Keep clients through memorable experience, says British entrepreneur

SINGAPORE - British fragrance queen Jo Malone has an unconventional piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs: remember your first kiss.

By giving customers a fresh and memorable experience with their products, Ms Malone notes that trust is built up.

"Brands need to create their first kiss because you know with that, comes intimacy, comes a relationship, comes passion and creativity and with that comes life and potential."

She spoke of the important ingredients for success - passion, resilience and creativity - as she held court on Friday at a forum organised by HSBC to celebrate the International Women's Day on Sunday.

It's a lesson that Ms Malone, who's renowned for creating scents and having a good nose for running businesses, not only preaches but practises throughout her career.

Married with a teenage son, the 51-year-old knows the difficulties involved in women starting businesses or climbing the corporate ladder.

But she is not in favour of having quotas or targets to help women advance.

"Let's get the best from everyone, whether they are male or female and I don't want this divide or a token."

Other top female corporate leaders at the forum, like the chairman of HSBC India Naina Lal Kidwai, also said quotas would not be helpful.

She said such a move would detract from women as it would appear as they are being pushed to fulfill a requirement, not on their own merit.

Ms Chew Gek Khim, the executive chairman of mainboard-listed investment firm Straits Trading Company, noted that men and women often move in different social circles.

This results in company boards being dominated by men.

"The so-called barrier is I feel a function of the circles. We all like to work with people we know, it's very uncomfortable to invite a stranger in," said Ms Chew.

Some 150 HSBC clients, mostly women, attended the forum at the Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa, which is organised in conjunction with the HSBC Women's Champions golf tournament.