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"Portraits by Linfeng Li, www.linfengliphotography.com"

 

For Feiy’s new Impact Series our writer in residence Nika Dulevich is talking to entrepreneurs who pursue a path greater than just profit and strive to contribute to the greater good with their products and services. The first business owner she talked to is Robin Dell, the founder and managing director at imondi, a Shanghai based reclaimed wood flooring company. 

 

Feiy新的影响系列,我的常作家Nika Dulevich正在与追求超越利、努力透过产品和服献的企访谈。她访谈的第一位老板是Robin Dell,他是上海回收木材地板公司-imondi立者和执行董事

This is the first part of a two-part interview where Robin talks about how it all started, shares his business insights and opens up about doing business in China.

这是两部分访谈的第一部份,Robin分享一切是如何开始,以及他有在中国商。

 

"Portraits by Linfeng Li"

 

How did imondi start? And how did the first years of the company look like?

 

Imondi started with me coming to China on a university exchange program back in 1999. I left after being here for a few months and came back in 2003 with an intention to help some people I knew to do work in China. At the beginning we did many different projects, but within a year of starting I learned that it is important to focus on one project, which I chose to be wood flooring. The first few years were definitely not easy. I think it is very difficult to enter an industry when you don't know much about it. I lost money for about two to three years in a row and had to borrow $100,000 from my family to keep things going. But with the help of a great team I managed to bring it back in about a year or two after that. I think you hear somewhere that it takes three years for a company to be successful and I agree with that. For the first three years we lost money, in the next two-three years we broke even and the last ten years have been very successful for us.

 

Imondi是如何开始的?而公司的前几年又是如何?

Imondi1999年,从我来到中国参加大学交换项目开始。我在这里待了几个月后离开,并在2003年回来,目的是帮助一些我认识的人在中国工作。起初我们做了很多不同的专案,但在开始的一年内,我明白到专注在一个专案是重要的,而我选择了木地板。刚开始的几年绝对不容易,我认为当你要进入一个你了解不多的产业时,是非常难的。我连续亏了2-3年的钱,而且为了让一切继续下去,我还要向家人借$100,000美元。然而,因为有杰出的团队帮忙,我顺利的在接下来的1-2年间使公司恢复。我相信你从某处听到让一个公司成功需要3年,而我也同意。最初的3年我们亏钱,在接下来的2-3年里,我们收支平衡,而过去的10年对我们来说非常成功。

 

Do you only work with reclaimed wood or with other sustainable wood too?

 

The majority of our business is reclaimed wood. Our reclaimed collection is exported around the world and half is sold to the Chinese market. We have had tremendous support from several corporate clients, like Starbucks in China, for whom like us, a sustainable future is as important as the bottom line. That said, our average Chinese consumer is still after modern and contemporary products for their interior. So about 30% of what we produce and sell is not reclaimed. And yes, we are FSC certified, which means any non-reclaimed wood we source is from forests that adhere to international sustainably managed forestry practices.

 

您是否只使用回收木材或是还有其他可持续木材?

 

我们大部分的生意都是回收木材。我们的回收系列出口到全世界,并且有一半是销售到中国市场。我们更得到了来自企业客户的大力支持,像是中国的星巴克,如同我们,对于一个可持续发展的未来与盈利一样重要。也就是说,我们普遍的中国消费者仍然追求现代和当代的室内饰品,所以我们生产和销售的产品有大约有30%是非回收的。没错,我们有FSC认证,这意味着任何我们采购的非回收木材都是来自遵守国际可持续性林业管理的森林。

 

Courtesy of Imondi   

 

What has been a key success factor for imondi?

 

Pushing ourselves to think positively and envisioning a clear a path has been a key factor for us. And it’s no secret that the key to a successful business is the people behind it. Ray Kroc (who grew McDonald's into the global franchise it is today) famously said, “you're only as good as the people you hire.” We have an exceptional team who are major contributors to our success. Nobody can build a great company alone. I am inspired daily by the contributions of my business partner Lisa Li-Seliger and our wonderful CEO, Rosa Li who has been with us nearly 10 years.

 

Imondi成功的关键是什么?

