Women Business Owners Club (WBOC) 
Member of the Month

From WBOC January/February 2001 Newsletter

Suzanne Liu of S. Liu & Co., Chartered Accountants & CPAs 
ComSec Services Ltd. 

What is the story behind your business?  
I was born in Dublin and spent my early childhood in Hong Kong. I then migrated to Sydney where I was educated and qualified. After spending 15 years in Australia, I returned to Hong Kong in 1988 for 2 reasons: ample business opportunities in this exciting city and to move closer to my twin sister who has been practising here as a dentist since 1987. After working for Coopers & Lybrand in Sydney and KPMG Peat Marwick in Hong Kong, I started my own practice in 1995. I also spent 3 years teaching in the evenings at S.P.A.C.E., the University of Hong Kong, on subjects ranging from advanced auditing to financial accounting. My father who has been practising as a dermatologist since 1960, encouraged his 4 daughters to pursue a career in a well-respected profession and to become financially independent.

What is the business structure of your business?
My CPA firm is a sole proprietorship which provides auditing services. Other services are rendered through a limited company incorporated in Hong Kong.

What services do you offer?  
My practice provides a "one-stop shop" for my clients. With 16 years of experience, we provide audit, Hong Kong tax return preparation and advice, outsourcing of the accounting function, banking services and business consultation. Our company secretarial services include formation of Hong Kong and offshore companies, company de-registration and liquidation, provision of a company secretary, registered office address, nominee directors and nominee shareholders.

How do you market your services?  3 methods:

1. Word of mouth: I always receive referrals from existing clients. My clients appreciate my personal services and enjoy my sense of humour.

2. Networking: Besides being a member of WBOC, I often attend functions held by other business associations and chambers of commerce. Socialising most nights of the week also helps.

3. Advertising: I always greet prospects with a friendly voice on the phone and put a personal touch in replying to emails from my prospects. Interpersonal skills gained from 3 years of teaching at the HKU help me tremendously in turning prospects into clients.

What opportunities and problems have you encountered along the way?  
WBOC has been an important networking tool. I found my corporate logo designer, doctor, computer consultant and insurance agent from the Club.

My problem is that even though I employ a team of professional staff, I sometimes feel lonely as a business owner. WBOC and socialising enable me to share my experience and gain moral support from others as well as "brainstorm" ideas from them.

How did you do your website?  
I registered the domain name "hongkongcpa.com" in 1999 as it is easy to remember. A fellow WBOC member, Roz Beste, helped me with the set-up.

What is happening in your business at the moment?  
Having run my own business for 6 years, my client base is expanding steadily. My busy season ends on 31 January. I will then have time to think of hiring more staff and moving my office to larger premises.

Any "hot tips" for entrepreneurs?
l. Work hard and play even harder. My playtime is an investment in my mental health and a relief from stress.

2. The 80 / 20 rule: 20% of the total number of clients may account for 80% of a firm's revenue. The other 80% of the total number of clients may take up a lot of time and energy but only bring in 20% of its fees. Use discretion when accepting opportunities that are presented to you.

3. Location, location and location. My office is in core Central and thus very accessible to my clients.

4. Love what you do (you will be married to your business in the first 5 years). If you don't, sell or close your business and move on.

5. Find an alternate: you do not want to stay married to your business forever.

6. Find a mentor, for example, a successful entrepreneur, an accountant or a lawyer.

7. Know "A Concise Guide to the Employment Ordinance" inside out. Recognise that no member of staff is indispensable. Ensure that if a member of staff is on "sudden" sick leave or resigns, life still goes on. Realise that managing staff becomes a tougher job as the business grows. When delegating, bear in mind that your staff may take longer to complete a super-urgent-deadline job than you plan or you would do yourself.

8. Allow 20% of your office hours for the unexpected: some clients do not ask for my assistance until the last minute and their problems need to be resolved by tomorrow!

9. Network, for example, become a member of WBOC.

10. Maintain a positive cashflow: collect your receivables ASAP, pay your staff before month end to avoid a drop in staff morale but pay your suppliers in accordance with the credit terms 

11. Computerise your business operations to achieve efficiency and effectiveness.

12. As a woman, trust your basic instincts as they are usually right.

13. As a businesswoman, be very well groomed as first impression really counts.

14. As a business owner, stay healthy and have ample medical insurance as you will not have time to queue up at public hospitals when you fall ill.