Thomas Chen, President
Stay focused: Chen Believes remembering where you came from is the path to staying grounded.
What one factor is most important to success?
I am a firm believer that to succeed in business you need to surround yourself with good people. People who are talented and eager, who will both pull and push your firm to succeed. And remember that it’s a global economy now, so good people hail from all corners of the world.
What do you look for in an employee?
For me, ideal employees are intelligent, energetic and have the ability to learn, comprehend and take responsibility for many aspects of the business. It’s a bonus if they also have a little bit of entrepreneurial spirit, like me.
What’s the best way to save money?
Think before you buy, and don’t spend money unnecessarily. Focus your resources on only the most essential or important business expenditures and in the long run, you will save money.
What’s the best way to spend money?
The wisest way to spend money is to plow it back into your business, especially with investments in technology and automation. Crystal would not have grown the way it has without the benefits and economies of scale derived from computers, software and new equipment to fabricate windows and doors.
What’s your greatest pleasure?
My greatest pleasure, besides my family, has been my good fortune to be able to create and expand my business successfully, providing good products and employment for so many.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I find the fastest way to get my mind in gear is to check my business calendar for appointments, so I can prepare for the coming day.
How do you deal with stress?
My favorite and most effective stress reliever is walking. As often as possible, I try to get out of my office and walk. The best is to go off on a hike through the woods, if time permits. Even a quick walk around Crystal’s factory talking with employees and focusing on little things is a nice break and helps clear my mind.
What one lesson do you hope to pass on to your children?
As I stated in Donald Trump’s business advice book The Way To The Top, it is so important to remember your roots. Keeping in mind where you came from and what you have experienced in life—how hard you have worked, what you have had to learn—is the best way I know to stay grounded and focused. If you understand your roots, you will appreciate what you have accomplished and what you can achieve going forward.
How do you bounce back from adversity?
I try to quickly put the problem or failure behind me and immerse myself in the next set of business opportunities or challenges. This can be difficult, especially when you have poured a great deal of your emotional energy into something, but it is of no value to future success to remain focused on the past problems. Better to get excited about the opportunities ahead of you.
What’s your favorite thing about Queens?
My favorite thing about Queens is the support we get from everyone: the public, our contractor and trade customers, construction industry leaders and government officials. Being a Taiwanese-American immigrant, it has been wonderful to find this important corner of the world so embracing of diversity.
Thomas Chen emigrated from Taiwan in 1982. He landed work in a residential apartment building in Flushing, where he worked installing gates on windows. From there, he went on to launch Crystal Windows & Doors, which, by 1999, had sales in excess of $24 million. Chen’s 150,000-square-foot facility is located in College Point, and houses more than 170 employees. Donald Trump recently featured Chen in a book on business leadership, where the Taiwan immigrant told aspiring entrepreneurs to “remember your roots.”