The average Hong Kong flat has poky rooms, minimal storage space and cramped living areas. However, Rico Au-yeung, decoration centre and trade manager of B&Q Hong Kong, has worked with his team to create warm, inviting homes which feel like welcome retreats away from the city bustle.
"Due to various limitations, home decoration in Hong Kong is a particularly challenging job," Mr Au-yeung says. "For this reason, running a decoration centre has been an exciting adventure."
B&Q's in-house decoration centre (DC) is an innovative experience for its team as well as for customers. It boasts the unique "Do-It-For-Me" one-stop solution for Hong Kong people who demand not just style and contemporary design but also convenience, practicality and quality in their dream home.
The start-to-finish process begins with an in-depth consultation by the DC customer advisors to understand preferred home decoration styles and living habits. In-home visits are then made to investigate the surroundings, take measurements and evaluate the feasibility of the preliminary conceptual design.
"It is important to learn as much as possible about our customers before we draw the actual design layouts. Details, such as ages, mobility and health of the occupants, along with other factors like noise levels in different parts of a flat, which are often ignored, need to be taken into account," Mr Au-yeung states.
"There are a lot of new ideas waiting to be explored"
Subsequently, DC designers submit the finalised design plan together with professional advice on the selection of decoration products and building materials. A quotation for supplies chosen by customers at B&Q under a transparent fee structure is also presented before construction projects are confirmed.
To save time and reduce stress for customers, specially selected contractors are arranged for the renovation works. The DC's responsibility does not stop at this point. Instead, customers' expectations are met by close monitoring throughout the whole project followed by a one-year free warranty covering the final finishings.
"We have introduced a number of measures aiming to benefit home owners, our workers and the environment. For example, our consultants make notes and produce formal feedback documents recording every customer comment or project change initiated by customers at each stage of the renovations to show project alterations and corresponding price adjustments clearly," Mr Au-yeung explains.
The DC team also plays an active role in legal compliance on its construction sites. Builders' identities are verified via a strict registration system and contractors must provide evidence of employees' insurance to protect the safety not only of employees, but also of the assets on the premises.
B&Q also takes pride in ensuring contractors keep building areas clean and tidy. Uniformed workers are instructed to dispose of waste and adhere to relevant rules and regulations concerning debris and dangerous materials such as adhesives.
"Traditionally, workers left used materials around building sites, believing clean up wasted time. On the whole however, a systematic arrangement for tools, resources and dumping makes work easier and more efficient," Mr Au-yeung adds.
With his rich exposure, Mr Au-yeung is up-to-date with the latest materials and techniques and able to apply his savoir faire in the local context. His industry debut began when he was a secondary school student helping his classmate's elder brother to sell silicone adhesive gel, a new invention from Belgium in the 1970s.
After completing his formal education, Mr Au-yeung was involved in different projects including the Hong Kong Stadium. Out of professional necessity, he has equipped himself with knowledge across the spectrum ranging from sourcing and using light metal materials and paint components to site safety procedures and construction laws.
Believing in lifelong learning, Mr Au-yeung has studied a range of subjects including HKMA's management courses and Japanese language lessons, while accumulating on-the-job experience.
"There are a lot of new ideas waiting to be explored for talent working in this field. People who have a passion for the profession will enjoy it most and renovating homes which people truly appreciate is exceptionally rewarding," Mr Au-yeung remarks.
On the success of the creative yet practical approach, the DC has increased its team size by 25 percent in just a few months. When leading the swelling workforce, Mr Au-yeung points out that communication is a priority. In the monthly general meetings and weekly team meetings, he must continuously convey messages both ways which are essential to improving service standards at B&Q.
"I quote real cases to my team members illustrating how to avoid mistakes and how to make homes that better satisfy customers. Since I feel 'everything can be better', I always remind myself and my team of the ongoing need to achieve this," Mr Au-yeung concludes.