Chapter 280: Hucheng’s crisis management
The day before the meeting, Xu Tingsheng gave Lu Zhixin a heads up on its upcoming contents in detail.
The next day, Hucheng had its most solemn and official meeting to date, the scale of which could be considered ‘grand’. The six shareholders, consisting of Xu Tingsheng, Lu Zhixin, Fang Chen, Fang Yuqing, Old Wai and Li Linlin as well as Hucheng’s middle and higher echelons were all present, with a total of close to twenty people in attendance.
The training institute had just freed up an empty classroom for them not long ago, setting up the classic meeting room look long table and all that looked professional indeed.
Xu Tingsheng arrived neither late nor early. Just entering the room, he was rather taken aback to find a chair placed diagonally behind his seat. It was occupied by a young lady.
Though Xu Tingsheng saw her as a young lady, that was by his ‘Uncle’ standard. In actual fact, she should be a few years older than him, probably just having graduated from university a year or two ago complete with dark-coloured professional suit, strict hairstyle and professional smile.
The meeting had still yet to begin. The girl was currently typing away on her laptop as clicking noises could incessantly be heard.
Looking at the speed of her fingers as they flew across the keyboard, Xu Tingsheng suddenly very much wanted to suggest to her: With your typing speed, you shouldn’t be coming to work. Hurry up and start writing web novels at home, on some domineering CEOs or whatnot. Thirty thousand characters in a day and you’ll be a god in the future, and a beautiful goddess at that.
Seeing that some time still remained before the start of the meeting, Xu Tingsheng went and asked Lu Zhixin about her.
Lu Zhixin said composedly, “She’s a high-salaried assistant I’ve found for you. She graduated from a famous university and worked at a foreign company for half a year. She resigned from being harassed by her foreigner boss and has worked at Hucheng for more than two months already. She’s competent in all aspects, so I’ve just promoted her. Are you satisfied with her?”
Assistant? She was actually a secretary, right? This…a beautiful secretary…in a professional suit…black-rimmed spectacles…it stimulated the senses just thinking about it. Xu Tingsheng had heard many such stories before, having also seen many similar plotlines when watching movie clips in his dormitory…was he finally going to live this kind of decadent, blissful life? This…not even doing anything, just looking alone was already a cause for enjoyment in itself!
Looking at Lu Zhixin, Xu Tingsheng suppressed his straying thoughts and calmed himself, “A set-up, it’s definitely a set-up.”
Now, he smiled wryly and feigned calmness as he asked, “Stop joking, Zhixin. If anyone needs an assistant, it’s you! How would someone like me who spends three days fishing and the next two days drying the nets need one? Is it just for show?”
“It is indeed for appearances on the one hand,” Lu Zhixin said, “The key is those things you told me about yesterday. I found that you are usually working on more than I thought. What you’ll be doing next will be rather unsystematic. Your attention will probably be scattered across different areas. It’d be better if there’s someone to assist you on the side, making sure that nothing gets left out.”
“The problem’s that she’s female, and young, and quite pretty too. Aren’t you worried?” Xu Tingsheng half-joked with some unspeakable fantasies in mind.
“There’s nothing to be worried about. Even when you are…together with me, don’t you lock the door from the inside? …Locking the door,” Lu Zhixin replied, repeating the words dissatisfiedly.
Just happening to enter the room at this time, Old Wai scanned the area before yelling, “Looks like everyone’s more or less here! Hey, should I lock the door?”
Hearing his words, Lu Zhixin angrily turned and glared at him, leaving him feeling all confused inside as he could only shrink back pensively and avoid her gaze. Xu Tingsheng aside, there was probably no one who was aware that Boss Lu had recently been very sensitive to the phrase ‘locking the door’ as it always left a bad taste in her mouth.
“Come, let me introduce you. Tang Yufei, a talent that Hucheng managed to win over with great difficulty. She’s temporarily deigning to assume the position of Boss Xu’s assistant. Right, Yufei is my senior from junior and senior high. We’re good friends,” Lu Zhixin called that young lady over and did some simple introductions.
