chairman of the jiahao group: an interview with allen shi-ag真人国际

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personal profile: allen shi, born in1980, is a shanghai native raised in northeast china and holds a master’sdegree of east china university of science and technology. this entrepreneur,angel investor and founder of wedding whole industry chain model is chairman ofthe jiahao group engaged in wedding club & hotel, resort, film andtelevision and industrial investment industries. he is reputed as the industrybreaker and business wizard.

company profile: a wedding relatedintegrated service corporation, the jiahao group is aimed at the global upscalekorean style wedding service market. with an annual turnover of 10 billionyuan, it’s the number one wedding brand in china. in 2014, founder allen shicreated the myth of the industry by lifting the turnover from 30 million to 1billion within 6 months.  

hi. this is shanghai.

it’s a city where dreams come true andfall apart every day; it’s a city where you are an employee one day and becomea career mentor the next day. legends are made here continuously. it’s thebirthplace of greenwood hero wenqiang xu, and the place where allen shi startshis business and realizes his dreams.

this interview has not been easilyarranged. that’s because allen shi is busy with his business across the world.this frequent flyer has reserved one hour for this interview.  

people often talk about his wealth, yeta few pay attention to his path of wealth creation and his little known storiesbeneath the glory. now let’s look into the inner space of allen shi andreproduce the real life of a business benchmark. perhaps it’s more fascinatingthan this wealth creation story.

dream: he resigned and started his ownbusiness to stay true to his values, shared his classic dialogues with hisformer employer; now he makes a legend.

i hear that you are very rich,incredibly rich. you own mansions, jets, yachts, rolls royce…

allen shi:

i was poor. my parents were educatedyouth sent to kiamusze. they spent many years there. i lost my father at theage of five, so i finished my college study with loans and scholarships. i earneverything i have. when you have money, you got to spend it in yachts andluxury cars. it’s only a lifestyle.

why did you choose to start your ownbusiness? how did you feel?

allen shi:

iworked as a supervisor for a photo studio after college graduation. i offeredmany e-commerce suggestions to my boss and they were all rejected. one time, hepointed at the floor and said, “allen shi, every floor tile you stand on costsone u.s. dollar. how is business bad with such a high rent? such differences invalues had finally motivated me to resign. to start my own business, i sold myhouse three times. every time i applied for a mortgage with my propertyownership certificate, i was under a lot of pressure. my mother had no ideathat the house she lived in was rented. so others often see how gorgeous i looknow, but have no idea of the hardships i experienced for the business. if oneday i was reduced to nothing, i would not be scare and i would start over.

attract partners with sincerity andimpress customers with creativity; precise positioning makes customization somuch more than a high price.

the powerful momentum of the jiahaogroup is strongly felt in the industry, but every business has a process ofaccumulation. what were the main turning points for your business?

allen shi:

in 2008, i visited korea and saw artizstudio which has the same decorative style as the hot movie “the 1st shop ofcoffee prince.” it was the most important year for me. with sincerity, ipersuaded the owner to jointly open artiz studio with me in china. the businesspositioning back then defined the tone, lineage and development path of artizstudio today. the year of 2013 was a turning point for us. in response to thedevelopment trends, we established the e-commerce marketing team and rolled outthe overall e-commerce strategy for brand packaging and promotion. within 6months, we had lifted the turnover from 30 million yuan to 1 billion yuan. itwas a huge challenge that we completed. it was in 2013 that we expanded ourbusiness to wedding club & hotel, resort and industrial investmentindustries. with 200 branch offices in southeast asia, europe and the u.s., thegroup has an annual turnover of 10 billion yuan now.

why did you choose the weddingphotography industry? what inspired your philosophy of “internet + wedding andlife”? what factors do you think the jiahao group benefits most from?

allen shi:

it was quite accidental actually.certainly i had kind of a vision back then. the niche wedding market to manypeople was easier to enter. internet + wedding and life means that we canprovide people with wedding photography service and life service in the next 5to 10 years that involves wedding photography, wedding dress, wedding banquet,confinement care, children education. it’s a complete industry chain with hugeroom for development. externally, we have benefited from the internet era,scale e-commerce and factory-based operation.

why positioned the business as a koreanstyle wedding photography service provider? what changes will be made in futuredevelopments?

allen shi:

after surveys in many countries, i havefound that korean people are most professional in wedding photography. weddingphotography courses are provided in colleges, which can’t be found in manycountries. furthermore, young people today love korean dramas and are crazyabout korean style fashion. in china, many photo studios are stuck in a viciouscircle of low price competition and low service quality, and no true upscalewedding photography service is available. under such circumstances, ouraccurate positioning as an upscale global korean style wedding photographyservice provider has allowed us to quickly excel and make it somehow.

now what we need to think about andconcern ourselves about is what kind of wedding photos of the 2000s born wantin the future. seldom people in europe and the u.s. choose to take weddingphotos before the wedding, but they value wedding day photography. therefore,trip shoot may be the mainstream consumption pattern of the 2000s born in thefuture, and wedding day photography may become the new wedding fashion. theseare trends that we will definitely consider in our implementation of futurestrategy.

secret to success: he observes andstudies women’s preference and psychology, and knows women better than women.

why do consumers love to take weddingphotos at artiz studio? what kind of consumption do you think weddingphotography is?

