Man for all seasons
A change of season means more to Ricky Szeto than putting on an extra cardigan for that chilly morning. 'The human body changes with the seasons,' says Szeto, CEO of herbal tea company Hung Fook Tong. 'The hands of the earth's living watch affect nature and the weather, which in turn influence the human body.
'In spring, it is humid, so the body gets tired easily. In summer, it is obviously hot. In autumn, it is dry, and a lot of people have dry throats and may suffer from coughs. And in winter it is cold, and the body needs nourishment.'
Szeto says herbal teas help the body stay healthy, and have seasonal flavours. Like any modern corporation, new products and strategic expansion are the order of the day at Hung Fook Tong. Shops selling bottled herbal tea are found in MTR stations, new products are launched, ranging from fusions of herbal teas and other drinks, to Chinese soups and hot meals in business districts.
'People say there is nothing new under the sun, but you can always integrate and you can transfer good ideas to unlikely places,' he says.
With two doctorates and three master's degrees, Szeto is no traditional herbal tea master, though his family started the business. He is also an academic and the head of the department of business administration at Shue Yan University, and a Distinguished Researcher at the Institute of International Economics at Peking University. His research interests range from corporate governance to innovation management.
He has published a book, Your Boss is not Looking for Employees Who Work Like a Cow. 'At the beginning of your career, you should work hard and learn the trade,' he says. 'But as you gain more experience, you should be more innovative and try to improve the business. There are lots of people you can learn from as long as you are humble.'
How does this married man with a young son manage his time? 'The key is to have synergy,' he says. ' I am like the swimming coach who dives into the pool and demonstrates the moves. I teach what I practise in business.'
Szeto says his priority is always family first, then spiritual health (he is a devoted Christian), then his business. 'I am often busy during the day, but in the evening, I always try to go home early and share my time with my family,' he says.
'When I was young, my grandfather gave me and my brothers a Tissot watch each, and I remember it ever since. Today, I am very impressed by the technology in Tissot's sports watches.
'I like Montblanc watches. The company has achieved an excellent brand extension from writing instruments to watches. It is elegant and reliable, and it is a brand for the intelligent consumer.'