Suzanne Liu -
Finding a successful business woman in Hong Kong is not uncommon, but to find an Irish-born, Australian-raised Chinese business owner who is eager to see some competitors succeed is a little more unusual.
But for Suzanne Liu, managing director of Hong Kong based accounting firm S. Liu and Co., her counter-role in the Woman Business Owners Club (WBOC) means providing support, ideas and networking with like-minded female business owners - even those in direct competition.
"I think I have a niche in the market," adds Liu, "as I am able to understand my western clients well, at the same time due to my earlier formative years in Hong Kong, I am able to address local Chinese businesses".
Liu says she chose to start her business in Hong Kong because of the high concentration of businesses and "an environment which encourages entrepreneurialism".
Says Liu: "Hong Kong is the easiest place in the world to start and run your own business - there is a very high entrepreneurial spirit here and people respect business owners".
She says that by and large the days of discrimination are gone, rarely encountering problems because of gender.
"Occasionally I come across chauvinistic men," she states, "but I just shrug it off and get on with my work".
Liu is confident her company will continue to expand - particularly as it becomes more internet-enabled. And despite her workload she is just as eager to help and encourage other women to establish and expand their own businesses.
While she has taken on the role of treasurer and director for the WBOC, which has more than 200 members and meets monthly, she is also a keynote speaker at its annual dinner addressing the needs, trials and tribulations of owning and running a business.
She has previously conducted evening lectures at the University of Hong Kong, Baptist University and Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education in the subjects of advanced auditing and advanced financial accounting.
A keen swimmer and socialiser, Liu says life is not all about constant work, adding most people in Hong Kong spend too much time at work.
Says Liu: "You can't be shy if you want to be a business-owner, you have to go out and get yourself known". "It is very difficult once you have your own business to go back and be an employee - it is a completely different type of mentality. 1 couldn't go back and work for someone, as I am too used to making my own decisions".
Liu's early childhood years were spent in Hong Kong after departing Ireland with her family as an infant, before her family migrated to Sydney, Australia, when she was 12.
She says her education at high school and the University of Sydney, coupled with the fact her father has been the proprietor of his own medical practice for almost 40 years, instilled in her an entrepreneurial spirit.
"I think education in Hong Kong is based more on memorising the content of courses," she says, "whereas in Australia it teaches you to think and apply with a lateral mind, which really helps when you have your own business".
Liu started her company five years ago, after gaining experience in three firms including Coopers and Lybrand and KPMG Peat Marwick.
She now has five full time staff and a healthy portfolio of prominent local and international clients she built from scratch.
As 90 per cent of businesses in Hong Kong are small and medium sized enterprises, the company focuses on that sector, with a large slice of her clients expatriate firms.