Managing Development in China with Rick Tang

Michael MicheliniBusiness, Ecommerce, Podcast1 Comment

This week’s show we are talking to an old time friend of mine since moving out to Shenzhen – Rick Tang. A true entrepreneur, been chipping away at his current business since at least 2008. Today he shares with us how he built his business by finding the right technology workers in China, managing the team, cashflow, times he has real estate finance issues, and more ups and downs of the roller coaster of business.

We have a podcast review!

Australia 2017-06-07 5 starts Mummarin
Fabulous for all those NOT living in the US
Michaels podcast is one of the best. He provides a really different perspective than so many of the others that are very American centric and tend to revisit the same stuff. I have heard things on Global from Asia that I have never heard anywhere else and I’ve listened to over 1000 ecommerce and Amazon selling podcasts because of the guests he interviews. I always wish they were longer !!!! 🙂

Also a ton of great events with Techcrunch Disrupt coming to Shenzhen this month (June) and Rise Conference in July! Global From Asia is doing some great meetups during these events- you can check out our events calendar, now let’s tune into this week’s show!

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Intro Rick

  • Various IT Experience

    So you’ve been in IT development quite a few years – care to give us an overview of your various It experience?

  • GPS

    When I talk to you, I think of GPS!

  • Challenges

    What are some of the big challenges of managing an IT team?

  • Extra Challenges

    Any extra challenges or different challenges of doing it inside China?

  • Foreigners in China doing IT

    I feel like these are the people who enjoy the pain and the struggle – having done it myself so many years – what do you tell foreigners trying to do tech in China?

  • Recruiting

    that seems to be a big pain point for development teams – and tips on finding quality staff?

  • Managing developers

    Managing developers, not sure if you have experience working in an overseas or foreign environment – but do you see any key difference in managing Chinese tech developers from overseas/foreigners?

  • Retaining

    With developers such a hot commodity – how do you recommend startups and businesses keep these developers working there long term?

  • Let’s do some “War stories”

    Any challenges you’ve faced dealing with an IT team, in development, team management, supplier or client side struggles?

  • Challenges with IT Team

    Any challenges you’ve faced dealing with an IT team, in development, team management, supplier or client side struggles?

  • Does it get easier over time? I guess like any skill, the more you practice the easier it gets.

  • Contact

    Ways people can contact you and your firm

People / Companies / Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Marshall Taplits
Dylan Blankenship, Juwai
√ Paul, Wufantuan
√ On The Job Training
√ Think Race Partners with Orange
Rick’s website, Think Race
Techcrunch disrupt SZ
Our writeup for upcoming Techcrunch disrupt SZ

Episode Length 30:41

Thanks for that Rick. I am sure people got some massive value from him. Check out his website at Think Race – he is growing fast and expanding globally. Which brings back the point of going “global from asia” as the show is titled.

Claire talks about our beach retreat for CEOs and executives in August here in South China – hope to catch some of you there.

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Podcast Transcription

” A lot of the big company, they have money, they will steal your people, and how to keep them, how to make them happy, that is also a challenge.”

Welcome to the Global From Asia podcast where the daunting process of running an international business is broken down into straight up actionable advice and now your host, Michael Michelini.

Mike: Alright, everybody. Welcome to the Global From Asia episode. What episode number is it, Claire?

Claire: It’s 179.

Mike: Okay, It is hot here in early June. We know it gets hot down here in Shenzhen but I think we get to keep the air-conditioning going all day. I dont know, I’m a fan person. I was saying Wendy and Claire, would you say Chinese. I guess everybody, seems in China, everybody is using air conditioner.

Claire: No. Can only apply to old people.

