"He who walks with billionaires, will become a billionaire." ~ Christopher Kozoriz

Li Ka Shing - Quotes


Founder of Cheung Kong Holdings

  • A company is built on the efforts of many individuals, and not just on one person.
  • After seventeen, I knew I’d have a good chance of starting my own business, because I knew I’d been right in my beliefs.
  • A good reputation for yourself and your company is an invaluable asset not reflected in the balance sheets.
  • A large US competitor of my buyer approached me and offered to pay me an extra 30 percent profit for the merchandise my buyer had ordered. He said that, with the extra profit, I could expand my factory. I said, ‘Look, I am also a businessman. I’ll make a deal with you. I will start another factory in nine months’ time, a much bigger one, and I will take your order. But this time I have already promised this buyer, and I will finish the order for him as I am his only supplier.
  • A liberal society has to be founded not only on law and order but [also on] a prosperous economy.
  • All my senior staff get along very well with me. That’s gratifying.
  • All my senior staff know I demand efficiency. Before a meeting, the other side know what’s going on and I know what they’ve done. Everybody is well prepared and no time should be wasted.
  • Anytime I say ‘yes’ to someone, it is a contract.
  • As a leader, one should spend more time than others planning for the future.
  • As for father, there’s one thing that’s remained comforting to me. One day before he died… he turned things around. Instead of saying something to me, he asked me if I had anything to say to him. Think about it and you’ll find that very sad. But with a lot of confidence, I talked to him and comforted him, saying ‘The whole of our family will have a good life.’ I promised myself that after saying those confident words to my father I must work doubly hard for a future.
  • At six something I play golf… Play for an hour and a half. This period of time belongs to me alone. The rest of time, I deal with business and work and time spent like this is not necessarily my own. This hour and half is all mine.
  • Because I’m hard working, frugal, steadfast, willing to learn and to build a credible name. [On being up to it]
  • Before the Asian financial crisis stuck, the signs of a bubble economy were already glaring.
  • Be prepared for rainy days. No matter how well you’re doing, you’ve got to be prepared.
  • Broaden your vision, and maintain stability while advancing forward. That is my philosophy.
  • Businessmen must move with the times…the correlation between knowledge and business as the key to success is closer than ever.
  • But how many times have you heard that Cheung Kong’s finances were in trouble over the last fifty years? Never, the reason is, we are always prepared for the worst. That is my policy.
  • Buying land is not like buying antiques, it is not the only deal available
  • Democracy without law and order is no democracy. We have many investments in democratic countries.
  • Despite my achievements, I can still remember poverty. I told my children and grandchildren that ‘The fruit that you eat will never taste as beautiful as the fruit that I ate during the turmoil of war. You will never cherish it as much as I do.’
  • Doing business may be tough, but I am willing to learn, to innovate, and to work hard, which are the reasons why my business can continue to grow. We focus on our core competencies while looking for new areas for expansion. New businesses sometimes fail, and sometimes succeed. But the ones that succeed can be very profitable. This has been my experience. Setbacks and difficulties are ways to build character.
  • During my father’s time, our family finances were deteriorating. My uncles did not make any contribution to the family after they came back from Tokyo. I always had a fighting heart. I only had a small amount of capital when I started my own business. That’s why I am always conservative. I never forget to maintain stability while advancing, and I never forget to advance while maintaining stability, Stability and advancement must always be in balance.
  • During the day I worked in the office to bring in business to sell. After office hours I worked in the factory to see that the orders were taken care of and we’d give good delivery.
  • During the time China and Britain were having talks in 1982 and 1983, the stock market and the property market were in the doldrums. I remember using only one to two hundred million dollars to get four berths at Container Terminal 6. Later Terminal 7 cost me over four billion. My decision was to press ahead with expansion in the worst of times. That really was the cornerstone of HIT.
  • Except for the fact that my watch clocks a full 20 minutes ahead, your facts are basically correct. My standard of living has remained at about the same level as when my business first began to take off in 1957, perhaps even more modest. [On being asked in 2002 ‘Do you still wear a $50 Citizen or Seiko watch? Is it always set eight minutes fast?... Do you still live in the same house you have lived for 20 years?’
