Sarah Schafer: A Jack Welch of Communists
Formerly called Qingdao Refrigerator Co., the firm was more than $10 million in debt in the early 1980s. Today Haier is one of the world’s top five producers of household appliances, with 30,000 employees and more than $12 billion in revenue. CEO Zhang joined the company in 1984, when he was 35. An avid Jack Welch fan, Zhang is also an influential member of the Chinese Communist Party. He makes only about $800 a month, and last year earned a little more than $3,000 in bonuses.
Zhang’s first new rule as boss of the company was to prohibit employees”who were unaccustomed to modern plumbing”from urinating outside the toilets. A quality zealot, he once took a sledgehammer and ordered workers to help him smash any refrigerator with the slightest flaw, bringing some employees to tears.