Huang Shu-hui has never been one to let her entrepreneurial success go to her head, and is quick to share her know-how with others. Here she is (wearing red) working alongside the Lion's Club, a service organization. (courtesy of Sung Ying)
Some people believe it is vulgar to discuss money, but even they accept that little can be achieved without it, including noble aims like looking after the physically and mentally challenged or orphans. Everyone wants to be successful but not everyone knows how to go about realizing their goals.
When asked about the key to success, Huang Shu-hui, recognized as one of the ten outstanding Chinese business women in the world by the Global Federation of Chinese Business Women in 2001, says that people need to work hard but also to "understand sales" and be "useful to others."
Known throughout the direct-marketing business, Huang is currently president of the Long Red Group and Redin International Co., Ltd. These companies are involved in a wide range of businesses, including real estate, textiles and international trade, marketing products in 12 countries around the world, whilst also making charitable donations to orphanages. She works over 16 hours a day, but in addition to devoting herself to product promotions is also a frequent speaker at charitable events, speaking over 2000 times on the public-speaking circuit over the last ten years or so, sharing with the general public her 20 years of experience in marketing. "Marketing is sharing," Huang says. "We do not just sell objects we share an idea, information or a product that will be useful to a friend." She believes that people start selling themselves as soon as they are born, so selling and sharing are skills people are born with. Infants cry to attract attention, because they need to be held or fed. Buying flowers on Valentine's Day is also all about "selling." Successful people are all sellers. Huang offers Microsoft's Bill Gates as an example. His success, she says, came about not because he designed computer software but because he knew how to sell them. He spent six long years visiting customers he didn't know and was turned down on countless occasions. It was a long, hard, lonely road, but ultimately Bill Gates got the orders he needed.
During her many years in direct marketing, Huang Shu-hui has come to realize: "Those critical of your products are potential buyers, and any success is a present wrapped with setbacks." In other words, almost all sales start with a refusal. Before she established a direct-marketing company, Huang worked for a long time at Shinkong Life Insurance, where she produced the best 24-month business performance twice in a row. She explains her impressive results as a result of working harder than everyone else. Even though her successes relative to clients contacted may have been slightly better than others, Huang points out that even she was often turned down by prospective clients.
One of her clearest memories is of a period when she spent eight hours, from 4:00PM to midnight, trying to sell an insurance policy to a client. She likens the experience to that of an emotional roller coaster with the client choosing a one million dollar policy, then a three million dollar one, followed by indecision and a change of heart resulting in no policy finally being purchased. After the experience, Huang drove around the empty streets of Taipei in the early morning not knowing what to do or where to go. Despite these feelings she was not depressed, indeed the worse a setback the braver she tends to feel. In this case she even decided to study psychology in order to understand how most people even after saying "no" on five separate occasions can still be persuaded to say "yes." As a result of this, she actually felt more confident about her direction in life.
In a 2001 Internet poll in mainland China on the top 50 Taiwanese entrepreneurs, Huang Shu-hui was ranked in 21st place. The single greatest source of pride for Huang is that she was hired by Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2000. This made her only the 21st consultant professor hired by the university worldwide and the only female entrepreneur.
Huang recalls how 20 years ago, shortly after becoming involved in marketing cosmetic and skin-care products, she made average monthly sales in excess of NT$2 million for seven years, but such an achievement came at the cost of her health. Beginning in 1989 she began to suffer a series of ailments including gastric ulcers and insomnia. These problems continued for four years, until 1993 when a friend presented her with a piece of material, telling her it was "Biowave fabric," produced by Tsinghua University in Beijing by using nanotechnology, and that it would help improve her general health. Huang had the material made into underwear and after wearing if for two months noticed a gradual improvement in her gastric ulcer problem. Although at that time she remained skeptical she decided to make two new items after which the improvement in her health became much more pronounced. In January 1994, Huang visited a professor at Tsinghua University in the hope of becoming an agent for the sale of the technology that had helped her so much. "There are always opportunities for those who are prepared," Huang Shu-hui believes.
In order to prove that she could provide good products she visited a department store and tried on over 200 brassieres looking for the perfect one, which she then took to a plant and had several samples made. On seeing these beautiful products the professor was moved by Huang's sincerity and energy. Having secured the distribution rights she worked with the Taiwan Textile Federation to bring together upstream, midstream and downstream technologies to successfully develop Biowave nylon filament, Biowave knitted fabrics with spandex, Biowave woven fabrics. Finally, in November 2001, this series of products passed the test of the Swiss-based SGS Group. Tests were conducted by the Department of Physical Therapy at Chang Gung University and after receiving certification from the Taiwan Textile Federation, Huang was granted ownership and user rights.
The most important motivation behind Huang Shu-hui's tireless work and pursuit of success over many years has been a strong desire to repay the hardships her parents endured and overcame when she was growing up. She quotes the words of international film star Jackie Chan: "Those with the ability to repay debts of gratitude are successful people." When Huang was little her family was poor. Her father worked at the Pingtung Distillery, earning a monthly salary that was insufficient to support a family of six children. As a result, Huang's mother had to think up other ways of making money to help the family, buying miscellaneous batches of products and then riding on her motorbike to various villages in the countryside where she would sell them.
Huang Shu-hui's mother learned a secret family recipe from her own mother for a special medicinal tonic made from a combination of different herbs and eaten with chicken or duck as a supplement during the Winter Solstice. Every year she visited relatives and friends in Taipei, relying on their help to sell her products only returning in spring with the money she had made. On one occasion she purchased a small plot of land and after a few years the family finally had its own home. Whenever Huang Shu-hui thinks of the many cold winter evenings her mother spent in the homes of other people, huddled in front of the fire, she is moved to tears. This motivated her to be successful whatever the cost, so that her mother would never again have to live such a hard life.
As a young girl Huang loved to sing, but her family was too poor to pay for piano lessons. Despite this she was still able to attend the Pingtung School for Musically Talented Children during her third grade at elementary school. To make sure this didn't cause any financial burden to her family. Huang gained admission to the publicly funded department of music at a military college. In 1984 she retired from the ROC Air Force as a captain and entered the marketing business at the very bottom of the ladder, and from there she gradually learned the business and made her way up. Finally she found a way to ensure that her mother lived in comfort in her later years and has continued to do all she can to help orphans and other disadvantaged children.
Huang Shu-hui is motivated in her pursuit of success by the words of the US neuro-linguist Anthony Robbins: "The motivation in people's pursuit of success is always related to escaping from pain and the pursuit of happiness." Huang is also a firm believer that by sharing her experiences she can help more people achieve their own success.