  • Fifty years ago, I named my company Cheung Kong Holdings after the Yangtze River that flows through China, a great river that aggregates countless streams and tributaries. These days I think about where this ‘river’ should flow.
  • First of all, I am an optimist. When you study hard and work hard, your knowledge grows, and it gives you confidence. The more you know, the more confidence you gain. When I was 10 years old, I lost my schooling, but I still had plenty of hope to return to school.
  • Husky has a staff of 1500. Two of the people I’ve placed here have worked for me for over 20 years and one had been with me for over 10 years. The people originally working here gradually become our own people.
  • I also have some strengths. First, I have a thirst for knowledge. Second, I work hard, which can compensate for some of the weaknesses. Most importantly, I know what’s right from wrong.
  • I am very prudent financially because of those hard times I went through. I spent nothing. I had a haircut every three months. I shaved my head like a monk.
  • I bought land with my own cash. If somebody invites me to be a partner, and I take only 15% to 20% as a minority stakeholder, they would perhaps get a loan from the bank. But I had no personal debt. At that time, when Cheung Kong went public in 1972, the company had almost no debt. Even if the company had to borrow from the bank, we would have alternative arrangements, such as buying government bonds equivalent to the bank loan amount, to ensure that we can readily cash out at anytime. The interest income would continue to accumulate, while interest expense on the loan would be repaid monthly. So you see; our corporate finance is very conservative and prudent.
  • I bought secondhand books whenever I had spare money and absorbed them before trading them in for more books. Even today I read before going to bed every night.
  • I cannot deny it’s the times that create heroes. [On ‘How much of your success is due to good fortune?’]
  • It doesn’t matter how strong or capable you are; if you don’t have a big heart, you will not succeed.
  • I do not get overly optimistic when the market is good, nor overly pessimistic when the market is down.
  • If we rush into things and get emotional, usually it will lead to unexpected mistakes.
  • I have always enjoyed a simple lifestyle. I have very modest needs in terms of material comfort.
  • I have set boundaries for myself. There are certain businesses I won’t get into… This is my principle and I will stick to it.
  • I have worked hard to establish my business over the past decades, and now we are seeing the fruits of our labor. Not only is my group reaping the benefits, I am also able to make greater contributions to worthy causes.
  • I long for a frugal life. In general, frugal people have more time. This attitude has not affected my business, but has actually helped me to achieve the best results and returns for my shareholders.
  • I firmly believed that property would be one of the best businesses in the future. I could see that the supply of land in Hong Kong was limited, whereas population was unlimited. [In 1958]
  • If you allow your partners to benefit from the deal, they always come back and want to do business with you. There will never be a shortage of opportunity.
  • If you are good to people, they will be good to you.
  • If you are not honest and sincere, people will leave you sooner or later.
  • If you have done your best to make meaningful contributions, when it is time for you to go, all you will feel is a little tired, just like when the sun sets you need to take a rest. I just hope that I lead a full life.
  • If you think, then you will be prepared. If you are prepared, then you will have no worries.
  • I had a clear intention of taking over one these companies with underperforming assets and developing it into a multinational corporation.
  • In 1956, when I was in the plastics business, my first order was for a three to six month production. I calculated a profit of 20 percent. My competitors were making 100 percent profit.
  • In a small business – a family business you’ve got to do everything personally. But when the company is big, you need to give your staff a sense of belonging and make them feel at ease. That’s vital.
  • In Chinese we have a saying: If you want to be successful, whatever your business or position, you need to accept different opinions and different people.
  • I needed to save every penny… I needed to be strong, and needed to find some way to secure a future. That’s why I am always conservative. I never forget to maintain stability while advancing, and I never forget to advance while maintaining stability.
  • Information and communications technology unlocks the value of time, allowing and enabling multi-tasking, multi-channels, multi-this and multi-that.
  • In the constantly changing world today, you should strive for knowledge, innovation and strength and, with a sound foundation, seek advancement.
  • In the Han Dynasty, Xiang Yu was very brave and won many battles, but in the end he failed. Treat people with sincerity and build a good organization. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how famous or how capable you are.
