Time really flies. In a twinkling of an eye, it is now March 2020 already. It has been two years since I left the big family of CNOOD. I still remember that in the evening of Apr 1st. 2018, I packed all my personal belongings to leave the first job in my life, and to leave the colleagues I had worked with for nearly five years. Suddenly I had mixed feelingsas if having a big hole in my heart. There seemed to be a lot to say, and a lot of people to say goodbye to. But I did not know where to start. So I didn't say any word, or say goodbye to anyone. Instead, I posted for the last time at CNOOD’s office location a song of Wang Feng - Goodbye to Youth, a song of Wang Feng on my Wechat Moments.
Yes, it turned out that in the past five years, CNOOD not only provided a job for me, but also represented my youth of 5 years, the youthful days of struggling along with colleagues. We may have a second five years, a third five years at work, but only one youth when we were devoted to struggle together. So, it was really difficult for me at that time to write a farewell letter to everyone, as I just wanted to escape, rather than to face. I didn't expect this delay to have being lasted for two years. Two years is neither long nor short. But it’s enough to get me out of the state of mind of two years ago when I was eager to leave. Now I’ve got out of the mood of that time, and can objectively retrospect my experience and growth in CNOOD over the five years. I’d like to share them in this late farewell letter with you. I’ve thought it for a long time, trying to sort out a suitable idea to express myself. It came to my mind the scenes of arguing with Dennis on the corporate culture, institutions and business directions in the small conference room at the 10th floor of Universal Mansion. So let’s start with the questions and answers between Loreen leaving in 2018 and Loreen today.
How should I do "chores" in CNOOD that are unrelated to my job?
Many colleagues might have felt the same way: This work is clearly unrelated to my job, why should I always have to do it, as if I am a do-all? For example, why is it not the administration department to organize the annual meeting? Why is it not the human resources department to arrange the recruitment? Why should I participate in the sharing activities with other companies? They have nothing to do with my job. The decoration of the office delays my quotation work and projects participation. There is no commission for me to buy cherries from Chile. Planning to open a restaurant is too far away from our business. Helping to hold a colleague’s wedding in a month is far from my own duty. All these issues are unrelated to my post of duty, wasting my time and energy, and delaying my "serious" work. Now I can finally understand what Dennis often said, "By doing one thing well, you can pick up anything and do it well. If you can peel the banana, you can do the project well." To do the "chores" well, we need a holistic approach to consider issues, and good communication skill and attitude to coordinate with others. Not everyone is so lucky to have so many "chores" to accumulate experience. In most companies, the staff can only do their own jobs, see what they can see in their positions. The doors of offices are closed. The company's system is strictly regulated. The meeting rooms are very private. If one can do it to visit a factory or a customer alone, it is not necessary to send two people, due to the cost and job scope considerations. If we do not have a chance to see the whole picture of what we are doing in concrete, nor have much opportunity to contact and learn, we will not have the right way to think when we are to work alone. Doing "chores" gives us increasing insights, develops ideas and capacity for solving problems. if we don’t panic, have the right ideas, everything will work out. We can take up the responsibility and solve the problems, not because we are born with the capacity, but because we have a chance to experience them.
My experience: In 2019, I was entrusted by my current company to organize two trade shows in a hurry. Starting from scratch, I spent two weeks to prepare one and only three days for the other. The boss asked me time and again, fearing I could not do it. But I was still confident, as it was my strength. When I was in CNOOD, I organized exhibitions in Germany and many other meetings. I was involved in preparing all the brochures. So I was quite familiar with the exhibition process and publicity material preparations. The events turned out to be great success. From November 2018 to April 2019, I assisted my boss to build a composite material factory in Hunan. We started empty-handed. I took charge of many procedures independently, including company registration, website construction, brochure production, recruitment, factory decoration, equipment purchase and installation. I knew in my heart that all these accumulated experiences were given by CNOOD. CNOOD just let me do it at my own pace, grants me full trust, and helps me to complete task even regardless of costs.
Why is the business and project directions of CNOOD always changing?
