Paul Lam's academic background, work experience in professional chemistry and his succession of The China Paint Manufacturing Company

After Paul Lam graduated from university, he had worked oversea for seven years. During that period of time, The China Paint Manufacturing Company had planned to take over a joint venture in Singapore, to improve the unsatisfactory performance of the company. Lam Kwan and Lam On invited Paul Lam to manage the company in Singapore. In arriving at Singapore, he found that the business was not a good investment, he decided to forgo the take-over and returned to Hong Kong. Although paint industry is one kind of chemical industry, Paul Lam considered himself know little about paint. Initially he had no intention to stay and work for the company. Not long afterwards, Lam Kwan died of heart disease. Paul Lam had worked in Hong Kong for less than a year and then returned to his previous employer in the United States. Under the urge of the family, he eventually returned to Hong Kong to help with the family business.

The Lam’s family used to respect the individual interests and initiatives of the younger generation and seldom imposed pressure to the descendants to inherit the family business. For example, all the children of Paul Lam did not major in science specialties and he didn’t plan to arrange his children to be successors.

Paul Lam had studied in La Salle College and then changed to Diocesan Boys' School at Form 2, where he studied until graduation. Since his parents had little knowledge about studying abroad, Paul Lam himself gathered information from his teacher and sent out an application to The University of California, Berkeley. He was admitted and left for Berkeley in early 1962. There were a good number of graduates from Diocesan Boys’ School to study abroad.

Paul Lam did not have particular expectation about his future after graduation. He had a lot of interests and activities and work was only one of his concerns. At that time it was not difficult for one to find a living in the United States. Therefore, Paul Lam did not worry about his career future. Upon graduation, he joined the Specialty Gas industry, which was a challenging industry that provided him with great satisfaction. He witnessed the rapid growth of the electronics industry in the 1970s. At that time, electronic companies like Pioneer and Dupin applied a special poisonous gas rather than atomic particles to produce chips for the brands’ circuit boards.

The company he worked for was a material supplier for electronic companies. In 1969, his company supplied the disinfection gas to the American astronaut Armstrong when he returned to the Earth after landing on the Moon. It was common for the American hospitals to use the same disinfection gas. In 1970s, he was relocated to Los Angeles, a city which was faced with serious air pollution. His company provided gas for General Motor to detect the gas exhaustion level. His company also produced heavy water, a material for producing atomic bomb. The production of atomic bomb was a dangerous industry as carbon monoxide was emitted as a by-product. When he was the Chemist of the company, Paul Lam had witnessed explosion in the company. Therefore Paul Lam was experienced in managing accidents and hazards in the paint industry. Back in the U.S., Pau Lam was promoted to branch manager since he showed good performance in handling an accident caused by hydrogen chloride in the Intel Corporation. He was then the youngest and the only expatriate branch manager of the company.

The Lam’s family had urged Paul Lam to return to Hong Kong several times. He made such move after he had obtained the resident identity (literally called Green Card) after marriage. To maintain his resident status in the U.S., he returned to the U.S. after he had worked in Hong Kong for around one year. To make good use of his mobility, the Lam’s family arranged Paul Lam to for Sherwin Williams, which engaged in a partnership of technology transfer with China Paint. Sherwin Williams was the largest paint company in the United States. Paul Lam was employed as a salaried technician for 9 months. He was there to learn the skills necessary for producing the brand name products under China Paint. The two companies signed a 10-year partnership agreement for technology transfer. China Paint was allowed to use the technology and the brand name of Sherwin Williams to produce paints in Hong Kong. Because of this partnership, the production technology of China Paint was improved. Paint companies needed chemists to produce paint and made adjustment according to client’s request. However, Paul Lam believed the company could not rely on the paint manufacturing formula only. Fulfilling the need of customers and providing quality customer service would also be important. The marketability of paint products relied on proper chemical formula, sale network, adequate combination of materials and the skill knowledge of technicians. Therefore, instead of focusing on chemical formulas, China Paint employed consultants to teach its staff with the chemical knowledge and properties of paint materials.

After Paul Lam left Sherwin William, he returned to China Paint and worked at the Kwun Tong factory. At first, he engaged in the administrative section to improve the company’s work environment, efficiency, labour structure and promotion system. Then, he worked on market research, doing analysis on the market shares and profit margin of the company and its competitors.

Company China Paint Mfg. Co. (1932) Ltd.
Subject Industry
Duration 32m37s
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-002
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