The Art of Lending A Hand

There are plenty of people who just find their comfort zone and never push for more. For Chris Roberts, chairman of AustCham, this is not the case.

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There is a simple respect for those who just like to help that often goes unnoticed. When everything is going well, we all take for granted the promise of a bright future, knowing that if should any kind of issue arise, somebody will always be there to aid in picking up the pieces.

If you’re the kind of person who’d like to constantly lend the fellow man a hand, there may be no better job description than that found in hospitality. Chris Roberts, GM of DoubleTree by Hilton in Guangzhou, could never get enough of doing whatever he could to be of service, so he found a way to make the most of it.

“Ever since I was a kid, my parents had lots of family gatherings and I always liked helping out,” Chris said of the early part of his life. Upon reaching university age, a degree in hospitality seemed most logical and so a career was naturally born.

The biggest jumpstart to his career struck after moving far from his home in Adelaide, Australia many years ago.

“My boss, the GM at the time, said, ‘look, for you to continue working with Hilton and progressing, I recommend you move out of Australia to a different country, culture, way of doing work.’ Shortly, after that, a position came up in Beijing.” He took the job and began his extended career working all across Asia.

For awhile, the work was long and demanding, but he felt an impulse to do more and to give more. He considered what to do and finally joined the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Beijing as a regular member.

Australians do a lot of business while socializing: Friday night at the pub, Sunday afternoon at the golf course. So, our events try to create these positive types of environments.

After some time, he was offered a new position in Guangzhou, he couldn’t say no. Luckily, there was a southern chapter of AustCham and he was quick to join up at his new home in 2012. Dutifully ascending through the ranks, he finally seized his current position as Chairman within two years. His growth wasn’t due to luck or connections; it was just plain old hard work and the incessant propensity to always be willing to support anyone in need.

What exactly does a Chairman for a Chamber do, I quizzed him.

“Good question: everything,” he joked. “Really, every position on the board has a specific role, the treasurer manages finance, secretary does meeting minutes, etc. My job is to be the face of the chamber by talking at events, [to the] membership body and media. The Chair also has the power to veto decisions and help keep meetings moving.”

Essentially, it’s a second full time job that’s entirely volunteer-based, which might seem a little bit crazy given the extremely heavy workloads that hotel GMs typically have to face.

“The work comes and goes, sometimes being very busy [at the Chamber]. The preparation and attending of events does take a lot of time, but you just need to plan very well in advance. But that’s why we’re all here: to help the membership and companies who want to do business with Australia and China.”

For 22 years, the Chamber has represented itself as a place that can help people make connections, while educating people about new laws and policies.

“The Chamber [primarily] focuses on business and social events. Australians do a lot of business while socializing: Friday night at the pub, Sunday afternoon at the golf course. So, our events try to create these positive types of environments.”

With business leaders finally having a forum with which to list and discuss their problems, it is in the interest of the entire body to work together to solve legal and logistical issues. Indeed, regular meetings with government officials in both countries work to help all members, not just the corporations, but the little guys, as well.

The most challenging part of both positions seems to be a common complaint heard from many different industry leaders: the youth today are hard to motivate.

“Young people today need to see the future. When I started my career, I was a nobody and I didn’t know my potential, but I knew I could be a success somehow. So, [I worked] hard to show everyone what I can do. Today, so many people just want to see the door of opportunity right now. If they can see the door, they’ll work hard to open it. If you don’t show them the door, they wont work for it.”

Really opportunity is always available, especially in China. The street may not be paved of gold here, but truly if you can dream it, you can do it. Chris proved it, how about you?