allen shi:

i believe one of the reasons is a betterexperience than other studios. i have been inspired by tencent in this aspectand continuously optimizing borrowlism. those who come to artiz studio for aphoto shoot will give a higher experience score during the shoot, in which i amconfident.

for instance, you won’t smell somethingodd in our elevator room, because we have used international luxury brandperfumes. instead of dazzling chandeliers as can be found in other photostudios, we offer a relaxing, delightful and trendy cafe vibe.

again we have men’s and women’s dressingrooms. as our employee unveils the bride wearing makeup and wedding dress, thegroom will always be touched by the beauty of his bride. if the bride ishesitant about which dress to choose, we will hang the several dresses sheloves in her room free of charge, so that she can choose the most perfect oneon the date of photo shoot. women are often “sentimental” and we need to movethem in details.

it is never accidental to deliver suchexperience. to provide the customers with the best experience, i have been to adozen of countries in my life. in korea, i drove from seoul to pusan andvisited the photo studio one by one. i experienced their decorative style,photography and makeup techniques, and service processes, and learned fromtheir strengths. by far, i have visited about 100 photo studios. anythingbetter than us will be immediately used in our studio. with friends from theluxury circles like vera wang, harry winston and breguet, i have been learningthe demands and psychology of high-end customers from them. a regular attendeeto upscale wine parties, i have met many high net-worth customers and observedhow they spend.

i have always believed that couples cometo studios not only for wedding photos, but also for photography serviceexperience, which can be fully guaranteed in artiz studio.

about the three corporate developmentfactors—man, performance and strategic planning, what do you think the priorityshould be?

allen shi:

strategic planning, man and performance.(he answered without hesitation.)

allen shi:

strategic planning, man and performance.(he answered without hesitation.)

allen shi:

i am a computer major. so i don’t haveprofessional knowledge about wedding photography, but i can learn about it. ilove learning and borrowlism. i don’t care whether you are korean, japanese oramerican or what trade you are in. as long as you have something that can helpimprove our products and services, i will use it in my work. for instance, ihave employed airline companies to train us and introduced the training systemof five-star hotels. the ultimate goal is to enhance our services and increasethe added-value of our products. i do the same for myself. lack of financialknowledge, i have learned everything about financial management and obtainedthe certified public accountant certificate; to manage the kitchen, i haveobtained the second-grade chef certificate; to build hotels, i have studiedengineering supervision at a technical school. i don’t teach the certifiedpublic accountants specialized knowledge, but what a business own should belook at in the financial statements…

practice: know to share. my door isalways open to employees with ideas.

i hear that you spend quite a lot ofmoney on employee training. why is that?

allen shi:

it’s an era in which knowledge is themost valuable. educational training is what i spend most on my employees. isend my executives to italy, order them the best hotels and let them taste thefood cooked by the most brilliant chefs and enjoy the more prestigious service.why? i believe only when they have personally experienced the high-end servicecan they understand our positioning of a high-end wedding photography studio,and share their insights with our customers. one percent of our profit will beused for overseas study of our employees every year. they may be sent to losangeles or woosong university in korea. these are the best benefits we canoffer our employees, which will greatly help with their future career planning.

what kind of a boss do you see yourselfas?

allen shi:

i love to share. the profit is createdby the team and the jiahao group is managed under the “platform-based +personalized” model. i said to my regional store general managers, “you cankeep 70% of the profit and the group will have the remaining 30%.” this is anoffer most employers can’t deliver, but the jiahao group has such generosityand audacity. in the future, i hope all of my employees can make money, learnand have room for development. moreover, my door is always open to employeeswith ideas. as long as you have the courage to speak it out and what you saymakes sense, i will definitely use it.

many young people are working hardtowards their dreams. some make it and some don’t. what do you want to say tothem?

allen shi:

it doesn’t matter whether you are astudent or an employee, rich or poor, opportunities are equal to everyone. aslong as you work hard, you will see results. success is a marathon! it’s notwho is a fast runner in the beginning matters, but persistence! the running isharsh, and most people give up halfway! if you are smart and have theopportunities, you may reach the finishing line first. but many others are notthat lucky. that is when persistence is needed. persistence is the mostadmirable thing. sometimes you can win by a little more persistence.  

run into the future

the 1980s born young people have alwaysknown how to embrace life. if you want to meet allen shi, get into thecelebrity circles first. dive, golf or fly with the executives of luxurybrands. of course, love is another option. this man in the happiness businessis so sentimental that he placed a giant screen ad along the huangpu river toshow his love for his wife. it was a warm gesture in a fascinating night ofshanghai. he believes that love is to embrace everything of the other half,good or bad. he doesn’t see his employees here and now, but see them in thefuture having everything he has now. he hopes to be a legend in the industry,so that he has stories to tell the younger generation.

postscript: i have learned from other sources thatthe rapid development of artiz studio and the jiahao group has drawn wideattention from the industry. some business owners even work together to start aboycott. just as the high mounts can never prevent the river water fromflowing, the rise of the jiahao group is the choice of the times. instead of aboycott, perhaps learning from others and growing stronger will be morepractical. however, rapid expansion may be a double-edged sword. whethermanpower support, management and service quality can keep up with theheadquarters, and regional consumer preferences can be adequately studied tolaunch targeted promotions remain to be seen. anyway, the jiahao group hastaken this step. let’s hope for more legends from the jiahao group.

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