This is one of the issues I argued with Dennis on the 10th floor of the Universal Mansion in those years. That's what I asked, "How come I've been working on the oil casing project in the past year, but was shifted to the piling pipe, wind power and EPC projects this year? I haven’t mastered the oil casing knowledge yet, but always work on unfamiliar projects. Arewe also going to launch the Shenzhou V spacecraft? Why not focus on one or two business models?" Dennis replied, "We have no choice. We must adapt to the market if we want to survive in the market." That’s true. We have to survive first. Only those who keep ahead of the market and keep contact with customers in the front line know what the market needs, what the customers are looking for, what the customers require and how much their budgets are. Only by providing what the customers want, can we survive and live well. CNOOD is not selling steel pipes, but working on projects. It is not training salespersons, or selling products, but training project management teams and selling the value of project management.
My experience: I met a client from a listed company specializing in biomedical equipment at a fair. The CTO of the company told me, "Loreen, other suppliers of ours complain that we are hard to deal with, as we raise a lot of requirements. But I’ve found that you are different, as you don't mind we raise so many high requirements." In practice, I’ve found that only CNOOD truly implemented the third party quality inspection in the whole process, confirmed all inspection plans, process documents, MRB and other detailed quality control procedures and technical documents before production. Handling customers with the CNOOD standard, we will surely win good comments. It’s hard to convince other colleagues in the company to cooperate and follow the same procedure, because they have different views on quality control and project management.
Why do you feel it unfair, as people admitted at about the same time have a big income gap?
I used to be bothered by this issue, and I believe it is true with many of my colleagues. In fact, it is consistent in nature with the second problem. Dennis founded CNOOD for the purpose of creating a platform where like-minded people can work together to achieve common success. Most people start a company to make money by hiring people and building teams. I’m sure every CNOOD member knows whether Dennis makes money or "squeezes" the value of employees. The answer is clear and simple. Dennis only earns his own business commission, never extracts the value created by others. Instead, he uses his own commission to organize company activities, hold annual meetings and subsidize the company's daily expenses. CNOOD provides a platform, with soil, air and water, so that each seed can germinate and grow by itself. The company shares a lot of customer information and project resources, which are opportunities only, rather than direct orders. Only after following these opportunities closely can we know which opportunities are finally going to be orders. The company is like a boat rolling and fluctuating in the waves of the market under test, but the results are unpredictable. The fairness that CNOOD can achieve is the fairness of the mechanism of the platform, in which everyone has an equal opportunity to participate under unified rules and fair distribution system. To be honest, it must be sad to work hard without due returns. But this is life. On many occasions, we do not necessarily gain adequate rewards for our efforts, but it does not mean failure or complete no gains.
My experience: In CNOOD, the payment system is open and transparent. In many companies, disclosure of payment is completely unimaginable. Unequal pay for the same job often happens. As a result, everyone feels that he is paid less than others and they often complain. Over the past two years, I happened to meet some young entrepreneurs at Yangpu Science and Innovation Centre. With dreams in head, they work hard, and often late into the night. But few have achieved success, as they either encountered fund shortage or development bottlenecks. Under the pressure of life, some have to drop their projects and find jobs. And some succeeded after experiencing many failures. In fact, as an entrepreneurs, it is impossible for us to win in every opportunity. But having experienced so much, there is always a day when it is suddenly enlightened.
Why Dennis is fond of sharing and “discussing principles”？
It’s been two years that I have not discussed "principles". Suddenly I feel my soul is a little bit exhausted, and I was giving outputs all the time without any input gained. The fastest way to grow is to learn from the right person. Sharing gives an individual an opportunity to put it all together. The concept that "Sharing is linking, and giving is gaining" is very popular now. If everyone in a company only buries themselves into their own seat in office and does not care what others are doing, or even wants to retain their own skills and experience to acquire his value of existence in the company, under such circumstance, the work must be depressing, and people with such idea are definitely those who grow at the the slowest pace. Without communication, there will be no collision of thoughts, let alone better solutions. Without communication, big problems may emerge. Dennis often discusses principles with his staff and expresses his views, hoping that we can also fully express our own. He would talk about the same topic every time, repeating it over and over. I think what he really wants is to let us experience and understand things with heart. Only when we have truly experienced and understood it, can we integrate it into our conduct and form the unique culture of CNOOD and pass it on. The "culture of love", "culture of family", "100% respect", "100% transparency", and "100% trust" -- although many people feel these are merely empty words, actually many people in CNOOD are taking benefit from them. I won’t list these in too much detail We may experience ourselves how the care and love from Dennis and CNOOD goes beyond our expectations. Such care is beyond benefits and contractual obligations, which only comes from our families and close friends. I didn't understand it before why CNOOD would compile the annual book. I felt that it costs a lot, and it actually did because I’m very clear about the expenses. Now it seems that publishing the annual book by sharing the growth experience of every colleague in the company, the corporate culture can be repeated and it spreads out without constraint of time and space. By doing so, like-minded people are attracted to come and join in.
