Daughter, son try to fill dad's shoes
Updated: 2011-04-01 10:56
By Yu Ran (China Daily European Weekly)
Kangnai has more than 2,500 stores in China and some 100 shops in Europe and North America. Provided to China Daily
Zheng Xiukang, the founder of shoemaker Kangnai Group of Wenzhou in East China's Zhejiang province, is enjoying a quiet and relaxed life in his family compound, now that his daughter and son are beginning to take over the family business.
Unlike many other first-generation entrepreneurs in his hometown, the hotbed of private enterprises in one of the most prosperous provinces, Zheng has been preparing for the succession for many years.
The company, with fixed assets of 400 million yuan (43.2 million euros), has more than 2,500 chain stores throughout China, and more than 100 shops in 10 countries in Europe and North America.
Through brand building and innovation, the company has achieved huge market success. Despite a gloomy global economy last year, Kangnai's sales saw an increase of more than 30 percent in France, its key market in Europe.
Zheng hasn't been willing to give up the reins easily, with all the company's successes, and he knows the importance of working your way up from the bottom.
Before entering the shoe manufacturing industry, Zheng served as the deputy manager of a State-owned mechanical factory, which provided him with technical knowledge and management skills.
"I've been working in the shoe industry for nearly 30 years, but my oldest daughter is just older than 30 years and hasn't had enough management experience," says the 65-year old Zheng. "I urged her to start working her way up from the bottom."
Five years ago, Zheng decided to pass the company to his daughter and son by appointing both of them as vice-presidents of Kangnai Group.
"I am one of the so-called rich second generation but I don't agree with the biased definition of us being spoiled and spending money lavishly," says Zheng Laili, the daughter.
She says that she has experienced the life of being an ordinary worker, making shoes by hands, and as a team leader, supervising other workers at her father's enterprise.
Now she is in charge of the commercial real estate projects and international investments. She has a degree from Tianjin University of Finance and Economics and also participated in an EMBA program with Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, which has helped her make detailed plans for the group.
"The most important thing I've learned from my EMBA program was that I strive to turn Kangnai to an internationally recognized shoe brand," she says.
Zheng Laili's contributions helped Kangnai's overseas business grow by 45 percent in 2008 and the overseas stores contributed $21 million (14.86 million euros) in 2009, more than a 10 percent increase from a year earlier.
However, the two-pronged strategy of catering to domestic markets and setting up overseas has played an important role in guaranteeing sustainable growth. Now, nearly 90 percent of Kangnai's sales revenue is from the domestic market.
"We will make more efforts to consolidate our advantages in the domestic market and expand our international market all over the world," she says.
Zheng adds that her next step is for the company to be listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange within two years.
Zheng's son, Zheng Laiyi, is a returning overseas student who majored in footwear at Leicester College in the United Kingdom. He also started as a worker in the company and now is responsible for the management of the enterprise.
"I think that the best management practice is to treat staff members with respect, opportunities and options while they're with the company," he says. "This way they're also able to obtain their value and benefits eventually."
From the perspective of being a father and the founder of the company, Zheng Xiukang is proud that his daughter and son are taking over the business.
"Both of my children are capable of handling my business and moving it into a bright future on a global scale, which is a great relief for me to enjoy my retirement," Zheng says.
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