Don’t pick up that $20 note

Don’t pick up that $20 note

No, this is not a prison joke.

This is a metaphor I made up to advise a client that he needed focus in his strategy. I thought perhaps this may also apply to other endeavours, such as a career change.

Let’s say you see a basket of $100 notes sitting on the other side of the street. When you walk across the road to get it, you see a $20 note lying in the middle of the road. Don’t stop to pick it up.

While your are trying to to pick up the $20 notes, someone else may run over to grab the $100 notes. Or you may fail to see a truck speeding at you.


My client had been struggling with an obsolete business model. Yet he has a good team, and solid knowledge in the industry. After a few discussions, we came up with a new model that would serve the market in a completely new way. “Disruptive” was the word. It all made sense. All he needed was to transition his business into the new business model.

Then he thought part of the strategy to present to new investors was to work on old-style opportunities that might still come along. After all, he had invested so much in the old (but dying) model.

It might seem to be easy money. But I said, since his team were all dedicated people, once they saw an opportunity, they would pursue with full force. While result was not guaranteed, a lot of effort would be expended to chase a small prize. Overall, a distraction.

Any kind of business transition is not going to be easy. It may seem like just a small twist of the old model, but often it is not. The effort required is often underestimated.

Of course, in the end it is a judgement call. Risks need to be taken.

This should apply to business transformations, as well as career changes. If it makes sense, and if it feels right, go for it. Forget about old investments. They are sunk cost.  But they are also assets that you will find useful again.

Strategy is choosing what not to do. Don’t try to do everything just because you can.

Ignore $20 notes along the way.



Leroy Yue, currently based in his hometown Hong Kong, is a business advisor focusing on Japan and China. He has held senior positions in large global companies, and has worked and lived in London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila.

Leroy speaks fluent English, Japanese, Putonghua and Cantonese. He has an MBA from London Business School. He also did a program at Sophia University 上智大学 (Tokyo), and an executive program at Shanghai Jiaotong Univsersity 上海交通大学.

more about Leroy Yue,  LinkedIn Profile


How I collected a 400k bad debt in China

How I collected a 400k bad debt in China

If I asked 10 friends who run a business in China, 5 of them would say collecting money from customers was a big headache. The other 5 probably run a restaurant business so had no trouble collecting money. (Yes, F&B business is booming)

Here I’d like to share my story about how I successfully collected a fairly large bad debt in China.

In was around 2007, the second year for the recruitment firm in Shanghai that I had built with a business school classmate. Business was good.

We had successfully placed a senior manager to work for a client. It was a hard-to-find perfect match. Unfortunately, the manager quit after five months. I heard that he had a nervous breakdown and disappeared (yes, work pressure in China can drive people crazy!)

Under the terms of our service agreement, the search fee was due and payable 30 days after the day a candidate reported to work. We would provide a best effort free replacement search, if the employment was terminated within three months of placement, and if the client had paid the fee on-time. Pretty standard for the industry.

I had a lot of experience with commercial contracts, so I was the one drafting the template, and approving any variations.

And as is often the case in China, many people like to ignore what is written on the contract that they have signed. In this case, our client just refused to pay.

After a lot of chasing and explaining, I decided to take legal action to collect the overdue.

While developing the standard agreement for the firm, I had consulted a local lawyer friend. This was a gentleman I met in the Jin Jiang Hotel swimming pool, to which I liked to go for a quick swim in mid-afternoon, fully recharged after 15 minutes of quick laps, then go back for a few more hours of work. In exchange for his legal advice, I gave him tips on how to swim better.

He advised that arbitration would be more efficient than proper courts in the event of disputes, in my kind of business. So I adopted that in all our commercial contracts.

Going back to collecting the bad debt – so I hired a lawyer to file a complaint to the Shanghai Arbitration Center. (My swimmer lawyer friend would be too expensive: I’d need to be in the water a long time to repay him! )

A few weeks later, we had a hearing at the Shanghai Arbitration Center. My client was actually a listed company based in Beijing. They sent a lawyer to attend.

We presented our case. They argued that they shouldn’t have to pay (interesting details. Will write in another article), but of course all documentary evidence and the law said they should pay.

The arbitration officer ruled in our favour. He then persuaded me to offer some discount to make it easier. I agree to give them 10% discount, just as a goodwill gesture. We signed on the paperwork and went home.

It still took us a few weeks to actually get the money into our bank. Our lawyer needed to remind them that the arbitration ruling was final and binding. If they didn’t pay, we would apply for a court order in Beijing to freeze all of their bank accounts.

So they finally paid up. Justice prevailed.

This article was originally posted in LinkedIn.


Leroy Yue, currently based in his hometown Hong Kong, is a business advisor focusing on Japan and China. He has held senior positions in large global companies, and has worked and lived in London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila.

