Every day is a busy day for Andy Ip, Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Gotech (HK) Ltd. He oversees all the different aspects of the business, but mainly focuses on sales, marketing and planning, and overall strategy. He also has to keep a watchful eye on the smooth operation of the dry mix plant in Yuen Long, and ensure prompt delivery of products from plant to site -- so that customers can keep on-site inventory to a minimum. At the same time, Mr Ip must keep pace with the latest trends and technological developments in the trade.
"It is very important to hire and retain people who are committed to working together and achieving
It takes tenacity and perseverance to act as an advocate for dry mix plasters and mortars in a relatively young market. While it is important to have innovative product development and a strong brand, Mr Ip sees the key to success in the basics of marketing: to have an ongoing partnership with the customers. He says: "One must take a long-term perspective and try to gain the customers' trust and respect. Success of a commercial enterprise is about continuing profit-ability. So it is important to get repeat business, or better yet, referrals from your customers."
He also attributes the company's success to the collective efforts of the team. Therefore, he says, "It is very important to hire and retain people who are committed to working together and achieving corporate goals." He likes to look for people who are willing to go the extra mile for the customer.
It is not enough to offer a top quality product, he concludes. One has to ensure that the staff is motivated in the right way to work closely with the customers, and provide them with solutions that are both reliable and cost-effective. "By meeting and exceeding customer expectations," he says, "it is more likely that they will stay with you for life."
With over 20 years of experience in the building and construction industry, Mr Ip has close ties with contacts at all facets of the trade. This is important for a man who is trying to promote the use of a whole new line of products for construction applications. It is not enough to win over property owners to secure new customers. He has to convince architects, civil engineers, subcontractors as well as frontline workers. It is necessary to address the needs and concerns of people at every link of the value chain because they may have a direct bearing on project results.
In particular, Mr Ip has formed an innovative cooperation scheme with subcontractors, in which workers can upgrade their skills and raise the quality of their work. He arranges training sessions on proper use of dry mix products, and leases the machinery to subcontractors at favorable terms. This helps promote the use of dry mix products and creates a win-win situation for both parties.
Mr Ip began to recognize the potential for dry mixed products, which has been in use in Finland for more than 30 years, while he was working for Harbour Ring Property Development Ltd. in 1992. He convinced his company to act as the local distributor for a well-known foreign supplier of dry mix products at a time, when demand for premixed products in Hong Kong stood at a mere several hundred metric tones.
The demand for dry mix products began to grow steadily and this initial success paved the way for Mr Ip to takeover the helms at Eastern Gotech, the sole distributor for the Singapore-based Eastern Pretech, in 1997. With the launch of a production plant in 1997, output increased quickly from 50,000 metric tones that year to over 110,000 metric tones of premixed products in 2002.
As a market leader in the field, Mr Ip wants Eastern Gotech to set high standards for the industry at large. He is also committed to raising environmental awareness, and has put into place a waste management plan based on reduction, reuse, recycling and disposal of wastes. Eastern Gotech has begun to treat wastewater discharges and to collect and reuse wooden shipping pallets. Their efforts were awarded with the ISO 14001 certificate in November 2002.
Major Chinese cities like Shanghai provide a ready market for construction materials like plasters and mortars. Indeed, administrative policies that are expected to take effect in 2003 will favor increased use of ready-mix materials. However, the mainland market will have a steep learning curve to follow. There is an urgent need for people with a few years of experience and good industry knowledge who would be willing to stay in China. Their major responsibilities would be to provide product demonstration and to help develop the market in Guangzhou as well as other parts of China.