With self-confidence, the right business strategies and effective management skills, Francis Kwok Ching-kwong, founder and chief executive of Radica Systems, has built a 50-strong e-marketing company with sales operations across Asia. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology graduate develops strategies and manages key accounts. He is keen to attract talented people and ensure that they are happy at work. Why did you start your own business shortly after you graduated? I was inspired by a professor who showed me the immense possibilities the world of the internet offers, as well as my visit to Peking University when I was at HKUST. Students there were so thrilled about having an e-mail account - albeit having to share just one among them - because it made their lives so much easier. I was in awe of the sweeping changes brought about by the internet and wanted to be involved in the business as early as possible.
What challenges did you encounter in setting up Radica? The internet bubble burst when I started the firm. But I believed that with the right strategy I would secure business opportunities. I decided to approach clients who were “early adapters” – rising stars occupying senior positions in their company. They would likely be willing to try new things and take risks. Using this strategy, I secured two major clients. I also received HK$2 million from a government fund to support research and development at my firm.
Who are your sources of inspiration? [Political and spiritual leader of India] Mohandas Ghandi and [American president] Abraham Lincoln. Ghandi was a political leader with immense courage. Starting a business too, requires a lot of courage. Entrepreneurs are often not motivated by the dollar sign but by the desire to achieve something challenging. Lincoln was a man of steely determination. He lost many elections and encountered many obstacles in abolishing slavery but never gave up. What are the difficulties in doing research and development (R&D) in Hong Kong? It isn’t easy to carry out R&D in Hong Kong. The government says it supports R&D but in reality this isn’t often the case. HongKongers don’t have the long-term vision required for R&D to thrive. Many people are interested in making quick money by buying stocks and speculating in properties.
You run a young company with many members of staff belonging to the post-80s generation. How do you manage them? I don't see myself managing them as such. I try to lead them to do what they want to achieve. Communication is key, and I make my staff take charge of things so that they put themselves in the shoes of the boss. For example, I once put them in charge of the entertainment committee but they hesitated on things as simple as whether to buy a Wii or not. They did not want to use illegal software but the budget would not allow the purchase of legal software. They realised how difficult decision-making could be. It is also important to give young people a career path and a sense of hope. We have been able to do so.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt as a CEO? To find the right person for each and every position in the company.
What is your advice for young people? Be confident and play on your strengths. Many students in Hong Kong do not have to worry too much about their livelihood. While some people may consider this bad and say young people are spoiled, this can actually be an advantage. If you want to pursue a career in furniture design, build your portfolio, go to Europe with a backpack and find a job there. Borrow money from your parents to support your trip for half a year. If you cannot make it, you have nothing to lose. But you have taken bold steps to pursue your dream.
Ad100 Top Men of Online Advertising, 2009
President (policies and industrial standards), Hong Kong Association of Interactive Marketing, 2009-2010
Business adviser, SUCCESS of Hong Kong Trade and Industry Department, 2009-2010