Talk to Entrepreneurship Coach Guan Mingsheng: How the economic environment changes, the problems facing CEOs are similar

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All companies claim to attach importance to “management”. But when the market conditions are good and the entrepreneur can raise round after round of financing, his management ability does not need to face the most brutal test. Although the operation is still intense, if the management is chaotic and the decision-making is slower, there will be no worries of life and death.

The downward cycle is raging, and companies with poor decision-making and ineffective management may disappear. Companies that have successfully raised funds in the past decade or so are now facing big exams. This is probably why Ren Zhengfei has mentioned the theory of wintering many times, and people have listened to it very carefully this year.

History does not repeat itself exactly, but there is no shortage of similarities. Twenty years ago, China’s Internet industry also experienced a bubble and burst. Collapsed in the volatility, in addition to the wealth value bound to the stock price, there are also the expansion plans carefully constructed by young entrepreneurs.

Guan Mingsheng was the witness and intervenor of that market crash.

In 2001, venture capital was a new thing in China, and there was very little money in the market. Alibaba Group, headquartered in Hangzhou, had $10 million left on its books at the time. It had already opened offices all over the world, and employed many high-paid European and American employees. months.

Guan Mingsheng, who has 17 years of management experience in General Electric China, joined Alibaba as chief operating officer at that juncture, and a few years later served as chief human resources officer. After joining the job, Guan Mingsheng did three important things: the first was layoffs; the second was to help Ali sort out the “mission, vision, and values”; the third was to help build the sales team management method, and cultivated accordingly. The “Iron Army” helped Ali accumulate the wealth needed to incubate Taobao. For Ali at that time, it not only acquired an experienced ex-executive executive of a foreign company, but also dug up a set of modern company management concepts.

In the past 20 years, Alibaba has gradually grown into a giant company employing more than 200,000 people, operating the world’s largest online retail platform by transaction volume, facing a completely different environment and dealing with seemingly less urgent but extremely difficult management issues. At the same time, Alibaba’s corporate culture and organizational management methods have been imitated by a large number of Chinese companies.

Since 2005, Guan Mingsheng has been providing management consulting services for small and medium-sized enterprises. The problems faced by some companies are closer to those of Alibaba when he first joined in 2001: a few hundred people, spending more than they make; some companies have been considered successful, but they have encountered development bottlenecks.

Management is a practical science. Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, used his life choices to practice this important proposition – rejecting Harvard Business School’s invitation to teach, choosing to be employed by large companies such as General Motors, as a consultant to observe the company closely Organizational structure, providing management advice.

Guan Mingsheng’s core theory is inherited from Drucker, and he also summarizes the method from his own specific management practice. He does not agree that CEOs are obsessed with learning the management methods of large companies: holding those mature routines and thinking that they have obtained the book, it is easy to see the real problems.

Guan Mingsheng is a consultant who only asks questions but does not give answers. His service targets are those who “the company cannot do without him/her”. He spends most of his work listening to people, and as he gets older, his always smiling face tends to relax quickly.

Calling 3-5 executives into a room, Guan Mingsheng’s talk therapy begins. He just asks questions and ends with a sentence or two, leaving the time to everyone, speaking freely, and chatting casually from all over the world. The assistant meticulously wrote down every word that everyone said. Guan Mingsheng said that the answers to any problems encountered by any company in management are in those words.

In order to make management easier to understand, Guan Mingsheng integrated the management concept into Chinese classical stories: the little stories in “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” and “Sun Tzu’s Art of War” are always on his lips. He also always tells a few stories that happened in Ali’s early years. He has told them many times, and every time he uses his body and expressions to act out the episodes of that year. This kind of high-profile and small-minded coaching method is easily welcomed by entrepreneurs.

He always told entrepreneurs that employees must be treated as seriously as customers, and it is best to bring some service spirit; any management problems encountered by any company are ultimately two types of problems: strategic problems and leadership problems.

What’s the latest new company on the market? What new business are you working on? What new story is being told? Guan Mingsheng pays less attention to the latest popular and hotly discussed company dynamics in the business world. He said the more important answer for all companies is: Who am I? Who am I serving? What can I bring to others?

Guan Mingsheng is 73 years old this year. If he defines himself, he always considers himself a “land pioneer”. His happiness and sense of achievement come from: helping companies find the correct management method and embark on the road of “winning”.

