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Career Path

Risk rider reaches career high

by Charles Mak

William Lai
head of property management, Hong Kong
Jones Lang LaSalle
Photo: Lewis Wong

For a fortnight every year, William Lai takes his 1,000cc motorcycle for a joy ride through relatively inhospitable but culturally rich landscapes.

"When you're riding the wind, you focus your attention and leave other things behind to experience true relaxation," says Mr Lai, recollecting his travel experiences in the Silk Road, Tibet and Qinghai.

Playing hard and smart may well be his motto. What sets him apart from the average risk takers are a ready frame of mind and the knack for foreseeing and managing risk.

"To ride out difficult situations, you rely on your own intuition and experience as well as leveraging off those of your team mates'. However, you must also gear up for the unexpected and prepare yourself physically and psychologically at all times," cautions Mr Lai, who is currently head of property management, Hong Kong, Jones Lang LaSalle.

Shifting gear

Mr Lai's career path demonstrates extraordinary self-confidence and foresight. He spent his initial years paying his dues, starting a career in an administrative role for a property developing firm before his aspirations took him further afield.

Nevertheless, that particular job gave him exposure to different functions in the trade. Before long, he spotted a void in the property management (PM) sector and subsequently took up formal academic training in housing management.

"The PM setting across the board was in many ways deficient then. I could see the demand for professional property management services soar so I shifted my career focus," he recalls.

During the second year of his evening studies, he came across a lecturer who happened to be a manager of a property management company. "I attended an interview with him in the neighbouring classroom during recess. That was how I made my entrance to the PM industry as an estate assistant," he says.

After a few years learning the ropes, he was good and ready for his next step up. This time, he aimed high. "I always thought that Jones Lang LaSalle was way ahead of the game," says Mr Lai who then became a management surveyor of Jones Lang LaSalle.

Driving excellence

Some 20 years on, Mr Lai concedes that he never felt the need to take his career anywhere else. "Many Jones Lang LaSalle staff have worked here for more than 15 years and I believe this level of loyalty can only be attributed to a caring culture and the prospects for personal and professional growth alongside monetary rewards," he emphasises.

For the same reason, he finds new challenges, more excitement and job satisfaction every day. "The industry is still evolving and part of my job is to translate fast-paced paradigm shifts into strategic solutions for the benefit of all clients," he says.


"If you want more out of your career, develop a niche"

System automation is a palpable example. Less obvious to the layman is a keener focus on customer relationship management. "There is more to it than meets the eye but good PM is effectively more noticeable in times of crisis like during the SARS epidemic when occupants of our buildings could obtain facemasks from our management offices and not anywhere else across Hong Kong," Mr Lai points out.

A well-versed professional with more than 3,000 staff under his management, Mr Lai's daily agenda comprises internal and external meetings, as well as matters that cover human resources, IT systems, marketing and even client relations management.

"A competent PM professional takes the initiative to keep pace with society's changes and needs so as to steer the company towards sustainable growth," he emphasises, noting also that academic skills, professional memberships and knowledge in general practice are only the very fundamentals.

Regardless of his position, he spares no effort in adding value to himself and the company. Over the years, he has obtained a number of professional qualifications including a risk management planner certificate, an MBA, and soon a marketing qualification to boot.

An accredited caring company, Jones Lang LaSalle is particularly keen on staff development. A comprehensive training schedule is well in place to accommodate individual aspirations and facilitate staff development across organisational peripheries and geographical boundaries. Mr Lai remarks, "Development of software and hardware will continue to move the industry forward but people will remain the best assets."

Right at the forefront of the industry, Jones Lang LaSalle is on a constant lookout for aspiring PM professionals. "People nowadays expect a great deal more from their PM companies and so the thresholds for entering the industry are also higher," Mr Lai adds, "Our industry encompasses an extensive range of expertise including finance, law and engineering, aside from clubhouse management, shopping centre management, risk management and tenancy management. If you want more out of your career, develop a niche."


 

Taken from Career Times 24 April 2009, p. A12

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