  • In the past years, when the stock market, the property market and the general economy were in the doldrums, we increased our investments. One of the reasons was that we are always prepared. We don’t get carried away when times are good and don’t get too pessimistic when times are bad.
  • I often think that in all these years the Chinese people have only ventured into south-east Asia and relatively few have gone to the western countries in a big way. I believe that what I’m doing can open more investment channels for Hong Kong and China.
  • I rely on a system. Important issues have to be approved by Hong Kong. So things have worked fine for years. We rely on system, checks and balances and regular meetings.
  • I said, there were plenty of buyers for the goods and I didn’t need him to compensate me for my losses. I also said that if another business opportunity arose, we could build an even better relationship. I’d forgotten the whole thing when something strange happened one day. I’d just starting doing plastic flowers… about 1956-57 it was. Unexpectedly a foreigner came looking for me. He said a certain company had introduced him. That company had said that mine was Hong Kong’s top plastic flowers factory, a factory commanding a huge area. I was dumbfounded because my factory was not huge it was in fact small. But later his American client ordered a lot of things from me. Placing at one time all the orders for six months. I later discovered the man of that trading company knew this foreigner. The foreigner was a senior executive of another trading company. He had told the foreigner about me, saying that I was completely trustworthy to deal with. He had said all the good things about me. I believe everything good that could have been said had been said. The moral of this is: something that seems to be a loss can often turn out to be a gain.
  • I should make more money and use it when opportunity arises. Only making money like this has any meaning.
  • It is the man who goes to the table to ask and squeeze for the last nickel who is never happy. Do you know why? It is because that person leaves the table, typically getting the nickel, but then hates himself for not asking for two nickels. As a result, he is never happy.
  • It takes a cool head to do business, as does playing golf. Even if you’ve teed off badly, as long as you keep your composure, stick to your plan, you may not lose the hole.
  • I took jobs, no matter how lowly they were. At any rate what could a 14-15 year old boy do? But I did my best at work and at increasing my knowledge.
  • It’s very important to devote yourself to work.
  • I’ve worked for 58 years. [In 1997 – First job at age 12. First business started at age 22.]
  • I want to build a corporation that not only the Chinese are proud of, but that even foreigners are impressed with.
  • I was up every day just before 6:00 am and exercise and play golf for an hour and a half. I insist on reading before I go to bed at night. I am still energetic during the day. Your energies comes from being interested in your work.
  • I was already keeping an eye on the political developments within china, and I also had a firm grasp on economics, industry, management and the latest development and productions of the plastics industry. Not many people in Hong Kong at that time were aware of the potential. It was still quite new.
  • I wasn’t lucky. I worked hard to achieve the goals I set for myself.
  • I was once an employee myself, so I know what employees want.
  • I was tossing and turning one night. The next day, when I was having dinner with my family, I told them that I have a third child. They fell silent. They were shocked and thought that I had finally lost it. Actually it was an epiphany. If I had a third child, wouldn’t I want to build a solid foundation for his future? By treating my private foundation as my third son, I could allocate more assets to it and enable it to benefit more people. [On calling his foundation ‘Third Child’]
  • I was very careful. I had no debt (actually, I was not qualified for a bank loan at the time), but I knew my company’s finances like the back of my hand, and I could answer any question that anybody asked.
  • I will continue to do the same and more, not out of a sense of duty but because it is a maxim by which I choose to live my life. [On philanthropy]
  • I would like to do more meaningful deeds. I don’t care how much money or how much energy it takes. I have very simple needs. With the blessings that I have received, I have no need for more wealth. But if I can do more for mankind, for our people, and for our country, I would be more than happy to do so.
  • Knowledge changes fate.
  • Knowledge is not a guarantee of a life of riches but it does open the door to more opportunities. And recognizing more opportunities is really the best that you can expect.
  • Like living and doing business, there are ups and downs.
  • Money may be spent but never squandered.