 

督促自己极思考并展望一条清晰的道路一直是我的关因素。而毫无疑地,一个成功企的关是幕后的人。 Ray Kroc(他将麦当劳发展成今天的全球特许经营)的名言:「你只和你聘的人一好。」我秀的团队,他是我成功的主要献者。没有人可以独自建立一个大的公司。每天我都受我的生意伙伴Lisa Li-Seliger和与我在一起近10年出色的行官Rosa Li 所有的献而启

 

Another success factor for us is understanding who we are as a company and making sure that this message is very clearly communicated to all our stakeholders. We consider design, sustainability and unique histories behind our wood, the craftsmanship and the artisan way we work the wood as the four key brand values that define us. And I'm trying to teach our staff as much as possible about it. What does that mean? Once a month a staff member is asked to pick a video that represents our corporate culture, everybody watches the video and then we hold a forum to discuss how we feel about the video and how imondi fits into the message from that video. The last video we saw was about deforestation in Africa after which we had a great discussion about how a lot of imondi’s competitors who work with wood are responsible for some of the awful deforestation that is now happening in Africa. When everybody in the organization understands what imondi is and why you exist, they are driven; their desire to sell, their desire to do admin, whatever it is, comes a bit more from their heart rather than their head, which is what you need to drive the company forward beyond a certain stage. So I think a clear understanding of who you are is key for me.

 

我们另一个成功因素是了解我们作为一家公司的身份,并确保将此信息清楚的传达给所以利益相关方。我们将设计、可持续性、我们木材的独特历史、工艺和工匠法作为定义我们品牌的四个关键价值,而我尽可能地多教导我们的员工。这是什么意思?每个月都会要求一名员工挑选代表我们企业文化的视频,大家看视频后我们举办论坛,来讨论我们对视频的看法以及imondi是如何融入该视频所传达的信息。我们最近看的一部视频是有关非洲的森林砍伐,我们对imondi在木材生意的竞争对手要对目前许多非洲国家的严重森林砍伐负责,有了热烈的讨论。当组织内的每个人都明白imondi是什么和为什么存在时,他们就会有销售和管理欲望的动力。无论是什么,都是来自他们的内心而非他们的脑部,这就是你们要开展公司,超越某一阶段所需要的。因此,我认为清楚地了解自己是谁对我来说至关重要。

 

What has been your biggest challenge?

 

About 10 years ago our then factory manager decided to leave imondi and set up his own flooring factory. It was such a difficult time for our growing company. Our clients that we worked so hard to establish business with were being approached with much more competitive prices. I know this is not uncommon in business but it was the first time we had experienced such situation and at the time we still had a lot of learning to do. We matured a lot from that experience. We became more assertive with our clients. Our vision became more apparent and we realized what set us apart was our quality, design and expertise. Fortunately for us, we did not lose any clients but we were faced with a greater challenge of running a wood flooring factory which we had very little experience in at the time. That was incredibly challenging and ultimately incredibly rewarding on a personal level.

 

您最大的挑戰是什麼?

大约10年前,我们当时的工厂经理决定离开imondi并创立他自己的地板工厂,这对我们成长中的公司来说,是一段非常艰困的时期。我们努力建立生意的客户,接洽到更多更具竞争力的价格。我明白这并非不普遍,但我们第一次有这样的经验,而当时我们仍有很多事要学习。经由那次的经验,我们成熟了很多。我们对客户变得更加有自信,我们的愿景变得更加明了,我们并了解到使我们与众不同的是我们的质量、设计与专业。我们幸运地没有失去任何客户,但因为当时我们的经验很少,我们面临到经营一个木材地板工厂的更大挑战。那非常具有挑战性,但最终在个人层面上获得了极大的满足感。 

 

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently, if anything?

 

I like what we have created and the path we took to get here. There are many things I’ve done along my entrepreneurial path that weren't perfect, or possibly considered mistakes, but I've benefited from all of them in the long run. In hindsight, I doubt I would have made any decisions differently and truly don't regret any of it.

 

如果您要全部重来一遍,有的话,您会做什么不同的?

我喜造的西和我走到今天的道路。在我创业的道路上,有很多事并不完美,或是可能被认为错误,但长远,我从中有所受益。事后看来,我怀疑我是否会做出不同、并且不后悔的任何决定。

 

Courtesy of Imondi

 

Imondi was born in Shanghai in 1999 and now you work with clients and partners in over 35 countries. How do you scale your impact? And what advice would you give to those who want to scale their sustainable ventures?

I’m a strong believer in being passionate about what you do. When you find what you love, the passion for it shines through in your work with colleagues, clients, suppliers and all stakeholders. I love personally taking clients to visit our factory where I feel as excited as a child showing them new designs we are working on, talking about the incredible stories behind the reclaimed wood we rescue and simply watching our craftsmen at work, hand-crafting wood in the way it’s been crafted for hundreds of years. I think passion and excitement drive growth. As we get inspired by the stories behind our wood and share this inspiration with our clients, they become part of those stories too.

 

Imondi1999年诞生于上海,而现在您与超过35个国家的客户和生意伙伴合作。您如何扩大的您的影响力?您对那些要开展可持续发展企业的人,您有什么建议?

