Simon Lichtenberg is the founder and CEO of Trayton Group in China. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and has learned a total of seven languages since his childhood. After receiving a degree in Chinese and Sinology from Fudan University in 1988, Mr. Lichtenberg returned to Denmark to continue his education.
In 1992, Mr. Lichtenberg got involved in Chinese business when he started working in the timber industry. He formed Trayton Group in 1995 as an international timber trade between Asia and Africa. Eventually, he branched out into Trayton Furniture. It was in this industry that Mr. Lichtenberg ran into some business problems in China.
Trayton Furniture makes furniture and then sells the finished pieces internationally to stores like IKEA. At one point in the business, Mr. Lichtenberg discovered that he did not have enough leather suppliers and he needed a large supply of leather for furniture. After spending time researching suppliers in China, he came across Zhenjing Leather Factory. The company had been given a world loan, leading him to believe that they were willing to step into the global economy. He decided to obtain the leather he needed from the factory.
Unfortunately, of the RMB 37 million he contracted to buy, RMB 3 million worth of the leather was faulty. Independent tests from a third party proved that the leather was not useable and Mr. Litchenberg decided not to pay for the product and send it back to the supplier. This decision led to a court case by the supplier for withholding money and Mr. Litchenberg lost the case.
Having learned from his experiences with the leather factory, Mr. Litchenberg has continued doing business in China and his company has continued to see large success. He was awared the Magnolia Silver Award in 2006 for the help his company has provided Shanghai’s developing economy. After the experience of losing a court case, Mr. Litchenberg has noted that China is unique within the world and that he would advice new businessmen in the country to avoid using only one supplier for their needs.