In 2005, he wrote a management book “About the World – The Secret of SMEs Winning”. In July this year, “Relating to the World” was republished. Taking this as an opportunity, we discussed with him the secret of winning for small and medium-sized enterprises today.

The following is the dialogue between “LatePost” and Guan Mingsheng:

Management is a kind of ability, let people who are stronger than you always follow you

“Late Time”: Many people say that management is a practical knowledge, and it does not have theoretical formulas like natural sciences. Many management experts have discussed what is the essence of management excellence, what is your understanding?

Guan Mingsheng: I have been engaged in management for many years, and I have summed up a little bit of experience. Now if you ask me what management is, I will say “let them follow you”.

“Following you” requires something. Not just an individual, you have to create an environment and create a sense of mission. Let them follow you because you know where to go. Many people say that the dream is good and the mission is good, but you don’t seem to know what to do, and employees will hesitate. Your strategy is good, no one follows you, no one wants to do it, you can’t do anything; your strategy is bad, but everyone is willing to follow you, but you die faster.

The strategy is not to lead the way. A good leader is not something you do by yourself. You must find a group of people. There are people who are better than you in various fields, but they all follow me. Through them, they can achieve outstanding results that they can’t do by themselves.

“Late”: What can a CEO do to make those who are better than him in different fields willing to follow him all the time?

Guan Mingsheng: The CEO has two most critical customers. One is outside customers, they pay, and your mission, your strategy, is to win them. One is the customer at home and the other is the employee. Many CEOs say to their employees, “I tell him to do whatever he wants, and if he can’t do it, just fire it.” dead.

Human affairs are great things. You need to understand them to gain their trust and provide the value proposition they need, otherwise why would he come to work for your company?

“Late”: Treating employees as customers is one of Drucker’s important concepts. But specifically, how does the CEO serve his employees?

Guan Mingsheng: We opened a channel in Ali at the time, and employees can ask any questions. Within 24 hours or 48 hours, the company’s 4 Os must answer them in person. These things are critical, and good companies can do them, as long as they have the will. But the will must be persistent, and there must be perseverance. You can’t talk too much. It’s better for you to solve one person’s problems than to listen to 5,000 people.

The CEO of the company is spending time looking at performance, running around, raising money, and that’s one way. Many CEOs think they can do whatever they want when the company is big. No, the principle is still the same when the company is big, and the results are obtained through others.

Strategy is important, strategy is not how to do it, but how to win

“Latency”: When the company goes up a level, the CEO will be very eager to improve management skills and attend many management training courses. Small and medium-sized enterprises learn the management method of large companies, what is the table, what is the inside?

Guan Mingsheng: At the beginning, foreign companies trained a large number of people, and each company and department had its own book. Those elites who leave foreign companies to start businesses and work in the country are easy to misunderstand that what the company did in the first place is the same as how they won. Many times, they feel that there is a sufficient way to open the book and do it in one, two, three, four or five.

What you did at the beginning was also right, because the principles are basically universal, and there is a bottleneck in a certain place. The watch is a book from heaven, that is, it insists on how to do it as the answer. What is in? is to win. To win, you must (establish) understand, you must know what winning is, and you cannot win once. You must win constantly, externally and internally.

“Late”: How do you define “win”?

Guan Mingsheng: The most important thing in fighting is not to die. “Sun Tzu’s Art of War” says that the most powerful general is to be invincible first, and then when the enemy has a chance to fail, he will take advantage of this opportunity to defeat him. Attacking the heart is the top, attacking the city is the bottom. At least draw a tie and save strength. Who is the referee now? the person who pays. How to win? Make those who pay willing to keep paying.

In a company, there are two things that are most important and must be handled by the boss. One is strategy and the other is leadership. If these two things are caught, the entire company will be caught. Many bosses have no experience in this area.

“Late”: CEOs will think why they can’t do these two things well?

