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Real Business : Issue 3 2008
BEYOND FINANCE OSWALD CHAN CPA HAD A LOT TO LEARN WHEN HE DECIDED TO BECOME HIS OWN BOSS Hong Kong-based member of CPA Australia was looking to become an entrepreneur, he teamed up with three other professionals – a lawyer and two other accountants – and sought out sectors that were growing and could provide a good income stream. They found that education, beauty and health were on the up, and decided to launch a business that combined all three. Chan and his three male colleagues didn’t know O too much about the heady world of nail care and spa treatments, but that didn’t faze them. They knew the fundamentals of what made a good business, particularly from a financial viewpoint, and figured that with thorough research and good advice they could fill in the gaps. “A CPA is just like a doctor in a hospital – accounting is just like an X-ray for a company’s health,” Chan says. “The most crucial element in the company is accounting. “[Many people] have very good marketing skills, but in terms of the business, in terms of how to survive and how to manage financial methods, they are not very good. That’s why many businesses fail.” Chan admits he has much to learn when it comes to sales and marketing, but is prepared for a hard slog to grow the business, Glow Concept, that he and his three partners opened two months ago. He knows that the path ahead could be rocky: “Of course I will fail [at times], because [few] people can do things the first time … I will encounter failure and then I will use failure to know myself a little bit better.” Chan began his undergraduate degree at Perth’s Curtin University of Technology, returning after a year to Hong Kong to study by distance education. He qualified as a CPA in 2004. Before branching out on his own, Chan worked with Ernst & Young for four years, swald Chan has gone where many men would be scared to go: headfirst into the world of waxing, facials and beauty. When the 33-year-old A BEAUTIFUL BUSINESS specialising in corporate restructuring, insolvency and forensic accounting. It was there that he came into contact with a broad range of business people, from whom he learnt a lot. CHAN AND his associates initially bought an existing business, which had three medical/ beauty centres dotted throughout Hong Kong. After running them for a year to get to “know the tricks and the most important points”, they opened their main centre in the city’s central district, migrated existing customers over and shut down the old shopfronts. Glow Concept is designed for high-stressed professionals who have money to spend on feeling great and looking good. “We are focusing on inside and outside beauty,” Chan says. “The definition of inside beauty in our company represents two things: one is health and the other is emotion. If you have good heath and good emotions, then I’m sure you can achieve inside beauty.” Four out of five of Glow Concept’s clients are women, and Chan says it has been an enlightening journey understanding more about their needs and drivers. He has four older A CPA IS JUST LIKE A DOCTOR IN A HOSPITAL – ACCOUNTING IS JUST LIKE AN X-RAY FOR A COMPANY’S HEALTH. THE MOST CRUCIAL ELEMENT IN THE COMPANY IS ACCOUNTING BY CAROLYN BOYD 22 sisters who offer helpful advice, as well as 12 “very good staff”. But he’s also been reading up on women’s psychology and researching the wellness market. “Men and women are totally different,” he says. “Men always focus on the big picture and women are concerned about the process of getting there … on how exactly they can do that and the detail of the process and every single step.” Chan has been amazed by how much some women spend on their looks, and has been astounded by their purchasing power: “Sometimes over 50 per cent of their income is spent on improving their outward appearance,” he says. Although there’s no shortage of competitors in the beauty market, Chan is confident his business will succeed because it focuses on the whole person and is prepared to listen to the customer. “There are lots of office buildings around us and … I know how stressed [people can get] working as accountants, lawyers and bankers. That’s why we want to provide a paradise, a place the customer can enjoy and have good relaxation, not only for the outside, but the inside, too.” It’s fair to say that Chan has his hands full. While he is developing and growing Glow Concept with the aim of opening a second centre next year, he is also a partner in a small business advisory firm that has eight staff. He spends a couple of hours each morning at the advisory firm, Central Consulting, and sometimes longer if there’s a project on the books that calls on his corporate restructuring expertise. Then it’s off to the beauty clinic to manage things there. Chan envisages always keeping his hand in the consulting side of things. “I won’t give up my primary skills, and doing the consulting is also my interest because that’s what we train for,” he says. And just like the services he offers to his Glow Concept clients, he’s focused on the inside and outside wellbeing of his beauty business. ¦ REAL BUSINESS ISSUE 3, 2008 GRAHAM UDEN
Issue 1 2009