Shining a Light: How a Family Business Built a Brighter Future
20th March 2017
Second generation family business Singbee Group have been involved in arts and design in China since 1989. Started as a crystal manufacturing firm, the business became a key player within the creative industry. However, founder and owner Wang Yuancheng soon became cautious of the high impact crystal manufacturing had on the local environment.
“Crystal making caused severe water pollution, so much so that rivers were as white as milk due to the particles of dust left by the polishing process. Needless to say, the water was undrinkable” says Winson Yeung, Vice President at Singbee and Wang Yuancheng’s son-in-law.
The desire to create a better-performing and more environmentally friendly firm led Wang Yuancheng to explore new opportunities and rethink the scope of his business, ultimately switching from the arts to the science and technology sector. He went on to establish Singbee Lighting, a completely new, highly innovative business that brought together lighting and LED.
“My father in law was looking to invest in environmentally friendly opportunities when he came across LED technology. When he founded Singbee Lighting back in 2005, the use of LED technology in the lighting industry was unheard of” says Winson.
Wang Yuancheng was fascinated by LED for two reasons, the extremely long life span of this technology, and the reduced environmental impact of producing it.
“He really liked the idea of creating something ‘clean’ and highly performing” continues Winson. “Using LED we save over 90% in energy, way above traditional lighting systems. And the lifespan of LED is much longer, lasting up to 83 years. With such a long life cycle, we produce less waste and save a lot of energy across time”.
Innovation: A great way to engage the next generation
Today, Singbee Lighting is the core of Singbee Group. But when he first joined the business with his wife Lina there was no existing market in China for LED lighting, and very little interest in environmental issues. Coming from an international academic science background, Winson saw this as a great opportunity, both to support his wife’s family business and to be involved in a firm in whose values he believed.
“The only way for a company to maintain its competitiveness is to be able to evolve and change according to the world’s demands. Embracing sustainable approaches when doing business is a great way to think innovatively and outside the box” says Winson. “And as a next generation member this is perfect. It was a springboard for expressing and driving new ideas, and it empowered me to drive a new business model that allowed us to remain relevant and be successful”.
In Winson’s view sustainability is about the life of our planet and future generations, as well as of the business itself.
“When you are not involved in it, sustainability looks complicated. As an approach, it is difficult for people to jump on to. But once you embrace it completely, your business will achieve greater results” says Winson. “When the Chinese government began its efforts to reduce water pollutants in 2011, most crystal businesses in China had to shut down. We were fine because we had been able to look ahead and think innovatively”.
More than just the environment: people, communities and future generations
Whilst Singbee Lighting started with the intent of reducing their impact on the environment, today being sustainable means a lot more to the family business.
As a member of FBN, the international family business network of which IFB is the UK chapter, Winson learned about Polaris, the pledge committing family businesses to being a force for good for people, communities, the environment and future generations.
A roadmap tailored for family business, Polaris provides a comprehensive framework to assess business performance, benchmark oneself against peers, and set strategies and objectives on aspects of business governance, employees, community, environment, impact business models and family governance.
“As a company we did not know about Polaris before, but learning about this model really helped us to understand that sustainability is not only about the environment. It is about a much wider range of issues that are key to the success of the business, including management, governance, employees, communities” Says Winson. “Polaris opened my eyes to what sustainability is actually about. Thinking about all these issues as part of a whole, I realised that there was so much room for improvement, and without it I would not have thought about business development this far”.
If your next generation would like to know more about Singbee Lighting and its sustainability journey, or if you are a member of the next generation and want to hear how Winson engaged in the business as an in law, join us on 15 May.
In the meantime, don’t miss our upcoming webinar and learn more about Polaris and how it helped many family firms in framing and structuring their long-term vision. You’ll learn about what you can measure in your family business, why this is important and the benefits this brings.