Leroy speaks fluent English, Japanese, Putonghua and Cantonese. He has an MBA from London Business School. He also did a program at Sophia University 上智大学 (Tokyo), and an executive program at Shanghai Jiaotong Univsersity 上海交通大学.

more about Leroy Yue,  LinkedIn Profile

Why Hong Kong is better than Shanghai

Why Hong Kong is better than Shanghai

Hong Kong vs Shanghai

A personal comparison of lifestyle in these two cities.

I have many friends and relatives in Shanghai.  Many are enjoying their lives there.  No doubt, Shanghai is probably the best city in mainland China for a foreigner.

I have picked Shanghai as a comparison because I have lived there long enough.  Also, “officially”, Shanghai is aiming to become the international financial center of China – thus prompting the media to cook up a rivalry between Hong Kong and Shanghai.  So picking Shanghai may entice more disagreeing comments. Good fun!

For people who are thinking to relocate, but have not really lived in either of these two cities, I hope this article gives a (clearly biased) perspective.

Hong Kong has Internet

Well, China has internet too. Actually, you can have good access to free movies and music, legal and illegal versions, from local providers.

But you are pretty much cut off from the outside world. No Gmail. No Google Search. No Facebook. No WordPress. If you want to host your own site, you need to be licensed.  Many sites are blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall. You may try to set up VPN to bypass the firewall, but international bandwidth you can get is so extremely low that you might as well forget about it.

Try booking a trip on an overseas website. It’s so slow that it simply will not work. You are encouraged to visit a local alternative. From search engine to travel website, overseas sites cannot compete. The domestic scene is dominated by a couple of very large players.

Hong Kong: 3D, Shanghai: 2D

Shanghai is flat, and geographically boring. Hong Kong is a mountainous island.  We go hiking up the mountain trails after sunday breakfast, and still have a whole afternoon to do other stuff.

A hiking trail  starting just 1 minutes from the main road

Start from the city, enjoy the view along the way, end your hike at a seafood restaurant or cafe by the beach. Take the bus back. Hiking is the most popular pastime in Hong Kong.

Best Airport in the World

The Hong Kong airport has been voted the best in the world many times. In Hong Kong, people go on overseas holidays all the time. Many exotic destinations are only a short flight away: Bali, Phuket, Taipei, Ho Chi Ming….

And of course, we don’t hear about the famous ATC delays (air traffic control), unless we are going on a business trip to China.

As you may have read or experienced, the worst delayed airports in the world are namely, Beijing and Shanghai. So my Shanghai friends’ usual out-of-town weekend trip is a few hours in the traffic to the Suzhou or Hangzhou.

Life’s a Beach!

Where else in the world can you find a multi-trillion dollar stock exchange that is 15 minutes drive from a beach? The beach is so near that, when I was young, we actually sneaked out during lunch time to go surfing, and could be back in town for a meeting in the afternoon!

A typical Sunday on the beach, from October to March, when the swell is up
Dodgeball on the beach, where locals mix with expats


International Beach Water Polo Tournament, Repulse Bay. November 2015

Apart from beaches on the south side of Hong Kong island, there are really nice beaches and islands that can only be reached by hiking or by boat. You can water-ski, windsurf, or just have some champagne with a few friends on a rented yacht. The choice is yours.

Boat parties. A must-do in the summer.

Better Climate

Let’s not even discuss the level of PM2.5.

OK, Hong Kong summer is hot. It gets to 34 Celsius (93 F) quite often. But we have proper air-conditioning everywhere. Whereas Shanghai can get to 45 C (115 F) in the summer, and close to zero with rain and wind chill in winter. And in most rented flats, heating and air-conditioning are often insufficient.

Winter months in HK are super nice, mostly between 15 to 23 C, equivalent to the pleasant but short spring and autumn in Shanghai.

Oktoberfest by the harbour

HK taxmen are cute!

(Personal income tax: max. 15%, no sales tax, no VAT, no capital gains, no inheritance tax.)

In Hong Kong, you pay your salary tax once a year. Every year, you and your employer declare how much you have earned.  The taxman then send you a bill a few months later, giving you a few months to pay. The tax amount is based on your current year income, plus an estimate of your taxable income in the following year. That is, you pay your last year’s tax one year late, and your coming year’s tax one year early. Fair enough.

So let’s say you pay your tax accordingly, but then, you move to work somewhere else. Since HK only tax your income earned in HK, you suddenly become not taxable, and have paid too much on your provisional tax (for the coming tax-year).

This has happened to me quite a few times. Each time, the HK tax authority automatically sent me a cheque, refunding the excess. I didn’t even have to ask them.

In China, no way!

HK taxmen, and most other civil servants (yes, that how we call government officials!) are quite nice, and very efficient.