  • On New Year’s Day, the boss announced that the bonus that year would based on sales. At the end of the year, my sales figure was seven times higher than the second best. If they paid my bonus on my sales, my bonus would have been higher than the general manager’s. The other salesman were already jealous. So I said to my boss, “Just pay me the same as the second best salesman; it would make everyone happy.” As a result, I became a manager when I was 17 going on 18.
  • Our principal policy is never to take financial risk.
  • Our work is certainly challenging, but we are not under any pressure except for the pressure to outperform.
  • People were working eight hours a day, but I worked sixteen hours… It was really full, non-stop work.
  • Regardless of when I go to bed, I get up at the same time every morning. At 5:59am I get up when the alarm clock rings because I want to listen to the news on the radio. This is how a day begins.
  • Reputation is the key to success. You have to be loyal to your customers.
  • Short economic lulls don’t worry me. My only concern now is there’ve been changes in social harmony, policy and structure.
  • Simply speaking, you are commander in chief, the head of a group of armies. You can never be better with a machine gun than a machine gunner or better than a gunner at operating a cannon. But as commandeer, you don’t do these things. Your job is mapping out strategy. So good organization is very important.
  • Since many seem to be interested and concerned, I am happy to report that I am in good shape, and can rise to the opportunities and challenges of our times, and I embrace each project with enthusiasm. I also spend a lot of my time on education and medical care initiatives. This is a passion that I will never grow tired of. In fact, I consider it a lifelong endeavor.
  • Social progress requires courage, hard work and perseverance; more importantly, they know that a fair and equitable society is built on trust and integrity.
  • Some people only know to complain, hoping you will help to solve their problems. Frankly, if they are fully prepared, they make the best suggestions.
  • Something that seems to be a loss can often turn out to be a gain.
  • So soon after my company went public, I began looking for investment opportunities overseas.
  • Spiritual peace and comfort… are very important to me. I only have a desire to do more meaningful deeds.
  • Successful managers should also have a keen eye for talent. They not only select people who are smarter than themselves, but also avoid picking corporate superstars whose reputation precedes them.
  • The art of good management lies in the capacity to accept change, and the ability to meld new and traditional thinking.
  • The first year, as I didn’t have much capital, I did everything by myself, including the first set of account books. I needed to go to the Inland Revenue Department, and I asked my auditor if my accounts were correct, since I had no experience doing accounting. He said that is was complete and that I could take this to the government. I had no experience, but I learned by reading books on accounting. When you want to understand the balance sheet, you needed to know a little bit about accounting. I did so many things by myself, which kept my overhead low. I have made a profit every year since 1950. I have never lost a penny in any year.
  • The first year, as I didn’t have much capital, I did everything myself, which kept my overhead low.
  • The four days when Hong Kong stopped trading, I wasn’t in Hong Kong, I was in Canada.
  • The future may be made up of many factors but where it truly lies is in the hearts and minds of men. Your dedication should not be confined for your own gain, but unleashes your passion for our beloved country as well as for the integrity and humanity of mankind.
  • The more you know, the more confidence you gain.
  • The more you know, the more prepared you will be when opportunity knocks. If you are lazy and wile your time away, you would not know how to take advantage of opportunities even if they stared you in the face.
  • The most challenging issue raised by globalization is how we can all get along with each other in our race against time. Corporate leaders must possess far-sighted vision, detailed actions plans, macro-thinking, and a global outlook. To get ahead in the race, they must also possess a deep understanding of their own organization and that of their competitors.
  • The most important enjoyment for me is to work hard and to make more profit.
  • The most important thing is to build the best reputation.
  • The potential is endless and inexhaustible.
  • The secret of management is simply identifying and making use of talent. But you must in principle make them feel they belong and like you first.
  • This was actually a more difficult job, but the prospects were better. I was confident about the bright prospects of the plastics industry and I told my boss that I would like to start my own business. I already knew a lot about the plastics business, including the technology, the market and sales.
  • Though a universal formula for success is difficult to come by, cautions signs for failure are posted everywhere. Establishing a structure that serves to minimize failure will prove to be a shortcut to success.
  • Time were really tough in the beginning. When I started my business in 1950, I only had HK$50,000, so I was in a tight spot financially. I already had some work experience, but I had an advantage in competing with other companies. I was willing to learn the latest industry trends.
