A foreign owned Chinese tax and financial advisory company grows progressively into a well established multicultural and renown firm
How did it all start?
When I, Stephane Grand, started the firm, I was the only employee. But soon, I had to hire accountants and assistants. At the beginning, since I had very little income, I hired professionals with all the right qualifications, but without any English or for that matter, any foreign language skills. was, at the time, possible to hire quality staff as long as you could compromise on the language skills. Once the business started taking off, I started hiring English-speaking Chinese accountants and qualified foreigners to serve my clients in English or French. This was critical for the development of the term as, at the beginning, I was the only Chinese/English/French speaker who could interface with the staff, which means that I was basically translating all the time and had very little time left for substantive work.
Choosing the employees
Whereas I would choose the Chinese accountants based on their technical Abilities, I would usually choose Western employees according to a more complex set of criteria. Of course, hiring people to work in China was not very easy some 15 years ago. Not everybody wanted to come and live there. So, state ability and willingness to stay in China was a foremost criterion, almost at the level of technical proficiency. Another very important criterion for me, who has been practicing combat sports all my life, was proficiency in martial arts, and if possible an experience of full contact fighting. My theory was that learning martial arts to a good level of practice being very tough, it is a proof of resilience. Also, Full Contact fighting, like in some styles of karate or in Thai boxing, seemed to me to be the clearest test of courage and intensity that young people could go through without spending years in the military. Therefore, a lot of the original S.J. Grand employees were fighters, some of them local or national champions.
Our current office locations
As the staffing needs increased and he became more and more difficult to find experienced fighters with the proper professional qualifications, I started being more open in my criteria for hiring. However, to keep a focused and energetic team, most of our officers implement sports programs, in which the employees get together at least weekly to play badminton or go running.
The number of employees has increased steadily over the years. Most managers in the firm have had a long tenure with us, the Beijing and Shanghai offices being run by team members who have been with the firm for 15 years. To me, this means that the people that are at the key positions in the firm know me well, share the same ethical principles and are very reliable. Also, I believe that it brings exemplarity to the teams, who can look at their managers and see a hard-working, competent, reliable and friendly person. We usually do not hire managers directly to run the team, rather we grow them in-house, so that we are sure of shared goals and reliability.
The company timeline
The growth of the team was very slow at first, with only one office. As soon as I started opening new offices, and that each office started growing, the team started developing in numbers and diversity. Therefore, to keep people as a tight and focused team, we organize annual team building trips together. This way, the SJ Grand employees know the people they work with in other cities although they might not get to meet them during the course of the year.
We started one, in late 2003 and are now over 40 in 2017. We expect, with the increasing number of offices, to be about 60 mid-2018.