theDesk story

Meet the business advisor: Michael Ma

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Tap into the knowledge and skills provided by one of the most experienced consultants on theDesk’s advisory board

Few people in Hong Kong come armed with the sort of skills set, knowledge and expertise that’s possessed by Michael Ma. The independent consultant, who’s worked for firms like EY, IBM and Damco over a 30-plus-year career, sits on the advisory board at theDesk co-working and events space in Sai Wan, Sai Ying Pun and Kennedy Town and he says that, at his advancing age, there’s nothing better than passing on his experience in business to aspiring professionals. That’s just what he’s doing with members at theDesk and he now wants to reach out to businesses in our neighbourhood to help ‘pass on his knowledge’.

“Being an advisor at theDesk,” says Ma, “gives me a platform to influence more people than I have been able to influence previously. When you get to my age and have been in business for more than 30 years, you like to pass on your knowledge and skills. I may have retired but I don’t call it that. I say I’m taking a second career. So it’s not about me getting more skills and knowledge any more. It’s about sharing those skills and my knowledge with other people.”

TheDesk’s advisory board is made up of the space’s co-founders, Thomas Hui, Adrian Yap and Oscar Venhuis, as well as a handful of other businessmen and academics who have years of experience in their fields. Ma covers the management consultancy arena and then some. The 55-year-old, who was born in Hong Kong but went to college in the USA, first worked in the supply chain and express courier industries in our city before joining HSBC, where he gained banking experience across Asia and helped to organise and restructure businesses. After quitting the bank, though, he had stints in both the public and private sectors, including roles at IBM, PwC and Damco, before settling in at multinational professional services firm EY, formerly Ernst & Young, in 2011 as an advisory partner focusing on performance improvement. He was mainly responsible for the development of the consulting engagements related to EY’s supply chain and operations as well as providing IT advisory services for the non-financial services sectors in both Hong Kong and China.

In short, Ma, a member of the Hong Kong Institute of Directors, boasts more than 20 years’ management consulting experience with large organisations in logistics, transportation, retail, real estate and the public sector. Last year, though, he retired and, as he says, ‘started looking for a second career’, so he became an independent consultant and senior advisor to a handful of private businesses, including a logistics and supply chain technology solution provider in China and a third-party logistics provider in Hong Kong. And, of course, theDesk.

Ma says he worked with Adrian Yap at EY on a number of projects. “On the day I resigned from EY,” he says, “Adrian told me he was forming a new company. I always appreciate the young people who have the guts and the drive to manage their own career. That’s why I expressed my support to him. He saw me as a source of advice and experience that he could rely on. So I met the other founders of theDesk and I just had a gut feeling straight away. I thought ‘they’re the type of people I want to work with’.”

“When they set theDesk up,” continues Ma, “they had a need to bring in more skills and experience so I became a candidate for them to actually work with, so I became both investor and advisor. I could contribute to IT and design, as well as the whole organisation of the business. My contacts also include people with professional expertise, like tax experts. So I’ve been able to leverage my 20-plus years in management consultancy and I’ve helped the team to come up with solutions for the co-working space, like the structure of the business and how to commercialise the product.”

SEE ALSO: Things to do in Sai Ying Pun and Kennedy Town this week

Ma says he’s now ‘widening the net’ and offering his extensive advice to all the members at theDesk and to businesses in Sai Ying Pun and Kennedy Town. “It’s important,” he says, “as part of theDesk’s advisory board, to offer my advice to our neighbourhood. Like those who want to get into business in the first place, like theDesk co-founders did. For me, I look at these individuals and ask ‘do they have the necessary quality to play this game?’ In sales, you’d call this ‘the hunter’. There are some people who want to play it safe, however I’d advise them to continue with their office job. But the ‘hunters’ who take risks are those who have the qualities to move into running their own business. It’s not about teaching these people. It’s about encouraging them to have no fear. That’s the sort of advice I can give for starters and I’m open to talk to anyone!”

Michael Ma, in brief:
NAME: Michael Ma
BUSINESS: Investor, advisor at theDesk
AGE: 55
FROM: Hong Kong
BUSINESS LOCATION: Works from home
FIND OUT MORE: Contact us at theDesk and we’ll hook you up with him!

SPECIAL EVENT: ‘Meet the advisors’
If you want to learn more from Michael Ma and our advisory board at theDesk, then come to our special event on Monday May 15, between 7pm and 9pm. Anyone can come along, as long as you RSVP. And it’s totally free! Hear from our panel of experts in law, finance, management, academics, IT and marketing, who have countless years of experience in their fields and are willing to give out advice not only to members of theDesk but to any business or resident who is based in Sai Ying Pun, Sai Wan and Kennedy Town and wants to come along to our event. Limited spaces available so RSVP to as soon as possible. See you there!

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