Lessons Learned from Entrepreneurs in China

In a recent gathering, five of China’s most successful businessmen shared what they had learned over the course of their careers. Their advice for entrepreneurs was based on their experiences in the cutthroat business environment of modern-day China, but bears relevance for businesspeople across the globe.

Business as a Learning Experience 

Charles Chao is a serial entrepreneur of big media businesses. He began his career as a journalist and used his media know-how to pivot to the management of Chinese telecom giant Sina Corp. He helped create Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and is involved in the management of several other media and real estate endeavors. Chao acknowledges that luck plays a major role in business success, but emphasizes that throughout the process of creating a business, “you can learn a lot of things that will benefit you for the long term.”

Have a Clear Purpose with an Eye to Social Responsibility

Zhang Yong knows about succeeding as an entrepreneur in a competitive market. He is the founder of Hai Di Lao, a chain of hot pot restaurants. Zhang has overcome the competition by giving customers a dining experience, rather than just a place to eat, incorporating entertainment, free beverages and offering services like manicures while customers wait. He states that, “Every entrepreneur should have his or her responsibility.” For Zhao, the responsibility is employee development. Hai Di Lao offers well-appointed housing as part of its employment contract as well as plenty of opportunities for advancement. “We call it ‘using your hands to change your destiny,’ Zhang says.

Zhang Yichen is the Chairman and CEO of CITIC Capital. He explains that while past business models focused on building relationships with members of the government as a means of securing success, modern businesses focus on market demands. He says, “…I very much encourage the younger generation of entrepreneurs to be bold, be creative and do the right thing.” 

Persistence is Key

Li Dongshen is the founder, chairman and CEO of TCL, one of largest consumer electronics companies in the world. TCL was initially a tape cassette manufacturer but in the 36 years since its founding, has grown and diversified to produce televisions, appliances and cellphones. Li’s advice is simple, “If you have a dream or goal, you will persist when you meet difficulties. “

Zhang Siding agrees. As a student at Peking University, he created a bike-sharing company with four friends. It is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Zhang says, “Making your business successful is like a narrow escape from death. In this process, you must believe in what you love.”


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