"I Believe In Learning By Doing And Making Mistakes," Says Serial Entrepreneur Lindsay Jang
The Hong Kong-based founder shares how she fosters creativity and accountability in employees across all of her businesses
Starting a business comes with a plethora of challenges. Failing to plan, a lack of demand, ineffective marketing and obtaining capital are just some of them. Perhaps the biggest one of them all is hiring and retaining great talent.
Finding the right candidate for the job and creating a culture that inspires them to develop game-changing ideas are difficult tasks. This is why we reached out to seasoned entrepreneur and restaurateur Lindsay Jang. Her dining establishments are among the top 50 in Asia and she has also assisted in launching highly sought-after concepts across Hong Kong.
The mother of two moved to Hong Kong in 2009 from Canada to set up the infamous Japanese-inspired dining establishments Yardbird and Rōnin with her partner Matt Abergel. She has since co-founded Sunday’s Spirits, a Japanese beverage company, and Hecho, a creative communications agency with a large clientele in the F&B industry.
Not only is Jang regularly cooking up fresh concepts for the city, but she’s also a key figure in Hong Kong’s cultural scene, recently venturing into wellness with Family Form, an immersive physical and mental workout programme at The Upper House’s wellness studio, which focuses on full-body, mat-based sculpting methods.
With Hong Kong experiencing multiple disruptions in the past few years, entrepreneurs have had to navigate some extremely tough times. Here, we ask Jang how she’s been able to build teams across her businesses that are resilient, creative and accountable.
Tell us what a normal day looks like for you.
Lindsay Jang (LJ): I love routine, but I’m also fairly spontaneous. Every day of my life consists of Family Form (an hour of sweat) and then whatever I need to do that day, week or month is prioritised accordingly based on what each business needs.
I have very close relationships with my teams, but I am very much a macro-manager. I am not a helicopter parent, I don’t micromanage, I believe in learning by doing and making mistakes.
What qualities do you look for in an employee?
LJ: Humility, honesty and strong work ethic.
How do you motivate your team to think creatively?
LJ: It’s hard, but we throw out ideas all the time, and give feedback and opinions openly. I believe we work well without being ego-driven and that gives everyone an opportunity to put new ideas out there without the fear of being judged.
How do you encourage employees to balance creativity and efficiency?
LJ: Having a project manager helps us to be creative while ensuring things get done on time.
When your employees don't perform to your standard, how do you build trust to encourage mutual accountability?
LJ: We explain that there is a long runway of onboarding when it comes to truly understanding our brands and the clients we have. It takes months—maybe even years—to learn how Matt and I think, but we’re both here to guide and explain our reasons. I like to think that this mindset shows our investment in their learning and growth, and therefore the reciprocity is there.
Is there a secret to building a culture of ownership and accountability?
LJ: I don’t think there’s a secret. It’s the age-old practice of work—show up, be consistent, be responsible, be respectful.
What have you found is necessary in order to discover, hire and retain great talent?
LJ: We don’t necessarily look for someone's years of experience in a role, because we will train, teach and invest in educating them. Once there is a mutual commitment—we date first then we get married—we are family and we take care of each other.
How do you handle employees who struggle to take initiative and get things done?
LJ: Having honest conversations helps. We try to get to the root of the issue and align on what may be going wrong or not necessarily going right. Then, we see if the procedure needs tweaking or if the workflow could be improved. Solving the problem is our priority. If all of those things don’t work, we have to figure out if the person is not in the correct role. Luckily, we have a lot of different roles!
What is your advice for aspiring creative entrepreneurs?
LJ: Work in your chosen field for at least 10,000 hours. Find smart people to learn from. The word "entrepreneur" should come later.
This article is part of a collaboration between Gen.T and Eloquence (EQ) International, a creative agency based in Hong Kong with a proprietary 360 brand-building method SBM (strategy, branding, marketing). With a mission to connect brands and people on an emotional level through the power of storytelling, EQ builds brands and experiences that cut through the noise, advocate style and above all, endure.