My experience: The fridge of CNOOD was packed with yogurt, cola and popsicles. CNOOD provides shopping cards for holidays, year-end bonus, certificates and education fund, super long honeymoon holiday and sick leave. You get a new phone when the old one has screen crack. You get a new computer when the old one runs too slow. You have the support of the company when something very happy or difficult happens in your family. Most importantly, everyone’s idea is treated equally and everyone’s right of expression is respected. You can freely attend any meeting we are interested in. As I chat with my colleagues now, I find these are incredible in other places. They have never experienced such things in other companies. Sometimes, I tell them the "anecdotes" of Dennis and my previous colleagues. Having entered CNOOD directly after graduation draws the envy of my current colleagues.
Is Dennis complacent? Why does he change for bigger and better offices?
The staff having worked in CNOOD for a longer period know that the company has moved for four times. It started in a small space in the 7th floor of the Universal Mansion, then was moved to a shabby office adjacent to a dental clinic on the 10th floor , then to the whole 9th floor with refined decoration, and finally to the 8th floor of Yueshang Plaza. Thus, the rent, property management fee and decoration expense has increased a lot. I was wondering Dennis might begin to be complacent. If not, why did he rent such a big office with refined decorations? It turned out that in addition to accommodate the increasing numbers of staff, he believed that a good office environment would make everyone happy. It provides us an environment to live and work in a decent way. Anyway, who doesn't want to live a decent life with dignity? Most bosses would spend the money they earn to buy more and bigger luxurious houses. And they will manage to cut down the company's operating costs. But Dennis does exactly the opposite. Behind the moves are his concern for all CNOOD members. This is what I’m thinking now.
My experience: The decoration of the offices for bosses were typical in that the decorations were always luxurious and emphasizing privacy greatly. The offices of the main leaders are inferior. Others are simply decorated office cubicles. I'm sure you've been to a lot of such companies.
I feel the work pressure is very big, and often get lost under the heavy workload. Why can’t I work by the traditional nine to five routine?
Frankly speaking, CNOOD is a company for the striving entrepreneur. Those who like "more salary, less work and closer to home" and those who prefer "less salary, less work and closer to home" are not suitable for work at CNOOD. In CNOOD, you are engaged in works that many companies do not do or cannot do well. The works are strict, and to some extent against human nature. Therefore, a strong sense of responsibility, capacity to solve knotty problems, and meticulous tracking are necessary for completing projects well. It is naturally tiresome and stressed to do a hard job,but we should never take things lightly. Once, I was annoyed when I was confused at work. I wanted to jump out of the predicament and even to escape from it, feeling that to leave was the exit of the situation. Now When I look back into those days, I find that we may feel confused wherever we work. As long as the work we're doing is pioneering, we may get lost in any company. The key is to persist in doing it, and we’ll get through it finally. For sure, keep doing it and making improvement. All problems shall be solved as time goes by. I once envied the traditional nine to five routine jobs. Now what I realize is that the nine-to-five jobs does not mean freedom either. In CNOOD, everyone can schedule their work and get them done according to the specific requirements from customers and projects. It reduces all forms of formalities. It's not impossible to go to Disneyland on weekdays, and it's free to travel home to avoid the peak hours. People here have the freedom of choosing to handle the business at home first when they receive emails from clients at eight in the morning, rather than waiting and shuttling to clock in at the company.
My experience: Simple and repetitive work does not create much pressure. But it is also desperate for many people. Recently, a colleague at my current company joked to me, "Loreen, I feel that I’m never going to make a fortune in my life. I' m a salted fish-as common as dirt." I tried to comfort her, but on second thought it seemed to be true. The company’s budget for her post has peaked. The company cannot provide new opportunities and resources for her. She can’t increase her income even by improving her work ability. Instead, the company just wants to spend a fixed amount of money to find a basically competent person. It isn't a rare case, but true for a lot of positions in many companies.
Shall I leave the company when I'm unhappy to work with colleagues off the beat?
