Richard Liu

Richard Liu, a quiet but determined manager

There’s nothing like observing Chinese managers to distinguish the traits of Chinese-style management. So after our post on the management seen by Jack Ma, we propose to examine the management style of another Chinese boss, Richard Liu.

Richard Liu (or Liu Qiangdong, 刘强东) is the founder of JD.com, an e-commerce giant in China with a stock market value of $32 billion and 300,000 employees. For more information about Liu’spersonal background and company, you can check out this video (with English subs): Richard Liu (JD.com), e-commerce made in China.

Richard Liu (JD.com) : e-commerce made in China

In this post, we will focus on five characteristics of Liu’s management style:

  • the role of hard work and effort
  • integrity
  • sharing of prosperity
  • delegation
  • the need to stay in direct contact with people on the ground

The role of hard work and effort

When CNBC’s Christine Tan asks Richard Liu what motivates him, he bluntly answers:

“I like hard work. It means fun to me. I work 16 hours every day.”

JD.com’s Richard Liu on how entrepreneurship runs in the family | Managing Asia

In 2019, in the midst of a national controversy over the frantic pace of work in the Chinese high tech sector, Richard Liu posted a “moment” on the social network Wechat stating his thoughts:

“When I first started in e-commerce, I had to save every penny. I used to sleep on the floor in my office, so I wouldn’t have to pay rent. For four years, I didn’t sleep more than two hours in a row… Nowadays, there are fewer hard workers and more lazy people… Those lazy people are not my brothers. My brothers are the ones who fight together, the ones who take responsibility and pressure together, the ones who share our success together.”

Integrity

The Chinese government is placing increasing emphasis on strengthening the rule of law. Richard Liu fully subscribes to this mindset, as he told Christine Tan:

“The most important thing I want to bring to my country is that I want to achieve my goals through integrity. In the past, the environment was not good enough, so many entrepreneurs in China tried to make money by doing illegal things. But I am very young, and I want to make money legally, in the sunlight.”

JD.com’s Richard Liu on how entrepreneurship runs in the family | Managing Asia

Sharing of prosperity

Richard Liu is the grandson of a merchant family and his father was also in business. When Christine Tan asks him about the main business lesson his father and grandfather left him, Richard Liu’s answer is straightforward:

“If you have the opportunity to make a profit of 1 yuan, don’t do it. Keep 30 cents for your partners or employees. This will bring you even more chances and you can make money in the long run.”

JD.com’s Richard Liu on how entrepreneurship runs in the family | Managing Asia
JD.com’s Richard Liu on how entrepreneurship runs in the family | Managing Asia

Delegation

According to Richard Liu, the role of the manager, especially when he or she is in a leadership role, is to set the general direction, not to intervene on a daily basis. Leaving autonomy to the teams is essential. This is what he explained in 2018 to professor and author Wu Xiaobao in an interview:

“In many companies, the boss makes all the decisions. In my case, I make all the decisions about hiring, culture and strategic directions for the company. On day-to-day operations, I don’t make any decisions.”

“Why Amazon failed in China?” Thoughts of Liu Qiangdong, CEO of JD.com | Chopsticks Video

The need to stay in direct contact with people on the ground

Every year in June, on the occasion of JD.com’s anniversary, Richard Liu makes it a point to work one day as a deliveryman.

Richard Liu (JD.com) as delivery man

“I want to know how the customer feels. If I see a smile on the customer’s face when they see me come in with my JD suit, I know people love us.”

JD.com’s Richard Liu on how entrepreneurship runs in the family | Managing Asia

With Richard Liu, we are far from the exuberance of Jack Ma. One could almost say that his management is austere, even worthy of an ascetic. But what stands out is also the importance given to practical aspects, even in the act of delivery, so as to never be disconnected from customers’ experience.

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