Samuel Chan

Samuel Chan

Educational consultant

Tell us about yourself.
My parents were fishermen and I went to a local primary school in Hong Kong. I was unhappy, struggling at school every day and getting no help from my teachers, whom I felt considered me a failure. Then my parents sent me to a summer camp in England. I loved every minute of it and begged to stay behind. (In hindsight, that could have been my parents’ plan all along.) I ended up staying on for more than a decade, first at boarding school and eventually completing a master’s degree at the University of Warwick.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I’d be lying to you if I said I even knew the what the word “entrepreneur” meant when I was a kid. But I guess I’ve always had a yearning to be a boss, since I defied orders from parents more than I took them. But now I know that anyone can become a boss, but not everyone can be a leader.

What was your first big break?
It was when we became the first UKiset centre in Hong Kong. We were very small at the time — just three people in a 400-square-foot office. We had 200 agencies in our sector, but we did it!

What was the biggest challenge in your career?
Definitely the Covid-19 pandemic. Flights were cancelled, schools were shut down and camps were cancelled. We could have lost millions overnight.

Whom do you look up to and why?
There are many people I look up to but there isn’t quite anyone like Chip Tsao, for whom I have such admiration. He has all the qualities I aspire to, or that a gentleman should possess — charm, wit and knowledge. From history to politics, Western literature to Chinese philosophy, the finest wine in Bordeaux to the most exquisite paintings in the Louvre, he just knows it all, and so deeply and so well. I’d be so proud of myself if I could acquire one-tenth of the taste and vision he has for life.

How would you define success in your profession?
Our consultants are all very knowledgeable about UK boarding schools. Being knowledgeable is great, but very often the person with the most abundant knowledge isn’t the one to succeed in our business. When you know a lot you tend to speak a lot. And when you speak too much you fail to listen. If we don’t listen then there’s no way we can give parents, students and schools what they really need. Listen, understand, deliver. That’s how we succeed.

What are you most proud of?
That the company I’ve built attracts such a lovely bunch of people who are full of joy, energy and talent.

What impact has Covid had on your business?
It’s been horrible. We lost $10 million overnight. However, we managed to cover the loss by offering online products and signing new sponsorship deals.

What can we look forward to from you in the next 12 months?
I’m very excited about our new project, Portman Ventures. It’s always been my dream to ensure we can provide top UK education in Asia. We’re making a lot of progress and partnering with some very reputable organisations. There’s going to be a big leap forward in the next 12 months and I’m very excited about that.

Location: Mont Rouge, Kerry Properties