6. April 2016

Liwu Zhou
I am a workaholic

(Text and Photo)

„I am a workaholic.“

CEO of the year, what does this award mean to you, Mr. Zhou?

I am very grateful for giving me this great opportunity having this honor. For us, this honor means that we have to work even harder and much better than in the past. I feel high responsibilities on my shoulders.

You came from another industry and you took over the company from the founder. What was your motivation to   take over this company at that time in a difficult situation?

I came from the real estate development industry. In September 2004, the family-owned company was stuck in stagnation as the company was nearly bankrupt. At that time the local government asked me if I would be prepared to take over the company and to resolve the crisis. My first question was in which specific industry the company were active. Once I understood that the company is in environmental protection, I made my decision. I was personally very interested in environmental protection and I hoped that I am able to contribute to a positive development of this industry in China. Besides this, there were about 300 employees losing their jobs if the company were closed. The local government was looking for possibilities to save these 300 jobs. As a company leader, a social citizen, and son of a Christian family, I felt obliged to do something for them. Moreover, playing a role in the national environmental protection efforts and taking social responsibility has always been my personal mission.

After ten years running this company, what are your plans to develop XingYuan Environment Technology further?

In conjunction with the business planning of my company, I introduced the concept named “A Chain of Pearl”. This means that single pearls, i.e. extraordinary companies should be grouped together like a Chain of Pearl in order to create a strong impact on China. We need to grow the Environmental Industry by both M&A and organically. Each of the company must have its own know-how and its own unique technology and skills-set. Finally, we will be able to chain up each individual “Pearl” and create with that a complete, powerful Group. From business planning, development, logistics management to after-sales service. We also need to pay special attention and care to the Research and Development teams and consolidate the various technologies and expertise into a single platform. Where needed, we acquire complementary technology. At present, my Company is still at the very beginning of this process. However, we have the faith and the hope, that we will become China’s leader in the field of environmental technology.

What made you happy in the last year?

The growth of our company made me really happy.  Also, I am very grateful for the recognition and acknowledgment of our efforts by our government.

Did this industry fulfill or rather exceed your expectation after running it over the last ten years?

Environmental protection has become a large industry in our country. The high-speed economic development period in recent history of China has caused serious damage to our environment. Comparing with the environmental situation in foreign countries, I felt I had to take the responsibility to do something against it. The government also has been pushing this industry for the past ten years. My expectations have been met so far with respect to our company development. We are on the right track.

How do you, as a private company based in Hangzhou, bring these technologies to the different customers all over China? Who are your customers, public utilities, public clients or private clients?

Our clients are both private enterprises and Government Organizations. At present, our business covers equipment and plant installations for water and industrial wastewater treatment, sludge and sewage sludge filtering and for reducing gas emissions. Currently, we are using the direct sales approach for selling our environmental business solutions.

Do you have any plans for internationalization for your technology?

In China, we experience currently a strong trend towards environmental management. Our central government puts a focus on this. Furthermore, the Chinese government is working on the strategic planning for the whole country. This means that our Government is committed to increase the investment budget in this field. Technology development and Investments are connected. We are in discussions with a Dutch company regarding some unique water treatment technology. It could be an interesting acquisition target.

Is acquisition of other companies a topic for Xingyuan?

We are looking closely at world-class environmental technology businesses, in Europe and particularly in Switzerland.  We hope that we can set up our very first branch office in Switzerland in the near future. So we should acquire more innovative skills and technology that can be useful for other local Chinese enterprises in order to make us stronger in environmental protection terms. Timing is crucial, particularly in the manufacturing industry. For sustainable success, one has to think ahead and to be more proactive than the others in the market. No pain, no gain, it is so true.

What is your management style?

I am a man focusing on implementation. People say that I have a sharp mind and that I am quick in decision making. I pay attention to details. Details matter. I think and consider all possible aspects before commencing a new project. I investigate and research carefully prior to decision making. Once the decision is made, actions will be taken immediately. People say that I am a strong leader, and of course, that I am a workaholic.

How do you motivate yourself to work and how you get energy?

I rarely do physical exercise. I get up very early in the morning. Then, after some Bible reading - which gives me energy - I start working in the office.

Which personal characteristics are important for you  when you hire your people?

Which personal characteristics are important for you when you hire your people?

How do you develop your management team and employees?

High attention should be paid to the company culture, followed by a reasonable management and control system. Last but not least employees need to feel a sense of job security and well-being. It allows them to be confident and proud of working in this company. It's not just about the paycheck.

What has been your main challenge this year?

The biggest challenge has still been our management team. We need to improve a lot in many aspects. It is a never-ending process.