The Story of the Mason
Three years ago, I re-modeled my apartment. I hired a mason, who helped me to install floor tiles and wall tiles in the kitchen.
The guy was a 40-year-old skillful mason. We couldn’t get along very well. He didn’t show any respect to me, was rude when talking with me. He did crazy things like laughing at me when I asked about the schedule, or using my room as it was his.
“How can you behave like this!” I didn’t understand at all. “How can someone in the service industry survive without knowing anything about ‘service’, and ‘respect’?” I complained to Wendy: “This guy knows nothing about how the world works”.
I tried to educate him about what is customer service. Obviously, the attempt failed miserably.
I didn’t want to continue to hire him, and he didn’t want to work for me. Finally, the guy who introduced him to me asked him to stay and suggested me not to change a mason in the middle of the work – for quality purpose.
The argument continued, until one day, I found the secret.
I consulted with my friend. He suggested me that his behavior indicated one thing – “He needs some money”.
I talked with the mason the second day, and gave him 50 RMB. I said: “Thanks for the good work. Here is the ‘red bag'”.
After that day, he changed to another person – polite to me, worked harder, and seemed to be very considerate to me. The good relationship continued to the end of completion of the project.
His Rule or My Rule
This experience is still vivid in my mind after 3 years.
It was me who didn’t understand the rule – the mason’s rule. I adopted the mason’s rule and got what I wanted.
What I didn’t understand at the very beginning was, the mason had his rule, just as I had mine: “Pay me the extra money, and I work harder for you.” The rule was simple and straight forward. The challenge was, no one except my friend told me about the rule.
I Follow Your Rules, or You Follow Mine?
When there is a conflict, there is a choice. Choice is on both sides.
If I insist my rule (a mason should be good to his customer), I could go to B&Q, and pay 4 times higher than directly hiring him. This way, I feel good, but in terms of $$$, I lose.
At the same time, if the mason insists his rule, and doesn’t follow the customer’s rule, he remains a poor mason for ever.
I am still smarter than the mason, right? I got what I want with little money, but he gave up his future just for small money.
Rules in China
When foreign companies come to China, they find “unreasonable” local business partners or business practices.
If people in the foreign company think their supplier must follow their rule, they can find the suppliers, but with much higher price than needed, because suppliers who know the “international rules” are rare resources in current China. Many companies did choose this approach and suffered from high cost, and finally failed.
On the other side, if companies in China change themselves to follow the international rules, they are more competitive in international world.
Smart people make the right choice, and not-so-smart people complain about rules, or “lack of rules”.
Mr. Smith: “China does NOT have rules!”
Mr. Zhang: “China does NOT have rules that you can understand.”
Not to follow the written rules is a rule in China. Believe it or not.
That is the Reality
My observation is, China needs to change smartly to adopt widely accepted rules to be more competitive in the world economy. Local businesses that move faster than average get bigger benefit.
For companies coming to China, to wait for the change (this may takes decades) or to follow the local rules is a choice. Smarter guys make the right choice.
Which is the Right Rule
Controversial about which rules is the right rule will continue, and I expect it to continue for ever. The difference of rules is a universal matter.
- The rule of the older generation are different from the younger one.
- Men use the rule from Mars, and women use the rule from Venus.
- Every industry has its own rules.
- Human being has its rules, and the nature has its own…
The whole world is made up of smaller worlds running by different rules. There is not always be the right rule or the wrong rule.
It is all about the difference. In a modern word, it is called “diversity”.