A recent trip to China has Bill Lobele, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Beaver Manufacturing Company in Mansfield, sharing his impressions of how Chinese students see entrepreneurship.
Lobele traveled to China in October at first for a business trip, but made a stop in Guiyang, China to give a lecture at Guizhou University, located in southwest China, to a class of about 50 management students.
Lobele is a graduate of Presbyterian College, a liberal arts school in Clinton, S.C. and he serves as a member on the board of trustees for the college. He said Guizhou University is the sister school of Presbyterian College, which is the only national liberal arts college that has a Confucius Institute - an institution that promotes the exchange of Chinese language and culture - on campus.
He explained that since 1987, he has visited many different cities in China for business concerning Beaver Manufacturing Company, which produces and sells textile yarns for a number of hoses to China and other places all over the world. He said the automotive hose is about half of the company's business.
"You always hear about China selling here, but one of the main purposes of our trip was to visit customers in China that we sold to," Lobele said.
However, this year Lobele took a side trip to the university to meet and greet faculty and students as a sort of ambassador for Presbyterian College. He was also invited to give a lecture at Guizhou University, which he said has a student population of about 60,000 students.
He said Mike Dubin, vice president of operations at Beaver Manufacturing, accompanied him on the trip and participated in giving the lecture, which discussed American Entrepreneurship. During the lecture, Lobele and Dubin presented the students with several examples of entrepreneurs in America, such as Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft; Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple; Phil Knight, founder of Nike; as well as other creators and inventors. They also shared examples of Chinese Entrepreneurs.
"We had the lecture and it was at the school of management and there were approximately 50 students. It was not a required lecture; the management students at the university had to sign up and the room only held 50. It went quite well," Lobele said.
"The thing that surprised me was that their entrepreneurs, in a sense, they wanted to get ahead and they wanted to do something," Lobele said. "[The students] have a very capitalistic mind, but they live in a communist government."
"I told them that Beaver Manufacturing was started by an entrepreneur and he had some secret recipes for treatments. I said we have always kept that secret for our 42 year history. And one of the students - we got a lot of questions - one the students asked me, he said, ‘Well, do you get to keep those secrets or did you have to give them back to the university,' and I said the university did not develop them."
"See over there, the big difference is that the seed of learning and development goes on at universities. Some of the brilliant managers and people who go to companies get their training at the universities," Lobele said. "We're different. Universities here do basic research and companies do practical research. But that was one of the big impressions during the lecture."
Lobele also said he was surprised to see how interested the students were in the lecture and that they were more eager to learn.
"A young woman who was a student came into the class early. She was so interested that she helped us set-up our computer and do the whole thing. She intently listened," he said. "She asked questions during the lecture; after the lecture, she came up to hear more. But they were all very interested in what we said and I guess out of the 50 there was one guy who was sleeping."
He added that this was much different from some American students.
"If it snowed or had iced today and classes were canceled, most of the students would jump for joy and they'd be happy. Over there, they would be upset and they'd be trying to find a way to get to class," Lobele said.
"They certainly have a potential work ethic. They want to be entrepreneurs. They want to be successful business people as much as within what they're allowed to within their government."