  • To be a successful manager, attitude and ability are equally important ingredients. A leader inspires others to greatness. A boss dominates his subordinates and makes them feel small.
  • Today I can be frank. When I started my business, I almost certainly did not rely on luck. I relied on work, hard work and ability to make money.
  • Treat people with sincerity and build a good organization. Otherwise it doesn’t matter how famous or how capable you are. A company needs a good infrastructure, good organization, and good people. If everyone works in concert, then you can succeed.
  • Through the years, property is of course the most profitable business. But no line of business remains forever prosperous. At a certain point, there will be market saturation or the government will have new policies. I’d always known this.
  • Very naturally anybody in the world can become one of your nucleus group.
  • Vision is perhaps our greatest strength… it has kept us alive to the power and continuity of thought through the centuries, it makes us peer into the future and lends shape to the unknown.
  • We are approaching a new age of synthesis. Knowledge cannot be merely a degree or skill…it demands a broader vision, capabilities in critical thinking and logical deduction without which we cannot have constructive progress.
  • We in Hong Kong were apprehensive… fearing that people would say our terminals were becoming too dominant, there was this constant apprehension. Although the Government did not openly say we were getting too big, we could feel it… feel there were people saying we were getting too big. In those circumstances, in order to maximize returns for our shareholders, overseas development was the only choice.
  • Well, I have my own definition for the term “retirement”. Life was extremely hard when I was young; today working without the burden of pressure to me is the same as the luxury of retirement. These few years, our Group has embarked on some new projects and is in exciting times. We plan all our projects meticulously. Our work is certainly challenging, but we are not under any pressure.
  • We must get on well as partners.
  • What am I after? As a Hong Kong citizen, I do things for myself as well as for Hong Kong. I have several principles. One: a liberal economy that allows free movement of assets and remittances that do not require official approval. Two: freedom of personal movement and I’m very insistent on this. Three: permanent resident status… and I argued about this point. What did I argue for? As long as you’ve live a full seven years in Hong Kong, regardless of what happens afterwards… you may have emigrated and returned, you are considered the same as all Hong Kong residents and keep your permanent resident status.
  • What I learnt from the Husky experience was: management has to be perfect! The management was really a bit slack at the beginning. [Investing in Husky Oil]
  • When I was young, I appeared humble but was inwardly very arrogant. Why was I arrogant? When my colleagues went to play, I went to study. We’d all had very little education. But they remained the same while I was becoming increasingly knowledgeable. We were doing similar work, but I was striving for improvement all the time. So when I went into business, I reminded myself that if I allowed myself to be arrogant, I’d fall one day. And so I named my company Cheung Kong.
  • When times are tough you need to ask yourself if you’re up to it. During tough times I’ve always thought I’m up to it.
  • When Victor and Richard were still students, I brought them to one of our meetings. They just sat there. My purpose was not to teach them to do business. It was to let them know doing business was not that simple and that it took a lot of work, meetings and the help of many people to get a job done.
  • While other people learned, I grabbed… grabbed knowledge.
  • Why did the Yangtze become a long river? It’s because it can accept smaller rivers and become big.
  • Without the money for new books I bought old ones, textbooks used by teachers for high school. I only had a dictionary and the books I studied on my own. When I was done with the books, I exchanged them for more old books. In the circumstances then, I was working for a future.
  • You can believe Fung Shui if you want, but ultimately people control their own fate. The most important thing is to improve yourself and give it your best. Then many things previously thought to be impossible will become possible.
  • You can’t succeed on charisma alone.
  • You give more in order to get more.
  • You have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. If nobody buys your property, can you support your debt? For 56 years, especially after we went public, Cheung Kong has never had any financial problems.
  • Your life is meaningful if you can honestly say that you have done your best to do some good.
  • You must have the strength of character. Then you can rise as tall as the sky. [What his father Yun-jing Li told him on his deathbed]
  • You must know and understand your business like the back of your hand. Otherwise, your company would be here today, gone tomorrow.
  • You need to be interested in your business. If you are interested in your business you are bound to do well.