'In the East, we've to run a company like one big family'

Updated: 2017-03-10 08:00

By Sophie He in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Jonathan Choi Koon-shum is chairman of Hong Kong-based Sunwah Group, which was founded by his father Choi Ka-yau and has since grown into a multi-national corporation with diversified interests in real estate, financial services, media and infrastructure.

"I'm from the second generation (in the company). My father started the business from scratch - from just a small company processing and distributing seafood," he tells China Daily.

Choi, who took over as chief executive of the company in 1982, studied literature at college in Japan. But, his father didn't like that, so he had to return to Hong Kong before he could finish his studies and started working in the fish market.

He recalls having to get up at 4.30 each morning and working at the fish wholesale and distribution market from 5 am till very late, sometimes up to 11 pm.

After a few years, his family business expanded into real estate and the company started selling seafood globally. Sunwah Group subsequently took financial services, technology, media, infrastructure and education into its fold.

The diversified businesses provided the company with steady cash flow and allowed it to access some fast growing emerging industries, says Choi.

"I've been involved in my family business for over 40 years, from a small seafood company to a multi-national conglomerate. I've come a long way since."

Choi says what he aims to do now is not to further expand the business, but to put up a good platform to enable him to pass the baton to the next generation in the family.

As the leader of his family business, he describes his management style as a combination of the Western and Eastern management models.

While the Western management style is all about efficiency and the right person for the right job, the Eastern model tells us we should run a company like one big family, he explains.

"So, I want to strike a balance between the two models. Our company represents a big family with strong cohesion - we have employees who have been with us for decades, but we're also creating new roles and developing new business areas for them to enable them to have a fresh start."

Choi says he does understand that young people in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland are very ambitious these days. Some of them aim to achieve great things academically, while others want to succeed in business.

"Whatever they want, they need to know that to realize their dreams, it won't be all smooth sailing. They'll have to work very hard and with a firm will so that they can ride out the tough times."

To achieve a work-life balance, Choi believes that maintaining good health is crucial, both physically and mentally.

He enjoys swimming every day, is dedicated to his job, does everything with a clear conscience and so he sleeps very well.

"I always make sure I'll have some spare time with my family - celebrating holidays together and having family gatherings regularly, which are very important to me."


'In the East, we've to run a company like one big family'

(HK Edition 03/10/2017 page9)