ZF WAY TO GO Concentrating on the essentials
Zuo Meng is 34 years old and ZF’s youngest General Manager in China. The key to his success: plenty of patience, good timing, and the right strategy.
Zuo Meng believes two things are important for a successful business career. First, concentration, and second, the “three phases”. To understand that, you really have to start at the beginning. He explains all this in fluent German; since he started working for Sachs – subsequently ZF – nearly twelve years ago, German has become something like his second native language.
The achiever’s secret: patience
Traditionally, China was known as the Middle Kingdom – and Zuo Meng’s workplace is almost precisely in the middle of the Middle Kingdom, in Shiyan, Hubei Province. This is the home of ZF Dongfeng Shock Absorber (SDS for short), a joint venture set up in 2005 by ZF and Dongfeng, a Chinese commercial vehicle manufacturer. Zuo Meng has been General Manager of SDS since 2010. He’s now 34 years old, making him the youngest General Manager in the region. But he wasn’t in a hurry to achieve this distinction, says Zuo Meng. “It’s not good to hurry. At the start of your career in particular, you should concentrate solely on your own work.”
For Zuo Meng, this is Phase One of any successful career. His own career started when his parents decided he should pursue a Mechanical Engineering degree. The decision worked out well. “Ultimately, that was very fortunate for me – I enjoy my work.”
The team takes priority
Zuo Meng’s university in Shanghai was partnered with Hamburg’s University of Applied Sciences, so some of the lectures were held in German. This meant that during his first year, Zuo Meng had to fit in a lot of language learning alongside his math studies. He decided to write his thesis at Sachs, and when ZF took over the company shortly after, Zuo Meng chose to stay. He’s still there now. For nearly six years, he worked in many different departments, familiarized himself with every aspect of the company.“Then, when it’s time for the next phase,” continues Zuo Meng, “you’ve got to be ready.” And he was.
In 2010, he completed his MBA and was appointed to the position of General Manager. Welcome to Phase Two. “Now, aside from my own work, I concentrate primarily on the team as a whole.” Zuo Meng is currently responsible for 200 people at SDS. He has to find the right place for each of his employees, build teams, and constantly seek out new talent.
What will the future bring? Zuo Meng is a father with two daughters. He plays badminton in his spare time. He also takes part in ZF’s training program for senior executives, which will certainly help prepare him for Phase Three: strategy and corporate development.