Latest News:  


Slew of dubious training courses luring in unfulfilled entrepreneurs

By Liang Chen (Global Times)

08:17, July 24, 2013

Huang, an entrepreneur, died during a 30,000 yuan ($4,890) training course designed to use extreme techniques to help people control their emotions in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. During one fatal exercise, Huang was unable to hold his breath after volunteering to be dunked underwater.

"One of the teachers told students to get a grip on their fears by practicing holding their breath under water for 30 seconds. Huang volunteered to be the first one," Cui, a publicity official from the local people's court in Guangzhou, told the Global Times.

"After being dunked under several times, Huang did not struggle and drowned," the official said.

The three-day course, named "Enriching your life," was organized by a local consultancy, which was unauthorized to host such programs, according to Southern Metropolis Daily. The attendees were mostly private company owners.

The owner of the consultancy company and two others involved in keeping Huang underwater have been arrested for manslaughter.

Huang's case brought attention to bear on this unlicensed "training" market. Many people expressed great concern over the prevalence of such courses in China.

"It is not the first time we have seen such tragedies taking place. We have seen countless unauthorized companies hosting diversified training courses to rake in money, catering to the 'needs' of entrepreneurs," Cao, an official from the development and planning department under the Ministry of Education, told the Global Times.

Huang's case is sadly not a standalone one. In a training lesson for entrepreneurs in Shanghai in 2009, students were incited to walk barefoot across a burning brazier, in order to build up their willpower.

"The teacher kept shouting encouraging words at the trainees, telling them they would be new people if they walked through the brazier. Uplifting music was constantly playing," Wang Xiao, who used to be a trainer on one of the courses, told the Global Times. "People were highly motivated, so one person tried to walk over the brazier and others followed suit. One by one, almost every student followed the instructions."

The students, mainly middle-aged entrepreneurs, embraced each other after completing this bout of self-inflicted torture, Wang said.

Legal grey area

According to Chinese law, any bodies that open schools or training classes must be licensed by the Ministry of Education. Consultancies are not allowed to hold training classes on their own.

However, overlapping administrative functions among different government departments have left legal loopholes for these consultancies to leap through.

"Consultancies come under the administration of local industrial and commercial bureaus, which means we have no supervision over firms who secretly host training courses without licenses. These companies can organize training courses and hide them under conferences or seminars, thus towing an ill-defined legal line," Cao said.

"As long as there is no threat to people's health and no one reports them to the police, no government department alone would regulate these training courses," Cao added.

Liu Yangbei, the owner of a timber trading company in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, started his business in 2002. It now has a market capitalization of about 100 million yuan and he is planning to list it on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

Despite the growing business empire, Liu has been feeling increasingly run-down.

"I have little education as I did not even complete high school, but a lot of my managers have completed higher education. I don't have enough knowledge to supervise them," Liu told the Global Times.

Eager to always learn more, Liu has spent more than 30,000 yuan on diversified training courses hosted by consultancies in Shanghai, Beijing, and other cities.

On average, it costs tens of thousands of yuan to attend these courses that mainly revolve around leadership, public speaking and management techniques. Prices differ according to the popularity of the "masters" - teachers of the different courses.

Liu was interested in learning how to boost morale and initiative among his staff. He chose to attend courses about wise leadership techniques through a Shanghai-based consultancy named Sparta.

For its most expensive course, entrepreneurs had to pay 450,000 yuan for a week-long stay in Kenya. The course had attendees living in five-star hotels and enjoying one-on-one communication with the course's creator, Liu Yimiao, a figure wrapped in controversy.

Liu Yangbei said he was highly motivated for several days after the class. "After listening to the stories of teachers who started from scratch and became successful, I gained in self-confidence," he said.

Liu recalled that in one class, students were asked to yell out their personal sales targets in the next year. "I want to earn 30 million yuan next year," Liu called out.

However, after returning to the timber factory and seeking to apply these lessons to his workers, he found that slogans and catchphrases were not very effective.

"Those lessons cannot make the slightest difference. I went back to my factory and I found the lessons had never taught me how to make strategic decisions, motivate employees or help with financial management," Liu said.

Going to war

Insiders say almost all such companies take an aggressive stance and rely heavily on their powerful direct-sales teams to foist classes onto entrepreneurs.

"They recruit sales teams and brainwash them with the concepts of becoming a soldier and regarding entrepreneurs as enemies or targets. The salesmen are taught to complete the task of 'taking the enemy's stronghold,'" Wang Xiao, director of a government-backed training center in Shanghai, who worked for years as a trainer in a consulting company, told the Global Times.

Salesmen, nicknamed "soldiers" within the consultancies, are divided into different ranks. "They make phone calls to the entrepreneurs based on their rank. They won't stop calling their prey until they have enrolled in the courses," Wang said.

