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Legacy and leadership: Building your team for tomorrow
Business is, at the end of the day, about relationships. Here, we learn about how putting people at the heart of your strategy can pay off in the long run, and how to weigh up the risks and opportunities of going against the grain.
Building a successful business that can adapt to change requires focusing on a product or service you are passionate about, and scrutinising exactly what your future customers want – or need - from it.
And while, in the beginning, it can be a case of taking one step at a time, the idea of your business’ legacy is one that should be kept front of mind even if your company is only in its infancy. Arguably, there is no more important a time to think about what you want to create – and what you want to leave behind.
Your leadership and your legacy can be defined by the moments shared, the decisions made, the actions taken, and even the mistakes overcome throughout the many phases of your career. Leadership done right is a reinvention process – a continuous discovery that informs your mindset, new skill sets and aptitudes. This means that getting into the habit of questioning and challenging what you are creating will provide invaluable depth of thought to improve your leadership approach, and help you future-proof your business.
Nurturing the next gen
Jennifer W.F Liu founded her first startup, online property plaform PP.com, in 2000, before moving into the food and drinks industry. Having uncovered a passion for creating relaxed, friendly spaces where customers could eat, drink and socialise, Jennifer then launched caffè HABITŪ before founding specialty coffee houses such as The Coffee Academïcs, Roastary Lab and Blanc’scape.
Today, Jennifer owns the number 1 specialty coffee brand in Hong Kong, but she admits that thinking about her business’ legacy came relatively late in the game for her.
“When you’re an entrepreneur, there are times when you forget about all the other important things in life and you’re just all about setting up the business, building a team, and conquering many different markets,” she says.
“The word ‘legacy’ only recently came to my mind. For me, it’s about being able to mentor the next generation within my company so that I can pass on important core values, important history, and the lessons I’ve learned or that the company has learned – things that are important to us.”
Whatever stage your business is at, it’s never too early to start thinking about what legacy means to you. Looking to the future means looking to the generation that will be responsible for the running of your company. Beginning to find ways to support, inform and educate your team with what you’ve learned so far will help ensure that you are doing what you can to best-prepare your business for the future.
Dare to be different
One of the key factors that has contributed to Jennifer’s success over the years has been the courage to be different and to turn what had been a traditional business model on its head.
For Jennifer, putting people at the heart of her strategy enabled her to build a brand that stood out, and was more in-line with changing customer expectations.
“It took us four or five years to really get to the public and register in people’s minds,” she says. “For the first few years, people were wondering: ‘Are they going to last? What are they trying to do? What’s their positioning?’ I’m actually lucky that we had free wi-fi in the very beginning and we never turned away guests who just had one cup of coffee [and sat] for a few hours, because they were the first people who spread the word for us.
“If I had followed the traditional hotel school way of thinking, which is how many tables per square feet and how many turns per hour and all that, I don’t think we’d be where we are today, because we would be too mechanical. I don’t think business is just transactional – it is really about relationships.”
Building a sustainable future
We are living in a time of increased awareness around the importance of sustainability and of considering the part we all play in addressing climate change. It would be remiss, then – and potentially counter-productive – to consider your legacy without giving serious thought to your ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) strategy.
“The most important thing I want to bring out is really our ESG commitment, which is the environmental, and also the sustainability part of our business. It’s very important to me now to be explaining all the work we have done these past years to the next generation. I want them to understand that, apart from being profitable and expanding, it’s also about how to give back to the world and give back to society.”
To this end, Jennifer has been involved in setting up non-profit organisation TCA Connect to help local people in need in the Hong Kong region, and has plans to expand it.
“I hope the next generation really understands this is part of us, part of this company. And that, while we’re doing this, we also have to contribute.”
Top tips for creating a legacy of success
- Take time to consider and review the kind of culture you are creating – and want to create for the future.
- Have the courage to challenge traditional business models if it feels right for your business.
- Keeping customers and staff at the heart of what you do can help build a stronger business.
- Nurture your next generation of talent. They are the future of your company.
- It’s never too early to think about your ESG strategy and the part your business could play in creating a cleaner, greener world.
If you’re looking for the tools, connections and support to pursue your growth goals and to find out more about how HSBC is supporting female entrepreneurs, please visit this page.
Profit with purpose: Uncovering the values of success
Success in business is often about finding the ability to learn from your mistakes, dust yourself off and try again. Here, serial entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow OBE explains why grit is so important in creating a thriving business – and how building a strong network can help you create a bright legacy for future.