Awards seek all-rounders

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 June, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 June, 1993, 12:00am

AN obvious question must greet the opening of the annual nominations of the DHL-South China Morning Post Business Awards: by selecting one person as the winner in each category, do not the judges overlook equally capable executives who are working just ashard as the winners for their companies and the community? It is a fair question. Business is, after all, not a simple track event, with an outright victor. It is more of a marathon than a sprint - although the best analogy would be the decathlon, in which the winner has to master a wide variety of skills, and excel in all.

The point behind such awards is that they provide an opportunity for a community to ask what it most wants from its entrepreneurs.

After all, they can wield great power within a community, but are not accountable except to their shareholders as long as they obey the law.

Such awards should place emphasis on skills other than purely financial - some of the biggest successes in purely financial terms have proved to have been built on sand.

The judging must, therefore, go beyond the profit and loss account. Even community service, if it consists of little more than grand philanthropic gestures, does not make the well-rounded character that should be publicly recognised.

Building hospitals is very nice, but not if the benefactor's factories are breaking anti-pollution rules and providing the patients.

Infallibility is desirable but not essential. One of last year's winners, Eddy Tsang of Ocean Information, had to reveal disappointing profits shortly after receiving the Young Entrepreneur Award.

But entrepreneurship is about risk taking, and that means accepting the possibility of bad years without being daunted.

In Hongkong's circumstances, there is emphasis on political skills as well as financial expertise.

Judgements about issues on the mainland and the ability to balance a company's strategy are crucial to long-term development.

And that is what the awards are ultimately about. Those nominated should be able to provide sustainable growth, add to the quality of life for the territory's citizens and their company's workforce, as well as, of course, give fair treatment and above-average returns to investors.