“…What’s there left to fantasise about, what damn decadence?!” Only now did Xu Tingsheng understand that the reason Lu Zhixin was not worried was that this was her person in the first place.
She had planted a spy beside Xu Tingsheng in such an aboveboard manner, implementing it before even telling him about it. After she had shaken off her abnormal state, this Lu Zhixin’s domineering style still blazed strong indeed.
Also, following that previous incident, she seemed to have resolved herself in some way as she had become more swift and decisive in her policy implementations.
Xu Tingsheng said hi to Tang Yufei who had originally possessed great potential as a beautiful female secretary before silently shedding tears inwardly as he said with a composed smile on his face, “I’ll be troubling you. You should still go to work at the company as per usual. If you’re free, help Zhixin out more. She’s busier. I’ll go look for you if there’s really something that I have to trouble you with.”
The meeting officially began.
Lu Zhixin said the opening lines before ceasing to speak. This took the middle and higher echelon employees present somewhat by surprise because she usually took the lead in Hucheng’s usual meetings. Sometimes, Xu Tingsheng would simply not even show up.
In truth, it was not that these people had never seen Xu Tingsheng or interacted with him before. However, what they knew about him was really limited. As compared to Lu Zhixin’s intelligence and capabilities, everyone felt that this 20-year-old boss of theirs was really more like a typical university student, a mere kid still wet behind the ears.
If not for Hucheng offering a high salary, with its prospects also seeming bright in addition to Lu Zhixin’s capable performance winning everyone over, quite a few of these middle and higher echelon employees might really be hesitant to work in this company…it just really felt too unreliable.
As everyone was waiting for Xu Tingsheng to speak, wanting to properly witness the ‘true face’ of this boss of theirs, he took out his handphone and dialled a number, turning on the speaker.
The call connected.
Xu Tingsheng laughed as he rebuked, “You’re really unethical, Senior! I just turn around and you stab me in the back.”
On the other end, Zhang Xingke said without the least bit of awkwardness, “I just knew that you were going to call and blame me. Come on, scold me. When you’re done and you’re happy, we can happily speak of our old brotherly feelings together.”
Xu Tingsheng said, “Scram! With these backstabbings of yours, any brotherly feelings are long since gone. My Shenghai training institute doesn’t even have teachers left anymore. Especially those two reputable teachers we were primarily advertising a while back-the students have all run over to your side, equivalent to me doing free advertising for you. You’ve got to account for this to me at the very least, right?”
Zhang Xingke chuckled a little before saying, “The situation now is like this. The market for training institutes in Shenghai has always been competitive. Then, you came in and stirred up the situation with Hucheng’s platform supporting you. They all view you as their number one competitor now. And so, the various big training institutes in Shenghai have all joined forces to suppress you, this mighty power from abroad.”
“Under such circumstances, which side do you think I should stand on? With just my little bit of power, in order to avoid being harmed by all their vested interests, I should definitely stand with them, right?”
“Ye rascal of no loyalty! If it weren’t for us standing in front of you, it’d be you getting destroyed by them now. Go on,” Xu Tingsheng said in ill humour.
“Right, right, that’s why I’ve got to thank you first,” Zhang Xingke said smilingly, “Still, for those reputable local teachers from your training institute, even if I hadn’t lured them away, others would! This is a definite thing. Rather than that happening, you might as well let me take advantage, letting me bolster my power a bit while also winning their trust. When the time is right, one internal and one external, us brothers will join forces and slay them so hard they won’t know what hit them, their pitiful cries flowing into a river of tears…”
With them both understanding each other completely, Zhang Xingke was shamelessly feigning innocence in an overt, blatant manner.
Still, the situation he narrated was true at the very least. This was precisely what Xu Tingsheng wanted to hear. After hearing the useful parts, not intending to continue listening to his bullshit, he directly hung up and turned off his phone.
Then, he smiled at the people seated before him, asking, “This is the current situation in Shenghai. So, any ideas?”
“Put in more money to entice the people back?”
“Dispatch some reputable teachers from Yanzhou over?”
