A shared dream of both generations: Talks of Father and Daughter, Senior and Junior Chairs of Grace Vineyard

Date:2015-5-28 16:42

The Chair’s interview must include Dad and it is not easy for a daughter to interview her father.

Against the odds of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Dad was determined to enter a business he had never had in his life. Such decision was not safe but bold. Born in Medan, Indonesia, Dad returned to China at his 15 and was sent to Inner Mongolia for countryside practice and worked at Shanxi Hohhot Steel Factory. Following his graduation of Tayuan College of Technology, he came to Hong Kong with only 5 dollars and ran his own business after working at the trading company newly run by Grandpa. He keeps himself busy with running new businesses, including steel plant, power plant, sewage plant, realty, department store, and cemetery.

Dad’s businesses tell how he was and is. Indeed, he was never a typical father figure. He took my young brother and me to the shore during Typhoon Signal No. 8 to feel how great the nature was. He and I once viewed 3 films in 3 theaters at 04:30 p.m., 07:30 p.m. and 09:30 p.m. in one day. My major in Women’s Studies was not familiar to him, but he was on my side.

He is sweet and considerate. He arranged an individual fireworks show for my mother-in-law only to celebrate her anniversary at the winery. On the contrary, he is unsophisticated as well. Mr. Torres cannot have spicy cuisine and has told us not to prepare such dishes for him. Still, Dad ordered a table full of hot spicy dishes since he is fond of chili taste. I noticed that Mr. Torres was uneasy and told Dad that it was bad to serve the guest with chili taste. Dad had a bite and replied, “I don’t think it spicy, do you?”

Money saving is the virtue to most Chinese, but Dad told us to enjoy the affordable goodies in life. He owns some specific perspective on current societal values and has spent 2 hours sharing the child-raising ideas with me as viewing the chimpanzee program on the National Geographic Channel. 

 

I had so many words to say about Dad because he is what Grace Vineyard respects and values.

Names in talks

Chan: C.K. Chan, Chairman and founder of the winery

Judy: Judy Leissner, Chan’s daughter, CEO/Junior Chair of the winery

 

Judy:

Dad, you might have heard such question too many times. Indeed, why did you found Grace Vineyard?

Chan:

A person sees things with varied ideas. My business attempts were stated in journals and my family attempts are to share with you since you are my little girl.

Entrepreneurship runs in the family. The ancestors began tobacco business early in Guangdong after leaving Fujian. Your grandpa moved to Indonesia after leaving Longyan Fujian. Despite the great success back then, turmoil hindered their leaving the wealth to the offspring. However, entrepreneurship never fades. This is why I attempt to run new businesses.

Regarding the winery, I was moved by the boutique wineries lasting more than 100 years in Japan, Europe and USA. China lacks the winery with long history since there was severe turmoil in the mid-20th century. Despite a great number of businesses run by me, I failed to see any vitality but the winery was the hope. Thus, it is my attempt to run a family-owned winery lasting for long.

 

Judy:

Without knowing wine well, how did you found the vineyard and winery?

Chan:

I had no idea, but Sylvain Janvier, my French partner did, so he was liable for hiring Professor Denis Boubals, choosing venues, and winery’s design and construction. We the three were busy with visiting venues in Shanxi and Shaanxi on muddy roads. The 2 sweet foreign friends had no complaints but felt excited for finding new vineyards in China. Boubals was unhappy with hot beer in summer. Qingxu County was once an option, but industrial pollution was an obstacle. The Qiaos House lacked the nature quality, so Taigu was the final venue for the winery.

The local liaison mattered in China, Shanxi a dozen years ago in particular. Jian-Min Li, my alumna of Tayuan College of Technology, helped me a lot as engaged in the Resources Office of Shanxi province. She was liable for the governmental procedures and connections on foundation affairs. This is how I handle my businesses. I entrust the affairs to those with advanced knowledge under firm direction and clear objectives.

 

Judy:

Are you determined all the way?

Chan:

In fact, I was unsure in the beginning. My friends kept telling me that I was wasting my time and energy and urged me to sell the winery. As you took over the winery, my doubt was deepened. It used to say that a man fears a wrong job and it is the same to a woman, too. Wine requires a long lifecycle and it is hard for a small winery to stand firm in a short time. Without brand, capital, liaison and channel, I was concerned for dragging you down.

 

Judy:

I knew. You told me about your concerns all the time. How about now? Are you less concerned?

Chan:

Sure. Your dedication and involvement convince me of the prosperity of the winery.

 

Judy:

Despite the small capital invested in the winery, were you fine with me taking over the winery at my 24? What if the winery were broken?

Chan:

The age 24 is enough for an adult and I believe in you. If the winery is not helmed by you solely, it would end up you came to me for help. I knew that you are never impulsive and you talk with me on issues in need of resolution. The winery would not be broken with your ideas and my experience.

 

Judy:

Dad, I truly was lost at that point. But engaging us in the businesses (me in the winery and young brother in the sewage plant) is the best way to teach us how to learn the responsibility.

Chan:

Persons are diversified and a father and his little girl are never the same. Too many Chinese parents fail to let go of control over children. That is too painful.

 

Judy:

A transnational corporation offered to buy the winery and we decided to reject it. Am I the main reason for you to reject such offer? What was on your mind?

Chan:

You are truly my priority. In fact, I was reluctant to sell it, too. The buyer questioned us, “Will you regret if you reject such offer?” Do you remember that?

 

Judy:

I do. Your reply was too great to forget, “I might regret someday if it is not sold today, but I will definitely regret tomorrow if it is sold to you today!”

Chan:

I did feel that way. Money cannot delete regrets.

 

Judy:

What is your prospect for the winery and for me?

Chan:

I insist on fine winemaking, so it is our goal to advance the quality with proper means. The climate in China is not that good for vine growing and adequate measures are constantly in need of indeed enactment. Be aware of risks despite the impressive success.

 

Judy:

How do you see my longer time spent in the HK market?

Chan:

HK is your hometown and your intention is acceptable, but do avoid being obsessed with the recognition of the hometown due to your origin in HK. I do agree that you intend to firm Grace Vineyard in HK. HK is a pivot of mixed cultures and I stay here. HK brought the opportunities to me and I am glad to see our vintages accepted by HK customers.

 

Judy:

The collective memory of my generation is the mixture of pains and joys in the north motherland.

Chan:

The north motherland requires a bold and tolerant mind, like the sea.

 

Judy:

Like Deep Blue?

 

Dad was silent as I advertised the wine.

 

He once told me that we both are founders of the winery since he founded it and I took over it. Today, he allows me to accept the applause due to his retirement. Still, it is clear that his perspective and perseverance firmed the winery. I am thankful to his trust. Indeed, Grace Vineyard is a shared dream to both generations.

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