The idea quickly becomes something meaningful. I hope through OneHeart, I will live a life filled with a meaningful purpose which is to encourage and convince others to lead a purposeful life.
At the heart of their enterprise is their green pledge which begins with a saying from the native Americans:
You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.
Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our Mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
The community is a central part of their philosophy. A conventional business usually measures its success based on its financial performance: the higher the sales, market share and profits, the better. In contrast, OneHeart measures its success based on “the support we receive from our family members, friends and the community at large and how many lives we can touch from the very beginning and right to the end”.
Of course, used books (We prefer calling them ‘used books’ rather than ‘second-hand books’, says Jeffrey), lots of them, are the focus of their enterprise. From books comes knowledge.
Kelly feels we should change our mindset from “if it does not happen to us, it is not our problem” to “how can we help others and ourselves to deal with any situation in life?”
“The knowledge we have acquired (from books) will help us make better choices and even save a life.”
She is certain that when we have a community that believes in working for the common good, society can be transformed into a harmonious and peaceful place to live in. “However, believing is not enough. If we take action and do good, then we can be assured that our children, our grandchildren and their children will continue to live in a peaceful place.”