James Thompson, founder and chairman of global moving service Crown Worldwide Group, had just $1,000 in the bank when he set up his small office five decades ago in Yokohama, Japan.
By 1970, Transport Services International, as the company was called then, had expanded into Hong Kong, riding on its dedication to providing quality service.
That was soon followed by forays into Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asia-Pacific locations, and in 1975, the company was renamed as Crown Pacific. The company currently operates in some 60 countries and regions and has expanded to become the world’s largest privately held group of international logistics and related services companies, according to Thompson.
The current company name of Crown Worldwide Group aims to reflect that global scope.
“Customers like to have a global partner to work with, in some places we have done extremely well and some places not so well. During the last three or four years, we shut down some small offices in Africa, as we saw no immediate future. We may go back later,” he said.
In Hong Kong, Crown Worldwide Group has five different businesses, Thompson told China Daily, but the first one is “moving and relocation”.
“We help families relocate to Hong Kong from someplace else in the world or from Hong Kong to other places,” he said.
He added that physical packing is one thing, but many foreign companies when they send employees to Hong Kong need a lot of other services, including finding homes, getting the expats’ children to school, and even helping expats learn about the cultural differences.
“(That is) because companies believe that if we can train or assist these people, they will get settled quickly and do their business sooner.”
Another service it provides is “records management or document storage”, said Thompson, explaining that most businesses — especially banks, law firms and accounting firms — have many documents and papers that they must retain by law.
Because office rents in Hong Kong are so high, they do not want to keep these piles of documents in their offices.
So Crown set up a service to store such documents in outside facilities, and retrieve them when customers want.
“It has become very big business for us in Hong Kong. Very profitable,” said Thompson.
Crown Worldwide Group is also into logistics, Thompson said, but specializes mainly in highfashion goods, well-known labels, dresses and men’s clothing — “Dunhill (and) those kinds of companies,” he said.
“So the goods come to our warehouses, we hang them up, we check for quality, we put on price tags, and then when we are given the order, we deliver them to shops in Central or wherever.”
In keeping with its quest for diversification, Crown entered the wine cellars business in Hong Kong in 2002.
It also owns four properties in the city, in Sha Tin and Yuen Long, for use as business and storage facilities.
Striking out on his own in 1965 with just $1,000 in the bank, David Thompson now heads a global firm with business ranging from relocation and document storage to wine cellars.