A Game Plan for Keeps

Damon Shing – Deputy General Sales Manager, Jebsen Beer

Fifteen years of rugby games can wear you down, or it can train you to confidently tackle any playing field in life. In my case, it turned out to be the second outcome.

Those hours spent in league tournaments with a dynamic mix of players prepared me for the challenging yet energising hours I now spend in Jebsen.

As with any effort required to advance a ball in the play, my professional journey in this company was met with multiple obstacles. I learned how to strategically face risks, as well as decide when to dodge and when to take some uncomfortable hits for the team.

I was fortunate to join Jebsen as Business Manager in Macau for the Beer division in February 2015. Jebsen acknowledged my 10-year experience in the draught beer industry, and entrusted me with one of the world’s largest beer brands in the Macau market. My daughter was born around that time, so instead of staying in Macau full-time, Jebsen allowed me to continue living in Hong Kong and travel to Macau three or four times a week. It was tough, but it was the best way for me to balance my work and the needs of my new-born.

My first-year challenges did not stop there. Just one month later, I was appointed to handle another brand; another significant market player. I was tasked to quickly build a strong relationship with this new brand and re-establish my position and network in the market. “Make things work” soon became my work mantra.

If there’s one thing I learned from playing rugby, it’s that there is always a way to bring people of diverse personalities together, and drive them towards a shared goal. I knew that with my people skills and resourcefulness, along with the support of my team, I could deliver satisfyingly to each stakeholder in Macau. Knowing where and how to connect with key people allowed me also to assimilate myself successfully, two years later, into completely unfamiliar territory when I was appointed the Hong Kong Channel Head of our Chain Restaurant Group business – a division I knew nothing about – along with my Business Manager role in Macau.

Jebsen’s culture has given me the opportunity to keep learning while navigating mindsets and workflows that are totally different from what I was used to. It was a good thing that rugby has trained me mentally to prepare for the unexpected, so much that I actually enjoyed these challenges! If anything, it’s this constant flow of the unfamiliar that has driven me to make things work and to keep improving.

Indeed, challenging situations have rolled in quite steadily over the years. When I assumed the Deputy General Sales Manager role this year, my work scope expanded to include Asian restaurants that were neither Chinese nor Western, including Japanese restaurants. Since I didn’t speak Japanese, the Company hired a Japanese part-time staff to help network and learn the new market out on the field. This game plan, supported by our collaborative team spirit, helped us eventually reach over 1,800 restaurants (about 60% of which were Japanese) in Hong Kong!

For a guy like me who has gone from knowing only beer to mastering the chain restaurant business, and from supervising only 3 individuals to managing 4 teams with a total of around 40 people. I could definitely say that Jebsen taught me a lot as a leader and a team player. I became even more adept at keeping my eyes on the goal, while never losing sight of the people around me – individuals whose strengths, when harnessed correctly, can make any strategy work, no matter how difficult.

I am certain that with the constantly changing market, my team and I will continually find ourselves in even more uncharted territories. To me, these opportunities for diverse connections and the avenues for growth are what make working at Jebsen, just like a rugby game, exhilarating and worth every second.