Business / Companies

The heir beginning to call the shots in dad's empire

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily) Updated: 2013-01-10 13:31

China's beverage billionaire Zong Qinghou has a monk-like work schedule. He arrives at the office at 7 am and leaves at 11 pm. Over the years Zong has formed a habit of not postponing any matters to the next day.

In this family-run business where there is no deputy to the chairman of the Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co, Zong responds to questions from all and sundry every day.

Not too many years ago, he met his rival. It emerges she is his only daughter, 30-year-old Zong Fuli, who is also a hard worker.

Although Zong Fuli was ranked among the top 50 female business leaders in the Asia-Pacific region selected by Forbes, among colleagues, the second generation of the country's richest man is happy to be called simply Kelly.

In 2004 Zong junior came back from the United States after graduating from Pepperdine University, having majored in international business.

Her first position in the group was assisting the director at a production base in Xiaoshan in Zhejiang province. She was later promoted to president of Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage Group.

Now Zong junior is in charge of 30 percent of Wahaha's production, including children's apparel and beverages, as well as imports and exports of the group.

"My dad takes charge of the domestic market and I oversee the overseas market," she said. "We don't interfere with each other's jobs."

Her international education and background helps Zong junior better understand people's needs. She said the company has prepared a series of high-end tea beverages for the overseas market.

The two generations have different styles of management. Father likes giving orders to his subordinates while his daughter prefers a more sophisticated system.

"I don't want everyone to ask me what to do every day," she said. "I want them to do their own thinking and take responsibility themselves."

For example, if a report comes in showing there are problems, she doesn't point them out and come up with her solutions. Instead, she asks the author to come up with solutions.

Zong junior has hired many young employees. Many of her managers are in their twenties. "I want to prove that young people are not bad. Just like me, we are not experienced but we have passion," she said.

She admitted that sometimes culture clashes occur when communicating with her colleagues. She is used to being direct when talking to them. Her father has had to ask her to be softer. She took his advice.

Zong Qinghou is his daughter's role model. "My dad is hardworking, decisive and has great vision," she said.

Teamwork is what the father and daughter both value. "It is very difficult for young people to create wealth through entrepreneurship," said Zong senior. "But a professional management can be a good path."

Zong said he has begun to delegate much of his work to middle management teams. "They are too young to take risks now. I will support them during the early period. Gradually, they will act on their own and take more responsibility," he said.  

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