There's more to business than making huge profits. A well-defined corporate culture and a concerted effort by management and staff to pursue the company's vision are keys to attaining business excellence, according to the examining board of the HKMA Quality Award. This year's winners have demonstrated creativity and determination in nurturing corporate culture throughout their operations, leading to improved professionalism, a motivated workforce, and innovative and top quality products and services. The annual event is organised by the Hong Kong Management Association to recognise outstanding performances of Hong Kong firms in leadership, strategic planning, and customer and market focus. 'Effective building of corporate culture will help Hong Kong companies to compete in mainland China or even overseas,' said Matthew Yuen Ming-fai, chairman of the board of examiners. 'Corporate culture is also about quality management; this is not just a slogan. It requires leadership to help build the corporate culture,' said Professor Yuen, who is also head of the department of mechanical engineering at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Beauty centre chain Neo Derm Group won this year's Gold Award. The company has built a distinctive corporate culture. Professor Yuen said: 'The management and the founders are highly involved in the operation. They have demonstrated intense enthusiasm and set an example for the staff.' The company implemented a balanced score card system in which the supervisors closely monitored the performance of individual staff members. 'Although this system puts the staff under great pressure, it has helped build the corporate culture and push individual staff members to deliver their best,' Professor Yuen said. A unique corporate culture also helped build the differentiating characteristics of a company. 'For example, the gold winner created a unique ambience [in its facilities] with luxury decor. This let its customers have an unconventional experience and encouraged them to make frequent visits,' Professor Yuen said. There were two Bronze Award winners: AIA Pension and Trustee and Sylva Industries, which is a battery manufacturer and a subsidiary of Gold Peak Industries (Holdings). 'We did not give out the Silver Award because we agreed that there were areas for further improvement before the Bronze Award winners could reach the level of the Silver Award,' Professor Yuen said. The examiners agreed that there was a learning curve for the Bronze Award winners in working with their parent groups. Examiner and Hang Seng Bank senior network support manager Cliff Cheung Kam-pui said: 'Despite various limitations, all businesses are learning entities. Companies should make sure that all of their components can grow and are part of a learning experience for all the staff and various divisions.' The winner of the Special Award for small- and medium-sized enterprises was Hong Kong Business Intermediary (HKBI), which focuses on sales of businesses. Examiner Jenny Lam Wan Mei-fong said the company identified and anticipated new market needs so that it could carve out a niche for its operation. She is the business improvement manager of Cathay Pacific Airways. Professor Yuen said: '[HKBI] is a pioneer with innovative business ideas. The company is involved in the buying and selling of enterprises. The concept is creative. The company has demonstrated a high level of professionalism. To provide the buyers with sufficient information about a business for sale, the company conducts all necessary due diligence and assesses the prospects and potential risks. All of these assessments and analyses are vital for the long-term healthy development of the client once he has acquired the business. It also provides consultancy on how to run the businesses.' Examiner Newman Lam Kin-man said all staff members of the winning firms recognised the vision and mission of their companies. 'The leadership has clearly defined them. The companies make use of various channels to communicate their vision and mission to all the staff members, including internal publications and e-channels and staff conferences,' Mr Lam said. He is the corporate management accounting manager at Hong Kong and China Gas. Judging of the HKMA Quality Award is based on the criteria of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the United States. Shortlisted applicants for the HKMA Quality Award went through several stages of rigorous assessments, including a 30-minute presentation of their submission and a site visit conducted by the board of examiners to verify information provided in their submission. The finalists were invited to attend a question-and-answer session with the award's panel of judges before the final decision was made. The winning companies recognised training as a cornerstone of professionalism. Examiner Ivy Leung said Neo Derm aligned its training programmes with updated knowledge of its customers' needs gathered through frequent customer surveys. 'Every day staff make telephone calls to customers to learn about their needs and how to improve services further,' Ms Leung said. She is the director of intellectual capital and quality at Langham Place. 'All newly recruited beauty therapists are provided with six weeks of training as soon as they join the company ... there is no requirement for any binding period whatsoever,' Ms Leung said. Mr Lam said these HKMA Quality Award winners provided adequate platforms to develop the potential of staff and helped them diversify their skills. Some had dedicated quality management teams that involved all levels of staff to help improve workplace skills, such as problem solving. Mr Cheung said another trait shared by all winners was the emphasis on the quality of life of their customers and staff. 'Neo Derm closes on Sundays so that its staff can spend time with their families and friends.'