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Fang Min manages creatively

By Agnes Asiimwe

What’s your day like?

I wake up at 7a.m; I do exercises for one hour in my house and at 9 a.m. I am at work. I have businesses in China so I work on that first because when its 12 noon here its 5 p.m. in China so I have to finish all Chinese business before noon. At 1 p.m. I go to the Fang Fang restaurant. After lunch I come to the Fang Fang Hotel. We close at around midnight and that’s when I go home. By the time I go to bed it’s already morning, 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. In this business you have to be working 365 days a year.

What businesses do you have in China?

In China I buy and sell property, land or buildings. I have managers there. Also in Uganda when I get the chance I buy and sell property. Sometimes you get land and rent it or you sell it.

Did you have trouble setting up business in Uganda?

I have been in Uganda for 20 years, I am used to everything and I am comfortable and I can now speak English. In the beginning it was tough, I couldn’t speak English and I had very little money. Without these two you cannot do what you want. I did not know anybody. In my second year, I partnered with another person and put money in the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant [on Kampala road].That was my first business but there were problems with the partner and I sold out in 1993. Fang Fang restaurant is 20 years old and the hotel is 15 years.

What challenges do you face?

Before CHOGM there were few hotels, today there are so many hotels, some of my customers have built their own hotels, there are so many restaurants. It is stiff competition.

The price of commodities is shooting skyward, rice, cooking oil, everything is going up by 30%, 40% yet people’s salaries are not increasing.

Min’s management tips

Work hard.

Set a good example.

Work with your staff.

Be present, see with your eyes, dont rely on reports and word of mouth.

Take your business like a baby and give it tender care from the beginning and constantly.

Be creative. At Fang Fang we change the menu, change the style of service and strive to keep improving our quality of service, and we treat the customer ever importantly.

How are you resolving the challenges?

We go to schools and search for good students from universities and other catering schools and hire them.

We are not worried about the competition and we are doing more aggressive marketing and advertising abroad in China, USA and other countries.

But there is nothing I can do about the dollar or the rising market prices.

What challenges do you face with Ugandan employees?

Stealing, that is the biggest worry among business owners. They make fake receipts, something is for Shs 50,000 and someone makes a receipt of Shs 150,000. That spoils our reputation because we don’t overcharge but it looks like we do.

Some workers are lazy. They want to arrive late for work and go home early. It was worse in the beginning, on holidays they would all want to be off and would ask for sick leave. But after 20 years I find Ugandans changing. Many young women are now working, people are time conscious and they take their jobs more seriously. There are more people who are working hard.

What qualities do you look for when you are hiring?

Integrity. Hard worker. Qualified

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About Fang Min: She is the Managing Director of Fang Fang Group which owns Fang Fang Hotel and Fang Fang Chinese Restaurant in Kampala. Her restaurants are ranked among the best in the region and have won the international gold star award for quality. She is also the deputy director general of China’s Foreign Trade Committee and director of China-Africa Business Council. She is into in real estate and coffee export. She overcame language barriers to set up a business in an unfamiliar territory. In 2003 she won the Best Woman Entrepreneur Award at the Investor of the Year Awards. Last year during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese government honoured her for her work in Africa with commemorative stamps – a monument of patriotic Chinese. Ms Fang holds a degree in business management from Wuhan University in China. She is married and has a daughter.

 

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