Cover Michelle Ma-Chan is the co-founder and executive director of FANCL and co-founder and managing director of Gourmet Dining Group. She shares her secrets of success (Photo: Supplied)

In the second edition of Tatler’s Secrets of Success series—an all-access pass to the city’s most notable business magnates and entrepreneurs—entrepreneur Michelle Ma-Chan reveals what it takes to be successful and why her husband, Christopher, is her greatest mentor

Michelle Ma-Chan’s drive for excellence is reflected in her companies­: cosmetics retail giant FANCL and F&B group Gourmet Dining.

She was instrumental in turning the Japanese cosmetics brand into a regional powerhouse after introducing FANCL’s line of products to Hong Kong in 1996. Today, she heads up the sole distributor of FANCL products in Asia (excluding Japan). As a result of Ma-Chan applying her insights to retail, operations management and customer service, FANCL now has 250 shops in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and mainland China, and is one of Asia’s most popular beauty brands.

Chan is also the managing director of Gourmet Dining Group, and in 2014, she introduced French culinary brand Dalloyau to Hong Kong. Later than year, she launched Michelin-starred French dining concept Épure, followed in 2018 by Arbor, which achieved its first Michelin star after only seven months of operation. The group’s second star came a year later in recognition of Arbor’s innovative take on Nordic fine dining from Japan. This year, Ma-Chan launched “fine bistronomie” Ami and Wood Ear, an ode to elevated yet approachable Parisian cuisine at Alexandra House in Central.

A supporter of the arts and charitable causes, Ma-Chan hopes to inspire change and make a positive impact on society. Whether gracing the stage at the Changing Young Lives gala in November, or promoting French lifestyle and culture at exclusive society Les Lumières de Paris, Ma-Chan seems to have perfected her work-life balance. Here she lets Tatler in on her secrets of success:

Describe what you do in one sentence.

Every day, I see the big picture while mastering the little details—whether learning new market trends, understanding customer needs, or building the right teams to deliver excellent experiences in the beauty and F&B industries.

How does your business make a difference?

Perspective is key. I have always approached my beauty and restaurant businesses by focusing on what I would want as a customer myself. I step into [customers’] shoes to deliver what they really want. I think that’s why FANCL products and our restaurants are well-received by customers.

What do you put your success down to?

My success is based on my personal involvement in my businesses while working closely with my teams, especially on new projects. I always try to develop intelligent systems and methods to facilitate their work.

What are the top three ingredients for a successful business?

  • A clear vision
  • Attention to detail for correct execution
  • Working with the right people

Do you have any mentors? If so, who are they and what is the best piece of advice they have given you?

My mentors are God and my husband Chris [Christopher Chan]. Chris told me that I should always put quality before earning money. He said: “You have to question whether you have the ability to deliver top quality. No company is sustainable when the quality is bad. When quality is good, business opportunities come naturally.”

I experienced many frustrations at the beginning [of my career], but my faith gave me the confidence I needed. I’m blessed with God’s guidance, which has led to improvements every day. I believe that as long as I do not give up, I will achieve the results I want.

Also, I realised long ago that I can always learn something new from customers and my staff if I pay attention to my communication with them.

What qualities do you look for in a potential employee?

Dedication, a passion for their work, and professionalism. These are the basic qualities all employees should have. But the best employees don’t just focus on their own areas. They also see the big picture and don’t mind working on the details of other areas to deliver the best results, because they treat it as a learning opportunity.

What has been your biggest career obstacle to date? How did you overcome it?

Managing people and building the right team is time-consuming, especially when you must explore a new market. It is still an ongoing process, but my experience over the years has improved my ability to handle these challenges.

How do you plan to develop your business over the next five years?

My F&B team is becoming more mature, and I foresee that soon, they will be able to run the business smoothly by themselves. FANCL has accumulated a large group of loyal customers in Asia, and I hope that more people—especially the younger generation—can enjoy the benefits of our products.

What is one surprising thing about you that most people don’t know?

A lot of people think that I’m a tough businesswoman. But the truth is that the process of delivering a good result gives me much more pleasure than making a profit.

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