A Chinese proverb says: “It takes ten years to grow a tree, but a hundred years to grow a person. (???????????” (that assumes the person can live for a hundred years :-)). Well, the moral is that growing a person is a long term process.
With China’s swift changes, one of the major challenges is the looming shortage of management talents. Although there is no dearth of entrepreneurial spirit (as everyone wants to be his own boss), not too many entrepreneurs have the vision and professionalism to grow their companies into world-class enterprises. There are hundreds and millions of small start-ups with 3-4 people, and mushrooming copy cats, very few have what it takes to become the luminaries of any kind – at least not in the short term.
In addition, long time top-down management style in China killed people’s innitiative and creatitivity. One of my friends, who is the chairman of a major online gaming company, told me how his hair has turned white because he has constantly to give very specific instructions to his managers and employees.
For foreign investors who view China as the next Silicon Valley, it’s important for them to set their expection right and adjust their investment strategies accordingly. In my view, the venture capitalists who will succeed in China in the long run are the ones who are willing to roll-up their sleeves and work with the entrepreneurs of their portfolio companies side-by-side, providing additional mentoring and coaching.
You can’t really invest in a company without investing in people. One of the merits of venture capitalism is growing successful entrepreneurs. This is more true in today’s China. Remember: it takes a hundred years to grow a person.