THE GRASS MAY LOOK GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE, BUT BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER.
FUTUREFOCUSED (from left)
Luxasia patriarch Patrick Chong, daughter Sabrina and son Alwyn are centred on building a sustainable business.
They’ve tried to find their own footing in the world outside of the family fold. After all, never live a life filled with what ifs, their father had told them. For seven years, Sabrina was a corporate lawyer at Baker & McKenzie, while Alwyn sought opportunities at banks and had stints with companies like Asia Pacific Breweries and Nike.
But destiny has its way of finding you. “He’s always told us to go with our passions. There was never pressure to join the business,” Sabrina says of her father. What was supposed to be a short spell to expand her finance knowledge turned into a career change. “My role is very different now. There are days when I miss practising law. Every day now is a new learning experience, like how one issue is dealt with differently in different countries.”
MY DAD, MY BOSS
Their initiation into the business began much earlier. Alwyn helped at the warehouse when he was just nine years old. “I was paid $1 a day. There was one time when I was given a gold Lancome sticker for payment. Not sure what he thought I could do with that,” he says.
At 17, he was “promoted” to his first managerial role as team leader on the retail floor, when he had to dismiss a peer. As for Sabrina, she handed out perfume samples at department stores as a teenager to earn more pocket money during the school holidays.
Theirs is clearly a tightknit family. Throughout the interview, they sang the same tune and doled out answers with equal measure of reservation. Although there were fleeting moments when Alwyn looked like he was about to spill the beans on something, he always thought the better of it. "It’s like a marriage,” he eventually lets on, when asked about working with each other. “Even after so many years, we are still adapting. Sure, we’ve had arguments and differing views. We usually just take time to think through it, get emotions out of the way and come back with a more appropriate solution. And we’re obviously an uneven number. We also defer to the core leadership team, which consists of people around the region, so it’s not just the three of us making blanket decisions. We need to count on the people we hire.”
Chong would not have it any other way. What he needs are different perspectives. He says: “I always encourage even my staff to speak up. It shouldn’t be ‘just do what the boss says’, which was how it was like when I first started working. One should never be penalised for a differing view, if you’re doing it for the good of the business. I always say I’m happy to pay tuition fees for trying new ideas which may not always be successful – just not twice.”
Since working with their father, Alwyn and Sabrina have a newfound respect for him. When they were younger, Chong never took work and his worries home, only goodies like perfumes for them and their mother to try. They now understand and share the challenges that he faces. Sabrina says: “The traits that I know of him as a father and the values he’s instilled in us hold true. He’s as open-minded as a father, as he is a boss.”
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK
One trait that Alwyn and Sabrina admire most about their father is humility, which we witnessed at the interview and photo shoot. Despite having to carve out six hours to endure long periods of flash photography and relentless probing by this writer, the usually media-shy Chong never got impatient. He praised the team for taking much pride in what they did, even in seemingly trivial tasks like taking in the hem of his pants. In the interest of time, he took all but 15 minutes to have lunch at the staff canteen.
Even in the most contentious situations, his children have never seen him lose his composure. “You pick your own lessons from observing him,” Alwyn says. “I see perseverance, lifelong learning and humility, which are probably what made him who he is today. I rarely saw him when I was younger because he was travelling a lot to build the business. You learn that anything is possible, if you put your mind to it. It’s easy to get angry with younger people who are rude and overly confident, but he doesn’t. He will still defer and listen to them.”
Sabrina says: “The lawyer in me wants to push my point across. But I’ve learnt that a win-win situation is important. Both parties should gain something out of a meeting.”
Chong reveals that it was his father who had a major influence on him. “He was a generous person, always playing host to friends,” he recalls. "I guess that's why I've always felt it's better to give than to receive. It's a privilege, and one is certainly better off to be in that position. We must be grateful and gracious.”
And if there’s one thing that this father wants for his children, it is to find fulfilment in what they do. “They themselves have to desire to bring the business to the next level. They have to enjoy the journey and believe in what they’re doing. It’s not a dutycalling story.”
No pressure, kids.
3 QUESTIONS WITH THE CHONGS
01 WHAT IS YOUR MUSTHAVE BEAUTY ESSENTIAL?
PATRICK Fragrances. I like Hermes for the boardroom.
ALWYN Does it have to be just one? I carry six items daily in my bag – three fragrances, hand moisturiser, day moisturiser and sunscreen.
SABRINA I rarely wear makeup but sunscreen is a must.
02 WHAT ARE YOUR ONLINE SHOPPING HABITS?
PATRICK None. But I do a lot of shopping on board the plane or at the airport.
ALWYN I buy everything online, including grocery.
SABRINA It’s usually clothes for me, and I do this at night on the Internet when my child is asleep.
03 WHAT IS YOUR FIRST BEAUTY PRODUCT?
ALWYN Drakkar Noir, which was the second edition after Drakkar.
SABRINA A miniature Calvin Klein fragrance that my dad gave me. I can’t remember which one it was.