A Worthwhile Climb

Stephen Chou – General Manager, Brand Management and Channel Sales, Jebsen Consumer

I like hiking, especially walking alongside my fellow hikers. While there are always twists and turns on the path and plans may go awry, my team’s support and encouragement always make the climb much easier. I could say the same about my job as a General Manager at Jebsen Consumer Products.

I was in the distribution business before Jebsen. At the invitation of Dyson’s sole distributor in Chinese mainland, I joined Jebsen’s Dyson sales team in Northern China in 2012 to lead the brand’s retail growth in the region. In 2019, I was invited back to Hong Kong, this time to manage the distribution of Casio watches and calculators.

This new role at Casio was an uncharted trail for me. From direct retail, I now had to grow the business through a complex mix of dealers, including large watch distributors, jewellery companies, neighbourhood shops, and many more. Despite the challenge at time of the brand launch, I worked on setting goals, plotting the best routes to achieve them, supporting my team all the way. As in hiking, unexpected circumstances are inevitable, and the best way to triumph over every obstacle is to come prepared.

Within two years, Jebsen became Casio’s only-one distributor in Hong Kong and Macau. But the road to this excellent accomplishment had been bumpy. We dealt with missing orders, time-consuming processes, and frustrating stockouts. To brace ourselves for the uncontrollable environment, we focused on the things we could control, like developing systems to improve our operational workflows and dealer experience. We also worked on establishing a mutually trusting relationship with the Japanese principal, to consistently serve our customers’ needs.

Driving these operational and behavioural changes took incremental steps, demanding peak energy and performance from the team. We worked assiduously to understand the pain points of every dealer and principal. We practiced empathy so we can effectively “sell” to them the “why” behind our proposed operational changes. For instance, we convinced them to place their orders in groups instead of individually, which not only reduced our scattered orders from 4000+ to about a thousand, saving labour and delivery costs, the team was also able to better manage our customers.

Over the last two years, we have driven new proposals to capture a larger portion of the distribution market and run one successful brand event after another. Time and again, we demonstrated the business benefits of thoughtful preparation, empathy, communication, and good customer service. All these efforts have helped us earn the Japanese principal’s full support and trust. From managing only a few distributors, Jebsen is now at the driver’s seat, directing all the sales and marketing work of Casio watches and calculators in Hong Kong and Macau.

I am glad to be surrounded by the young, energetic spirit of my Casio team. We like to participate actively in brand-building activities together, joining running challenges wearing our Casio watches, striking our signature team pose for photos, and maximising every opportunity to strengthen our team solidarity.

Thanks to Jebsen’s commitment to people and to building a great working atmosphere, charting the unfamiliar parts of this journey never felt unmanageable. Witnessing Casio employees’ disciplined and collaborative efforts these past years not only reminded me of a gratifying uphill climb, it made me appreciate Jebsen's supportive culture all the more.