Beverage magnate Zong Qinghou, one of Chinaa's richest men, speaks to reporters in Beijing. (Photo/CNS)
At 67, Zong Qinghou, chairman of Wahaha Group, China's largest domestic beverage company, still has no plans to retire but has started to delegate his authority to other senior executives.
Zong has as number of tasks on his agenda before he steps down: expand the business scale of Wahaha, locate new sources of growth for the group and find a number of capable successors.
One potential successor is his only daughter, Zong Fuli, who has begun to appear in the media in recent years.
Zong Fuli studied in the United States from senior high school age. She returned to China in 2004 before joining the management of Wahaha in March 2005, where she has gained a reputation as independent and hard-working and is seen by her father as diligent, responsible and resourceful.
Zong Qinghou's management style is more assertive and follows the traditional Chinese belief that the best boss is one who inspires fear and love in his employees in equal measure. His daughter is said to adhere to a more systematic approach, creating a corporate framework with which employees should comply. The father is intuitive and sensitive to the market, saying that "Wahaha has no strategy, since I only consider the tasks of tomorrow rather than eight or nine years in the future." His daughter on the other hand believes that a strategic plan is indispensible for an enterprise.
Zong Fuli also hopes to alter the corporate culture of Wahaha, shedding the culture which equates the company with the person who founded it. She reportedly would like Wahaha to represent a lifestyle or a value, with its own characteristics or brand.
At present, Zong Fuli is responsible for all new business, including children's apparel, machinery, printing and perfume, as well as the company's overseas business, which racked up revenue of US$20 million last year.
In public, Zong Qinghou has said that his daughter will inherit his shares in the company, without confirming whether she will take over the helm of the group. In private, he reportedly hopes that his daughter will inherit a task which matches her capability and interests. As a father, meanwhile, he also hopes that his daughter, who is still single, will in time start a family.
Wahaha boasts annual turnover of 67.8 billion yuan (US$10.75 billion), 60 production bases, 150 branches and over 30,000 employees. The company is aiming to boost its turnover to 85 billion yuan (US$13.5 billion) this year and 100 billion yuan (US$15.85 billion) in 2013. Zong Qinghou has for a long time served as chairman and president and the company does not have a board of directors.
However, as the company has expanded, Zong Qinghou has started to delegate some of his power to other executives since 2006, to push the company toward an institutionalized management structure.