Fireside Chat: Green Dot Co-Founder, Fu Yong Hong

March 20th, 2017 By Vadivu Govind
Fireside Chat: Green Dot Co-Founder, Fu Yong Hong

My company's core values are not money, money, money. They are care, love, hope. - Fu Yong Hong.

Yong Hong is the co-founder of Green Dot, an award-winning and fast growing healthy vegetarian eatery which I'm a regular customer of. Their mission is to help people take care of and love themselves. Through this interview, I came to know him as a deeply inspiring leader. People sometimes ask me which local organisations embody the kind of culture and leadership I promote through my work. Green Dot does this in such a magical way.

Organisational Culture

Yong Hong: We just had a charity event that day...we hope we can be an organisation where there is "ching xian ai ren". It means "respect the heaven" do the right things and love people. That's my direction for my company in terms of culture and people.

The most important step in having this culture is to have core values. You must think of this first. Alot of bosses or some start-ups or new companies are very good in business models and business but they may not like to spend time talking about this intangible part...because they think it doesn't result in extra sales or profit...but it will impact you in the long run like in terms of the people, energy level, kind of people you attract. So I feel that first step we did was to have a very strong core values and we live by the core values. And core values help you to make alot of decisions.

First step should be mission. Give them meaning to come to work everyday. Also have core values to live by everyday. Make your leaders and staff better then your company will grow.

What's been challenging from a people perspective?

It's not easy for a new company. Because at the start, really, you are very small and you can't pay market salary. You don't have alot of benefits to compete with the MNCs. So it really depends on your personal touch and your personal charisma as a leader for people to follow you. I started without any prior experience in F&B. So it was a bit challenging for me on how to be able to use the other factors instead of just benefits to attract staff. Honestly some companies pay well and give very good benefits because that's the only thing they have.

So we definitely cannot compete with the paying power of the big companies. Then why do people still join us? Because of the intangible things that they feel. They feel a sense of belonging; they feel our sense of purpose. They are able to tap on the company to give back to society. But ultimately you cannot fake these. The boss must be that kind of person. And do it from the bottom of their heart, not because they want to portray something.

How do you hire people with your core values?

I just feel that the best people come from referrals. So it's about treating your current people well. And you cannot rush this. It's not a numbers game. Don't be affected when wrong staff come along and bad things happen. Everything that happens is a lesson and we must be thankful about it. If you're thankful, the good people will come.

And the main thing is also keep the right environment and right culture and the right people will come. If your culture is rojak and it's all about money... I firmly believe that if the person joins you because of money, one day he or she will leave you because of money.

So when I hire people and sit down with them, I never talk about money. I share about my values. I share about what I want. Then I ask the person to do a three-day trial. Then we talk about money. So don't let money be the factor.

Author Note: Check out Green Dot's inspiring recruitment page which encourages candidates to sense if they fit into the organisational culture before applying. Here are extracts from their page.

What's the most important thing you want to share with others?

You have to really be passionate in what you do. You cannot be a leader if you are not passionate about people, like talking to people, sharing with people, and being selfless and showing love.

If you want to be a leader you need to love people and take care of them. And groom them.

Don't be afraid that your people are better than you. Because that's how you build an organisation.

Sometimes leaders grow in age but never grow in wisdom and love. When we graduated from uni, we got lots of knowledge but not wisdom. A leader needs to have wisdom. I started with zero wisdom then along the years, I grew. Then the heart is very important; having a big heart. If you count everything, you will give up running a business.

You must have a big heart.

We are not the most professional or best F&B. There are alot of areas where we can improve. But I am happy with the quality of my people and the heart they have. Some bosses feel numbers and profits are everything, especially now. But I am proud of this.

I'm happy not because I earn money but I'm happy because I feel that my people are giving out positivity to society. I think that's more important. Money is important but once you got a house, three meals to eat and excess money to do what you need, what else do you need?

Mabel is a magnet. She showers warmth and care not only on staff but also customers. She teaches staff to put love into the food. When time permits and we bump into each other at Green Dot, we share about our lives with each other. She enables customers like me to have an emotional connection to Green Dot. Green Dot attracts such staff because of their leadership. They know the power of Love.