Mike: Old people? I guess I’m an old man. I go to sleep so early and I wake up really early, too. I should start doing some Tai Chi in the park or something. We got a review, actually we have few reviews. We’ll save them for the next few shows. Just always exciting to read of a review on iTunes. So, this one is from Australia. It is 5 stars from Maureen is the username. Titled fabulous for all those not living in the US. Michael’s podcast is one of the best. He provides a real different perspective, there’s so many of the others that are very American that we visit the same stuff. I’ve heard things from Global From Asia and not heard from anywhere else and listen to over 10,000 ecommerce and Amazon selling podcast because of the guests he interviews. I always wish they were longer! :). Well thank you, Maureen. Well, yeah that’s were trying to do here. Global From Asia you know, even though I’m American, myself, I tried to not just be US eccentric. Most of you recognize that. So, yeah we try to get guests in China and Hong Kong Asia and even around the world, about running global business coz I think that’s the opportunity here, right? People anywhere in the world can start their own business. So, some other things happening, we have a lot of different bigger events coming. We have Tech Crunch in Shenzhen. June, coming next week already really fast. And also the Rise Conference in July, 3rd Annual. So, we will be media partners there. So, I hope to catch you guys as some of those. Also, Claire you want to talk about some of our other local meetups and things.

Claire: Yeah, sure Mike. Now we have like multi-meetup. We also like to have you as a local chapter if you like, now open for applications now.

Mike: Yeah, so you can see from our website We have all kinds different events and I know a lot of you guys are actually review in Australia. We have in UK all around the word. We want to have some Global From Asia meetups in your part of the world, not just there in Shenzhen or Hong Kong but globally. Wed love to hear from you little more information check the show notes or send a message to Claire and now for this week’s show we have old friend of mine Rick Tang, he’s a local Chinese business entrepreneur. Going over 10 years, I remember when I first came in, he’s one of the first guys I’ve met. He’s always running technical team for Chinese and foreigners. He’s got great English. He’s gone through huge roller coaster and always taken into same thing Think Race, which is GPS devices and software on GPS tracking. So he is talking today about the ups and downs and working with developers and development teams. And how he’s been scaling up from China into India and other countries in different parts of the world. So, it’s really great what we did right in his office. So got the microphones going and everything so let’s tune in to Rick.

Mike: Welcome everybody to another Global From Asia podcast. I’m visiting an old friend, Rick.

Rick: Hello Michael.

Mike: So, it’s been great great to see your new office. This is audio only, maybe we could put some pictures for our listeners to see but you’ve been doing your own IT company, for how long now?

Rick: About, I start my company is more than 11 years.

Mike: Wow.

Rick: Yes, long time.

Mike: Amazing! So, yeah, we met really early when I just had moved here, I think. We met maybe in 2009, I think.

Rick: No, we meet in 2004. Yes. Really?

Mike: I moved here 2008 or 2007.

Rick: I see. 2007, maybe.

Mike: So, it’s great! Great to really do this interview and we’ve been talking. I’ve been visiting all your different offices in Shenzhen. Maybe Rick, you could introduce a little bit about yourself to our listeners.

Rick: Yes. Hi. I start my business in 2006 to Marshal and Dylan a lot of my friend. At the beginning is we don’t have a business model. So we just doing some software outsourcing. So luckily is we get some big account. So, we do a lot of points of wisdom but I think software outsourcing is not sustain business for us. So, we decide to make our own product. We serve a lot to making our home product because we don’t have brand, we don’t have enough technologies, and actually we bankrupt for more than 2 times. I sell my apartment and do a lot of things. It also has a lot of good times and bad times.

Mike: I mean, we’re talking before the interview. I think it’s part of being entrepreneur is, when we talk about, you read an articles in Tech Crunch you know, the blogs about the great times but I think every successful entrepreneur has to hit the bottom a few times especially here, right?

Rick: Yes. Actually, you know, when I start my own company, I always look at the some successful business. When to talk about their story no one is talk too much about the problem. So when I go to, okay this is natural. You know everyone is not, they are not superstar. They cannot immediately get the investment. They cannot get the brand and to go to every country like. But, everything is need to be step by step, to build up.

Mike: You’re local Chinese, your English is really great. So makes you people know. Where is your hometown?

Rick: My hometown is in Guangzhi province.

