[Sponsored Article] The word cool, by the way, is an oft-used expression by the company's own management. HKBN’s Co-Owner and Group CEO Ni Quiaque Lai, commonly known as NiQ, uses the expression to show approval of his colleagues' requests. He believes the company can and will do great things, by being fortified by the right people. As such, he sets out to develop the right colleagues for the company. People following the firm’s culture will notice that employees are referred to as “Talents” in the company, and with a capital T, while collectively they are called HKBNers. According to the company’s latest interim report, HKBN boasts close to 6,000-strong Talents, across jurisdictions in Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Mainland China, Macau and, of course, Hong Kong. After a jump of over 40 per cent in the numbers of HKBNers since last summer’s count, the company needs all the skills it has up its sleeve to keep this energetic workforce motivated. This impressive staff increase followed last year's acquisitions of other two ICT companies—JOS and WTT, the former bringing on board a strong presence in multiple Asian markets. Inspired Talents HKBN tries to grow with, and inspire its Talents. Recently, NiQ hosted a webcast featuring American best-selling author and world-renowned speaker on leadership, Simon Sinek, and founder of Cambodian Children's Fund, Scott Neeson. During the programme, the webcast attracted thousands of viewers, including many of the company's business partners. Avid reader NiQ is a keen follower of Sinek, who has penned such popular books as Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, Together is Better, and more recently, The Infinite Game. In addition, with over 50 million views, Sinek's How Great Leaders Inspire Action is the second most popular TED talk speaker of all time. Sinek explains the importance of company culture and leadership, emphasising an organisation's just cause. "Culture equals value plus action," he says, and trust plays an important role in leadership. "The best natural leaders are the people who look after other people around themselves, and gain the trust of them." Sinek likes HKBN for its culture by design. In HKBN, he sees an attribute he can always associate with a great organisation—leadership. The leadership, that makes their Talents their number one priority, would do everything to protect and promote their careers. Following last year’s completion of two acquisitions by HKBN, the company has entered a new growing phrase. Sinek takes the opportunity to speak out the importance of taking culture seriously. "One of the biggest mistakes one can make as far as a merger and acquisition is concerned is that [companies] forget about the culture, and fail to think if new people are those they get along with." Sinek cannot emphasise enough the importance of an organisation's “just cause” —the vital question of "why" the organisation exists. If an organisation has created an internal competition environment where it only advances people to the top based on performance, encouraging unethical behaviour, he warns that such a culture could eventually bring down that organisation. For HKBN, according to NiQ, the company's just cause is the core value it follows to "Make our Home a Better Place to Live." This is central to everything HKBN works for. The Call to Make our Home a Better Place to Live In the company’s early days, HKBN pledged to "Make our Home a Better Place to Live." They kept this vow by first reaching out to the lower income groups in Hong Kong—before meeting the needs of the city's more affluent residents and large corporate customers. Remembers NiQ: "HKBN offered rocket-fast broadband service to customers in the early 2000s for a monthly subscription fee of just HK$99." This when other companies in the sector charged five times more than us. And in the years since then, the company has built, hands-down, the most comprehensive broadband networking service, covering numerous public housing estates, and remote villages, locations which were often overlooked and ignored by its competitors. Joining the company in 2004 was a genuinely “life-changing decision" for NiQ. Indeed, he had to make the hard decision of taking a whopping 80 per cent pay cut—compared to what he earned as an analyst in a huge asset management firm—to join the HKBN team. He even sold his house so as to free up capital to join the company's now famous Co-Ownership programme. The fact that HKBN has just involved their business in a start-up investment, while the effect of the cash outflow is yet to be seen in the next seven years, was a big question mark for him for once, if not for the company's purpose. Today, NiQ jokes that it's very difficult for other companies to copy the successful formula of HKBN, as that company would have to be quite prepared to invest money for seven years. Of course, looking back at HKBN’s development, the executive has a more nuanced view. "The [broadband] network is only as strong as the weakest link," he explains the nature of the business is the fixed cost. HKBN has kept building until it completed the network, and then the business case became very strong. Perhaps driven by sharing the same purpose between the company and its Talents, HKBN’s co-ownership programme remains as strong as ever. The programme is not a stock option. "The key issue,” NiQ explains, “is that employees invited to join the programme must put their personal savings in as an investment —to be in the game." Right now, around 930 HKBN Talents, representing the majority of supervisory and managerial level executives, are Co-Owners of the company. They have invested their own savings to acquire shares in HKBN or invest a portion of their salary towards a common KPI for the beyond-Hong Kong business of HKBN. HKBN has demonstrated the trust it places on its Talents like few other companies in this sector ever have. Many of the company's new Talents can easily be awed by HKBN’s unique culture for the first time. Before long, they could find that one of the most impressive of their company’s initiatives is its celebrated Life-Work priority, which is believed to be the cornerstone of motivated Talents. And once this is explained to them, they very quickly see why it is indeed a cool idea being HKBNers.