A new year to savor success
One person in Our Honolulu who looks forward to 2004 without a qualm is Daniel B. T. Lau, Chinese Citizen of the Year, a founder of Finance Factors and a Makule League world series softball champion. At 84, he's just getting started.
So listen up. If you want to look as fit at 80 as Tiger Woods, sit as chairman of a financial empire, father a family of super achievers and be a sports star at the same time, take a few pointers from Lau.
First we will discuss how to transform a stake of less than $25,000 into assets worth almost half a billion. Lau explained that in 1952 he and nine other young dreamers each pledged $25,000 to form a finance company they named Finance Factors. Their secret was to dream small.
"The banks handled home loans, commercial loans, new car loans," Lau explained. "They weren't interested in small consumer loans for furniture, pots and pans, used cars. We made loans of $50, $250, $500. During the plantation strikes, we didn't foreclose. We allowed workers to suspend their payments. The unions were grateful."
This is probably one reason former U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong, also a founder of the company, kept winning elections. Lau admitted that another secret of their success was operating officer Larry Lau (no relation) who learned the business under financial wizard Chinn Ho.
Genes may have helped. Danny Lau's father had what John Wayne would call true grit. The elder Lau came from China and went to work at age 10 as house boy about 1895 for revolutionary Robert Wilcox on Pacific Heights. Wilcox is called "General" in the Lau family.
"My Dad wanted to go to school but he had to work all day," said Lau. "He carried around a dictionary until he could read Chinese and English newspapers. Then he went to work at Wichman Jewelers printing wedding invitations.
"My parents got married in 1918. His friends liked Dad so much they sponsored his wedding. It took him 10 years to pay them back. In 1919 he opened a grocery store on the corner of Liliha Street and Kunawai Lane. There was a poi factory in back and a tea house down the lane."
At UH, Lau starred in baseball and track. After graduation he played outfield for the All Chinese team against the Japanese, Caucasians, Portuguese and Filipinos. Typical of Our Honolulu, the All Chinese team had a Filipino pitcher, a Samoan first baseman and a Hawaiian in the outfield.
These days Lau sponsors his own Makule League softball team that won the world series in Missouri in 1995. In 2002 an 80-and-over team in Arizona drafted Lau. They went to Detroit and won the world series so now he has two national championship rings.
In addition to all that, his son, Russell, is CEO of Finance Factors. Daughter-in-law Connie is CEO of American Savings. Two sons are attorneys and daughter Vicki is a research statistician.
Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.