Small island, big plans

It is often said that a man’s reputation precedes him. In the case of Cui Zhengfeng, owner of Kingsford Development, part of the impression I had of him prior to our first meeting was that he took great pride in his work.

After all, he had decided this interview was to be conducted at the Kingsford Hillview Peak showflat in Bukit Batok, and seemed rather pleased that I had arrived slightly early to view the condominium, which happens to be Kingsford’s first project in Singapore.

Another trait that stood out was his ambitious streak. Though English is still the main challenge for the Chinese national, the language barrier has not stopped him from expanding the company’s operations from China to not only Singapore, but Australia as well. He says he relies on a translator when it comes to doing business with English speakers, and reading English-language documents.

In person, he comes across as friendly and chatty, eager to commence the interview and share his experiences with us. Speaking in Mandarin, his excitement is evident in his hand gestures, rapid speech and tone of voice.

From regiments to residences

A Shenyang native, Cui joined the army at the age of 18, before taking a job as a tax officer at age 30. Not long after, he decided to use his pension fund to invest in factories, venturing into property development in 2000. He eventually came to Singapore and, finding the market favourable, decided to start developing property here. Last year, the business expanded to Australia, though Singapore remains Kingsford’s primary focus, apart from China.

Cui says of his real estate journey so far: “It’s not an easy business. 20 years ago, there was no Kingsford, and you cannot study to become a CEO. In this industry, there are many responsibilities (because) what you sell is not just a product, but a family’s dream.”

Service-oriented strategy

When it comes to Kingsford Development, Cui is happy to talk about its portfolio. The company focuses mainly on China, Singapore and Australia, and its biggest undertaking so far is a 460,000 sq m project in China. After entering the Singapore property market with Kingsford Hillview Peak, it embarked on its second condominium development here, Kingsford Waterbay.

Throughout the interview, Cui emphasises repeatedly that in order to further build Kingsford’s brand, its priority must be to “help aspiring homeowners fulfil their dreams and get their dream homes”.

He says: “I am more concerned with service than with profit. I want Kingsford to have lasting power and a long legacy, and in order to achieve this, I must constantly provide high-quality homes for my customers.

Cui’s ambitions are clear. He says resolutely: “Kingsford is looking at the whole world. From China to Singapore to Australia, we keep up with the goings-on in all countries. Our main operations are in China, while Singapore is our base for overseas operations; Australia is the next country we have decided to explore, and have set up our business there.”

Uniqueness amid commonality

So what sets Cui apart from other prominent names in the real estate business? Well, he believes one must first determine what he shares with his industry peers before he can determine his unique selling point.

“In order to understand the difference between oneself and others in the same industry, we must first find common ground with them. We share the same goals and pursuits: to excel in our work and develop our businesses.

“More time must be focused on the quality of the property and your employees’ performance. We must respect every project and every person. And for us, as a young company, we need to learn from our predecessors and competitors, retaining the positive so we can be more professional and eventually, overtake them in the industry.

“What sets me apart is my dogged determination to succeed. I choose not to give up but to persevere, because the qualities of the head of the company represent the qualities of the company itself. Perhaps this statement is a little dramatic, but there is some truth to it. Once I have set my mind to something, I will do whatever it takes to achieve it. I am also grateful to my staff for their support.

“Kingsford is also unique because instead of being profit-focused, we focus on providing quality homes for our customers.”

Looking to the future

Going forward, Cui certainly has grand ambitions for Kingsford. He has plans for the business to expand into Vietnam and India, largely due to their recent respective GDP growth of over six percent. He is also eyeing Canada and New Zealand as potential candidates for Kingsford’s expansion.

The company still has over 600 units to sell in Brisbane, Australia, after which he will observe the market before making further decisions.

Back home in China, Kingsford is working on a development in Cui’s hometown of Shenyang. It will launch at the end of the year, and with 10,000 units and an area of 800,000 sq m, is purported to be 10 times the size of Kingsford Waterbay.

When asked for his predictions for Singapore’s housing market, he immediately gives an answer with which many Singaporeans are likely to disagree: “Even though home prices in Singapore are high, they should not be reduced. Doing so will hurt the economy and in turn, the people of Singapore.”

However, he does feel the government should relax the cooling measures. He explains, “Like Singapore, the Chinese government has been introducing many of its own measures and policies to cool the market. But because of the long period of government control of the market, even removing the measures now will not encourage more people to buy.

“Now it has to introduce another set of measures to encourage them to enter the market. The same might happen here if the government does not relax or remove some of the measures soon.”

Lessons and challenges

Cui’s foremost challenge is the language barrier he faces outside of his homeland. He says this was particularly trying when he first set up shop in Singapore. While he has not yet learnt the language, he still insists on handling all his research and documents personally, with a translator on hand to help him.

After 15 years in the business, his advice to younger property entrepreneurs is this: “It is most important to maintain the enthusiasm you had at the beginning. It is your career’s driving force. You must always remember why you started the business, and what your beliefs are.”

Source copied: http://www.propertyguru.com.sg/property-management-news/2016/3/119423/small-island-big-plans