Rick: Yeah, we actually fail many times. Even at the beginning, we do the software outsourcing, we failed and we get a lot of time but we also need to hire a lot of people. And in 2009, so the economic crisis, so the station are very bad. So we don’t, we did not get enough project but we still have a lot of people. We lay out a lot of people but still we cannot survive. So we need to shut down the company. And then i also go to Shanghai as you know as we start a group on business with Paul. And after 3 months, we failed again.

Mike: That was brutal. So competitive and the industry is really crazy.

Rick: Then I come back to Shenzhen. We start with 3 people. We start from office in 3 square meter and very small office. Then we think about what kind of things we want to do. And software, all internet. So we want to start with some saying is good in Shenzhen. We will use the things of Shenzhen. The change of Shenzhen is making the highway. Electronic Product, but we want to go into industry is new. So that we going to the IOT. Even we start to make our own product, because we don’t have a lot of experience, we don’t have a lot of money. So we failed and failed again. The product is you know is disaster when we bring to the client. But I think, everything’s phase when you really spend time. You don’t give up. So this is my story.

Mike: It’s great! I mean, there’s so much in there. Obviously, this could be more multiple interviews. You’ve been through so many different business ventures and yet the to go on was really we get into that today. With Paul in Shanghai, Wufantuan. That was nuts. The whole, everybody was doing the Twango. It’s a group on where everybody around the world. Groups are going crazy. That was crazy one. It’s also like now, I see the mobike and seems like how many new bike companies there are. It’s nuts, so. Well maybe so yeah about your company it’s IOT. Like you said in Shenzhen is hardware.

Rick: Let me instill a little bit of my business, right now is we focus on using the IOT. This kind of technology to provide safety and finish monitor system. For example, the wearable product for kid. And for all the people. By using GPS technology to locate, get the location, and to protect their safety. And we also use all kinds of other sensors and for example the habit sensors. To detect the habit when you running. When you doing exercise. To get the data and to analyze. To give the report to the people.

Mike: Alright! Yeah, I mean, I’m more wearable now but you mostly selling, you have your own brand, or selling other brands?

Ric : Mostly, right now, we’re doing OEM but we also building our brand.

Mike: Okay. I don’t know if you are able to disclose on the show. You’re definitely some bigger brands that you’re working with which is great.

Rick: Yeah, right now is, we working together with a lot of big brand. For example is the Orange. Orange is very big network carrier. We also work with the top company like Huawei and we also work with some very big insurance company, Alliance and of course, a lot of network carrier is our kind like cellphone, Maxxis, STC in Saudi. We also have our office in India. So we are selling more than 300,000 pieces of device last year.

Mike: Very cool. That’s great and so maybe you know of course we’re English language and of course, Chinese listeners. There’s definitely a lot of foreigners that are interested in startups and technology and ecommerce in China and asia and I know of course, China is very, I think challenging market even for Chinese. So, today we’re talking kind of about managing IT teams. I’m sure you’ve had a lot of different technical teams you’ve work it. My question is what are the some of the challenges you see in China with managing an IT team or developer team.

Rick: Yeah, it’s really a big challenge actually one big challenge is to hire more people. Right now, is not easy to get talent. And also right now in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing these got a big cities. The cost is getting higher and higher. And also because is right now a lot of the big company they have money. They will steal your people and how to keep them. And how to make them happy. And how to continue to really is a passion on the things they do. So that is also a challenge.

Mike: Definitely. I agree with that. Do you think it’s difficult for like a foreigner to manage Chinese developers or is it even possible?

Rick: I think, it’s possible but you need to have some luck to get some good people in your team to support you. Same as like our friend Dylan. Right now is they are managing team in China. They also hire a team in Philippines. So it’s also a challenge for him to manage the Chinese team. Because it’s, as a Chinese, some, a lot of developer is actually not, they’re not way, I don’t know how to say. They always want to change their job. Because they want to develop some new things. And they always want to get a better pay. And they always have their own idea even, the idea is maybe sometimes not good for the team. They could but I think they need more team work. So we need to have company getting bigger. We need to have someone who’s really work as a superstar in the team. It’s not as superstar. This is also a challenge.

