'Happiness Is Not All About the Money'

Burmese immigrant builds a successful food-service company by focusing on quality, customer service and satisfied employees.

By: Chia-Li Chien | Published 10/20/2010


What does a typical 8-year-old child do after school? Well, when Philip Maung was 8 years old, he worked at his parents' fried pork belly business in Burma (the largest country by geographical area in mainland Southeast Asia) as a street vendor. He watched his parents struggle to make ends meets and to support their seven children. He saw firsthand the need to improve the lifestyle of the poor, a perspective that helped shape the man Maung is today.

Maung is the CEO of Hissho Sushi -- which won a ranking in the Top 100 Food & Beverage in the 2010 Inc. 5000. Based in North Carolina, Hissho Sushi is a food-service and distribution company managing and operating more than 400 sushi bars across the United States. The company's partners include Dean & DeLuca, Carolinas Medical Center and Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. Maung and his wife, Kristina, started Hissho Sushi from their dining room in 1998.

Maung's passion is to inspire people to improve their lifestyle, and his mission is to make his company a fun place to work for his more than 150 employees. Many of the employees and outside contractors are refugees from Burma. As an immigrant himself, he never forgets where he came from and makes it a point to help fellow immigrants. When you walk into Hissho Sushi's 46,000-square-foot headquarters, you can see an international work force all striving to provide the best customer service in the food industry. "Happiness is not all about the money," Maung says.

Despite the economic downturn, Hissho Sushi continues to grow. What can we learn from this fast-growing company?

* Align with the right market makers. A market maker is an entity or person that has your exact target customers or clients. Maung is focused on high-quality products, so he only aligns with market markers who share that focus. Dean & DeLuca is just one of his market makers.

* Be a partner, not a vendor. Maung's goal is to create a win-win situation for any relationship. He positions his company as a partner, not just another supplier or vendor. His partnerships with many market makers have blossomed because he proactively addresses his business partners' needs.

* Focus on what the industry is lacking: customer service. Hissho Sushi has a flexible work schedule so it can provide quick-turnaround customer service to its partners as needed.

"Focus on providing top-quality products and services; do them right, and the money will follow," Maung says. The culture of taking care of your people and associates, and not focusing on money, is the key to Maung's success.


Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps women entrepreneurs to convert their business into meaningful personal wealth.  She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for WomenEntrepreneur.com & Fox Business online.   She is available for consulting, speaking engagements and workshops.  She can be reached at www.chialichien.com or jolly@chialichien.com.


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