我坚信对你自己所做的事要充满热情。如果你发现你所爱的,这样的热情在你与同事、客户、供应商和所有利益相关者合作中会发挥作用。我爱亲自带客户参观我们的工厂,那儿我像小孩子一样兴奋,向他们展示我们正在制作的新设计、讨论我们拯救回收木材背后不可思议的故事,还有看着我们工作中的工匠,以传承数百年的工艺来制作木材。我认为是热诚驱动了成长,当我们受我们木材的故事所激励,并与我们的客户分享这样的精神,他们也成为那些故事的一部分。

 

And if talking about a more hands-on business strategy, then I’m all about social media. I'm 40 years old, I can't really be telling that to millennials (laughs). I think we started focusing on social media about 4-5 years ago and when we post something now, the impact is phenomenal. We're getting about 10,000 views per posting and all these views are typically from people we want the message to go out to – the architects and designers around the world. You look at some of these companies who spend $100,000 on printing adverts in magazines and it just doesn't make any sense to me. The world has changed and so many companies just don't seem to be aware of that. Without a question, focusing on a social media strategy to get your message out there is the biggest advice I can give.

 

而如果说更实际的商业策略,那么一切就是社群媒体。我已经40岁了,实在无法告诉这样跟千禧一代说(笑)。我想我们在4-5年前开始着重在社群媒体,而当我们现在发布新的东西,那影响是惊人的。我们每个帖子的观看次数大约为10,000次,而这些观看者通常是我们希望消息发布的对象-世界的建筑师和设计师。你看看这些花$100,000美元在杂志做平面广告的公司,对我来说并没有任何意义。世界已经改变,而很多公司似乎没有意识到这一点。毫无疑问,专注在社群媒体的策略来发布你的信息是我可以给的最大建议。

 

How did you build your team? What advice would you give those thinking of starting an impact driven business in terms of building a team?

 

When we were in the process of transitioning from a small company to a medium-sized one, an important step for us was the decision to invest in hiring senior management. At the time we were not sure if our company could survive the financial burden of senior hires but we also realized that if we didn't invest in people, we would struggle to grow as a company. A lot of business owners I talk to struggle with this issue and put a lot of burden on their own shoulders. It is typical of many entrepreneurs to believe that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”. I think the sooner you start bringing senior hires into your company, the quicker you can teach yourself to get rid of that wrong thinking. It is difficult to let go, but in my opinion it is essential to grow the business. Don't be frightened to invest in great people. That was a real learning for me.

 

您是如何建立你的团队?对那些考虑建立一个影响驱动生意的人,在建立团队方面您会给予什么样的建议?

当我们在从小型公司转为中型公司的过渡期,我们重要的一步是决定投资聘请高级管理人员。当时我们并不确定公司是否可以承受聘请高级人员的财务压力,但我们也意识到如果我们没有投资人员,身为一间公司,我们会很难成长。很多我交谈过的老板都为此问题烦恼,而且他们给自己带来很多负担。许多企业家的典型特征是相信:「自己动手,丰衣足食。」我认为,你越早将高级人员聘入你的公司,你就可以更快地教自己摆脱那个错误的想法。要放手很难,但在我看来,这对生意发展至关重要。不要害怕投资人才,那对我来说真的很有用。

 

I also think it’s important to understand the strengths of each individual and to define roles clearly. At imondi we recognize the value of diversity and celebrate it. Any opportunity we are given to get our team involved and engaged in community events and projects, we jump at the chance to do so. It is important that your team is aware and understands your business vision and your culture. We found great people who share our passion, and we make sure they understand it, love it and can communicate it.

 

我也认为,明白每个人的优势并定义清楚的角色很重要。在imondi,我们看到多元化的价值并庆祝它,我们抓住任何让我们团队参与社团活动和专案的机会。你的团队对你的商业愿景和文化要有意识并有所了解。我们找到与我们分享这份热诚的人,确保他们了解它、喜爱并且能够传达它。

 

  Courtesy of Imondi

 

So what are you looking for in potential candidates? What is important for you?

 

I saw a lovely presentation on YouTube. A guy talked about a graph where you've got the x-axis and the y-axis and the negative x-axis and y-axis. On the right hand side of the graph there are people who understand your company values; on the top are those who perform really well and on the bottom are those who understand your company culture but don't perform very well. These are the guys you want to invest in and bring them up to become great performers. On the negative x-axis on the bottom left are the guys who don't understand your company culture and don't perform well – these are the ones you want to let go. The top left is a really tough one: these are the people who perform really well but don't understand your company culture. Actually, you should let them go because they don’t contribute to building an amazing company, but you don't really want it because they're great for your bottom line.

 

那么在潜在的候选人中,您在寻找什么?什么对您很重要?

