I knew I was in trouble. There was no domestic air service from the Chinese city of Shaoyang to Zhengzhou. I would have to take an area transport bus for four hours to a city called Changsha. There I could catch a train to Zhengzhou for my next hospital assessment.
Traveling in northern China was not easy. As soon as the Chinese people began to work their way out from under the restrictive and oppressive restraints of the government, and began to once again exercise their natural DNA talents for business and enterprise, the nation as a whole began to awaken like an aroused giant. Such things as transportation systems were still trying to catch up with the new demands.
I successfully boarded the old rickety bus headed for Changsha, but mechanical problems with the bus had us stopping periodically to refill the leaky radiator. We were losing precious time, and I could see that it was going to be a close call for me to get to the train depot before my train left for Zhengzhou. As our driver approached the outskirts of Changsha, we encountered a stand-still traffic jam.
I explained again to my young translator just how important it was that I not miss the train to Zhengzhou. When we realized that the bus could never possibly get us to the station on time, we agreed on a risky and creative option. We asked the bus driver to open the door and let us out. We scrambled out with my luggage and ran across the road to the lane of traffic that was traveling away from the city. It was not deadlocked. Within two minutes I was able to hail a local taxi. My translator explained our urgency to get to the train depot immediately. The driver was a young, aggressive man who liked the looks of the U.S. dollars I was holding in my hand. He took the next side road and we were off like the down of the thistle in a wind storm.
The little taxi came sliding to a stop at a side entrance to the train depot with dust bellowing around us. I graciously paid the aggressive driver, and my translator and I went running down the platform to coach number fifteen in spite of all the train attendants waving their arms at us. The door on our coach was still open and I tossed my luggage up into the coach as the conductor began blowing his whistle to start the train rolling. Our goofy gamble had paid off and we had made it!
The train coaches were completely packed, but eventually we were able to find a place where we could hunker down for the balance of the fourteen-hour trip to Zhengzhou. Upon arrival we located a small, clean hotel room where I was able to sleep a couple of hours and take a refreshing shower. I was ready to visit the next two hospitals.
Zhengzhou is located in the province of Henan that claimed a population of over 100 million people. Our first hospital to assess was the Zhengzhou Affiliated Hospital, a one thousand bed hospital that was involved in some very extensive remodeling. Our second hospital to assess became the delight of my entire trip.
As we walked through the front doors of the Zhengzhou 5th People’s Hospital, we were met by three young, attractive Chinese ladies in white, crisply starched nurse’s uniforms and caps. Across the front of each uniform was neatly draped a bright red satin sash with gold writing. One of the nurses approached us with a beautiful smile and kindly asked us how she could assist us? My translator told her we were there for an appointment with Dr. Rang Da Zhong, the Hospital Director.
The young lady informed us that the director was anticipating us and to follow her. The other two ladies stayed near the door in the front lobby. As we followed our hostess I, couldn’t help but notice that the hallways, the lobbies, and even the elevators were bright and shining clean. As we passed through the Ophthalmology department, I mumbled that we just as well could have been walking down the halls of an eye clinic anywhere in Chicago or Los Angeles. The new equipment was state-of-the-art and the facilities were attractive in every way. I later found out that their eye surgeons had been trained abroad and they were already using their laser and microscopic surgery machines to their fullest.
Dr. Zhong was a personable fellow and genuinely glad that we had come. He was not only the director, but was also one of the chief surgeons. He was an interesting combination of pleasing personality, high energy, and dignity. Following a couple of minutes of introduction we got into the process of the questions of the assessment. In addition to walking the halls of the facility and visiting every department, I asked if I could dress down in scrubs and observe the equipment and procedures going on in the operating theaters. The director was gracious in every respect.
When finished, I was welcomed back into the conference room where I met the president and vice president of the hospital. They shared with me briefly about their plans for new construction, then frankly asked me for my input and observations about their hospital and how they could make it better.
I told them that I had walked the halls of thousands of hospitals in developing countries around the world but their hospital was different from any other. From the greeting I had received in the lobby to the observations in the surgery theaters there was a sense that everything was under control, everyone there was happy to be there doing what they were doing and they were all headed in the same direction philosophically and administratively. I told them, “No organization will rise above its leadership. What I have observed today is that the success of your institution has started with you the leaders. In my opinion, you are the greatest example of entrepreneurial, capital-intensive marketing that I have seen in a developing country. You are effectively leading. Keep at it!”
They sat there stunned for a minute and then replied, “How could you see so much by just briefly walking through our hospital? We want to take you to lunch.” There we continued to talk about China, economics, and the healthcare industry. At one point I asked them to tell me what had happened at their hospital that had made them so different.
They looked at one another and then began telling me the story. A man by the name of Sam Walton had come to China to open up some super markets. The people fromZhengzhou 5th People’s Hospital had all gone to the Sam Walton School. They showed me what they had learned:
Rule 1: Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anybody else and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you — like a fever.
Rule 2: Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners.
Rule 3: Constantly, day by day, think of new and more interesting ways to motivate and challenge your partners. Set high goals, encourage competition, and then keep score.
Rule 4: Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners. Information is power, and the gain you get from empowering your associates more than offsets the risk of informing your competitors.
Rule 5: Appreciate everything your associates do for the business; all of us like to be told how much somebody appreciates what we do for them.
Rule 6: Celebrate your success. Find some humor in your failures. Don't take yourself so seriously. Have fun. Show enthusiasm — always.
Rule 7: Listen to everyone in your company and figure out ways to get them talking.
Rule 8: Exceed your customers’ expectations. If you do, they'll come back over and over. Give them what they want — and a little more. Let them know you appreciate them. Make good on all your mistakes, and don't make excuses — apologize.
Rule 9: Control your expenses better than your competition. This is where you can always find the competitive advantage.
Rule 10: Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom.
“Dr. Jackson, the government in China has stopped giving free medical service. We think that’s good for us. Now we need to figure how to finance the system because everyone still needs medical help at some time. We have decided that there will be enough money available to support our hospital, and if we are in competition with other hospitals for the money that is available then we will make the people want to come to our facility and buy our medical service from us. Sam Walton says that people want a good shopping experience. We will give the people the best medical experience. If they want good parking we will make good parking available.
“We will give the people friendly service from happy and helpful people. We will give to them clean and attractive facilities and the best and most modern equipment. But Sam Walton says most of all we must train our people to have teamwork and always attain excellence in everything. We must have goals and become the best. Dr. Jackson, if there is money in Zhengzhou for medical services, then we are going to capture that money for our hospital. We think people will find the money if we will give them good and happy results. When we receive the money we can continue to buy the best equipment and give even more excellent service. We don’t want to be just the best, we want to be legendary.”