After earning his MBA degree at the University of Cambridge in 2004, Hou Guoqiang chose to return to China from Britain. Hou said he never thought about staying abroad to work and knew China was right for him.
Today, 41-year-old Hou is the general manager of China National Offshore Oil Mansion Management Co. (CNOOMMC), a branch of the China Offshore Industrial Enterprise Corp. Studying abroad expanded his international sights and strengthened his professional spirit. Under his leadership, CNOOMMC, originally a small property management company, in two years became well-known within industry circles.
Hou Guoqiang on the University of Cambridge campus
"I studied many successful cases of the world's first-class management companies, trying to make every detail accord with international levels," said Hou.
Originally, CNOOMMC only served the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), one of world's top 500 enterprises listed by Fortune. Today, the company has become a model in its industry, expanding operations to other companies.
"CNOOC has many talented professionals who returned from other countries, but I am the first and only one who studied at the University of Cambridge," Hou said.
As the general manager of CNOOMMC, Hou has brought his rich knowledge of Western business management to bear on company problems.
"I am trying to combine the Western professional spirit with Chinese culture," he said. However, he also admitted that it is fairly difficult to always bring both aspects into play.
Hou was born in a farmer family in central China's Shanxi Province. He studied geology at university and entered CNOOC after graduation thanks to his English skills.
"My English helped me a lot," said Hou. With a firm grasp of the language, he could not only directly receive important foreign clients but he could also work as an interpreter for his company's leaders.
Between 1994 and 1995, Hou went to work for an oil company in Switzerland. During that time, he found that no matter how hard he worked, he could not reach the high levels of management because of cultural differences and a lack of professional contacts. It was at that time he was determined to return to China.
"I am nobody abroad, but I may be somebody in China," smiled Hou.
After returning, Hou worked many jobs but found that he needed more knowledge and training.
So in 2004, he went to the University of Cambridge. Over the course of a year, he studied very hard and gained what he needed a "cultivated professional integrity, an understanding of professional standards and improved abilities at work."
During his time at graduate school, he also picked up two stories that changed his attitude to work.
Shortly after entering the university, Hou heard a story about a person who, many years ago, built a small bookstall at Cambridge and worked hard to provide cheap but popular books to students, never taking his business lightly. With such a working attitude, the person became a famous bookseller years later.
The second story came while he was attending a get-together. When introducing their husbands' jobs, one woman said with pride that her husband was a cleaner. In China, Hou thought, people believe cleaning is one of the more lowly jobs.
"The two stories strongly affected me and made me understand that there is neither nobler nor lower divisions between different jobs if only we take the right attitude," said Hou.
With this in mind, he entered the property management industry after finishing at the University of Cambridge and coming back to China, even though he could have gotten a better position at CNOOC, he said.
Today, though the CNOOC has seen great growth, its property management arm still lags behind in developing its business. With Hou's efforts, CNOOC authorized the creation of a market-oriented property management company.
Hou said he has put more effort into improving the company's services to international levels. According to him, every detail in their services has its own standard.
With the organic combination of professional spirit and corporate culture, Hou has helped company workers cultivate their values and push the company forward. In 2008, CNOOMMC was named the best property management company in Beijing by a nation-wide property management match.