In the eyes of most people, second-generation factory owners have already achieved great success and financial freedom. However, only a minority of them have been fortunate enough to receive such privileges. Many second-generation factory owners come from small and micro enterprises that operate year-round and struggle in price competition.
Simon’s initial impression upon entering the factory was crude and dim. There were no bright and spacious workshops or highly automated assembly lines. Simon’s family-owned small factory rented a basic workshop space and had primitive machining equipment. During overtime work in the evening, the factory floor remained dimly lit by inadequate overhead lights, and the scent of machine oil permeated the air.
The factory that supported Simon’s education was essentially a small workshop. Thanks to the hard work and determination of Simon’s father’s generation, this seemingly precarious “small workshop” had been in operation for 20 years, mainly providing supporting services to other nearby factories.
Due to his father’s busy entrepreneurial activities, Simon grew up with minimal attention from his parents and had a “wild” upbringing. He never had the intention of taking over the family factory. He had considered venturing outside, but finding a suitable job in the United States was challenging, especially during the pandemic.
After facing repeated setbacks, Simon received a long-distance call from his father. On the other end of the phone, his usually reserved father extended an “olive branch” to him.
“While the manufacturing industry may not develop as quickly as the internet, your father believes that even a small factory is a foundation. Like a snail, although it is small and moves slowly, it keeps moving forward.”
However, after taking over, Simon felt like a little rabbit lost in a dark forest, struggling under the weight of this “golden rice bowl.”
All the knowledge related to industrial manufacturing was unfamiliar to him. Machine debugging, blueprint drawing, product quality supervision… These specialized areas of knowledge made it difficult for Simon to get started, while tracking orders, managing business operations, and handling finances often left him feeling overwhelmed.
The interpersonal relationships in the factory were straightforward but could also be complicated. Simon discovered that polite and tactful language was like air to the employees, who had an average age of over forty. As the youngest “brother” in the factory, he had to use simple or even forceful language to gain the understanding and respect of the older employees.
What made Simon anxious was the financial situation of the small factory. He was astonished to find out that manual bookkeeping was still used, inventory had to be manually counted, and product quality relied solely on the integrity of the workers.
Simon, who had a background in business, had also contemplated a grand transformation. However, he was frustrated to realize that with his father holding all the decision-making power, he couldn’t control the employees, and the series of rules and regulations he designed remained unimplemented in this small factory where personal relationships played a significant role.
“The workers don’t understand financial reports, and for them, the additional elements in the production process are burdensome.”
At times, Simon had to admit that the knowledge he acquired overseas was not applicable to this small factory that was just beginning to modernize its industrial processes. Yet, he keenly felt the chilling sense of an economic downturn.
During the second half of the previous year, there was a considerable period of time when they did not receive any orders. What frustrated Simon even more was the awkward situation in his family’s factory – they held onto old customers by lowering prices and sacrificing profits, while attracting new customers was difficult because they either had established suppliers or found the prices too high.