“Suppress them with the platform’s recruitment of students?”
After a moment’s hesitation, the middle-echelon employees successively gave their opinions. Xu Tingsheng smiled and nodded to all of them, recording their ideas down with a pen before continuing to direct an anticipatory gaze at everyone present.
“Admit defeat and delay student recruitment.”
An unexpected, obtrusive opinion surfaced.
Many uncomprehending gazes converged.
The person who had spoken was a 37-year-old female employee named Wu Tong. She was an experienced career women who had returned to Yanzhou from aboard for her children, having hesitated quite a bit before entering Hucheng. She was one of the two new Directors who had ultimately been promoted to the position after Old Wai and Li Linlin had been ‘demoted’ some time back.
Facing those questioning gazes, Wu Tong spoke calmly, “Admit defeat and delay student recruitment. That is my opinion. We wait till their honeymoon period is over, including the honeymoon period between the training institutes themselves and the honeymoon period between the reputable teachers and the training institutes. With their batch of people having gotten high salaries, it will definitely evoke a huge chain reaction. The various tensions here will gradually rise to the surface on their own.”
“Therefore, we wait. Without a common enemy, their honeymoon period won’t last for too long. Afterwards, even if we don’t entice them, there will be people coming over to us on their own.”
“Go on, Sis Tong,” Xu Tingsheng said.
“I…that’s all. We can only wait, or seek another path. As for what kind of path we could seek, I was only promoted not long ago. I’m not familiar with what sort of resources and preparations Boss Xu has, so I’m unable to give any specific suggestions.”
Just as many people were secretly thinking to themselves how Wu Tong had said a great deal but had basically said nothing worthwhile in the end, Xu Tingsheng pushed a folder across the table, saying, “For clear knowledge and precise judgment, the most important aspect is that one can candidly admit that we’ve got no way around it. This is hard to come by indeed. So, I’ll be troubling Sis Tong with the matter of our Shenghai training institute. I will go over when the student recruitment officially begins.”
As she received the folder, Wu Tong felt as if she had dug a pit for herself as she asked, “Didn’t I say that I haven’t a way?”
Still, after opening the folder and flipping through a few pages, her entire expression relaxed as she smiled and responded, “You can rest assured, Boss Xu.”
Xu Tingsheng made use of this chance to tell all members of Hucheng present one thing: As compared to forced, unrealistic displays of hard work, I prefer listening to the truth. I can also accept listening to the truth.
He was cultivating Hucheng’s company culture with this.
And that folder evoked the curiosity of many, “Boss and Wu Tong both seem very confident.”
“Now, the second topic,” Xu Tingsheng continued, “Actually, it’d be more appropriate to call it a notification. Hucheng Education Service Platform will immediately be resuming free-of-charge services towards both parents and home tutors. Of course, we will still be continuing to sell educational materials.”
“What, we earn so much as an intermediary. All gone?”
The shareholder Fang Chen exclaimed as her heart ached at the thought.
Xu Tingsheng shot her a look before turning towards the rest, “Just ignore her, everybody. She doesn’t understand the situation at all. The current situation’s that two similar platforms have already started operating. After so long, our competitors have finally come. Free services, abundant funds. They definitely intend to drag it out till we fall apart before considering profiting off this. Therefore, the first thing we must do definitely is to resume our free-of-charge services. Here, whatever strategies are not of any use, because to consumers, only money is the most practical.”
“Won’t they drag it out till we collapse then?” Ignoring how she had been looked down upon earlier, Fang Chen asked worriedly.
“That will happen for sure if we don’t have any new sources of revenue. Currently, what they are doing is analogous to coming to whittle us down with warehouses full of grain. It is different for us. Our foundations are weak. We can only cultivate new crops in the wilderness to continue surviving, dragging things out till they collapse instead.”
Now, Xu Tingsheng opened a powerpoint presentation, pointing at the projection behind him as he said, “Here’s my wilderness cultivation plan. Attached to the platform and targeting a similar target group-I’ve given it a name, ‘Are You Hungry?’.”
