‘Sometimes you may fail and have to bear the blow of failure’
For Donald Tse Po-tat, Chairman and Executive Director of Hung Fook Tong, his entry into the Chinese herbal products industry came purely by chance.
He told China Daily that originally, he was a cupboards supplier and had no knowledge of how to make traditional Chinese herbal drinks.
“I provided cupboards to food and beverage stores, and I helped the owners design their cupboards.”
But it was during this time that he was introduced to the retail sector when interacting with clients. He recalls that occasionally he would offer a set of cupboards in exchange for a stake in a new store. Sometimes, he even helped his clients to find a retail space to open a shop.
“Later I entered the food and beverage industry myself. I opened restaurants and then a cha chaan teng. I also have opened a cafeteria near industrial buildings and a chain store that sells fresh juice.”
In April 1986, Tse met Wong Chingfat, the founder of Hung Fook Tung. Initially, Tse helped him to design his first shop and supplied him with the cupboards.
“From my experience in the food and beverage industry, I know that traditional Chinese herbal tea shops rarely went out of business as most of these shops in Hong Kong are owned by families. They have their own recipe so they don’t have to rely heavily on any outsiders. Besides, the costs to open such a shop it are not much.”
Tse also says that people always pay before they take their herbal tea, so it is a cash business and the shop owner does not have to worry about cash flow.
Then Tse says he really got to know Wong as a person, and judged him to be someone of great character. A month after Wong opened the first Hung Fook Tung shop in July 1986, Tse asked to be his business partner.
“I said I want to be his business partner and we should open more Hung Fook Tung shops together, and I promised him I will make the name Hung Fook Tung famous in Hong Kong.”
But Wong refused, questioning why he would partner up with an outsider like Tse who didn’t even know how to make tortoise herbal jelly.
Tse says he took Wong’s words as a challenge, and then asked all the herbal tea shop owners he knew how to make tortoise herbal jelly. After learning from all of them for three days, Tse brought Wong his own tortoise herbal jelly for him to try.
Wong said he didn’t like it at first, but Tse was confident and firmly believed that the jelly he made was the best.
“So I put my tortoise herbal jelly in a container of a famous brand and let Wong try again. He then said the jelly was great, so I told him it is still my product — this time, he finally agreed to partner up with me.”
Tse then opened Hung Fook Tung’s branch in Sham Shui Po in November 1986.
In 1987 Tse opened two more Hung Fook Tung shops, with all of the stores selling the tortoise herbal jelly using his own recipe.
“I didn’t keep a secret about the recipe. I taught my staff how to make it and sell them in all of our branches.”
Tse says that he believes the most important thing of running a successful business is integrity, as the chairman or chief executive of a company has to be honest with the shareholders and customers.
He says that the shareholders of Hung Fook Tung never have disputes about money, and nobody withdrew their investment from the company since the very early days of the firm as the company’s management is honest and everyone has a mutual trust.
Tse says that for youngsters who want to start a business, they need to be sure in themselves first as starting a business is very difficult.
“You have to work extremely hard, and sometimes you may fail, you just have to bear the blow of failure. So before you start to launch your own business, go into the industry, work from the bottom, so you could understand the business, the industry and yourself better.”
Donald Tse Po-tat, Hung Fook Tong’s chairman and executive director, says the company has continued to innovate and improve, in the past 30 years, from its products to its design and even its business strategy. He says the company is constantly working on new products, and launches about 20 new products every year. Donald Tse Po-tat, Hung Fook Tong’s chairman and executive director