Mike: I think that’s true in overseas market to a little but – but I think, even with non developers. The younger Chinese, I feel like they always try to decide whatever they like to do next. Not sure what they want to do.

Rick: Yeah, that’s true.

Mike: I’m sure, the economy is still growing in China so they have a lot of choices like you said, everybody’s hiring always. So it’s not difficult for them to find another job. Especially the technical projects. I have done just a few. It’s always hard to hire a team in the middle of the project.

Rick: Yeah, that’s true.

Mike: You know, maybe with managing team is there any tips you have for keeping them in the team, motivated things like that.

Rick: Because I am a developer also, before start my own business. So it’s I think, first you need to have someone who is really have the vision and to keep them is more hope in the future. They can do exciting projects. And so it’s, these guys are very important. At the same time you need to keep on encourage them to see what they want to do and what they want to accomplish this year. At the same time, by running this company we aso create more opportunity for them to grow their technology skills and all their vision. And so, when they getting good pay and they getting more. They will stay.

Mike: Yeah, definitely some good tips. I think it’s also advantage you have the experience as a developer. So i think even, of course were kind of comparing China and overseas. Even in the US or anywhere, I think a technical manager sure have some technical experience.

Rick: I see. Everyone in the team should learn. Not just keep on pushing them and you yourself you also need to learn and to understand what is the challenge in the technology and what kind of thing you need to do very good. And that way is you even want to say good about them. You have the point and not just say, oh yeah good job.

Mike: It’s true. Of course, to think a lot of times, when you open you seem very willing to share some of the harder times like maybe downsizing, is there way, no way laying people off, I had to do it a lot. Any idea, any good of ways to downsize?

Rick: Yes, it’s really a lot of time is you know you’re upset because you’re stressed. I think you really need to pick what you really like to do. And that is cannot stop you and every time if you are upset about that oh yeah. Just say okay, yes. Maybe tomorrow we will be better. And so you keep your passion and also you look for some other your competitor and to learn the story even you know, you feel oh, yes we do better than them. And of course we can, to get better. So a lot of way but yourself you need to be feel confident about that.

Mike: And then, I guess when you lay someone in office, it’s hard of course, is there some technique you have?

Rick: Oh, that’s very, I don’t want to talk about that. To lay off someone is, because everyone to join my team, I always tell them, I appreciate that, they join my team, they come to work for the company. And to make my dream become reality. But so I usually don’t want to fire people but right now, I think it’s some, it’s ok for me to fire people, because in the team, sometimes someone is not good for the team. It also not good for themselves. They need to leave the team. They will find better job. But we will keep them a good otherwise. And so that they can improve in the next next job and so. I think for the boss to hire people and for the employee to find a job is equal. But, so I will just explain to them and so they are not good in the team. They can find better future.

Mike: Got it. That’s a good way. You’re growing, offices growing around the world now and they are happy, happy for you, and would just you know, the Global From Asia is about growing from Asia. And how would, you said earlier managing basically a lot on your own still, or how do you find this partners?

Rick: Yes, the partner is work together with me for more than 10 years and they, at beginning we study business. Some of them they quit a company, couple of years ago because the company failure. After, we get the business start again. So we ask them to come back. So, they have no any excuse, they say it’s ok, they will quit their job and come back to the team. So I like to say thank you to them, because they get very good job but they still come back to team and to suffer with me.

Mike: It’s a great opportunity for them, I think. Come one you’re doing great and they have a good chance, too.

Rick: Yeah, I think right now, we are doing much better than before. I think we are open a new window.

Mike: Awesome! Some more tactics. So you, we all know salaries are increasing especially in the cities. I had some problems ‘coz, it seems like I’m always bargaining with the salary. How do you keep in touch with the market rate versus your salary, how do you know the market rate for salaries?

