Message from Partner

2012 - Big 4 or SmithStreet?

Let me ask you a few questions about what you want to be?:

  • Do you want to be someone who is really good at doing something, or not so good, but other people think that you are?
  • Do you want to make more money now or do you want to be paid more in the future because you have real skills that are marketable?
  • Do you want to do meaningful work that will change the way that Global 1000 businesses do business in China, or would you rather sit in a room and try to account for what they have already done?

This is the choice that you have to make if you want to work for a Big 4 accounting firm, or if you want to work for a company like SmithStreet.  Your mom isn’t going to know what SmithStreet is, she isn’t even going to understand the work that we do.  She will know that working for KPMG is a fine respectable job that will put you on the way to having some security in your career.

She isn’t going to understand how we help companies reorganize the way they are distributing their product based on a better understanding of what customer segments we should ideally target.  She isn’t going to understand we can evaluate how the e-commerce channel complements versus the retail channel for our apparel clients.  She isn’t going to understand that we need to truly, madly, deeply understand what the experience of eating ice cream means to Chinese consumers in order to have a good strategy to sell ice cream to China.  Because of this, this cripples a lot of bright minds that should be doing something more productive with their lives.  There are a lot of business problems out there that need to be solved.  China needs more consultants.

It frustrates me that people aren’t making the right career choices, this is why we no longer recruit at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.  Because for most people that attend that university, and there are a lot of intelligent ones there, and some of them work for us, their ideal job is to work for a Big Four.  SHUFE students - If I am wrong, prove me wrong and apply to SmithStreet!  But I can see that China is changing towards our point of view where real skills matter and we are thinking more long term with our careers.

Another thing that I want to say: work hard and have patience in your career.  One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, writes about this, he writes about how in order to master a craft, you have to put 10,000 hours into it.  Watch the following interview for more contemplation on this: LINK.

I want you to think about your career success by making yourself fundamentally sound.  

The only thing that I can promise you, if you work at SmithStreet is that you will start from the bottom.  We will make you the most boring fundamental work, and then we will give you more of it.  And when you are sick of it, we will give you more of it until two things happen:  you master it, and you are so frustrated by it that you will beg us for more responsibility.  And we will give it to you, and we will shape and build your capabilities over time.  If you stay with us long enough, we will make you a master manager, a gifted problem solver, a trusted advisor to client executives, and a true strategist.  At SmithStreet, we don’t care if your father is Li Gang, we just care that you have the capacity to better yourself and the colleagues around you, that you are intellectually curious, that you can be a team player and give yourself up that is bigger than yourself.

You are going to be going to a lot of campus talks, and it is a good opportunity to judge the type of company that you will be potentially working for.  Who attends these campus talks?  Is it the HR department?  How much are you going to be learning about your future job if the message comes from the HR department (unless of course you are applying for a job in HR…) Is it going to be your future bosses?  If it is your future boss, have a perspective on who they are:  Are they smart?  Does it look like they are passionate about their jobs?  And most importantly do they look like the type of people that love to pass on their experience and wisdom to make you the best person that you can be?  Compare this to us when you come to our campus talk.  Don’t compare our offices to their offices, because their offices in Lujiazui or Huaihai road are going to be fancier, we are in a humble office in KIC because we want to be close to the intellectual talent in Shanghai.  What is more real: the physical or the mental?

I have been working for awhile now, and I am still at the beginning of my career, and I am still at the beginning of building SmithStreet.  This is the beginning of your career, your career is a marathon, and it is not a 100 meter sprint.  The 100 meter sprint people are losers after ten years.  The classmates who are marathon runners don’t laugh at the losers, we feel a little sorry for them, and we have no interest in associating them, because we like to be with other winners.  The losers have no value to us.  That’s the way the world works.

Ask yourself one last question: Do you want to be a winner or a loser?


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