From Tiles To Thrive, An Unusual Tour That Has Made Me Rethink Life..

We shifted into our current home 3 years ago. Before the move, the house have been through a major renovation. Part of the work was putting in new tiles for the floor. Recently, the tiles on our living area popped up. Yes, literally lifted up overnight, due to poor workmanship. As frustrated as we could be, we can’t do anything but to live with the process of re-tiling again.

The one question we asked ourselves though, was how do we know if this tiler that is hired to fix this will be good and we don’t have to go through this nightmare again? After 5 miserable days of sucking in dust and living with the mess you could ever imagine, it was done, and we could only pray that this time we got the right guy.

One month later, the tiles on upstairs started to popped up! Coincidentally, on that very same day, I was scheduled to attend a tile company’s tour. “Discover Feruni”, the tour conducted regularly by Feruni Ceramiche Sdn Bhd, a highly regarded tile company. As unusual as it sounded, you must have associated this with a sales & marketing gimmick.

But not only I was not being sold anything, I have gained far beyond what I could ever expect, going on any tour of any company, local or abroad. The moment we walked into Feruni building, their HQ, also a sales gallery, there were non-stop of the “WOW” moments. I have to hold my breath as I stepped in, took me a few seconds to reconcile and confirmed that I was in the right place. The building is constructed, both exterior and interior, more like a world class designer and architect hand-crafted building.

We were received at the Happiness Cafe located on the upper floor, next to their work space. Curious by the name, we were told that it is built primarily for Ferunian, their proud employees. Here they can enjoy a cup of coffee, tea or a slice of bread for free.

While sitting around the cafe waiting for the tour to begin, Feruni’s Founder and Managing Director, Dato CC Ngei came out from an after-gym shower and started to mingle around, and making coffees for his guests! All the company tours I have been to, if the company’s MD would to appear, they would not appear until the very last minute, after everyone is seated, spot light on them as they walk in and up the stage! But here, this man that has founded and grew the company, humbly blend in with his guests!

The discovery tour started in their auditorium on the upper floor, in a very cozy settings. Dato CC just walked into the auditorium with all his guests, straight to the front and started his presentation. Again, no super-star nor red carpet companion, he just walked right in with us and brought it on! Quit school after form 3, he spent 11 years helping his father in his tiles shop, and it was just a day job to earn his living than anything else. And no, he didn’t take over his father’s business like many asked. Instead, he started Feruni 6 years ago, with the end goal in mind – he wanted to do it differently.

Transform an industry

He built the company’s foundation base on 4 main purposes that serve as guiding principles. First was to transform this industry. Pretty much being regarded as a traditional commodity business with not much of margin and labor intensive, he was very clear that if he would to make a difference, it has to start with the people. How can a tile business attract and build the dream team full of enthusiasm?

He realized there needs to be a major makeover to make this industry attractive to young talent, and the makeover needs to include both inner and outer beauty. From physical appearance of the business to seeding values, he led the company to transform to an entity attractive from inside out.

Give back to community

The next breakthrough occurred when he felt a calling to reach out to the world outside his company, that was when he made a decision to devote 10% of the company’s proceeds to the community. Over the years he has led his team to improvise the ‘give back’ in a more impactful way. Beyond normal visitation to the needy homes, Feruni strive to connect with the community to create sustainable ecosystem, that could help people in their lifetime and not just the “one-off touch”.

He recently set up a Tiling Academy to provide free vocational training, with the vision to uplift the image of the tiler profession and to encourage more people to synergize in this industry. This profession is highly sought after in other countries like Australia, but being seen as a job that has not much future here, and has over the years filled by foreign workers. Feruni aims to revamp this and create job opportunity for those graduates from its academy.

People First

Most companies focus to deliver best customer service but you can find so few that does it well in Malaysia. Most of them try to achieve these through hardcore trainings, grooming, reminders, and reminders. In Feruni, Dato CC knows that great customer experience can’t be taught, but to be internalized via culture into the blood and soul of every employee.

How? He realized he has to first make his employees happy and that happiness would automatically be passed on to the customers as it is contagious. This has formed the third pillar of Feruni’s purpose, People First.

