Coming Back Stronger

Sophia Ng – Channel Manager, Jebsen Beverage

CHEERS! we toasted to a well-executed new business presentation after months of preparation. “You all better work hard before summer comes along – sales should be high as beers should be cold,” I said to the team with a grin. They looked at each other knowingly, aware that I am only half joking. I am known for my “make it happen” attitude when it comes to work, but I also enjoy letting my hair down every so often and celebrating successes with my teammates. Work and play keep our team stronger together.

Building solidarity – and being able to weave a sense of togetherness and mutual support among my team – is something I particularly enjoy in my current role as Channel Manager for Jebsen Beverage. Maybe it is because it draws such a stark contrast to what I used to define as success, earlier in my career. Or maybe it reminds me of the tremendous growth that Jebsen has enabled for me. Either way, this is my story, and it is bittersweet.

When I first joined Jebsen as Assistant Sales Supervisor in 2015, I was responsible for growing our beer business among Western restaurants and bars. With zero connections, I brewed my way through thick and thin, trying to develop my network.

The turning point in my career came the day I was tasked to make a proposal against a key competitor to one of Hong Kong’s largest catering groups. Up against a prominent industry player and a client who demanded only the best, I knew, going in, that it would be a massive challenge. But I was young. I was determined. I was unbeatable. I was ready to do everything it took. So with my manager’s support, this lead became my number one focus. I sought out the client’s favourite haunts and frequented them, hoping for a chance to introduce myself. I implored colleagues, mutual friends with the client, for an introduction. When I finally made it onto the client’s radar, I tried to “always be around” – leaving my work phone on during non-work hours just in case he had questions or wanted to advance our negotiations. I accepted his invitations to parties with friends and other industry connections – each time clutching the contract, pen ready for a signature, in case he was.

It did happen at last – after two years of blood, sweat and tears. Not literally, but it certainly felt like that at times. In fact, after securing this monumental contract, I felt such a huge sense of completion that I found myself leaving Jebsen for some soul-searching. I found a job elsewhere, but it wasn’t long before I realised where my heart truly belonged. In 2019, at my manager’s encouragement, I came back even more ready to take on the role of Channel Manager. In my new position managing our portfolio of Western bars and restaurants, hotels and clubhouses, I found a new place to refocus my energy: helping my team feel that same rush of accomplishment I felt when I closed the biggest deal of my life.

I look around at the faces of team members sat across me and I see myself in each one of them. I am in a very different position now than I was a few years back. Back then my target was to achieve the goals I set for myself. Now I have to reach beyond that personal comfort zone and help others catch their stars. I lead by example, driving performance with grit and energy, while motivating success with the empathy that came from my own experience. I love the way we can work together to win and multiply our success beyond individual achievements, and I am ever so grateful for the chance to come back – stronger than ever.