Taipei Times (TT): Wowprime Corp (王品) is aiming to build 96 outlets to bring its total number to 311 this year [240 in Taiwan and 71 in China]. How is the expansion plan going?
Stephen Day (戴勝益): The expansion is proceeding smoothly in Taiwan, but going slower in China, where ownership of property is in the hands of several individuals or firms, making the acquisition of leases complicated and time-consuming. As of July, Wowprime has 256 outlets on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, 210 in Taiwan and 46 in China.
While the number of outlets may not be exactly what we had hoped for, we are on the right track to see our revenue and profit grow by 30 percent this year.
[The company saw revenue rise 31.76 percent to NT$1.22 billion (US$41 million) last month from a year earlier, with cumulative revenue jumping 30.83 percent to NT$8.17 billion in the first eight months.]
TT: Has Wowprime set any financial goals for next year?
Day: We aim to boost revenue by 20 percent to 30 percent next year and for each successive year, while achieving earnings per share of at least NT$10. Any expansion faster than that would put too much pressure on our training capacity, even though we have plenty of capital and there is no lack of business opportunities.
It takes much more time and energy for companies in the service industry to train employees, compared with manufacturing firms. In line with the expansion, we aim to increase our staff by 30 percent to 13,000 this year, from 10,000 last year. At the end of July, the number stood at 12,329, about half of whom are part-time employees.
It is a big challenge to train new employees well enough that they can be efficient at their jobs. The turnover rate (for full-time workers) averages 2.18 percent per month, or 25 percent a year, meaning that for every 100 workers we hire, 25 quit.
We want to keep the rate low, otherwise the time and money spent on training would be futile. This is why we limit our expansion to 30 percent a year.
TT: Your company is ranked as the favorite employer among jobseekers and many of your employees are college graduates. Does that suggest a mismatch between the education the workers have and the tasks they must do at work?
Day: I don’t think so. Currently, 67 percent of our employees have a college degree. We aim to increase that to 90 percent in 10 years to enhance our overall efficiency and quality of service.
Employees with higher education are promoted more quickly because they demonstrate better reasoning and leadership. They are also better communicators and more resistant to pressure when dealing with customers and colleagues.
Wowprime cooperates with several colleges to provide training courses for aspiring employees. We encourage those that take the courses to take leave if necessary to prepare for exams or do university assignments. We also encourage them to take trips abroad, engage in sports such as mountain-climbing and dine at Michelin-rated restaurants — such experiences will be help employees progress toward promotions.
I agree that not all educational courses are useful at work, but any feelings of being mismatched dissipate once people figure out what they really want. This is part of the learning process that most people go through in life.
TT: How is the economic slowdown affecting Wowprime? Will the company be adding new brands to its current 11?