The world looked up surprised when the Tiens Group took 6,500 of its employees to Paris and the Cote-d´Azur, but for China rich-list founder Rupert Hoogewerf says in IBT that this move fits into a tradition. More surprising is that an international company like Tiens has stayed so long under the Western radar.
“This is not a flash in the pan,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, the Shanghai-based CEO of Hurun Report, which tracks China’s wealthiest companies and individuals and publishes an annual China Rich List. “Tiens is the most international company on our list. Around 70 per cent of their sales are international, which is more than even [computer giant] Lenovo. And they’ve been holding international events for their sales staff for a decade now,” he told International Business Times, “it’s just that the scale and the profile has grown. Last year they invited me to a meeting in Moscow for their global sales team, which was attended by about 6,000 people.”
The scale of the events is perhaps not surprising for a company which now claims some 12 million sales staff in more than 100 countries, notably in eastern Europe — Russia is a major market — and Latin America, as well as Indonesia. Tien’s Amway-style model of manufacturing and selling health-care products, from ozone machines to shampoo and dietary supplements, brought it profits of $438 million in 2009, according to Forbes…
The grand gestures and lavish rewards for employees typify Tiens’ approach, according to Hoogewerf. “The first time Tiens came to my attention was about ten years ago, when they held a sales event for members of staff, and gave away something like fifty BMWs and five yachts to those who had sold the most,” he says. “They’re masters at incentivizing their staff.”
Hoogewerf says Tiens’ chairman Li is not as flamboyant as Jack Ma, founder of China’s biggest listed company, the e-commerce giant Alibaba. However, he says the former petroleum and plastics industryworker, whose first business venture was in the biotech field, is gregarious and committed to his staff. In the firm’s early days, Li once “sold his car to pay his workers”, Hoogewerf notes. And like Ma, he says, he is able to inspire the devotion of those who work for him: “The first time I visited Tiens’ office, I ran into a group of salespeople from Russia and Indonesia who had just finished a meeting with Li,” Hoogewerf recalls. “They were mostly middle-aged women, and some men, who had been brought to China as a reward for their sales performance — and I could see from their expressions that they were completely awestruck after meeting him.” Like Jack Ma, he adds, Li is “more than just a CEO — he’s the embodiment of the company, and he’s helped these people earn a lot of money.”
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