Dr. Tei-Fu Chen Featured in Taiwan Media
Dr. Tei-Fu Chen, founder and chairman of Sunrider International, was interviewed by Business Today, a magazine published in Taiwan. The article was released in print April 25, 2019, and featured in the magazine’s Line social media site.
In the interview, Dr. Tei-Fu Chen shared insights of his 37-year entrepreneurial career and talked about the trends of the ever-changing world of business. He also summed up the pros and cons of online, offline, and direct sales business models and concluded that Sunrider’s business model is the perfect choice for those who want to earn a supplemental income and improve their financial status.
The following content is based on the original article. appearing on the Business Today website.
Founded 37 years ago, Sunrider has become a giant enterprise operating in 50 countries and regions around the world. Dr. Tei-Fu Chen leads thousands of retail stores with a direct sales business model and still flies around the world on his private jet to cheer on and inspire his Independent Business Owners (IBOs). His private jet, painted in Sunrider’s signature red, represents the high-flying success and activeness of Sunrider.
Life is a series of battles about going beyond the limits; no one can claim victory until the end.
Starting from scratch, Dr. Chen has become one of the richest Chinese in the world with his bare hands. It’s natural to group Dr. Chen in the “successful people in life” category; however, we didn’t detect any arrogance when he talked about his business journey. He said: “Life is a series of battles about going beyond limits. The key to final victory is not about winning and losing today, but about who can stick it out to the end and not give up.” Citing the Vietnam War as an example, he said this about the longest war in American history: “The United States won at least hundreds of battles, but eventually lost the war. It doesn’t matter who wins or loses today, but who can persevere to the end.”
Dr. Chen has his own philosophy when defining success. He said everyone is born crying and being pushed forward by fate, but only the strong can leave the world with a smile. Somehow, being strong in life is not about defeating others but uncovering one’s own talent and continually improving. Constantly challenging oneself, making breakthroughs, and becoming a better person, is the true meaning of success in life.
History constantly repeats itself, which can be applied to business operations as well. Dr. Chen’s business management style is inspired by lessons learned from history. He said, “My business is about lasting for generations, not just overnight success. I want my business to be passed down from generation to generation.”
Dr. Chen joked, “In fact, we are very old-fashioned. We won’t sell any product that we don’t consume ourselves.” Sunrider also insists on developing and manufacturing their own products. He said, “It’s rare to find self-manufacturing in the direct selling industry and retail business. Sunrider is one of the few who does.”
When it comes to technology, Dr. Chen can’t help sharing his opinions. He is very confident in Sunrider’s technological prowess and products. Sunrider is not a follower, chasing profits and trends; Sunrider is an innovator and trailblazer.
Because of strict quality control, Sunrider quickly took off in the direct selling industry. In 1985, Sunrider’s total revenue exceeded US$1 million. Two years later, it exceeded $100 million. In 1987, Dr. Chen expanded his company to his native country of Taiwan, establishing Sunrider Taiwan Development Co., Ltd., which became one of the top three companies in Taiwan’s direct-selling industry in just three years.
In 1993, China opened up the direct-selling market, and Sunrider seized this opportunity and entered the market. In less than two years, the monthly revenue exceeded US$50 million in China. To meet local demand, Sunrider set up a factory in Tianjin to supply the Chinese market. The annual revenue reached US$600 million at the company’s peak and was the top direct-selling company in China. However, in 1998, the Chinese government began a ban on direct selling, so Sunrider switched its business model to retail stores, concentrating on providing excellent service, and reaped great results.
Facing ever-changing business trends, Sunrider comes up with O2O strategy.
While e-commerce has been booming for the last 10 years, Dr. Chen continued working on the transformation of his enterprises, going from direct sales to retail stores, and then to O2O (online-to-offline commerce), with online and offline stores co-existing as business models. Dr. Chen has experienced the ups and downs of the market, saying: “Global business trends never stop evolving. In the past, everyone wanted to work for TSMC and Largan Precision because they are great companies. After a while though, people preferred to return to their hometowns and farm. E-commerce caused another big wave and was very popular. However, as the competition increased, more shops found it hard to survive and a lot of them closed, maybe even more than physical stores. Somehow, people only pay attention to new rising trends and ignore old failures. This is what we call the swing effect.”
Dr. Chen said that retail stores actually have their own advantages. For example, the interaction between people creates “warmth.” Only in a store setting, can a complete “marketing experience” be executed. Inheriting a store is also easier than inheriting a direct sales business. After all, even if an older generation wants to pass on their direct sales system to the next generation, the existing downline may not be willing to follow directions from the young successors. However, direct sales has its own strengths, such as low startup cost, ease of setting up the business, and flexible working hours. Dr. Chen said, “I encourage couples to do direct sales together. If one of their main incomes is no longer available, there is still another income source.” Sunrider’s business model combines direct sales and online sales, which is very suitable for people looking for supplemental income.
Winning the world by elevating yourself.
Dr. Chen pointed out that if life is a battle, the ultimate enemy is yourself. He founded Sunrider when he was 34 years old, working for 18 hours every day, devoting himself whole-heartedly to the business and facing many challenges. Looking back, Dr. Chen shared that “friends come and go; only the enemy always stays! For newcomers, don’t be afraid of challenges, because today’s enemies may become tomorrow’s friends. The worst enemy is maybe yourself, but if we can improve today and be a better self tomorrow, we are winning.”
Dr. Tei-Fu Chen
Family: Married with 3 sons and 2 daughters
Current position: Founder and Chairman of Sunrider International
- Department of Pharmacy, Kaohsiung Medical College
- Department of Chemistry, Brigham Young University, USA
- College TA
- Electronic product trader
- R&D supervisor in a direct sales company