Recognizing and nurturing people’s talent, matching them to the right job that allows individual to unleash their passion, is the best way to cultivate joy at work. Feruni has a unique hiring interview process, enabling them to screen through the right traits, right talent, while technical or skill set assessment came only at the very last stage.

Loving culture VS. Ruling Culture

On the day you become a Ferunian, your head of department and team members, at their creativity would design a heartwarming way to welcome you. With the uniquely designed interview process, they tends to get those people of the right values on board, and from day one, guided by the 10 core values every Ferunian holds dear to their heart in carrying out their duty.

All the 10 core values are rooted on one principle – Loving Culture. “The more rules you set, the more loopholes your employees would find to workaround it”, said Dato CC. Honesty for example, is one of the value they uphold proudly, and they achieved it through a culture of ‘keeping each other honest’ from day one, not through long list of SOPs nor CCTVs.

After the short presentation, Dato CC brought us to tour the building. Sales Gallery on the Ground, handsomely displaying some of their products in an unconventional way. There you can’t find any tiles lining up in front of you rows by rows, instead you will be fascinated by elegance designs, making you feel that you have just walked into a designer’s space. I never knew tiles can be illustrated in such unique and expressive way to showcase personality.

Customer Experience

When you walk into the sales gallery, you would be greeted and taken care of by a friendly consultant. They would walk you through the design space to get some inspiration and trigger your right brain to work on your own space. They will then lead you to panels with beautiful tiles in various sizes, shapes, colors and textures so you start to realize your design better.

You can then work with their solution specialist to visualize your ideas with their 3D design software, using your actual home dimension. I was particularly impressed by their ‘Mix & Match’ corner where you can bring home some small samples of tiles to better conceptualize your dream space.

Their office space is on the upper floor. Built on open concept, including Dato CC, no one has a room. This cultivate trust, encourage open & collaborative behavior among the workforce. We could see lively & energetic scenes during the tour, with happy and passionate faces walking around busy working with each other.

I can feel the ‘love is in the air’ ambient observing how two young employees having some discussion in front of a PC, while another co-worker that seems to be more senior walked passed and offered some advice and then gave everyone a pat on their back, and turned those tensed faces into bright smiles immediately.

Other than the cool work space and the happiness cafe, their full-size gym, game room, cultural center, mini-library and performing space for Ferunian, have far exceeded the conventional perks at work! The other amazing moment were getting to know that the Ferunian is being recognized with Ferunian currency – the Ferunian Ringgit when you participate in activities eg. workout, reading, charity and they can use the currency to buy goodies at the cafe, or their merchandise!

Sumi & Mr Malek Ali (founder of BFM)

After the tour, we were back at the Happiness Cafe for free lunch! I had the honor to sit next to the Business FM radio station Founder, Mr Malek Ali who was also there for the tour. Being a fan of BFM all these years, having high respect for how BFM have been re-uniting all of us from diverse ethnic groups as truly Malaysian, we were chatting about the impact of the Feruni tour.

No sales pitch nor products bragging, Dato CC, a down-to-earth citizen, is trying to make a difference for his beloved homeland, hoping to influence and inspire more business leaders to create a sustainable ecosystem to help Malaysia’s social economy to advance and to flourish.

Falling in love with Feruni is an understatement, it has triggered me to think extensively – Everyone of us are leader in our own way, instead of endless complains on everything around us, if we could pour our hearts into making this a better place to live within our own circle of influence, we would all do wonders to make Malaysia better.

Later on that day, back at home with the popped-up tiles on the upper floor, I smiled and put a carpet on top of it. I am going to wait for the rest of the tiles on the upper floor to pop up so I have a good reason to go back to Feruni again!

This is a guest post by Sumi Sam. She has spent years managing brilliant people in a well-known MNC and is currently leading a local SME that provides software solution. Please post your feedback in the comment or ask questions regarding how to thrive in a corporate environment.

#feruni #ferunitour #transformanindustry #givebacktocommunity #peoplefirst #lovingculture #customerexperience

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