Guan Mingsheng: CEOs usually say to us: My employees can’t keep up, and I’m running very hard in front. Why can’t (employees) keep up? They may also be reluctant to keep up. I can’t blame them. The boss is very busy every day, and he can see 60 degrees in front of him. He can’t see 180 degrees of the company, let alone 360 ​​degrees. In the past, Ali used roundtable meetings. Every time there were 20 or 30 employees, everyone talked about it casually. There was no class problem. All employees told us what problems they thought the company had. The four of us took turns to participate, and there was only one person who had been listening, and that was Peng Lei. “1 over 1 plus HR” is what it means. If you don’t do this, you can easily think the company is good.

Many bosses even said that our problem is that the company culture is not clear. Can you please come to us to do a company culture analysis, give us lectures, and you can get it done in a few days and how much money you give. I ask, is there a problem with the strategy? (He said) Our strategy is good. After listening at the end, there may be a problem with the strategy. The A to B set doesn’t get you from B to C anymore, but they don’t even know where C is.

“Late”: You have been emphasizing the importance of “strategy”. How do you understand “strategy” and how does it relate to “management”?

Guan Mingsheng : The most critical strategy is to win, not to do. Many bosses think that strategy is the way of doing things. Then he was wrong. What is the strategy? Tomorrow will be better. What is management? There is food to eat today, and there is food to eat every day. If there is food to eat, the war can only be fought tomorrow, so strategy and management must be coordinated. Many Chinese companies do not necessarily have such strong patience. They may occupy the market and fight as soon as they go out.

Late: What are the key questions you ask a CEO or executive when helping a business find its management stick?

Guan Mingsheng: I first asked “Who are you?” What problem did you choose to solve? Who is it for? This is a very basic question. Second, ask entrepreneurs and executives: where do you feel pain? Those pain points often tell us what’s going on. Everyone who came to chat with us spoke freely. We told the boss the exact words. The boss was shocked. Two or three bosses said, “It turns out that I am the bottleneck.” This is a good boss.

Values ​​are the rules of the game, not moral constraints

to be realized by the system

“Latter”: After you joined Alibaba, you promoted and led the sorting out of “mission, vision, and values”. How do you understand the keywords of Alibaba’s values? How do they go from value-oriented words to concrete behaviors at work? (Alibaba’s values ​​were originally the “Nine Swords of Dugu”, and later the “Six Swords of Swords”, namely: customer first, teamwork, embracing change, integrity, passion, and dedication.)

Guan Mingsheng: After the six senior executives discussed the Dugu Nine Swords together, I was thinking about how the Dugu Nine Swords should be sorted. It was all messed up. Two things became clear later, there are two greats: one greatness is passion and the other greatness is system. We had more than enough passion and not enough systems. To design a system for everyone to solve: customer first, responsibility, focus, teamwork.

There are two definitions of responsibility. One is customer satisfaction. Another definition I brought from outside is “the best performance today is the minimum requirement tomorrow”, and everyone likes this. Focus is “doing the right thing,” not doing it right. Teamwork is “ordinary people doing extraordinary things”.

Values ​​are just a game rule, and a game rule for behavior. It’s useless for you to pat your chest and say that the customer is number one. We don’t know what’s on your mind, but we can see what your actions do. This finally becomes that we do a performance appraisal every three months, 50% of the performance appraisal is the business value, and 50% is the value.

“Latter”: Let me summarize, that is to say, values ​​are not used to constrain employees’ moral values, but to regulate employees’ behavior. It is not at the spiritual level, but at the operational level.

Guan Mingsheng: Values ​​are used to unify people’s behavior. It’s just that we write down our accumulated experience in a more colloquial way, so that it is easier for everyone to understand and accept it.

“Latency”: You helped establish a sales team management system in Ali. Sales is about a company’s revenue. In your opinion, what is the core of sales management?

Guan Mingsheng: Sales management starts from selection. The real experience is that sales management is not necessarily the best sales. Because his job is to motivate employees, to help them, to get results through them, and to turn their hard work, excitement, and success into success for all.

Winning is the best incentive. In fact, it is to build a project that gets results through others, and it can be scaled. Incentives are not just about money, so we have a million-dollar club, and GE has a million-dollar club. It is very honorable to be a member of the million-dollar club, and go swimming in Hainan Island with the most important executives of the whole company.

The current company is born in good conditions

But the challenge is harder

“The Late”: There are many companies learning the management methods of General Electric and Alibaba. How do you turn your experience into a method and use it to solve new problems?

