Building, sharing the bread of life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 September, 2011, 12:00am


Based in Shanghai, Roberto Lee Jnr - Hyder Consulting regional managing director for East Asia - has worked with various companies in the region, handling business development, multinational contract negotiations and government projects. In 2004, Lee founded Fresh Bread & Company in China, achieving over US$2 billion (HK$15.6billion) in sales. A strong believer in the benefits of MBAs, Lee himself holds three such degrees, including a dual Global Executive MBA. He talks to Chris Davis

What does your day-to-day work involve?

With projects across the region, I spend about 90 per cent of my time travelling. I enjoy taking a hands-on approach and like to maintain good relations with our clients, which involves meeting them regularly. I also rely on technology to stay in close contact with our East Asia executive board.

What's the most exciting part of your job?

Nine months into my role, I am pleased with the way we are revitalising the company across the region and that we have grown the headcount by about 20 per cent. We plan to continue this momentum to optimise the tremendous growth opportunities we see.

What are the challenges you face at work and how do you handle them?

Depending on the timing and type of challenge, I generally prefer to deal with personnel issues head on. However, if the outcome is likely to impact our regional business, I consult with my executive board and take time to think about my decision. Our board plays a very important role in the direction of the company.

What is the key to being an effective leader and building a strong team?

I believe in accessible, open communication channels. It's also crucial to be straightforward and ethical. I am aware of the nuances of different cultures and the differences involved with working with people from across Asia. Even on the mainland, there are cultural differences. If you do not pay attention to cultural sensitivities, you risk alienation and high staff turnover.

From an employer's perspective, what do you look for in employees?

One of my key philosophies is mentoring and supporting employees. As a premium tier-one engineering, infrastructure, urban design consultancy company, our recruitment processes have become quite stringent. Our people-focused recruitment is based on clear key performance indicators. One of the main traits we look for in employees is passion for their work and their career. In addition to academic ability, we want people who are not simply expecting to get rich, but contribute energy and drive combined with an international outlook. Unfortunately, this is a rare combination, which means we are hiring from a small pool of talent.

What are your company's short- and long-term goals over the next few years?

Our strategy in Asia is to continue expanding aggressively - at the minimum, doubling our headcount to about 1,000. Our group looks at Asia and, in particular, China and Vietnam as key growth areas. Growth also means opportunities for employees in terms of experience and climbing the ladder, which comes with pressure and expectations.

How do you unwind?