Jeremy Cheng is a central member of the Hong Kong alumni community, leader of the local IMBA alumni group, and our alumni regional coordinator.
Tell us a little about your current role
I am founder of GEN+ Family Business Advisory & Research, an independent advisory firm working with Asian family businesses. I advise families on their governance setup and implementation and help them tailor family offices and other structures to fit their generational development. I am also doing my PhD with a local university in Hong Kong, focusing on the topic of Asian family businesses.
What did you study?
International MBA offered by the business school in Hong Kong.
Why did you choose your degree?
That's an interesting story. I managed Victoria University of Wellington's International MBA programme in Hong Kong back then, and in my cohort, we needed one or two more students to break even. While I had planned to do my MBA, I hadn't thought of doing that so early. But I knew the quality of teaching for the International MBA, and I really wanted to make sure all the stakeholders were happy. So, I decided to join the programme, and it’s a decision I’ll never regret.
Where are you living and what are you doing?
I live in a typical apartment here in Hong Kong together with my father—and those who live here in Hong Kong or those who have been to our city should know what I mean by ‘typical’. I hate to define what my roles are (although I did so above), but I will say I follow my passion and play a contributory role in a very vibrant and global community of family-business advisors, scholars, and families in business. I am part of the evolution of the field of Asian family businesses—the same as for many others in our field!
What’s the current situation with COVID-19 in Hong Kong?
We are in a fortunate position. While our Government is not as decisive as New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, our people know how to protect themselves and we are largely united. Many of us had gone through SARS back in 2003, and we all have a stronger sense of public health. While Government restrictions and social distancing practices seem to deprive our social life, this ‘new normal' brings families closer together. In a way, the current coronavirus presents another stress test for our resilience, and we believe that we will win the game.
If you are currently working from home, what's your best tip for others?
If you are using Zoom, learn how to apply a virtual background. I quite enjoy picking new backgrounds in these virtual meetings, giving my friends and co-workers a fresh look every time I meet with them!
What do you enjoy most about working in your profession?
Seeing changes in the family. It could be like father and son are on talking terms again or rising-generation members could freely voice their concerns and share their aspirations, which were embraced by the current generation. The ultimate goal is really for families to build their own capabilities and create their own shared future!
Biggest challenge for your industry?
Many people suddenly pop up saying that they are experts in family business advisory, trying to sell off-the-rack solutions in succession and governance, which could be powerless and potentially harmful. This potentially dilutes the legitimacy of the field we have earned over the past two decades.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Never ask me to copy and create the same governance structure of tycoon Li Ka Shing for your family—what works for him may not necessarily work for you.
Any memorable lecturers?
Dr Paul McDonald: I would not have done all this without Paul and his visionary leadership. As the IMBA director and teacher for our leadership course, Paul walked the talk and showed all traits of a great leader in his model—being teachers, ambassadors, spiritual doctors, and servants. He truly cares about all students and still today he regularly asks me about the group.
Dr James Richard: Jim rose up for the challenge when the IMBA programme suffered a significant drop in enrolment. A marketer himself, Jim showed me pragmatic ways to handle issues differently. I will never forget his words: "All products will have their own markets—just that you don't discover them!”
What do you wish you had known before applying for your first job?
You may spend a lot of time looking for your very first job and devote a great deal of effort to succeed in your first job. Nothing wrong with this—and I encourage you to do so. But at a certain point when you start to think your commitment to your job is pretty much calculative or imperative, guess you should turn to something you are truly passionate about. Don't let the concept of sunk cost ruin your career ...
What would someone be surprised to know about you?
I am actually an introvert!
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