我在YouTube上看到了一个精彩的简报。有个人谈论到你有x轴和y轴以及负x轴和y轴的图表。在右手边的图表有许多了解你公司价值的人,在上方是那些表现相当好的。而在下方是那些了解你公司文化,但表现不是很好的人。这些是你要投资的人,并且让他们成为优秀的员工。在左下方的负x轴是那些不了解你的公司文化并且表现不佳的人,这些是你要放手的人。而左上方是艰难的一群,这些是表现相当好,但不了解你的公司文化的人。实际上,你应该让他们离开,因为他们对建立一个出色的公司并没有贡献,但你不会这么做,因为他们对你的盈利很有帮助。

The presenter’s main message was to hire people who fit into your company culture and who have the same business vision as you do. So we look for people who fit into our culture, who, if necessary, can be trained to do their job well. At imondi, we have built and continue to build a long-term sustainable company that focuses on our company culture.

 

报告者主要传达的信息是聘顾那些适合你的公司文化和拥有与你相同商业愿景的人。所以我们寻找那些适合我们文化,还有如果必要,可以接受培训,做好工作的人。在imondi,我们已经建立并且持续专注于以我们公司文化来建立长远发展的公司。

 

What does success mean to you?

 

For me at the moment, it's just about having as many positive days as possible inside and outside the office. We are on this planet for only 50, 60, 70 years so you’d better make sure every day is a good one.

 

对您来说成功是什么?

对我来说,就仅是在办公室内和外有尽可能多的积极日子。我们在这个星球上的时间只有5060 70年,所以你应当确保每天都很好。

"Portraits by Linfeng Li" 

What advice would you give to entrepreneurial individuals who would like to make a positive impact in the world?

 

I think that finding your niche is really important. Don't give up, try to ride the waves. Find your passion. The nice thing about many people I meet in the impact driven businesses is that they have obviously found their passion, which is one of the most important things for an entrepreneur. You've got to be really driven to make it a success, because it's not an easy ride. But how to turn that passion into business is where it becomes more difficult, so plan things out sensibly.

 

您对那些希望对世界做出积极影响的企业家有什么建议?

我认为找到你的利基是相当重要的。不要放弃,试着乘浪前行,找到你的热诚。我在驱动企业中遇到很多人有的好处是他们显然发现了他们的热诚,而这对企业家来说是最重要的事情之一。你必须要非常想要让它成功,因为这并不是一件容易的事。然而,要如何将那份热诚转换为生意会是变得更加困难的地方,所以要明智的计画。

 

I don't want to say ‘try it’. It’s so easy to say ‘try it’ giving advice about starting a business, yet it's so difficult to do it. I’ve always been a fan of writing a one-page business plan whenever you want to start a new business. Don’t spend days on it, but you need to figure out whether it makes sense on paper first, as well as who you need around you to make it a success. Also, don't be afraid to reach out to people around you because people are really supportive. If somebody doesn't respond to the first phone call, don't be frightened to call them again and again and again. It's often because they're too busy that they don’t respond at first, but when they actually sit down with you, you get great results. And I do see that some people in their 20s who come into our office want to do sales using WeChat or text messages, they actually don't want to ring anybody up. And I hate sounding like an old man, but I think connecting with people is just so important when you're doing business, whether it's in person or just over the phone.

 

我不要说试试看。关于创业的建议说试试看很容易,但这样做很难。无论你什么时候要展开新的生意,我一直以来都喜欢撰写一份单页商业计画书。不要花费好几天的时间,但你必须弄清楚它是否在纸张上会有意义,还有你需要谁在你身边才能成功。另外,不要害与你周遭的人往来,因为人们是非常有支持力的。如果有人没有回覆第一通电话,不要害怕一次又一次的打电话给他们。大多数时候他们因为太忙所以没有即时回覆,但当他们真的坐下来和你谈时,你会有很多收获。而我的确看到许多20多岁的人来到我们的办公室,要用微信或短信做生意,他们事实上不打电话给任何人。而我讨厌像个老人,但我认为,在你做生意时,与人交往就是非常的重要,无论是面对面还是仅通过电话。

 

What are your plans for the future of imondi?

 

We opened our Beijing in March and we are planning on opening another three or four showrooms in China in the next twelve months. We are heavily expanding into the Chinese market as we recognize that there are many Chinese consumers who appreciate the unique position we are in – a European brand that is “Made in China”. Chinese consumers feel very comfortable working with us and respect the incredible track record we’ve built up over the last 15-20 years working here.

 

您对imondi的未来有什么计画?

我们北京的展厅下周即将开幕(编者注:三月开幕),而我们正计画在未来12个月中在中国再开三到四个展厅。我们正大力拓展到中国市场,因为我们发现很多中国消费者赏识我们所处的独特地位-一个中国制造的欧洲品牌。中国消费者觉得与我们合作相当自在,并尊重我们在过去1520年在这里工作所建立的傲人记录

 

 

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