On weekends, Adolf Hsu Hsung prefers to ride the bus. The managing director of New World First Holdings can afford more glamorous forms of the orange and white buses within his company's 750-vehicle fleet, but finds this is a great way to stay in contact with front-line workers. He talks to bus drivers, terminal workers and fleet supervisors for a close-up view of what is happening curb side. Mr Hsu says: 'It provides a two-way exchange of views and will help me in mapping out future strategy and to get direct feedback. From Monday to Friday, I go to work in the office, but on Saturday and Sunday I try to use the buses as much as I can.' No doubt Mr Hsu's weekly visits to the garage are also a big morale booster for staff, but he deflects any praise or self-aggrandisement, saying the visits are part of his management responsibilities. 'My golden principles are to work out good strategy and then try and communicate it well to the staff. I have a team of senior staff, they all understand what I am trying to do and what the board wants us to do.' Most stock market watchers are more familiar with the Hang Seng Index constituent New World Development, the parent of New World First Holdings. Oriented around a transport-related theme, the subsidiary has greater visibility on the streets and waters of Hong Kong. New World First Holdings includes bus services, ferry services within Hong Kong waters, vehicle parking and ferry services to Macau. The overall strategy, born with the launch of New World First Bus in 1998, is to invest heavily in new equipment and train staff to provide excellent front-end service. The first two years of bus operations saw the company purchase 500 new double-decker buses. This strategy was repeated during the introduction of ferry operations with the purchase of 10 new boats, five for Hong Kong water services and five for the Hong Kong to Macau run. Another three catamarans are under construction in Guangzhou. 'Our strategy was the same as for our bus operations - the same modus operandi - what I like to call the hardware and the software,' Mr Hsu says. 'In the case of the bus operations, we brought in new vehicles. On the software part, we retrained all staff to provide much better quality service to passengers.' New World First Ferry Services, launched in early 2000, was an early hit with customers, although the operation lost money for the first two years before earning HK$13 million in the 2001-2 financial year. The operating profits are 'nowhere' near enough to cover the costs of all the new boats and equipments, and as a result, the company is shifting focus. 'There are perhaps better prospects for the Kowloon to Macau run because of the increased number of tourists travelling from China,' says Mr Hsu, noting the operation recorded a profit of HK$8 million in the financial year last financial year. Mr Hsu says he does not try to emulate the management methodology of others, admitting the pressures of work keep him from reading too many books or magazines on the subject. 'I am sort of groping in the dark myself. I sort of learn the job as I go along.' Mr Hsu is credited with weaving together four transport-related companies under an innovative management structure. He organised New World First Bus around four divisions - operations, administration, corporate communications and finance, each with clear objectives and performance indicators. To encourage accountability and motivate senior staff, he established a system of regular performance-review meetings, including bi-weekly briefings and monthly management reports, which are consolidated and presented to the board. An employee relations programme, including a hotline for complaints and feedback was established. Despite the economic downturn, New World has been able to attain dramatic profits growth in its bus services by rationalising routes to reduce costs. As of June 30, the company recorded an increased net profit before tax of HK$180 million. This constitutes the third successive year New World First Bus has recorded significant profit growth. The company plans to expand bus services in the new Kowloon reclamation area, exercising franchise rights recently granted by the government. Looking to the future, Mr Hsu says the strategy is to expand services to mainland cities, beginning with a joint-venture call station to answer transport enquiries in Guangzhou and also to explore transport opportunities in northern mainland cities. When asked if he has any advice for young managers, Mr Hsu says: 'Never be afraid of trying any new job, because there is always something to learn. Put your heart and soul into anything that you do and do not be afraid to take up challenges.'