And Finally

Tour de force

Huge Chinese sales team turns up in France

France China Tiens Company

Li: The best boss in the world?

Trevor Gray, who wrote the management tome Simplicity Is the Key, says that the best bosses share similar attributes: they inspire confidence; they are modest and encouraging; and more often than not, they provide positive feedback on jobs well done.

Li Jinyuan has another strategy: he takes his staff on holiday (for a short profile on Li, see WiC115). The chairman of Tiens Group, who has just taken 6,400 of his employees on a four-day trip to France to celebrate his firm’s 20th anniversary, prompted the UK’s Independent newspaper to ask: “If this isn’t the best boss in the world, we’d like to know who is.”

While they were in Paris, the Tiens delegation got a private viewing at the Louvre museum and they booked out the Moulin Rouge cabaret show. Then they marched south to the French Riviera, where they paraded through the streets in matching blue and white outfits, and arranged themselves on the beach to spell out the phrase, “Tiens’ Dream is Nice in the Côte d’Azur”.

Guinness World Records inspectors were on hand to monitor the feat, duly declaring it a record for the lengthiest phrase visible from the sky (there’s a category for everything, it seems).

Judged by newsprint alone, the trip served as a PR coup for the direct sales firm, which claims operations in 190 countries, mostly in health food, healthcare, skin care and household products.

It was also an amazing bonanza for the French tourism industry. Tiens booked 84 planes to fly its employees to Europe, more than 140 hotels in Paris and 146 buses to drive them around. Guangzhou Daily reckons the whole endeavour set Li back about Rmb100 million ($16 million).

Of course, plenty of time was allocated for the group to indulge in its favourite pastime: shopping. Some retailers in Paris reportedly closed their doors to other customers so that the Tiens employees could splash out thousands of euros “in peace”, says AFP. The department store Galeries Lafayette put aside an entire floor to process their VAT refunds.

Li has arranged similar excursions before. In 2002, the Tianjin-based company held its annual company party in Berlin, during which it rented 100 BMWs, 32 helicopters, 43 boats and six villas to reward its best salespeople.

In fact, these ‘all expense paid’ trips are not uncommon for Chinese direct sales firms. Pro-Health sent 10,000 Chinese employees on what it calls an “incentive trip” to Taiwan in 2013. And as reported in WiC240, Wan Mei (which translates as Perfect) organised a tour to California for 7,000 of its sales staff.

Not to be outdone, the Guangzhou-based direct sales firm Infinitus announced late this week that it is treating its employees to a mass vacation in Thailand. It is paying for 12,700 staff to have a six-day break in the ‘Land of Smiles’.

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