TRIECAllSamtack success story: Tech boss

No Canadian experience? No worries. Attitude is the key for tech boss Rosyon Ng

April 30, 2010
Canadian Immigrant Magazine

Gloria Elayadathusseril

Royson Ng, president of Samtack, depends on a team of talented immigrant employees to grow the computer manufacturing and distribution business.

Photo/Miho Takaya

You can’t miss the grandfather clock in Royson Ng’s executive office in Markham, Ontario. At first, you might think it’s simply an antique focal point to decorate the mundane office space of the Malaysian-born president of Samtack, a multimillion-dollar computer manufacturing and distribution business.

Perhaps it does serve that purpose. But for Ng, it’s a reminder that his humble home-based clock repair business helped him survive when he and his full-term pregnant wife first arrived in Canada in 1991.

“First I thought I could get by working as a petrol [gas station] attendant,” Ng chuckles, recalling his early days in Canada. “But I only worked there for a week … it was a very cold winter. Luckily, one of the staff members introduced me to a clock repairer.”

A blessing in disguise. Ng’s wife was about to deliver their first child, and one of them had to stay home to take care of the baby. “My wife was stronger in the sense that she delivered the baby on a Friday and returned to work on the following Monday,” he says, still in awe of her tenacity.

After alternative arrangements were made for their child’s daycare, he went back to work, too, a few months later, as a salesman at Future Shop, a first job for many newcomers. “I had no knowledge about computers because I’m not a technical person, but I wanted to work in the Canadian environment to learn how businesses work,” says Ng, who has a degree in business administration from the United Kingdom. “I know how to sell, how to interact and communicate with people, but couldn’t answer technical questions.”

So he found a partner at work with whom he made a pact: Ng would compensate the colleague for helping with his clients’ technical issues. Along the way, Ng paid attention and learned the basics of technology as well as the expectations of the Canadian work culture – from being goal-oriented and analytical to maintaining a positive attitude to being aggressive in selling a concept.

His dedication to learning new systems and fervor to increase the company’s sales resulted in quick promotions. Within three years, he became the regional marketing manager of Future Shop, overseeing the Ontario, Quebec and Maritimes divisions of the company.

Ng left Future Shop after eight years to join Samtack, founded by friend and colleague Sam Chiu. In the 11 years as vice-president and then president, Ng implemented all that he learned to help make Samtack a successful company that sources, packages and distributes hard drives and other technologies, as well as home electronics and ethnic retail products, working with international suppliers to serve the Canadian market.

For a relatively small company – a little more than 100 employees – Samtack’s success is remarkable. Last year, Samtack reported $130 million in revenue and 27 per cent of the Canadian market share, and now counts big names such as Best Buy, Canadian Tire, Future Shop, Office Depot, Staples and Wal-Mart among their mass merchant clients.

A modest Ng gives credit to his talented team, which happens to be made up largely of immigrants: “I hire people for their attitude – not for their Canadian experience,” says Ng emphatically.

The proof is in the pudding. Out of more than 100 employees, 97 per cent were born outside of Canada and a majority of those were hired with little or no Canadian experience. “We hire for quality and attitude first, and if a candidate can bring international experience and know-how to the table, even better,” he points out.

Immigrants are also a big asset since they speak different languages and understand diverse cultures, Ng adds, which helps since the company’s computer parts come from all over the world before being packaged and distributed to Canadian customers.

“I am now looking for a Spanish-speaking marketing person to join our team because we are looking to expand to South America,” Ng says. He already has an employee of African heritage researching new opportunities in Africa through his own networks and understanding of local business practices.

Ng is also looking for an immigrant of Indian heritage to tap products from the subcontinent that Samtack can market and distribute for Wal-Mart and similar major consumer retailers in Brampton and Mississauga where South Asian communities are thriving.

At Samtack, he’s cultivated a corporate culture incorporating what he calls the five Fs – fast, focused, flexible, friendly and fun – to keep employees and suppliers happy while growing company profits.

He has also introduced a three-week job-shadowing program to better equip new immigrants. “On the one hand, we don’t look for Canadian experience in a prospective employee, but, in reality, it is very important for someone who wants to break into the Canadian market,” Ng explains. Samtack works with the Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs (Ng is its current president) and others to identify potential candidates for all aspects of operations, from sales and sourcing to engineering, accounting and graphic design.

Samtack also recently initiated an internship program with students from Seneca College. “This internship will be three to six months long, and if the student is an accounting major, then we will offer a position in the accounting department,” Ng says. Though it is an unpaid internship, a daily food allowance and transportation expenses may be reimbursed, says the empathetic entrepreneur. “Having these interns is also a benefit to our company because our staff gets to interact with young people and learn current trends in technology through them.”

Recognized as a well-rounded organization, Samtack, spearheaded by Ng in Canada, has amassed a number of awards and accolades from big and small organizations, including the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs, TRIEC and Wal-Mart. “This is what inspires me to strive to do better and to be socially conscious all the time,” he says with pride.

But Ng’s biggest personal achievement has been realizing his immigrant dream of giving his children a better life. “My daughter is in medical school, her younger brother is doing his second year in life sciences studies with plans to pursue medicine, and my youngest son is in ninth grade.”

Clearly, Canada has been a land of opportunity for the Ng family. “Persevere,” Ng says. “I have gone through hard times, but if somebody gives you an opportunity, just grab it with a humble and learning mentality.”


Reference: Canadian Immigrant Magazine