Rick: Actually, we don’t know. We want to keep in average salary. We don’t, in this stage, we are not able to pay much higher salary than the average but we will hire someone is, because someone ask for high salary, they join a team. Then always see they work for the salary. They not work for the passion. So you need to have some luck for that and to find some people they really wanted to something. And also, you pay them a fair salary. And at the same time, i have to cheap some, and on that I usually to tell them like things, we pay you this salary and in this is 6 months. And 6 months, we will have a raise, based on your performance. After 6 months, we will have the raise. And we will not, some common day we will have a raise in 10 months but we, we have 6 months we have raise and that is keep them always in the hope. When I do good and I can get a raise.

Mike: Okay, very cool. That’s really good tip and I think, I’ve seen a lot of foreigners come, they go too fast or they want to hire people or they’re asking if I may developer, for find developers so you have any tips how to find them or is it another, like 51 Job or these databases or platform? I’m not sure if you have any.

Rick: Yeah, I, we use 51 Job and we also hire of people from university. So right now, we hire more people from university. We have a very good system to train the people and we hire, we have a very good professional HR team. So we brief, is some there’s a lot of talent in the university and they don’t have experience but they also don’t have a lot of bad habits.

Mike: It’s true.

Rick: Because they don’t have, they didn’t work in any company, so we train them and then they will be more loyal to you than any others.

Mike: Yeah, you say university is, I think, the one Shenzhen only really Shenzhen University or it there others?

Rick: Only Shenzhen University but we also go to another place and hire people. And of course, we also have some friends and to help us to get the people from university. So that I think will be a long long time, long term policy for my company.

Mike: Great! Very cool and then you say training, do you have like formal training or on the job?

Rick: Yeah, we have formal training on the job and so we have different kind of training. So for example, the technical skills training and development training. We have inside training. We also have, we also hire some people from other side and to teach the developer. The reason is outsizing some, the Chinese sayings (Chinese language) always says from the outside and when they teach them they will listen.

Mike: It’s true.

Rick: We spend some money and we have some people to train them.

Mike: Great! Okay, Rick. I know you’re so busy, I appreciate your time today. How can people find out more about you and your company here?

Rick : You mean hiring or client?

Mike: I mean, maybe, I mean the listeners, maybe would want to work here. Especially foreign owners, business owners entrepreneurs. Some people can’t contact the guest, maybe work like more likely projects or operation.

Rick: We have a website and also we have Twitter account and LinkedIn and Facebook. And of course, we are not, we still not doing good yet. But right now, we are improving our social networking and so is how, to talk to more people.

Mike: Great and we could link that on the website I’ll get the links from you.

Rick: Alright. Thank you.

Mike: Thanks, Rick.

Mike: Alright. So, I hope you guys enjoy that interview. I know we want, I want to get more Chinese people and my wife yells at me sometimes I raises. I don’t get enough Chinese people on our show. It’s also hard with the language, we’re English international show, too. We want to make sure the English is good. Usually it’s audio you came and look at their face talking or per words. But it’s an audio podcast. We’re actually working on TV show. It’s much harder for us to produce a TV show but we’re working on it so stay tune for that. So, Claire what do you got to share with us today?

Claire: We have an event coming up in August, so it’s got to be and I know lots of you listeners from UK and USA, you probably have like summer holidays, like paid leaves. So, if you are happen in China, maybe stop.

Mike: Yeah, we have it link on and I know likes, one of our listeners just caught up in all 178 shows. Which is crazy. So he was listening to stuff, we’re talking about product event years ago. So we’ve got to always try to keep them up to date on so that if you listen to this in 2020 you can still see events at that time. But yeah we’re working on a cool beach mastermind in China. There are cool beaches here if you believe it. But of course not as cool as Thailand or other South East Asia. At least now we’re starting in China. We’re working to have some members from Global From Asia VIP coming in another cool people and experts and our communities, It would be great to meet and if not of course we have all these online communities and everything else, too. We’ll catch you next week. Peace!

To get more info, on running international business, please visit our website at that’s Also, be sure to subscribe to our iTunes feed. Thanks for tuning in.

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