People and prosperity

Tips from the top – never give up

Award-winning Hong Kong entrepreneur Alan Cheung on why succeeding in business takes perseverance

Sometimes a chance is all you need

I began my career as a management trainee with a large garment retailer in Hong Kong and quickly rose to head up the manufacturing division. In 1996, the company underwent a restructuring, and I saw my chance to break out and start my own business with a colleague. Today, Grandion has 4,000 employees and supplies apparel design and manufacturing to some of the world’s leading retailers, with exports to countries across Asia.

Don’t make the same mistake twice

When we started the company, we managed to set up our factory very quickly, but had not accounted for Chinese New Year which meant we had to shut down for the holidays and were unable to make any sales. Having invested all of our money in machinery, we had very little working capital left, so we struggled to pay our suppliers. Luckily, we soon recognised the problem and talked to the bank, and they were able to organise a credit facility to see us through the cashflow problem. After that time, we put in place proper controls, so in the past 19 years we’ve never repeated the mistake.

Passion alone won’t get you there

To make it in business, it’s not enough to be passionate. You need integrity, too, and respect for others. And you need be an innovator, with good ideas and sufficient vision to see them through. The world is changing fast, and doing businesses now means operating in a more complex environment with multiple sources of information and ways of interacting with people, so you need a wide range of skills and character traits to succeed.

Running a business will test your endurance

In the market we’re in, we’ve seen lots of ups and downs in the past two decades, such as the global financial crisis and economic changes in China where our manufacturing facilities are located. When you run a business, you will be faced with many challenges, and you need stamina to overcome them, or you won’t be able to grow your business sustainably. The SARS crisis in 2003, for example, badly affected many businesses in Asia, including ours, but we hung in there and worked closely with our customers and suppliers to see it through. My best advice to others is ‘Never give up’. It is an adage that has served me well over the years.

You can get a lot of pleasure from helping others succeed

We have many passionate young people in Hong Kong who have great ideas but lack opportunities to demonstrate their business talents. I devote a lot of my time to working with these young entrepreneurs, sharing my experience and helping them to get on their way. For example, our company has just launched a great new initiative called To Make Locally (TML), which aims to build powerful Hong Kong brands, by giving entrepreneurs access to top design talent and a free exchange of goods, information and funds – as well as intellectual property right protection. I believe this will help create value, not just for business, but for society in Hong Kong.

Standard Chartered has been providing banking services to Grandion Industrial Ltd. since 2009.