Inspiring Greatness: Sharon Lim on Preserving a Family-Owned Business
Building a brand takes enormous efforts but ensuring that it becomes a legacy requires all hands on deck — especially so for a family-owned business. Sharon Lim, the director of Cortina Watch and executive director of Pacific Time, is undeterred and determined to preserve her family’s heritage.
When one mentions about ultra-luxurious cars, Rolls-Royce definitely comes to mind and the brand’s Phantom model stretches back to 1925 — 95 years of legacy since its initial launch. Over the years, the Phantom has undergone numerous changes to its facades but its bespoke elements will not change. Customisation is at the heart of the Phantom range where owners are able to pick and choose how they want their car to be and ultimately, how it will best reflect the person’s personality.
Similarly, Cortina Watch has been serving Singaporeans with luxury watches since 1972 and was founded by Mr. Anthony Lim. Initially, a small-scaled retail boutique located at Colombo Court (now called the Supreme Court), the company has since grown from a single-store family business to being public-listed in 2002 — Cortina Holdings. Sharon Lim, the daughter of the founder, has been the director of Cortina Watch and the executive director of Pacific Time, where she oversees the running of the company.
Protecting and preserving a heritage like Cortina Watch requires all hands on deck, just like the longevity of the Phantom, the brand has continuously evolved with the times so that it is best able to serve their customers. LUXUO spoke to Lim in hopes to have a glimpse on how she conducts her day and manages her family-owned enterprise, ensuring that top-notch quality is always at the forefront and remains the core of the business.
Having been in the industry for a long time, what’s next installed for you?
I have always been attracted to the retail business but after more than 20 years, I’ve come to enjoy the moments of peace and tranquillity in my life amidst the chaotic and rapid changing pace of international commerce.
Did you always know you wanted to be in the retail business?
Bringing products or experience to consumers fascinates me, the entire value chain is both a carefully calculated slew of steps and artful intent. It’s about making authoritative statements which attracts attention and evokes desire, sometimes a product like the Rolls-Royce Phantom possesses its own magnetic charisma.
Have you always envisioned yourself to be part of the watch industry? And what/who inspired you to join the industry?
Growing up I had wanted to be a designer, I love the whole creation process. My dad is a big inspiration to me, his passions and attitude towards work has impacted me greatly. I discovered that the experience of handcrafted art like fine Swiss watches can be complemented with what I am always passionate about.
Take us through on how you would usually start your day?
Having worked in Neiman Marcus, I understood the demands of international retail which helped me to cultivate a good habit of keeping abreast with the latest headlines and current affairs. I will usually start my day with the daily updates from the team, then I will clear and give directions to them so they could get on with their projects.
What is it like taking on niche brands like H.Moser & Cie and Hautlence?
Every single brand is unique and occupies a strategic position within our group of business objectives. In the last few years, the watch industry has went through several radical changes, from branding to distribution, and we too have assessed that and made some changes and focus on brands that are complementary to our competencies. Being adaptive, responsive are key qualities for brands to stay relevant. Yet, in an ever-changing world, there is comfort in the surety of a legacy brand like Rolls-Royce.
Being a businesswoman, taking risks is part and parcel of your daily life, how do you handle it?
In anything that we do, we are bound to take risks and I treat it as part of a process that we must assess and evaluate before taking any decision. For example, when I make a business decision, I will ensure that I pay close attention to the details and when combined with the stunning designs of the watch, things fall into place making the risk worthwhile.
“Preserving and developing what our father built is very important to us, it is a family legacy that must be maintained and grown.”
Can you share any philanthropic activities? And why do you think it is important that we give support to them?
Nurturing the art scene, and emerging talents allows me to give back to the community. I believe keeping the arts alive is important in our shared humanity and our dreams. Just like relaxing at the end of the day under the beauty and comfort of the celestial canopy of the iconic Starlight Headliner, it reminds me to never lose hope and to always keep faith.
What is your driving force? What keeps Sharon Lim motivated?
Commitment drives me. It is a business that was started by my father and together with my brothers, we are the second generation keeping the business going, and this becomes the motivation that keeps me going. We are a closely knitted family, preserving and developing what our father built is very important to us, it is a family legacy that must be maintained and grown.