Profitability in turbulent times

Karen Lai

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SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) tend to seek short-term survival strategies in an economic downturn. However, such strategies are not good enough to support a business in the long term. CityU's Department of Management invited

seasoned business leaders in the catering, IT and apparel industries to share their insights on effective management strategies at the "Building Profitability in Turbulent Time" seminar held 25 July. The seminar attracted more than 50 participants from different professions.

Although SARS took a toll on the local market, new opportunities have arisen in the form of concessions by the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that will help revitalize Hong Kong's economy. "Economic hard times are not a dead end. They only prompt us to acquire new models and strategies," said Professor Leung Kwok, Head of the Department of Management, at his opening speech.

Speakers at the seminar related the hard times they had survived and the management lessons they learned. "Initially, we were very passive as SARS affected Hong Kong in March. However, the crisis presented a good opportunity for Hong Kong caterers to join hands in promoting the industry. What's more, restaurants now are more careful about hygienic conditions," said Mr Simon Wong, Group Chairman and Managing Director of the Kampery Group of Companies. He noted the "We Love Hong Kong" campaign---the prompt and concerted effort of Hong Kong airline companies, restaurants and other retailers to help Hong Kong get over SARS. There has been a slight post-SARS economic upturn in the retail industry.

Identify core strengths and seek partnerships
Intense competition and ever-changing market needs have resulted in price wars and increased speed in development of new products. Mr Nicky Lo, Managing Director of Laser Computers Limited, a hardware and software distributor with outlets in 20 cities in China, said that it was important to identify an organization's core strength and seek partnerships in logistics, electronic data processing and finance. Mr Raymond Tan, Executive Vice President of Luen Thai International Group Ltd, a leading apparel manufacturing firm, shared his insights on a full-fledged production and supply chain collaboration model, which provided a good example of value-added services to thwart difficult times. He said his company has been providing one-stop services to clients and that a good management team proved significant in enabling the company to cope with change.
Mr Eddie Yu
, Associate Professor of the Department of Management, pinpointed that enterprises should identify their distinctiveness and develop this into a sustainable competitive advantage. "Budget cuts and down-sizing are factors hindering creativity and long-term growth," Mr Yu said. Analyzing how to strengthen businesses in terms of production, marketing and innovation, he cited examples of successful enterprises such as Dell and Luen Thai to explain the importance of a company mission and long-term management strategies.

CEPA's benefits to Hong Kong's economic growth are not clear yet, as this is the preliminary stage. The speakers agreed that it would definitely provide more opportunities to Hong Kong and urged the government to take the lead in clarifying CEPA's terms, such as tariff concessions.

The seminar ended with a very satisfying Q&A session covering a number of critical topics, including human resources management, strategies in expanding the mainland market, and Hong Kong's niche vis-a-vis other Chinese cities.

 

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