Starting from Scrap: An Entrepreneurial Success Story
Stephen H. Greer
A rags-to-riches story of a young man who comes to Hong Kong and builds a global metals-recycling business. Keen insights into entrepreneurial drive, Asian business, and business-success fundamentals.
grudgingly stamped her passport and tossed it back, uttering some sort of insult in Mandarin under his breath. I grabbed her and we headed for the exits. Mei was pissed; all signs of vulnerability had been replaced by rage. “These pigheaded communists treat foreigners better than their own people. It’s not fair!” she complained as we ran toward the waiting buses. We boarded in a hurry but then inched our way to Guangzhou, the “three-hour” ride turning into an eight-hour odyssey as the traffic
cry from being a Master of the Universe, but I’d left that concept behind quite a while ago. Even if I had wanted to go back to the corporate track, with every month I was away I was becoming less and less qualified for it. I was passing a point of no return. Though this was obviously stressful, particularly for my mother, my pride was now in being independent, living on the other side of the globe, and having my own company, even though that company had not yet made a dime. Though the
southern drawl, “I’m happy to do business with y’all but need you to understand that you’ll have to be competitive on price, and in the current market I need six hundred bucks a tuunn.” He’d just made the biggest mistake in trading. At all costs, you want the other guy to shout his price first. I paused, giving a few moments for consideration, took out a calculator, pretended to do some math with a furrowed brow, and finally responded with a touch of twang and a smile, “Mel, I think you know six
or she’ll die.” Humberto really broke down when he spoke that last word. He further explained that if she wanted to get the surgery for free from the government, she would have to wait in line, wasting critical time, and they wouldn’t give her the best treatment available. “How much are we talking about?” I asked. “One hundred thousand pesos,” he replied, at the time around $10,000. I thought about it for a moment and even wondered if this was a con. But his tears were not faked and I
news, at least we had done something admirable. Good things come to good people, or so we hoped. Humberto’s wife had the surgery and survived, and he continued to work for us. However, about six months later a supplier came forward and explained that Humberto was ripping us off again. He was demanding kickbacks from them and they were tired of it. We looked into it, and several employees confirmed separately that this was the case. Furious, I confronted Humberto. “I saved your wife’s life. How