The reason why I discuss this topic is that I know some colleagues choose to leave when they are in conflict with other colleagues at work. If I’m not happy here, I will just leave. This is human nature. Many company employees resign partly because they are unhappy there. However, under every environment, in every company, there might be some people who are at odds with us. It’s all the same wherever we go. This is true for employees, leaders and even bosses. It’s impossible to kick out all the people who are not in tune with the heads. They need people to do the jobs. I’m not talking about the idea of self-regulation for self-improvement. In fact, CNOOD has a relatively good environment: employees have similar backgrounds, as most are recruited directly from college graduates. We are of similar ages and all colleagues are mostly like schoolmates, with similar basic values and ways of doing things. Thus, it’s easier for us to reconcile things. Besides, CNOOD has been advocating self-organized teams. You can partner with someone who works in tune with yourself. Teams are not mandatorily assigned, and are also not fixed. In many companies that hiring employees by social recruitment, those recruited have quite different backgrounds and experiences. It often takes time to harmonize ideas and ways of work. And in most cases the executives have to distribute work. Hence, it’s really lucky to meet partners who can understand, tolerate each other and share weal and woe. When we have worked for a period of time with considerable experience, it is not that hard to encounter wealth. While to be understood is much harder. Dennis, Kevin Tong, Tiger, Fay, Tina Jiang, Fei Feng, Ahuan, Tina Xu and Neo have been partners for so long and haven’t disbanded till now, I think it is because they have met the ones who trust, understand and support each other without conditions.
My experience: The partnership system is very popular in startups. But there are too many cases that disband halfway. There are very few companies that can earnestly take their staff as partners, trust them, open their hearts share the benefits together. These companies often lose when there are benefits and difficulties. As I mentioned before, the "initial purpose" of most bosses to run companies is to make money for themselves. There are barely any companies that can share benefits like CNOOD.
It’s already late at night, and I’ve finally taken the load off my mind that has haunted me for two years. Whether those still working in CNOOD, or those who have left, I think, as we look back, we will find that we have lived it to the full in our days in CNOOD.
This farewell letter doesn’t seem to be very "orthodox". Generally, a farewell letter would be filled with gratitude to somebody or similar words, as if answering questions in a lecture.
But I think that "understanding" is the best gratitude and blessing.
Take care, my friends. We can get together whenever we want.
March 22, 2020, Monday
Appendix: Dialogue with Dennis
Hi, Dennis. Here’s my article for the yearbook.
Thank you very much! I've read it out. You are still the one who understands me.
You understand me and know why I did so.
By the things and people that I’ve contacted over the years, it naturally makes me understand why CNOOD has done this.
In fact, I understood more or less the other issues before, except for the office relocating and the yearbook. I’ve been acquainted with them and understood them only in recent years. In the past, I thought we spent so much to rent offices in Yueshang Plaza, which I think we should be a little bit thrifty. But later I’ve found that everyone should work and live with dignity, and be treated equally.
People working in such an environment for a long period will treat others with dignity. In reality, we most often cannot choose our own living environment. But CNOOD is willing to give the best possible working environment for its staff. We may ignore it when there is no contrast. Having seen the strict hierarchy of employees in many companies, I’ve truly understood the mutual respect you have been advocating.
The yearbook article comes from the inspiration of some startup friends, including investors. When they consider whether to invest in a project, they stress whether the project can produce compound interests. For example, if I have a good learning method, I will release it through Tik Tok, to influence thousands of people now, and possibly even more people unknown in the future. If I share it in the classroom to only 1 or 2 persons, the impact is extremely limited.
The CNOOD Society, WeChat account and the website are the same logic. By sharing we know other people's attitudes and ideas, know things that we cannot see, so we can do it even better.
That’s right. Sharing is link, and giving is gaining. Without active sharing, there will not be exchanges and feedback.
Sharing is learning.
Well, yes. By raising questions, we are correcting ourselves as well. As I see many colleagues are completely unwilling to express themselves, reluctant to take the initiative to communicate. I understand that the state of people at work are shaped by the corporate culture. When they are fixed like this, it is hard to make changes and accept other people's advice. I also understand why CNOOD would limit the number of staff recruited from society, and prefer to recruit graduates of universities directly and cultivate them by ourselves.
Yes. It is easier to draw on a piece of white paper, but hard to modify a finished picture.
"An employee-friendly enterprise will surely have a generous and beneficient corporate culture. It will hence have a lofty culture to soar high into the sky." This is one comment of The Paternal Love which you released in CNOOD official account. Stick to it, and more people will understand you.
Yes, let’s go for it !
8/F, Yueshang Plaza, No. 1 South Wuning Road, Shanghai, 200040, P. R. China