Bosses striving to make work more than just a job

How can chief executives put values at the heart of a company?

At the age of just 36, and just days after graduating from MIT with an MBA, Joe Baolin Zhou was in intensive care fighting for his life.

He had initially damaged his spine playing sport, which later contributed to problems with his nerve system.

He vowed that if he were to survive he would live his life with a sense of purpose, as up until then he felt he had been "going step after step without knowing what my ultimate goal was".

Mr Zhou did survive, though he was paralysed from the chest down and left in a wheelchair, and made it his mission to ensure that others would not face the same lack of direction.

More than two decades on, he is chief executive of Bond Education Group, the largest private education service company in southern China.

Joe Baolin Zhou Mr Zhou was left paralysed from the waist down when he was in his mid-30s

As well as tutoring, the group offers personal development courses to help children work out what they want to do in the future, and improve their personal qualities.

For Mr Zhou this is not just child's play. He believes the lack of focus on what are often perceived as softer characteristics contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

"A lot of Wall Street graduated from top business schools. But what makes them so greedy? I began to realise they probably did not have the right values for themselves and the work."

Bringing the past to life

For chief executives this is a perennial problem. While most companies will have defined a list of values that they believe in and expect staff to adhere to, ensuring they are more than just words on a bit of paper is difficult.

Global drinks giant Diageo's values include being "passionate" about customers, giving fellow employees the "freedom to succeed" and being "proud of what we do".

Start Quote

We combined a virtual economy together with the real economy”

End Quote Chen Feng Chairman, HNA Group

To make these more than just rhetoric, former chief executive Paul Walsh says the company emphasised the heritage of its brands to staff, telling them they were "standing on the shoulders of giants".

With Johnnie Walker whisky, for example, it told them the history of its founder and namesake, who first started to sell the spirit in his grocer's shop in Scotland.

His 14-year-old son Alexander took on the business after he died, driving its expansion and cleverly designing the now famous square bottles to ensure they could be stacked more easily on ships for export, with fewer breakages.

Johnnie Walker Johnnie Walker whisky was put in square bottles to improve efficiency

"We have these brands in our hands for a relatively short period of time in the context of their overall life. We've got to make sure that we hand them over in better shape. That creates a sense of purpose," says Mr Walsh.

He says the company also aims to promote only those who demonstrate the company's values.

"It's through not just the chief executive but everyone living those values, and as a consequence - when they are breached, making sure you have some kind of public recognition of that."

Satisfaction drives success

Chen Feng, chairman of Chinese conglomerate HNA, whose empire spreads from aviation to real estate and financial services, tries to ensure staff are happy outside as well as inside work.

Chen Feng HNA Group, founded by Chen Feng, is both socially responsible and profitable

Right from when he founded the company, he said its key value was not just to make money but to "benefit human beings' progress and happiness", believing that satisfied staff would ultimately drive higher profits.

While this sounds rather vague, the company has done some concrete things to meet these values, including building and then selling houses cheaply to staff.

The programme means its employees can afford a home for themselves and their families despite rocketing property values.

Mr Cheng says that by sticking to its original values, the company has managed to create a socially responsible yet still profitable company.

"We combined a virtual economy together with the real economy. That's why we can develop so quickly and healthily," he says.

This feature is based on interviews by leadership expert Steve Tappin for the BBC's CEO Guru series, produced by Neil Koenig and Evy Barry.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Business Live

  1.  
    09:16: Economy CBI Radio 5 live

    John Cridland the CBI chief got in a couple of requests for George Osborne via Wake Up to Money: "Lower taxes on business because if you give business money they can create more jobs. But we need to invest in childcare support for low paid families. The cost of childcare is holding them back from taking jobs."

     
  2.  
    09:02: Household incomes BBC Radio 4

    Chancellor George Osborne, has been talking to the BBC: "The picture you hear, particularly from my political opponents, of the British economy, is not one reflected in this independent report. Indeed quite the opposite - what they show is that Britain is growing, that incomes are rising, that the richest have made the biggest contribution, that inequality has fallen."

     
  3.  
    08:48: Standard Chartered
    Standard Chartered

    No great surprise, perhaps, that outgoing Standard Chartered chief executive Peter Sands - and three other directors - have decided not to take a bonus for last year considering that the bank's pre-tax profits fell by a quarter to $5.1bn (£3.3bn). With a touch of understatement, chairman Sir John Peace says: "2014 was a challenging year and our performance was disappointing."

     
  4.  
    08:35: Household incomes

    More on that research suggesting living standards in the UK have now returned to levels last seen before the financial crash. The IFS says incomes are now rising at more than 1% a year. Its director, Paul Johnson, says there is not much to trumpet about: "It's astonishing actually that seven years later incomes are still no higher than they were pre-recession and indeed for working-age households they're still a bit below where they were pre-recession."