Guan Mingsheng: (Method) At first, you didn’t know it. Slowly, you study at the feet of the emperor. Who is the emperor? The Son of Heaven is the customer, you should understand and think about it while you are doing it, and gradually your level will improve. A lot of people have a big problem, they know their functions well, but they don’t know their instincts. The function is that you are in sales and management, and you are the CEO and COO. The instinct is “who are you”. I didn’t even know it a day.

I can share with you my experience at London Business School. I was previously a systems engineer, designing systems for the UK’s leading communications company. One day in 1974, I was in a daze, wondering if I would be a good engineer? My answer is that I would be an OK engineer, but I would not be a great engineer. I found that all the people in the company play with spare parts, take them home to make electronic clocks, make anti-theft bells, and do all kinds of things. I am the only one in the whole company who does not do this.

One of my classmates went to London Business School for an MBA. I also applied and was rejected. I am two classes higher than him, and I have a lot more work experience than him. He can get in, why can’t I get in? I was so angry that I rushed to the London Business School as soon as I saw the head of the department and said, “Why don’t you want me to participate?” This gentleman is very famous and is a master professor. He said that in your application, you said a lot about what LBS can do for you, but there is not a word about what you can bring to LBS.

This turned my mind all over the place. Because of this, I do things a lot better. I no longer say what you can do for me, but I can solve the problem for you. If I use my solution, of course I’m happy; if not, I’ll ask my competitors to help you solve the problem.

“Late”: Peter Drucker said that good management methods can also be used to manage life and manage life. “Who you are” comes from a summary of your life.

Guan Mingsheng: Yes. You are an individual, what do you want to contribute in life? This is critical. I think a lot of bosses don’t focus on asking themselves this question. Many MBA classmates have obtained their degrees and feel that I should change a career and a function. I used to be a product designer, and now I should be a banker. He didn’t think what his instinct was? Only by understanding the functions and instincts can you design things well.

The same goes for companies. The function of a company is to meet customer requirements; what is the instinct? Social responsibility, improving returns for employees…you are a CEO and a founder. Your instinct is to leave a message, and leave a system, so that the people who have been there have developed very well, and are even stronger than you in many places, so you should inherit instead of inheriting. In many cases, it left traces to see who was in charge of this company. The best traces left are inheritance, not inheritance, inheritance is the princes.

“Latter”: Today’s Internet entrepreneurial environment is very different from when you joined Alibaba 20 years ago. Comparing the past and the present, what do you think has an impact on management?

Guan Mingsheng: The former employees were willing to fight with the company for 1,000 yuan or 2,000 yuan, and it was OK to learn something. Now startups basically have to give money to matching successful companies before they can hire people. If you need the salary of a successful company, and you need equity options, the company’s burn rate will be much higher. Of course, there is also a lot more money now. Many entrepreneurs I have contacted and helped have been born as unicorns, and they have burned more than one billion dollars just by burning money.

The competition is also different. The business connection is very large. You think you are very clear in this field, but suddenly something happens in another field that affects you. In addition, the cycle is much shorter. Microsoft’s cycle is 50 years, and it is still booming; but now Ali, Tencent,, Meituan, and Baidu are all under the pressure of short cycles, and changes are coming faster and faster.

The Internet used to be relatively simple. Although the competition was fierce, each of them clearly competed within a range; the money was a little less, and there was no astronomical figure now; the cycle was also a little longer, which is the most critical, so we have time to to do a lot of things.

“The Late”: So what are your observations on the changes in the market environment faced by small and medium-sized enterprises; what suggestions do you have for the challenges they will face next?

Guan Mingsheng: Bosses who started businesses from scratch in the past, especially the bosses of small and medium-sized enterprises, can do the work of one or two hundred people if they are reckless. Absolutely not now. Now the employees are all post-00s, and the requirements are different. It is very different now that society is richer, there are more opportunities, the requirements of target customers are higher, and your own level is also higher. But in the end we have to ask, has the most important thing changed? Nothing has changed, just a little harder to say.

So now the ability to train “follow you” is the most important thing. You may not be the most powerful if you invite a group of like-minded people, but let them understand your philosophy, let them support you in starting a business with you, and let them think of me I didn’t get the money from those big companies, but I did this successfully and it was worth a lot of money.

(Guan Yiwen also contributed to this article)

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