From the immaculately coiffed cascading black curls to the designer outfit revealing a pair of killer legs on stiletto heels, Patricia Cheong looks like a woman who has stepped straight off the catwalks of Milan or Paris.
Start talking with this stunningly glamorous lady, though, and you soon realise she combines brains with beauty -any aspiring match to this super-polished former Miss Macau should probably take a degree in economics first, just so that they can keep up with her tempo. This lady is sharp! Based in Macau, but regularly operating between Hong Kong, Beijing, and Milan, Patricia was a guest at a recent B Beyond Inner Circle dinner. Our informal conversation started with an obvious question: Are looks helpful in the business world? ‘I wouldn’t deny they help opening doors. But if you don’t know what to do once you are inside, looks won’t get you far.’
Patricia Cheong is the oldest and most driven child of a traditionally Chinese/Indonesian family. Her mother encouraged her to enter a beauty contest when she was in her teens, something she cites as a transformational experience.
Winning the coveted title didn’t just present the young woman with countless opportunities – it gave her a different perspective on life.
But identifying opportunities and making them work for you are a whole different game and one that Patricia seems to have mastered from the word go. After completing her university studies and working a few years for an international PR firm and a property development group, she started her own PR company, MM Marketing, in 1994. From judiciously cultivated links with government agencies grew a corporate model that now spans the full gamut of business in Macau, mainland China and Hong Kong.
Her company is now a fully-fledged consultancy and investment group, and a lobbying agency for the gaming and tobacco industries, with Cheong helping to structure complex projects that involve international brands eyeing the lucrative Asian market, and Macau’s gaming market in particular. She introduces investors, facilitates joint ventures and franchise partnerships, advises on brand positioning and is sought by anyone who is serious about setting up shop in that part of the world.
‘Being able to understand how China’s leaders consider issues and how to work with Chinese officials and business people is crucial if you want to be successful in that part of the world, but this requires patience and a deep understanding of the Chinese mindset’, offers Cheong who is also a graduate of the top ranking Executive MBA program, jointly organised by the Kellogg School of Management and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Being based in Macau, a city that has experienced a phenomenal economic boom in the past decade has also been advantageous.
‘As Macau became the gaming industry leader worldwide, it has provided an outstanding platform for me to further develop my business in this area’, she admits. ‘Becoming involved in the booming luxury brands business is also something that I feel very proud of as we were in the right place and the right time’.
Patricia definitely has a unique perspective on bringing Western brands and corporate entities to mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong and an equally unique set of connections to help build companies’ existing market share. In recognition of her success, she was included in the list of The 100 Distinguished Women of the Year 2009 in China, and was also honored with The Most Prominent Entrepreneur Award by Tatler.
I reflect on the fact that she must know everyone worth knowing. How did she get to that enviable position given looks and streets smarts are not quite enough?
Clearly, Cheong is poised, confident and comfortable in any social situation, anywhere in the world. She says attitude and state of mind are the other vital ingredients in being hugely successful.
‘Think big but be detail oriented. Love challenges and love what you do. Be open-minded and be ready to learn everyday’, she comments.
Focusing on the positive in life is something that she has cultivated with the steely determination she seems to apply to everything she does.
For her latest project, Patricia has recently teamed with Privus UK to give regular talks to CEO level executives in Europe and to act for them on an advisory capacity. ‘I am at a point in my life when I can do anything I want and feel very comfortable about myself’.