• 5 minute read

Talking to CEO: Michael Tien

Chan, Andrew Chi-fai(陳志輝)

Why Finding Your Passion is Key to a Successful Career

Translated by Tao Tao, PhD Candidate, Department of Marketing, CUHK Business School. Abridged by Mabel Sieh, Managing Editor, China Business Knowledge @ CUHK

In this episode of  Talking to CEOs, hosted by Prof. Andrew Chi-fai Chan, Director of CUHK Business School’s Executive MBA Program, Michael Tien, founder and chairman of G2000 group shares his passion in clothing and the key to a successful career.

Your Interest Is Your Career

Prof. Chan: As a Harvard MBA graduate, many major corporations would like to hire you and you’ve gone into investment banking after graduation. Yet, you chose the retail industry. Why?

Michael Tien: I chose to do retail business because I have a passion in clothing. I enjoyed shopping with my mother since I was young, which is rare for boys. I especially liked shopping with my family during Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, enjoying the festive moods and displays in the malls. I still love it now.

I often tell young people that “your career choice should be driven by your interest”. No matter how poor your academic achievement is, there must be some things you like, such as music or sports. And you can develop what you like into a career. Having an interest means you do it because you enjoy it, not because of fame or money. The time a person spends in his/her lifetime on work is much longer than that on playing and sleeping. If you choose to work in an area you are not interested in, even if it makes you rich and famous, you won’t have a great life. If you don’t enjoy your work, you won’t do it well either. This is what I firmly believe in.

No matter how busy I am, I always make time for my company. I will go in the office and check the newest fabrics and the latest clothing styles, and learn about the current fashion trend. There is not a single day when I don’t wear my own brand of clothes, and there’s not a single style produced without being seen by me. Every time when I see people wearing my products on the street, I’d approach them and ask how they feel about the clothes. They are often very surprised of my asking them until they saw the label inside. This is the passion I have; it’s hard to explain.

“You are the only person who knows where your passion lies.”

Prof. Chan: Your father was in the textile industry. Is your enthusiasm in clothing taken from your father?

Michael Tien: No, my enthusiasm in clothing is not related to my father. However, my sense of responsibility towards the society is indeed influenced by my father. I remember whenever he took his guests to tour around the factory, he always told them how many people he had. His employers grew from 300 initially to 500, then to 2,000 at its peak. Every time he recruited more staff, he would tell others happily. I asked him why not tell how much money he made, and he told me if making money could create more job opportunities, that’s meaningful. I’ve carried on with this philosophy when I started my business.

A lot of my friends stopped running their businesses after they bought some property. They make money on the rent they get. But running a business makes money by the products produced by people. There is no right or wrong. I just prefer the latter because it can create jobs.

Success, Not Failure, is the Mother of Success

Prof. Chan: How did you choose the positioning of G2000, which seems to be narrow with targeted customers of newly graduates within five years?

Michael Tien: We narrow our positioning in order to focus. G2000’s focus is not only to create new jobs, but also social value. It may sound grand and vague but I want to help those young people who step into the society for the first time to acquire their first business suit. They just started out in society and are lack of confidence, taste and budget. So, we position ourselves at giving fresh graduates “the first suit in the society” – a simple and decent suit to leave their boss a good impression. Not only are our suits of excellent value for quality, our styles are easy to match. Our position has not changed in all these years.

Prof. Chan: What about the China market? Is your positioning the same in the mainland?

Michael Tien: It is huge market in China with potential customers close to a billion. But our business isn’t that successful. The reason is a lack of execution. With branches in 40 mainland cities, it will take me four years to visit each of the shops. But I don’t really have the time to do that. The challenges we face in China is not about vision; they need to be resolved by onsite supervision and follow-up work.

Find Your Path by Knowing Yourself

“First, you have to know yourself. This is the most important and the most difficult thing to do in life.”

Prof. Chan: You mentioned about the importance of staying focused. How do we find our focus in life?

Michael Tien: First, you have to know yourself. This is the most important and the most difficult thing to do in life. You are the only person who knows where your passion lies. Someone once asked me to help him find his passion and I told him his passion was his interest. Then, he said he didn’t have any hobbies, and asked me to recommend some for him. There must be something that a person finds interest in. It’s just that we never thought about turning our hobby into a career. I always encourage young people to do so, and change their jobs to suit their interests. Only when you try different kinds of work will you find your interest. Sometimes, you have to lower your expectation or sacrifice a little salary to explore your talents in different positions.

About Talking to CEO

Since 2002, CUHK EMBA has been running the Talking to CEO TV/radio program with Radio Television Hong Kong. Distinguished business leaders, academics and government officials have been invited to share their experiences and insights with CUHK alumni and students.

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