William Shum: The Rooted Empathetic Approach of Inspiring Leadership

What makes a leader distinct from others is their perception of several business aspects. Though, the simple act of listening to itself is an act of inspiration. People often want to be heard, and when a leader responds to their words, it creates goodwill laying the groundwork for strong business relationships. Akin to such qualities while also incorporating kindness to give people a strong voice, William Shum is truly an inspiring leader.

William is the Founder CEO of the Hong Kong-based Memorigin Watch Company, specializing in tourbillon watches. He utilized his exemplary entrepreneurial skills to elevate the company achieving major milestones in his business journey over a decade.

Insights Success caught up with William and talked about how he successfully conducted his business to penetrate the international market.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at Memorigin. What challenges do you have to overcome to reach where you are today?

I started this company when I was 25. Though it has been ten years since I became a business leader, I am still learning to be a better one. Having read lots of books about leadership, I particularly like Gary Vaynerchuk’s. He taught me the power of kindness. In my journey as a founder, the approach I have used the most is to try, observe, adjust, and try again. Sometimes things do not go as planned, so it becomes more important for me to think from broader perspectives. I always encourage my team to share their ideas and show respect. I actively listen to my business partners and try to understand. Kindness isn’t just about being nice, which somehow is perceived as being weak; it is an essential skill for good leadership. With this virtue, I successfully lead Memorigin to achieve various milestones.

One of the biggest challenges for me is brand positioning. Memorigin is a Hong Kong brand through which I want to proudly present the charisma of “East meets West” and to spread the crux of this cultural spirit to all parts of the world. Despite having a high quality of products, Asian brands like Memorigin are somehow difficult to expand into Western markets because Swiss brands dominate the world’s watch markets and consumers’ preferences. I have to spend a lot of effort on mapping out strategies to change the perceptions of consumers.

Words of Gratitude

I would like to specifically express my heartfelt gratitude to my business partner Mr. Hikaru Nakagawa. We got to know each other ten years ago when Memorigin first participated in Hong Kong Watch Fair. He visited my office and bought a few pieces for a watch quality test in Japan. After the watches were awarded the top-quality certificate by the prestigious Japanese watch certification institute, he started the partnership with me at the drop of a hat. In these ten years, we made concerted efforts in numerous collaborations and invited many Asian celebrities to take part in our projects. A strong international relationship is built as these opportunities have facilitated cross-cultural trust and communication among Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Japan. Thanks to the help of Mr. Nakagawa, Memorigin’s watches could be distributed in Dr. Haruhisa Handa’s HANDA Watch World, one of the biggest watch retailers in Japan. Dr. Handa is multi-talented and charismatic. Working with them has broadened my horizons and boosted my team’s creativity to design more unique watches. They were truly inspirational.

Tell us something more about Memorigin, its mission, and vision.

Being the first Hong Kong brand that specializes in tourbillon watches, Memorigin integrates marvelous oriental arts and top western watchmaking skills to produce tourbillon watches with prominent cultural features.

“Memorigin,” a combination of “memorial” and “original,” represents the fountain of hope for humankind. Watches record the passage of time, and the constant rotating of the tourbillion balance wheel symbolizes life’s ticking engine. We all play a part in the journey of time – each tourbillon watch worn is a collection of emotions and dreams, a witness to the ups and downs in life. When creating every exquisite tourbillon watch, Memorigin is devoted to creativity, determination, and hope. It is hoped that each watch can ignite inspiration and courage to seize opportunities, conquer challenges and realize dreams, creating infinite miracles ahead.

Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the watch components through your expertise in the market.

Memorigin’s passion for watches has driven investments in research and development, both in terms of models and technology, pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and creating tourbillon watches that bring endless surprises to customers. We produce our in-house tourbillon movements, from building the half-skeletonized ratchet and barrel to developing the “autorotor” self-winding caliber. We made breakthroughs in blue sapphire glass cutting and engraving technology. We created watches with double tourbillon movements and a central tourbillon with free-sprung balances. We also hollowed out the Japanese Akoya pearls and placed tritium gas tubes in for luminescence. We had three-dimensional reliefs on the dial with a dome-shaped 2.5D sapphire watch case. That said, polishing and watch design are not neglected. We continuously improve our finishing processes while turning imagination into reality.

Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?

Many people consider digital technology and traditional craftsmanship are two separate things. We think technologies can assist artisans in creating better works and reviving the cultural heritage. Even though Memorigin’s watches are assembled manually by watchmakers, the brand utilizes cutting-edge machinery to manufacture watch components of the best quality. Paying attention to every detail is the key to producing masterpieces.

On the other hand, we have been keeping an eye on the nascent technology. As these advancements touch every aspect of the businesses nowadays, we shift more focus to digital marketing and incorporate various technologies in business operation to facilitate the conversion in sales from online to offline. We even tapped into the NFT market recently in our collaboration with the NBA rising star LaMelo Ball.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Memorigin?

Rather than the Founder and CEO, I regard myself as a spiritual leader of Memorigin. Incorporating vision, faith, and altruistic love to motivate my team, I also pump new energy into my brand as a creator. If a brand just focuses on one offering, consumers would become tired. In the long run, I will continue to revitalize my brand. I hope there will be more collaborations and even partnership opportunities on a larger scale in the future. Our ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility will benefit more disadvantaged communities from all walks of life. I believe Memorigin will be more appealing to consumers with strong and positive brand equity.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the business sector?

It is crucial for them to maintain trust and make kindness a habit. Showing the side of being trustworthy can help get most of the things done effectively. Yet, it is easy to lose. A lack of trust can be an entrepreneur’s biggest expense as it can take a long time and much effort to restore. Kindness refers to listening and showing respect. Budding entrepreneurs will be future leaders, but leadership is not about forcing fellows to do what you say and having control over everything. A charismatic leader taps into hearts to lead. Equipping the ability to inspire and motivate others toward success will make them lovable. Meanwhile, thinking in reverse can enhance one’s creativity, which can help the business stand out in the rivalry and get through the tough times. Ideas coming up by thinking from various perspectives can be surprising.

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