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'Wacky' LKF seeks out-of-the-box staff

Having turned the once-deserted backstreets of Central district into Hong Kong’s hippest attraction for both locals and tourists is already an “old landmark” for Lan Kwai Fong (LKF) Group – and its founder, Allan Zeman.

Today, apart from spreading the “Lan Kwai Fong” brand across mainland cities such as Chengdu and Haikou – with more in the pipeline – LKF Group also operates various property projects in the region, including the Mall of the World in Guangzhou, and Andara Resort & Villas in Phuket, Thailand. The latter is developed under the name of subsidiary Paradise Group. And the 27-storey California Tower, situated in LKF Group’s eponymous birthplace, will open next year.

“We expect to hire 15 to 20 people in the next few months for our current and coming projects, and another 15 to 20, particularly for the new California Tower,” says Jonathan Zeman, the group’s chief operating officer (COO) and son of the founder.

The new recruits will become members of its marketing, leasing, finance, property management and project management teams, among other positions.

When choosing candidates, Zeman points out that personality and creativity come before experience. “The person that we seek is very open-minded, energetic, able to think out of the box, because LKF is a high-quality entertainment and property [operator and developer] with a creative twist. That creative twist is very important, as we always do things a little bit differently, and that’s why LKF people are always a little bit wacky. We can really come up with that creativity and maintain our standards at the same time,” Zeman says.

“One thing I learned from my father is that just because someone has a degree, it doesn’t mean that he or she knows how to do it. And anyone can be potted to do things and we can mould people and help to train them up to where we want it to be,” he adds.

“Of course, it’s great if we can find that someone with good working experience, but that [experience] can also be learned on the job. So it really depends on the persons themselves. If they are smart, open-minded, they are easy to  teach. If someone has 20 years of experience, but is really close-minded and only can see black and white, then [they are] not really suitable for working with us,” says Zeman, who started as trainee in an LKF Group restaurant back in 1998 and then worked for various departments before becoming its COO.

LKF Group maintains a flat organisational structure, he adds. “We are not a ‘normal’ kind of company or a standard corporate type of group. One of the LKF identities is that we are a family-run business. So we like to keep our structure quite flat,” Zeman stresses.

He adds that creative staff – from the groups’ graphic and multimedia design squad  to its marketing and event production teams – get together regularly for creative workshops.
“I bring all creative staff from Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Thailand offices together [in one of our regional offices] for three days every three months. Most recently, we did that in Chengdu, the next one will be in Phuket, the one after should be in Hong Kong,” Zeman says.

“Last year in Hong Kong, for example, I took them out to different interesting shops, galleries, restaurants – letting them open their eyes. Then they get together to create things, and we would give some tests to them during the workshops as well,” he adds.

LKF Group also provides allowances to enable staff to check out new places so as to pick up on the latest trends or inspirations.

“They [staff] have to live their life outside the office, as LKF is a lifestyle brand. So our leasing staff, for example, should go shopping during the weekends... to know the latest trends. When they go on holiday overseas, or go to work on mainland China, they should go everywhere. And whenever we go on a business trip, we bring the leasing team to see everything and get fresh ideas,” Zeman says.

New recruits undergo a one-to-two week induction programme in order to learn more about the group, followed by unlimited on-the-job training opportunities. “Everyday is a learning experience – for the boss as well as for the staff,” Zeman adds.