There are times when you feel discouraged about the things you do, thinking that life is unfair and you can’t reach your dreams no matter how hard you work. However, let Zhang Yong’s rags-to-riches story inspire the downtrodden and those feeling defeated.
Zhang is Singapore’s wealthiest man with an estimated net worth of $13.9 billion, but unlike other rich people, his childhood was rough. The 49-year-old was born in Jianyang, a rural town in China, in an underprivileged family.
As a teen, he started reading books at a public library to shoo away social awkwardness. In one speech, the entrepreneur revealed that his experience when he was 14 was what made him understand his employees in his restaurants now.
Once new books arrived at the library starting 1983, Zhang learned that his life was dull. He quit high school and opted for a vocational school.
After graduating from the Chengdu institution, the now-billionaire worked at a factory for six years, earning a meek $14 a month. One time, he skipped the company cafeteria and decided to eat at a restaurant, but the experience was lackluster – food wasn’t that great and the staff were ill-mannered.
Then, Zhang resigned from his job when the factory boss didn’t grant him a company apartment, which he was supposed to share with his fiancée Shu Ping. That’s when he opened a hotpot restaurant after borrowing $1,500 each from his partner and two other friends, Li Haiyan and Shi Yonghong.
In exchange for the cash, Zhang promised that their money would multiply and if it didn’t, he would personally pay them. Of course, at the time, it was already a hefty sum for the individuals who lent him cash, so he needed to give them the assurance.
The resto started with just four tables, even though Zhang himself didn’t know how to cook hot pot – a method wherein different Asian food are cooked in a simmering broth or soup stock. Because he lacked knowledge about this, he focused on customer service by giving discounts and free snacks.
His goal was that every customer who shall enter his resto’s door must come back. The success of the first Haidilao restaurant in Jianyang was so evident that he opened another branch, which was another hit.
However, his third in Xi’an only lasted for six months. Zhang recognized that this branch was a flop because he didn’t handle operations, so he made sure never to partner with anyone else ever again.
Since then, Haidilao has been known for its superb customer service partnered with a good old Chinese hot pot. Even his employees are quite happy – they came from rural towns and had little to no education, just like Zhang.
As for his investors, they are now billionaires as well, so it is safe to say that Zhang has paid more than he should have.