Sometimes, Wang said, entrepreneurs have had to contact the police about these non-stop phone calls to bring an end to the harassment.

"Apart from employing salesmen, they also get entrepreneurs who have taken the class and have many social connections to lobby their acquaintances to take the courses."

To motivate the team, salesmen are rewarded with high commissions. Sometimes, the rate of return can be as high 30 percent of the course fee, Wang said. For instance, Sparta has more than 6,000 salesmen that can each get a commission of 1,000 yuan if they sell a 2,500 yuan course.

Extreme measures are taken to reel in naïve customers. Stories of salesmen kneeling down in front of entrepreneurs and begging them to take the courses have gone viral, Wang said.

Training gurus

The popularity of the courses rises with the prevalence of the masters. Insiders say a lot of them, who used to be salesmen, are good at packaging themselves as having thorough understandings about running companies, despite most of these masters having no such experience.

"Most of the courses teach you about common sense. They combine traditional Chinese culture and Western religions with business tips," trainer Wang Xiao said.

"Those who are highly educated have already established their values and would not be attracted by such theories. However, private entrepreneurs who started from scratch often don't have well-entrenched values or principles. They lap these lessons up."

In one class, Liu Yimiao, dressed in a white gown, walked on stage while holding a Bible. He surveyed the room and told his assistant to write on a blackboard a question: "Has each of you treated your company like a zealot worshiping your god?"

The whole classroom went silent as Liu spoke. Liu seems to be almost deified by his followers, who are mostly entrepreneurs. His clothes have even been sold at auction for 3 million yuan.

However, not all agree on the man's motivations. "He used to be a salesman and he was good at reeling people in. He has no formal management education but he is clever enough to weave this web of traditional Chinese culture, western religions and management," a Shanghai trainer who asked to remain anonymous, told the Global Times. Liu's star keeps rising as this summer, he will give a speech to a Shanghai stadium packed with over 10,000 people, each of which paid 30,000 yuan to be there.

Experts said the spiritual void felt by China's rich has helped stimulate the rampant development of these dubious training courses.

"Entrepreneurs often encounter a spiritual void soon after becoming fabulously wealthy. Traditional Chinese culture was cut off during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). The rich, especially people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, have no avenue to seek spiritual fulfillment," Xu Kaiwen, a psychologist from Peking University, told the Global Times.

Despite the high price of these courses, their overall effectiveness remains exceedingly up for debate.

"It's like the placebo effect of certain drugs. You cannot tell their effects in the short run, but you feel good and become more confident afterwards," said Chen Tao, a Beijing lawyer of All China Lawyers Association.

Chen said authorities should lead a combined campaign to regulate this training course industry, and thoroughly investigate the backgrounds of these so-called masters.

"Most of these courses are based on teaching success theory. For entrepreneurs who are radically bent on becoming successful, these speeches can always hit some sore areas, making them willing to spend hundreds of thousands of yuan on them. But they seem very ineffective for those who may not buy into their hype," said Chen Tansheng, a trainer for Happy Business, a Fujian training center.

We Recommend:

Migrant workers' high incomes not that rosy

Glamorous girls highlight Hainan auto show

Top 10 profitable companies in China

Born to lead: 2nd gen of Chinese tycoons

How foreign firms deepen China’s milk headache?

Where is the end of the slump of gold price?

Cross-sea bridge to open in E China

GSK execs allegedly received sexual services

In pictures: history of China's auto industry

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:WangXin、Chen Lidan)

Leave your comment0 comments

  1. Name


Selections for you

  1. Special operation members in contest

  2. Members of PLA special forces

  3. New prince makes first appearance

  4. Rescuers make every effort in quake-hit area

  5. Beijing knife attack leaves one dead

  6. China's weekly story (2013.7.13-7.18)

  7. 29 gorgeous castles from around the world

  8. Press of 'Crimes of Passion'

  9. EU regulation enhances toy safety

  10. Imports of French wine go sour

Most Popular


  1. Skipping breakfast may increase heart disease risk
  2. Economic restructuring helps China's growth
  3. New thinking needed for Korean crisis
  4. Jobless rate to be 'last straw' for policy direction
  5. Abe should focus more on Japan's economy
  6. Are 'dark fairy tales' appropriate for children?
  7. Xi Murong: Poets and poetry never die
  8. Chinese brands should ‘be bold’
  9. Yuan rises 34% against USD, what next?
  10. How strong is China company?

What’s happening in China

Seven students' survival challenge in a strange city

  1. Poultry markets closed for H7N9 case in Langfang
  2. NW China downpours kill 11
  3. Traffic accident kills 16 in E China
  4. Rules covering immigration agencies need clarity
  5. Hunan issues orange alert for high temperatures