Truly International

There are a lot of foreigners in Shanghai. You only need to go to Yong Kang Lu on a sunday afternoon to see. But most of them are rather new to Shanghai.

In Hong Kong, we have a significant number of expats who have been here for many years. A good American friend has made Hong Kong his home since 25 years ago. He has built an international environmental protection organization based out of Hong Kong. An English friend has been a talkshow host on local radio for over a decade. A business school classmate, after retiring from her successful investment banking career and selling her house in London, decided to move to Hong Kong. She started a gallery specializing in Latin America art. She has already been here for 6 years now.

Puerta Roja  Latin America Art in Hong Kong

From doctors to artists, to scientist and educators, they contribute so much in making Hong Kong a rich and diverse community. I think their contribution really comes from their sense of belonging. Hong Kong is their home. Not just a transit place.

Free Christmas Concert in the Park – an international cast and an international production

This is possible because the policy and environment here are accommodating. I recently attended a prenatal class. All classmates were expats, and all have decided to deliver their babies at Queen Mary Hospital. The cost to them will be the same as to any local residents- HK$50 for registration, and $100 per day of stay and care. All inclusive, even if emergency surgery and NICU are needed. (By the way, Queen Mary Hospital has world class facilities and staff.)

And if you have lived here for 7 years, you can become a permanent resident. In China, I have not heard any ways a foreigner can become a permanent resident. I only know expats take a tax break every 5 years, to avoid becoming a tax resident.

(In Shanghai, there is a group of HK people who have been living there for many years. I know many of them contribute a lot to the local community. From charity to art and cultural involvement. Hats off to them.)

Hong Kong is also truly international in the sense that anyone from anywhere can start a business here. We do not discriminate against foreign investors. Everyone has the same rights and obligations to conduct business here, regardless of nationality.

In Shanghai, things are rather difficult for foreigners. For example, you can’t buy a fast-train ticket online as a foreigner because you do not have the China ID card. It is improving, but the business environment in China is still very restrictive for foreigners.

Positive Energy

Hong Kong is a lovely and amazing place. I have only really come to appreciate it after living abroad for many years. If you have not been here before, I encourage you to come for a visit.

I am writing this partly to show my appreciation of this lovely place, and perhaps to remind Hong Kong people how lucky we are to be living in such a wonderful city. There has been quite a bit of political discontent in this city recently.

Every city has its good and bad. This article is obviously personally biased. If you love Hong Kong like I do, please share this and spread the positive energy. If you disagree with the title, please comment below and let me know the good things about Shanghai. I am sure there are many that I don’t know. Next time when I go to Shanghai I’ll make sure I appreciate them.


Leroy Yue, currently based in his hometown Hong Kong, is a business advisor focusing on Japan and China. He has held senior positions in large global companies, and has worked and lived in London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila.

Leroy speaks fluent English, Japanese, Putonghua and Cantonese. He has an MBA from London Business School. He also did a program at Sophia University 上智大学 (Tokyo), and an executive program at Shanghai Jiaotong Univsersity 上海交通大学.

more about Leroy Yue,  LinkedIn Profile

Why Invest in Japan (despite poor GDP growth)

Why Invest in Japan (despite poor GDP growth)

This is adapted from a speech I delivered at a Hong Kong SME Chamber dinner event on Dec 3, 2015.

Bad economy.  Really?

Economists are telling us Japan is in recession again.  Is Japan economy really that bad?

Japan recession
Source: Financial Times

I go to Japan all the time.  Next Monday, I’m going to a customer dinner in Tokyo.  I wanted to book a teppanyaki restaurant that I knew.  My assistant told me they were already fully booked weeks ago.

teppanyaki steak sq
A5 grade sirloin, Medium please.

Fully booked on a Monday night?   I thought the economy was bad.

I’ve been to this restaurant once.  I spoke to the chef, he said he used to work in a 5-stars hotel, and he decided to open his own restaurant.

This is a nice small restaurant in the basement of a side street, in a not so busy district.  It has good food and service, and a cozy atmosphere, unlike typical high priced places in Ginza or Roppongi

.teppanyaki nakamura sign

Recession.  So what.

The technical definition of recession is “3 quarters of negative GDP growth”.

Well, comparing to China, Japan’s economy really hasn’t grown at all. But as a businessman, how much does GDP growth matter to you? How about GDP size?

A very big economy

source: JETRO

Japan used to be the second largest economy in the world.  Now it is the third.  It is still a large country, with a lot of people spending quite a lot of money everyday.

How big? The size of Kanto area (Tokyo and surrounding) is that of the UK. Shikoku, an island in the south, really the middle of nowhere (sorry Mr Takagi, if you are reading this), is that of New Zealand.

No matter how fast or how slow the GDP of Japan grows, Japan is still a very large economy, worthy of considering to sell your product or service there.

