Andrew Wong General manager, SSP HK

How did you reach your current position?

I was trained as an accountant at university. As I was about to enter my career as an auditor, I got a chance to interview for a job with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).

I spent four fruitful years there rotating through various departments, including e-commerce and trade enquiry.

But my passion is in business and I was lucky enough to have a former HKTDC colleague who offered me the chance to join Pacific Coffee. I spent seven years helping the coffee brand develop its local and Mainland businesses.

Then I decided to take on a new challenge to develop business in China and I joined Dairy Farm to expand its retail points on the Mainland.

It was a great organisation to work for, but I am expecting my first child and could no longer travel to China often.

After a rather short stint at Dairy Farm, I joined SSP overlooking its Hong Kong and Taiwan business.

What do you value the most in your talent? I always take passion over technical skills. I believe being passionate about what you do is the most important thing.

When I was working with the coffee machine retail business, one of my top guys was from a civil engineering background.

He impressed customers with detailed reports on the usage rate of coffee machines in different parts of the office building.

Selling coffee machines is not rocket science, but if you are passionate about what you do, you are going to do it well.

What is your approach towards management?

I build trust with my team. I am completely honest with them and I expect them to do the same. Bad news always comes first and we will work together as a team to resolve it.

I try to give staff as much support and trust as I can to put them in a position to be successful. By doing so, staff will be passionate about what they do and will work as hard as if they are running their own business.

I believe in a flat organisation. I respect staff the same way regardless of their duties. I always ask my employees to address me as Andrew, this is quite inspiring for staff on the Mainland who are used to addressing their boss by their title.

What are your HR challenges?

In Hong Kong we operate restaurants under 35 brands. It is a challenge for our HR to recruit and develop versatile talent who are able to operate more than one brand.

But it helps enhance the competitiveness of our talent who are able to manage different types of cuisines and restaurants.

For managers, we require them to have knowledge of more than one brand in order to get promoted. This is a motivation for them as the more brands they are able to manage, the quicker they get promoted.

The challenge is getting front-line staff to buy into this concept. We try to offer career development and exposure to show staff the benefits of becoming more versatile.

We send them for overseas training, coffee competitions, along with opportunities to work at foreign locations under the company.

What do you like doing during your free time?

I love to play soccer. I organise regular tournaments with other restaurant groups. It is a great team-building event for staff from different departments to come together as a team and compete on the football field.