'Thou shalt not be lazy. Thou shalt not be selfish.' Slogans that students expect to hear at school also resound daily in the ears of 1,600 staff at 18 restaurants in gourmet group Lei Garden from the group director Chan Shu-kit. 'Running a business is like warfare,' said Mr Chan, immaculately dressed in a dark suit, whose group spans Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Singapore. 'You have to identify your enemies, and defeat them one by one.' This view, and the 70-year-old's near-religious belief in the virtues of discipline and social responsibility, are hardly surprising given his family background. Mr Chan's father, a general in the Kuomintang army, enrolled him in Huang Po Military School in Guangdong and Virginia Military Institute in the United States, where he also finished bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering. 'All human evils spring from laziness and selfishness,' said Mr Chan, who works seven days a week. 'If a person can flee from these two evil desires, he is set for a good name and a bright future.' This motto helped him grit his teeth through the early years when he made his first sortie into the catering industry in 1973. Having run a private secondary school for more than a decade by then, he decided to close the school when nine years of compulsory education was introduced and opened the first Lei Garden restaurant. With absolutely no knowledge of how to run a restaurant, he lost more than $2 million in the first six years. Others might have called it quits, but he shouldered all the losses to minimise his shareholders' pain, walked into the kitchen and spent three years learning to cook from the bottom up, including how to use a wok and how to make roast pig. 'Put no blame on anyone but yourself when failures come,' he says. 'Clients' benefits come first, company's come second, and mine come last. These are my principles in business.' His philosophy has been fully translated to management as he requires managers and main chefs of all his outlets to join an hour-long telephone call every day for reviews of management and moral conduct. A typical meeting would begin with Mr Chan telling a historical or philosophical story, followed by confessions from participants on the mistakes they have made during the day, with their personality weaknesses revealed in those incidents, and group discussions. It ends with Mr Chan giving advice on how to become a better staff member and a better person. He cited recent cases of pork and fish contamination on the mainland as an illustration of how lack of vision and social responsibility lead to bad results. He said the excessive use of agrichemicals had increased alarmingly in the past decade, producing quicker and heavier harvests at the expense of food quality and safety. 'There are people who run the business only to rob their clients, and they don't concern themselves with the company's well-being as a whole,' he chided. 'The taste of food gets worse, public health gets worse, and the entire food and catering industry is shadowed by mistrust. In the end, they will pay the price.' Long working hours, unattractive salaries, an unprofessional image and poor working environment were deterring educated people from starting a career in the industry, Mr Chan said. But he predicted that more pressure would be put on the entire industry to step up quality control in all aspects, demanding a higher level of professionalism. 'We offer more attractive salaries than our counterparts because we believe people are the most valuable capital,' Mr Chan said. 'And our employees are proud of being part of the Lei Garden because of its reputation for high standards.' Lei Garden already has its own fleet of 10 fishing boats in Thailand, and it is one of Mr Chan's ambitions to grow his own crops and raise poultry to further enhance the quality of his products, and set an example for his business counterparts. 'For me, the Lei Garden is more than a business. I pass on knowledge and values to my staff like teacher to students, and its success serves as a living proof of my beliefs.'