In 2010, Ken Chu and his father, David Chu, together ranked ninth in the “World’s Golf Power List” of the US Golf Inc magazine. Now, having inherited the world’s largest golf club from his father (who died last year), Mission Hills Group chairman and CEO Ken Chu has also inherited his late father’s dream – to elevate the 15,000-staff group to new heights, by transforming Hainan into an international tourism island.
What is golf to you? Golf is a business language, a social networking tool, a medium to link the East and the West. I believe that if I did not know the “language”, I would be disconnected from the business world as well.
But I didn’t think like this until I returned to Hong Kong from Toronto 16 years ago. Before then, I regarded golf as merely a retirement sport. What’s the secret behind Mission Hills’ success? It is the offering of “golf and more”. Besides golf courses, we develop many other facilities, such as hotels, spas, facilities for children, and a wide variety of restaurants.
At the end of the day, everybody gets together and has fun. We can enhance our guests’ overall business, entertainment, and even family reunion experiences. What changes have you seen in the golf business over the years? In the past decade, golf was widely regarded as an elite sport, and now it has become more mass-market, more popular. I think that this is because people today have a healthier lifestyle. As a sport, golf becomes part of life – especially for those aged 40 and above. This is because it doesn’t require enormous amounts of strength or endurance.
Meanwhile, golf has gone beyond the territory of sport to become a tourism industry. This industry is different from that of the sightseeing one. It is an interactive type of tourism, in which people visit the destination over and over again.
Is Mission Hills going to expand worldwide? Currently, in China, the demand for golf courses is much higher than the available supply, and everyone wants to have a stake in China given its economic growth.
Meanwhile, there are many countries which need China’s investments – Chinese money – for their economies.
In fact, we have been approached by lots of overseas developers for collaboration purposes. I leave the door open, but China remains our focus.
Describe your daily routine. I wake up at six in the morning and go to bed at 11 in the evening each day as a golden rule.
I spend around one hour doing exercises daily, and I normally take four flights a week travelling between Hong Kong and the mainland.
As the CEO of a 15,000-employee group, what’s your leadership style? I am a perfectionist, but the corporate culture of Mission Hills is very democratic.
We adopt “collective-decision making”, which leads to understanding between departments. This is important, as it enables everyone within the group to walk at a consistent pace, and to walk quickly together.
To me, it is essential to identify one’s strengths and weaknesses, and to find those who can offset your own weaknesses to work with you. This is how I formed my team, and I encourage my staff to do so too.
This way, every member can learn to respect and appreciate one another.
In which ways has your father influenced you? Many of my principles are inherited from him, such as: “No pain, no gain”, “You reap what you sow”, and “You lead by example.” My devotion to work is also from him.
What’s your plan for the next five years? I’m going to fulfil my father’s dream, and make his visions happen. Hainan is being transformed into an international tourism island, a policy set by the [Chinese] central government in 2009. To do so, they need to develop various attractions, and golf is just one of them.
We have found the best people in their respective fields to collaborate with us on the new developments. And the investment for the next two years in Haikou alone is worth 5 billion renminbi (about HK$6.16 billion), and it is just the beginning. In all, we will make the international tourism island much more entertaining. That’s something that my father wanted to achieve, and I’m going to complete it.