     
  5.  
    08:23: BlackBerry World Service

    Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones has been speaking to John Chen, the boss of BlackBerry, on World Business Report. Rory asks him if he can imagine company no longer making handsets: "It's a little bit of speculation at the moment. I would say this: for our shareholders, nothing is sacred." Perhaps sales volumes speak louder than words.

     
  6.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    So what does @jimmy_wales consider "an abomination"? And what does @CBItweets want from the Chancellor? Click here to listen to today's Wake Up to Money. @AdamParsons1

     
  7.  
    08:07: Eurostar sale BBC Radio 4
    Eurostar

    Sim Harris, managing editor of Rail News, tells Today that Britain's 40% stake in Eurostar went for a higher than expected £757m because there was a lack of high quality assets available to investors. He adds: "Whether it's the right thing to do is a question for George Osborne."

     
  8.  
    07:55: Legal and General results

    The insurer Legal & General said operating profits rose 10% last year to a lower than expected £1.28bn. Company pension deals helped sales of annuities to jump 28% to £44bn.

     
  9.  
    07:44: Greggs results

    Greggs has been freshening up its stores over the past year. It refitted 213 shops, opened 50 new outlets and closed 71 to bring the total to 1,650 shops as of 3 January.

     
  10.  
    Via Twitter Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    Forget the IFS, the Pasty Index is in - Greggs sales up 4.5%, always a good barometer of consumer confidence. @bbckamal

     
  11.  
    Via Twitter Robert Peston Economics editor

    tweets: "Living standards back to where they were in 2007-8, but mainly for those over 60. & are rising strongly now, says IFS "

     
  12.  
    07:17: ITV results
    ITV

    ITV plans to return £250m to shareholders with a special dividend of 6.25p a share after a bumper 2014, with adjusted pre-tax profits up 23% to £712m and 39% higher at £605m on the pure pre-tax measure. Revenue rose 7% to a shade under £3bn. "ITV is now a high-growth business," says chief executive Adam Crozier.

     
  13.  
    07:06: Eurostar sale BBC Radio 4
    Eurostar

    Gemma Godfrey, head of investment strategy at Brooks Macdonald Asset Management, tells Today that the £757m the Government got for the Eurostar stake was higher than expected, but questions what the proceeds be used to fund. She believes the cash should be used to fund the next generation of infrastructure that will in turn create profits for the public purse.

     
  14.  
    07:00: Greggs results
    Greggs shop

    Greggs results hit the desk. Total sales rose 5.5% to £804m, while like-for-like sales up 4.5% - much better than the 0.8% fall in 2013.

     
  15.  
    06:49: ITV results BBC Radio 4
    Downton cast

    ITV reports annual results very soon. Toby Syfret of Enders Analysis has told Today that while channel brands have become less important than they were in the past, the decline is gradual. Programming - such as Downton Abbey - remains the crucial factor. "Good content is going to be the core of whoever is successful in the future," he says.

     
  16.  
    Via Twitter Sally Bundock Presenter, World Business Report

    tweets: "Morning. #Ukraine hikes interest rates to 30%. Plus GDP slows in #Australia and an i/v with the boss of #Blackberry. See you soon." That's on World Business Report.

     
  17.  
    06:26: Household incomes

    Big discussion about the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report on household incomes. Whether the average household income is back to levels they were at before the financial downturn struck. One measure, for the over 60s, it is. But for most of the rest of us, it hasn't got there yet. Our story here.

     
  18.  
    06:15: India rates

    India has cut its main lending rate by a quarter of a point to 7.5% in a bid to boost economic growth. It is the second time this year that the Reserve Bank of India has cut rates as inflation is running at 5.1% - well under the 8% target - on the back of cheaper oil.

     
  19.  
    06:12: Sandwiches Radio 5 live
    UK map of bread names

    Greggs figures are out in an hour or so. The market is looking for 4% growth, earnings are expected to be up 9%. The UK is estimated to spend £9bn a year on sandwiches. Wake Up to Money has been discussing what these are variously called around the country. There's a map illustrating this.

     
  20.  
    06:07: Eurostar sale

    The stake is being bought by a Canadian pension fund and a UK asset manager will buy shares for £585m and Eurostar will also hand over £170m to redeem shares which guarantee a dividend. The stake was officially valued last year at £325m.

     
  21.  
    06:02: Eurostar sale Radio 5 live

    The sale by the Government of its shares in Eurostar for £750m is under discussion on Wake Up to Money. Gemma Godfrey head of investment strategy at wealth manager Brooks MacDonald tells the programme: "After the debacle we saw when they were selling Royal Mail they had to get it right and the value has come in above expectations."

     
  22.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Good morning. Strap in and sit back. Today's Business Live page will have all the news, all day. Greggs and ITV results are expected to be early highlights.

     

Features

  • Elderly manSuicide decline

    The number of old people killing themselves has fallen. Why?


  • Petrol pumpPumping up

    Why are petrol prices rising again?


  • Image of George from Tube CrushTube crush

    How London's male commuters set Chinese hearts racing


  • TricycleTreasure trove

    The lost property shop stuffed with diamonds, bikes... and a leg


Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.