Family corporate culture and the participation of family members

Lam Kwan and Lam On founded The China Paint Manufacturing Company. Lam Kwan was responsible for technology and material purchase. Lam On was responsible for administration and production. When Paul Lam joined the company, he had worked on administration, planning and marketing. Later he switched to research and product development for environmental friendly paint because he had this kind of knowledge and experience. Now, Paul Lam was more interested in developing new products. For example, inspired by the Housing Authority, he was committed to developing paint with the functions of thermal insulation and protection.
Although he was interested in developing new products, he seldom worked in the laboratory. Instead he would discuss and work with the chemists. Once a product was successfully developed, he would devise marketing strategy with the sales personnel.
Paul Lam said that job rotations were arranged to fit with the development of the company. He himself had worked at several positions within the company. When he entered the company, he spent most of the time on production and administration. In 1982, due to the significant drop of sales, he switched to manage the sales and marketing department. Now, he focused on developing new products. With the request of the clients, the company relocated its production to China. The company had considered setting up the factories in the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. Its original plan was to undertake processing and then transported the products for sale in Hong Kong. However, this arrangement required a significant investment in transportation. Meanwhile, China had opened up its market for foreign investment in the industry. Finally the company selected China.
Paul Lam described the China Paint Manufacturing Company as a small family enterprise. When he returned to Hong Kong, the company had only 4 family members working there, the two founders Lam Kwan and Lam On, plus Paul Lam and his cousin. Although some of the shareholders were also Taishan kinsmen, they mostly stayed abroad. At the beginning, Lam Kwan and Lam On relied on their relatives in Taishan to run the company. Paul Lam believed that relatives were more trustworthy, easy to communicate, more responsible and able to work effectively. However, when the company became more developed, it was essential to define clearly authority and responsibility of each position. In the 1970s, the number of Taishan workers decreased in the company. Paul Lam introduced a salary and administrative system into the company in order to define clearly the functions of its employees. On the other hand, there was no precise formula for the production of each paint; production quality relied on the individual expertise of the technicians. Under the management of Paul Lam, production had to follow specific procedures and formulae, so that the company could control production cost and product quality.
In 1932 when the China Paint Manufacturing Company established, it was operated as a family enterprise. In the 1960s, after the company moved its factory from Mongkok to Kwun Tong, the management of the business became more institutionalized. Paul Lam believed the company did not have to be taken over by people with chemistry training. He thought that people with economics training should be more suitable. At the beginning, both Paul Lam and his cousin were not willing to join the family business. His cousin worked in the company until 1986. One of the founders Lam On retired in the 1980s, with an age of over 80. In the 1960s, the company had already employed sales managers and chemists to manage the company. However, their performance was far from satisfactory. Therefore, Paul Lam was asked to come back and take over the business. Before working in Hong Kong, Paul Lam had earned some working experience already. His family wanted him to be the General Manager in Singapore first. When he joined The China Paint Manufacturing Company, he worked as the manager of production department, carrying the title of “Director”. All family members carried the title “Director” of the company.

Company China Paint Mfg. Co. (1932) Ltd.
Subject Industry
Duration 21m40s
Language Cantonese
Material Type
Source Hong Kong Memory Project Oral History Interview
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. JL-PL-LIFE-006
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