Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Learning from a truly great entrepreneur

The ninth richest man in the world Li Ka-shing spoke of his humble beginnings to an empire built on shipping, banking, construction, satellite TV and real estate.

Defying the odds: Li with CKGSB dean Xiang Bing (second from left) at an event marking the 10th anniversary of the school in Beijing. - CHOW HOW BAN/The Star

IT was difficult to understand Li Ka-shing speaking in Mandarin.

I would have appreciated his wisdom more if he spoke in Cantonese at the 10th anniversary celebration of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing recently.

Except for Li’s “broken” Mandarin, I was captivated along with the crowd, who packed the hall to listen to what this legendary Hong Kong tycoon had to say.

He started by telling a story of his childhood and how he defied the odds predicted by a fortune teller.

“When I was 14, a fortune teller from our hometown told my mother that it might be difficult for me to have any big success as I was listless and slim to bare bones.

“My mother had lost her husband not long ago and the soothsayer’s remarks made her very miserable. She then consoled and encouraged me: ‘Ah Shing, it’s hard to predict one’s destiny and God will surely reward kind and hardworking people. If life is really hard for you, your family is there for you.’

“Of course, I trusted my mother but I had even greater faith in myself.

“I believed that the future we build for ourselves is our only destiny,” he said.

It was a simple story yet it made a huge impact on the students of the school.

The story explains how this boy from Chaozhou in Guangdong province persevered during the Japanese Occupation and later worked as a salesman before founding his plastics manufacturing factory and eventually building the Cheung Kong business empire that includes shipping, banking, construction, satellite TV and real estate.

The 84-year-old billionaire, who was ranked by Forbes as the ninth richest man in the world this year with an estimated fortune of US$25.5bil (RM77.6bil), said that tomorrow would just be another new day but the future would be something that one beholds and works on to improve himself, chase his dream and create a destiny of his own.

He said once a person attained success, he would have to move on with other goals and think of what self-values he could contribute to society.

“Looking back at my life, it was like a dream but certainly not. Seventy years have passed by and the slim and listless boy who was looked down by his fellow countryman has relied on work and self-confidence to make himself stronger yet lower his ego in pursuing his dream,” he said.

This was perhaps Li’s third official speech, entitled “The hero of action”, at his meeting with Cheung Kong students. Li and his Li Ka Shing Foundation donated a great deal of money in the founding of the school in 2002.

In his first speech entitled “The art of making money” 10 years ago, Li said that as business leaders, they would need to possess foresightedness, innovativeness and international perspective and take good control of the latest and most accurate information to make the right decisions, while maintaining a good rapport with their employees.

Li’s second speech – “The art of devoting” – delivered in 2004, touched on the spirit of giving back to society after one had amassed a fortune. He said there were businessmen who became wealthy by doing illegal business in Hong Kong but these people would falter faster compared to those who upheld their principles of doing proper business.

From the art of making money to the art of giving back and now back to the very courage to make the first move and challenge the odds, the students have certainly learned a spectrum of knowledge and experience from one of the most respectable tycoons in China.

At the 10th anniversary celebration, another legendary entrepreneur Liu Chuanzhi also offered his advice to the students, professors and staff of the school.

The founder of the Lenovo Group, which is the second largest computer maker in the world, said many senior executives in Lenovo were not trained in business administration but the emergence of graduate schools in China in the past decade had provided them with a chance to take up executive MBA programmes.

“My hope for all graduate business schools is that they are not only able to teach their students how to cook but more importantly how to come out with the recipe,” he said.
The crowd applauded at the end of Liu’s address, awaiting their turn to build an empire of their own in this opportune era in China.

Made In China
By CHOW HOW BAN The Star/Asia News Network 

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