FIRESIDE CHAT WITH YANSONG LI
Rock: a sturdy rock standing between heaven and earth, signifying unwavering faith; Ping: a cold-resistant pine tree standing upright in the snow, symbolising perseverance.
– Imagine having a name embodying the blessing of both a hard rock and a pine tree, how tough can this person can be? Yansong Li, former President of iQiyi Pictures, has perfectly interpreted the meaning of his namesake with his dedicated hard work and perseverance.
– Looking back, my friendship with Li started at a work meeting. Clothed in a trendy outfit and wearing a short beard, he looked cool and majestic. He may seem a bit restrained if you meet him for the first time. Nevertheless, after exchanging a few words, you would be affected by his warmth and fun-loving demeanour, which would gradually break the ice and put you at ease. As the president of iQiyi, an Internet film and television company which has been hailed as a promising unicorn, he was kind enough to let me call him “brother Song” during our first encounter. Whenever a delicacy was mentioned, he said he would bring me along to try it, which made him an approachable and friendly person.
After several meetings with Li, I noticed he smoked and drank. Sometimes, he may not be sober. Appearing unscrupulous, he seems unruly, however, under his aloof facade, he actually has a restless and passionate heart.
– Li led iQiyi Pictures since its establishment in July 2014. In the preliminary stage of the company, it grew from a handful of staff to a big team of 200 in just a year and a half. iQiyi has become a fast-growing Internet film company in China. Nowadays, iQiyi is making a splash in the Internet film and television industry with its innovative development strategy and marketing model, shotting eight to ten movies on average every year with box office revenue exceeding RMB 1.5 billion. It has earned the coveted title as the number one player in the Internet film and television industry.
Many people admire the success of iQiyi and Li, but few understand how much effort and hard work the entrepreneur has put in. As the pioneer of iQiyi, Li still remembers the challenging struggles in the early days of the venture: he spent a long time waiting outside the entrance of the largest film company to have a chance to make a connection with the boss to establish a collaboration relationship. His action moved the boss of the film studio, who subsequently granted him to nine trips around the globe. When he flew back from Munich, Germany to Beijing after a business meeting, he had an acute spinal disc herniation due to the long-haul flights and extended fatigue, which forced him to rest for four months in order to recover.
“ Li has found his own way to de-stress: in the late hours, he pours a glass of whiskey, lights a cigarette, turns off the light, and sits alone on the window sill listening quietly to the sound of the cigarette burning. Through this ritual he savours the bitterness that is not known to others and lets go. ”
Even though Li’s body can tolerate a normal work load now, in order to avoid the recurrence of old ailment caused by strenuous exercise, he has to give up his favourite – football, which he still deeply regrets. Football is not only a relaxing sport for him, it has enlightened him on business strategy. Li shared that: “The skills of managing a business are the same as those required to win a football match. You have to consider the big picture when playing the game, not just looking at the ball under your feet. Besides, football is not only about strategy and tactics, it is a team sport. Your teammates are the best partners that work alongside you. I value trust and teamwork very much. ”
Indeed, Li trusts his team and has actively promoted the young subordinates. He has delegated a lot of power to young people so as to offer them more opportunities to practice. Even though they might make mistakes, as long as they are willing to learn from the lessons and reflect on their experiences, Li is willing to stand up and bear the responsibilities. As such, he has demonstrated the virtue of tolerance, not just leadership skills.
Speaking of his success, Li humbly thanked his company, the industry, and said he was grateful to have met a great boss, who owned a wonderful company with a great team. Recognising he is not so smart, Li firmly believes diligence can make up for his shortcomings. He makes sure that he keeps abreast with the development of the Internet and the latest trends in our times, and maintains the capabilities for continuous learning. When you are confronted with difficulties, it is best not to circumvent it. You have to believe in yourself since there are always solutions to the challenges out there. Persistence and perseverance are vital.
Now, standing at a new height and facing new difficulties and pressures, Li has found his own way to de-stress: in the late hours, he pours a glass of whiskey, lights a cigarette, turns off the light, and sits alone on the window sill listening quietly to the sound of the cigarette burning. Through this ritual he savours the bitterness that is not known to others and lets go. He puts on a smile and bravely faces the rising sun the next day. Indeed, life is not easy for everyone and no one would rise for no reason.
– During the conversation, we gradually turned the topic to Club ZFU. Li, who is familiar with the services and business philosophy of Club ZFU, said: “You are very practical. Whenever you touch on Club ZFU, you would talk about the product and service itself. For instance, how an Dedicated Lifestyle Ambassador provides members with unparallel concierge services in order to create unique experiences. While others often show off by saying whom they have served, who are their customers, and ignore the service itself. Since the Club’s Founder, Kelvin, is a good friend with wonderful ideals, integrity and sincerity, I believe under the baton of Kelvin, Club ZFU will make more people appreciate this concept of creating a prestigious life and thus gaining more recognition from people. ”
My interview with Li went on smoothly. Li, who has seen many star- studded occasions, posed confidently and naturally in front of the camera, making all the photos aesthetically pleasing. He rushed to our interview after getting off a plane. After the interview, he had to hurry to the next event. With extensive resources and connections, Li has countless friends inside and outside Hong Kong’s film circle. Therefore, whenever he visits Hong Kong, his social calendar is be packed with many gatherings, where many prominent entrepreneurs or superstars are present. This maybe the gorgeous life that everyone dreams of however, behind this façade, I can sense the bitterness that has built up from the past and turned into the sweetness of today.
– “Heart is as strong as a rock, and the spirit is as strong as a pine.” This is Yansong Li. As his name suggests, Li has deployed his unwavering principle and perseverance to achieve an extraordinary self, which has shaped his honourable life today.
Words : Kelvin Yeung