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My children come first

Published on Friday, 20 Aug 2010
Elaine Young
CEO and co-founder of Shama
Photo: Edmond So

CEO and co-founder of Shama, Elaine Young once said that "most serviced apartments lack passion". Highly energetic and creative, Young is undoubtedly passionate about life and work.

Nevertheless, she understands that the conflict between work and family is a common problem for most career women. "I decided a few years ago that I should focus more on my family by putting my three children first," she says.

Several years ago, Young proposed to forfeit her pay rise to swap for a four-day work week.

To her, balancing work, life and family is a priority, and a successful career woman should always prioritise between career and ambition on one hand, and leisure and family on the other.

Based on that work-life principle, Young is a full-time mother on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

She believes that guilt is a "horrible, but real emotion" and that she would rather spend more time with her children than have a big bonus or a huge pay rise.

"If you ask me to define success, I can tell you I feel totally content and happy. I wake up feeling happy every morning. I think I'm really lucky because I don't need to sacrifice my family for my career. As for financial success, what it means to me is to have the freedom to travel and see the world, and I have also accomplished that."

Arriving from London in 1986, Young stopped over in Hong Kong for five days on her way to Australia. But she came back to the city later that year, and has been here ever since.

"Love brought me back to Hong Kong, but my love for the city has kept me here all these years," Young says.

She recalls that back in the 1980s, Hong Kong was an easy place to find work and live because there were no visa restrictions for British nationals who wanted to work here.

Young, named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Financial Times and RBS Coutts last year, is a woman of immense passion and purpose. She believes that to be successful one must learn to embrace criticism. "Do what you love and try not to be fearful of failure," she says. "You can't learn from compliments, but you can certainly learn from creative feedback."

Young applies this motto to all her roles from family to work, and seems to be savouring every experience. Even being young and poor when she first arrived in Hong Kong in the 1980s turned out to be a valuable adventure for her.

Co-founded by Young in 1996, Shama now operates 12 properties in prime commercial and residential districts in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dalian, and has plans to expand its operation on the mainland and in other parts of Asia including Bangalore and Bangkok.

From the first purchase of a 10-apartment building in the stylish SoHo district in Hong Kong in 1996, the company has grown to become the premier provider of luxury serviced apartments in Asia, with assets in excess of HK$1.7 billion.

Encroaching upon a male-dominated corporate world can be daunting for a woman. However, Young is able to take things in her stride. Instead of feeling intimidated, she feels empowered and motivated by a sense of mission.

Success tips

  • Be able to read trends
  • Be different
  • Listen to critics
  • Be flexible, while being creative 



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