Set up in Guangzhou in 1906 and headquartered in Hong Kong, Li & Fung has long been admired for its customer-oriented culture that respects employees, its combination of entrepreneurial flair and sustainable practices, and its carefully controlled budget that aims to maximise resources.
Today, the company is on a worldwide hunt for the best and brightest who will mesh well with its culture, and smoothly transition into their position within the 37,000-employee firm. It has 240 offices and distribution centres in more than 40 economies around the globe.
Li & Fung is recruiting a third intake for its Programme for Management Development (PMD), which will commence in July this year with high-level training that will take participants to different parts of the world.
Competition is strong. In the previous two years, the programme received an average of 1,300 applications. This year, 25 to 30 people will actually be placed, joining the 66 existing management associates.
A university degree, excellent English and 3-5 years’ work experience are required. Applicants should also be respectful of others, good team players, customer-oriented and loyal. “Entrepreneurial spirit is very important at Li & Fung,” says Joanne Ho, PMD programme director. “The business leaders of our units tailor the running of their businesses to their customers and market needs.”
She says applicants must be ready to travel and relocate during training and full-time employment.
The programme focuses on building up a solid understanding of supply chain management, and Li & Fung’s businesses. Participants experience two to three rotations at core business units, such as trading, distribution, retail and logistics in different parts of the world.
“The rotations are set up according to business requirements, the management associates’ background and their interests,” Ho says.
Jamie Lee, senior merchandise manager for Camberley Enterprises – a Li & Fung company – joined with four years’ work experience as a business consultant and an MBA in hand. He spent one of his job rotations in Malaysia, learning about logistics; another in New York, where he learned about distribution and men’s apparel; and he spent time at Circle K.
“After the rotation, we had to deliver a report on what we had learned, and give recommendations,” he says. “After I finished the rotation at Circle K, I put together a paper using a business model to show how it could be applied at Circle K.”
Li & Fung also organises two-week business education stints in Hong Kong, New York and Shanghai.
In Hong Kong, candidates learn about supply chain best practices; in New York, they visit “best-in-class” companies, such as Saks, Macy’s, Time News Corp and the Waldorf Hotel.
In Shanghai, the group meets with government officials to understand what they expect from foreign investors, and to learn about cultural differences and their impact.
“The three placements offered a very good perspective on what Li and & Fung does, and an insight into the future,” says Lee. “We also connected with each other and built relationships with each other.”
After one year, management associates land in a more longer-term position and will participate in a mentorship programme offered by senior executives.
This programme not only helps talented individuals to catch up fast and eventually head up a business unit or become a general manager. It also aims at developing a young leadership team who know each other, irrespective of borders, and boosting synergies across the group.