“Takeaway?” Fang Yuqing glanced at it before directly blurting out.
“Right, exactly. We Hucheng are most closely linked to the student body, and the relationship between university students and takeaway-need I even say it?” Xu Tingsheng replied.
“I know. Ever since our second year began, we basically haven’t gone from our dorm to the canteen much at all,” Fang Yuqing said, “The problem’s that takeaway is settled with just a call. Why would they use our platform?”
“More choices, with pictures and text, points and rewards and score evaluations. The cities that we encompass are mostly economically developed. The dorms and families generally wouldn’t lack computers, right? Also, capitalising on our consumer base on the platform, we will be able to save many resources in terms of promotion and advertising. At the present moment, getting this widespread and successful may be hard, but it definitely has potential.”
With the era of smartphones still yet to descend, Xu Tingsheng dared not set his expectations too high. Having finished his analysis, seeing that no objections were forthcoming, he directly continued, “Boss Lu will be in charge of this matter. Fu Xinyuan and Wang Tuo, you two Directors help to arrange for its implementation. Apart from Sis Tong, everyone in the other departments is to cooperate as necessary. Actually, all of you can actually treat this as a perk if you want. Go out, eat, drink and have fun. You’re free to go with whoever you want, and even dating while you’re at it is also fine…claim your expenses…I only ask that you guys bring me back an exclusive contract.”
“Remember, we’ve got to get an exclusive contract from the relevant companies. This is our only chance. When other competitors appear in the future, it will be impossible for us to have such a chance again. Therefore, we can let them profit more, but the contract has to be exclusive, and the cost of a breach in contract has to be high. The longer it lasts the better, all the better for us to…tie them down inseparably to us.”
Here, Xu Tingsheng spoke like in his previous life when teaching classes on victories against the Japanese invaders during WWII as he was fervent and emotional, confident and assured. Hucheng’s middle echelon employees were all feeling emotional at seeing this other side of their young boss for the first time.
Then, a ringtone sounded.
Prior to the start of the meeting, Lu Zhixin had stressed that all phones be turned off. Xu Tingsheng had also turned off his phone in front of everyone after his call to Zhang Xingke.
Lu Zhixin’s face was stern as she surveyed the room. Everyone checked their phones rather nervously. Where Lu Zhixin’s gaze passed, there would come a response: ‘Not me’, ‘Not me’…
As Lu Zhixin looked in Xu Tingsheng’s direction, he thought inwardly, “What’re you looking at? I turned…oh, wait…”
While Xu Tingsheng had indeed turned off his phone earlier, he had another phone which he never ever turned off. If that phone had rung…Xu Tingsheng leapt up from his seat with total disregard for his image, charging towards his bag which he had placed on a side table of the meeting room earlier and frantically digging out his phone in a frenzied haste…
Then, his face lit up brilliantly like a half dozen light bulbs.
“Excuse me, gotta answer a call.”
Ignoring Lu Zhixin’s killer gaze, Xu Tingsheng rushed speedily towards the door, shamelessly looking back and saying, “The rest of the meeting will be presided over by Boss Lu. You guys continue; no need to worry about me, yeah.”
With his expression that was nervous, flustered and frantic, he looked just like a young boy who had never been in a relationship before as he received a call from the girl of his dreams. Having received the call, he dropped everything on hand as nothing could possibly be more important…
Any remote image of a boss that ‘Boss Xu’ had just successfully established in the minds of his employees collapsed at once.
Fortunately, ‘Iron Lady’ Boss Lu’s unshakeable composure remained as she calmly resumed the meeting as if nothing had happened.
“Oh, right,” Just having exited the room, Xu Tingsheng now opened the door again and stuck his head in, “The last thing I was planning to say-not saying it would really be a waste. In the future, I will take you all to ring the bell at Nasdaq.”
If he had ridden on his earlier momentum and said this right at the end, it would definitely have invigorated everybody’s spirits, raising their morale…
Now, however, everyone could only feel that…ugh, my poor head…my company’s boss is just too unreliable.