You are not selling everything to everyone!

So don’t worry about the falling total GDP.

Japan is a country with sophisticated consumers/business buyers. A lot of them. Yes, competition is fierce. So is the case for China. Or in any other market economy. If you have a good product or service that already works in your own country and a couple others, you have a good chance to success in Japan too.

Or if you only just have an idea!

You can sell anything in Japan

If it has good quality and good marketing.

A few years ago, a couple of guys from Chicago and Seattle thought they would start a business selling popcorns. They knew about making good food, as they were chefs in fancy restaurants.

They decided, out of all places, to start their new business in Tokyo.

HillValley popcorn 1

Obviously, you need good marketing to succeed (Product, Price, Promotion and Distribution, as per Neil Borden). And you need really good marketing in Japan. As I said, Japanese buyers are sophisticated, so are the competitors.

HillValley popcorn 2

So for popcorns, you need many different flavours, fancy names, and a healthy way to make them (super hot air, not cooking in oil).

These guys have grown from one shop in a not so prime location in Tokyo, to 14 outlets in 2 years’ time!HillValley popcorn 3


A large and homogeneous market

Of course, good promotion is important. These days, for this kind of thing, it is more internet and social media word-of-mouth.

Japan is a country with 127m people who speak the same language. They pretty much watch the same TV channels, browse the same internet portals. If a celebrity mentions your product on a TV show or his/her blog, or if you have clever marketing, your marketing message can easily become viral.

Easy to replicate success, and grow

My experience running a consumer business in Japan was, Japan has super good logistics. Suppliers are reliable, rule of law is clear (sure, they are bureaucratic, but they are predictable, unlike in China.  You know what I mean.) Once your ideas is proven to work in one location, it is fairly easy to replicate country-wide.

In the past 10 years, people seem to have forgotten about Japan.  All news headlines are about China. Everyone is moving to Shanghai, and learning Chinese.

If you have an idea, or an already successful product/service, I encourage you to think about Japan too.

Industrial products too

The above is all about consumer marketing.  Japan has many world-leading high-tech manufacturers. As this was a dinner event, I wanted to keep this speech short, so we could start eating sooner. Perhaps I can talk about industrial product/service marketing in Japan next time.


About the speaker:

Leroy Yue, currently based in his hometown Hong Kong, is a business advisor focusing on Japan and China. He has held senior positions in large global companies, and has worked and lived in London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila.

Leroy speaks fluent English, Japanese, Putonghua and Cantonese. He has an MBA from London Business School. He also did a program at Sophia University 上智大学 (Tokyo), and an executive program at Shanghai Jiaotong Univsersity 上海交通大学.

more about Leroy Yue

LinkedIn Profile




Life – an amazing piece of code

Life – an amazing piece of code


Just a few variations of a class of molecule called nucleotides, but quite a lot of them, aligning sequentially, can provide the blueprint for constructing complex protein molecules that form tissues and organs that are capable of communicating with one another,  using raw materials from the environment.

In around 40 weeks time, a new physical manifestation of the codes represented by the nucleotide sequence appears.  These codes then use the manifestation to create another manifestation of themselves.  Again and again.

A phenomenon called life.  Truly fascinating.

The even more amazing thing is, these manifestations become aware of themselves, learn to communicate with one another, know to pursue meaning and happiness,  and the knowledge about their very own construction, and how the universe they inhabit works.

Human Life.  Truly amazing.  No matter how you want to describe  it.





lehman jp










Japan Family Business with Succession Challenge

Japan Family Business with Succession Challenge

The post-war Japan has seen tremendous economic growth. The Japanese culture of quality pursuit and a hardworking workforce have produced a large number of successful industrialists.  Many of these companies have now grown to a good size, with advanced production facilities and stable customer base in the region.


These mid-size companies are still owned by their founders.  Naturally, the owner wants to pass the business onto his children.  But as years pass by, many realize that their children are often not interested or capable in taking over leadership.

At the same time, the domestic economy is not growing.  Many are pressured by international competition, as the marketplace becomes more globalized.  M&A with a domestic competitor is a solution to ensure business growth.  However, this is often not desirable due to fear that current management will be undermined.

Cross-border M&A can be a better solution.  Current management can be retained to do what they do best domestically.  The new overseas shareholder/joint-venture partner can add global business synergy.

MYTS Advisory acts either as advisor to Japanese client with the above needs, helping them find suitable international equity partners, or we help Western clients look for suitable investment in Japan.

Founded in 1987, MYTS Group is the biggest Japanese accounting and consulting firm in China, with close to 400 staff in China, Japan, and Hong Kong, and around 3000 corporate clients.
Our Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai offices are the focal points for connecting our Japanese and non-Japanese companies, to help achieve cross border synergies.