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Self-made Success Story: Hon Kwok Lung of Citychamp

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Mr. Hon Kwok Lung was born in 1955 in Fuqing, a city located in the north-central part of Fujian’s seacoast. He is the Chairman of Citichamp (Holdings) Limited, the Chairman of Citychamp Watch & Jewellery Group Limited (00256.HK), and the Chairman of Citychamp Dartong Co., Ltd, (600067.SH). He is currently the Committee Member of the 12th National Committee of The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the Committee Member of All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, the Executive Vice President of China Federation of Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurs, and the Honorary Forever President of the Hong Kong Federation Overseas Chinese Associations.

Since his hometown was no more than a poor and backward village, he left his hometown for Southeast Asia soon after he finished high school. Under the supervision of Mr Liem Sioe Liong, one of the greatest Asian business leaders, he quickly demonstrated his talent in business and investment. His hardworking attitude and keen business sense helped him gain more responsibilities within a short time period. In 1988, he returned to his hometown, and brought along his greatest business dream and investments. Within a few years, he developed multiple landmark grade properties in Fuzhou, Fujian provincial capital.

He has never been satisfied with his achievements. It is simply impossible for him to live today just the same as yesterday. In 1993, he laid the foundation of his business empire by founding his own property development corporation. But this time, his new project has moved from provincial capital to national capital – Beijing. His urban redevelopment business model proved successful in the Madian project of Beijing and helped all stakeholders, from local government to residents and investors reach a win-win solution. His first development in Beijing, the CITICHAMP PALACE and the CITICHAMP COMMERCIAL BUILDING, were regarded as elite properties standing in the heart of Beisanhuan with the Madian Bridge, which is unambiguously a landmark property. Later on, his project SUN STAR CITY, a 1.5 million square meter development, became one of the largest property developments in Beijing. In 2002, he brought his property development business to public on Shanghai Stock Exchange, which is Citychamp Dartong Co. Ltd. Citychamp Dartong is also one of the top suppliers of copper wire in China.

He believes “Dream, Passion, Innovation” are the most important competencies for an entrepreneur. The fast growing consumer market in China has fueled his passion of watchmaking. Starting from EBOHR in 2004, he won a tough bid war of ROSSINI in 2008 and therefore established his reputation in China domestic watch business. Since then, ROSSINI and EBOHR have built up outstanding brand image in China. ROSSINI has been ranking 1st in overall market share in the watch category for the year 2013 by China General Chamber of Commerce and China National Commercial Information Centre. It was also ranked 1st in sales volume in the watch category for the 12 consecutive years since 2002. ROSSINI and EBOHR were both awarded “China’s 500 Most Valuable Brands of the Year 2014” by the World Brand  Laboratory. ROSSINI was awarded the “Asia’s 500 Most Influential Brands in 2014” by the World Brand Laboratory, and it was the only domestic watch brand in Mainland China that has received this award for seven consecutive years. ROSSINI has been recognized as “High and New Tech Enterprise” and was honored “Government Quality Award of Guangdong Province”.

Of course his dream of watch and jewellery won’t be limited to only domestic brands, which sell a few million watches through a few thousand points of sales already. “I have been to Europe to observe and study for many times. In small suburban town of Switzerland, I have witnessed local watchmakers devoting their life to fine watchmaking. Their persistency and pursuance of perfect craftsmanship impressed me. This is exactly what we need in China,” he said to a journalist one time. In 2011, his watch and jewellery investment vehicle — Hong Kong listed company China Haidian Group (“CHG”; name changed to Citychamp Watch & Jewellery Group Limited “CWJ” in July of 2014) acquired ETERNA, a Swiss brand founded in 1856 who has a long and unambiguously reputation in mechanical watch movement development. In 2013, CHG acquired CORUM, one of the top Swiss brands. Due to the elite status of the brand, this transaction has a pervasive influence in not only watch industry but also China-Switzerland business world. The Swiss Chinese Chamber of Commerce in China honored the company with “the Most Successful Deal in Switzerland 2013 Special Recognition” later of the year. Only one year later, CHG acquired The Dreyfuse Group, which added three more brands – Rotary, JT Windmill and Dreyfuse, to the brand portfolio of the group. Now CWJ has become a market leader in watch design, development, manufacture and distribution, who owns several proprietary brands — both domestic well-known and world class, as well as a vertically integrated supply chain and distribution system. With the recent name change, it is fairly clear that Mr Hon Kwok Lung’s dream and passion are growing.

“The bigger the enterprise becomes, the bigger social responsibility it takes; this is what I learned from the growth of my enterprises.” He has always been passionate in contributing to the society. He is the Honorary Chairman of Hong Kong Fortunate Community Charitable Foundation. He is the Vice Chairman of New Home Association, a charitable association which is committed to promoting a caring prospective Hong Kong society by joining hands together with new arrivals, ethnic minorities and local sectors. In his hometown, he has a long history of contributing to the society. He was honored with “Public Spirited Award of Fuzhou City”, “Outstanding Contribution to the Public Good of Fujian Province”, “2012 Most Social Responsible Chairman” by Directors & Boards magazine, and “Star for Respecting the Aged of Fuqing City”. He specifically believes that education can make a difference thus set up “Hon Kwok Lung Scholarship” in Shanghai Tongji University Education Development Foundation. He funded the “Hon Kwok Lung Academic Building” of Fujian Minjiang College, as well as the “Kwok Lung Science Building” of Fuqing Third Middle School. His enterprises have been title sponsor of many important events, for example, “2nd Silk Road International Film Festival”, “Fuzhou – Yongtai International Road Cycling Race”.

His business achievements have been very well respected and recognized. He was honored “2006 Ten Chinese with Fortune and Intelligence”, “2011 Leader of the Year” by All Asian Leaders magazine, “2012 Forbes 25 Influential Chinese in Global Fashion”, “Ten Outstanding Chinese” by 2013 International Chinese Media Award, and “2013 Charming People” by Southern People Weekly.

Mr Hon Kwok Lung is a winner of the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards 2015 Hong Kongn, receiving the Special Achievement Award. The Awards were held on 14 October 2015 at Island Shangri-La Hotel, Hong Kong.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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