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Visitors to Huawei's HQ will mainly meet receptionists dressed in the company's colours of black and white.
However, men in their mid-30s run the key parts of the business, according to Sladek - though this can bring its own pitfalls. "How do you continue to reward success when some of your execs are quite young?" he asked.
One way Huawei does this is through what it calls a share-buying plan. The company is not listed on any stock exchange, though it has recently approached investment banks about an IPO, according to The Wall Street Journal. At the moment, it describes itself as employee-owned, rather than a state-directed business — though there questions about how much the Chinese government influences it.
According to Sladek, 65,000 employees own shares in the business and have voting rights. Everyone at Huawei gets the right to buy stock once they've been in the job for two years — if they're Chinese, that is, as foreigners don't get the right. The amount they can buy varies, depending on seniority, performance and their place in the hierarchy — execs will get more than cleaners, for example. It all adds up to hundreds of millions of shares, Sladek said.
The biggest shareholder is Huawei president Ren Zhengfei, who was a civil engineer in the People's Liberation Army before he founded the company in 1987, and who owns 1.4 percent.
Another thing keeping down the average age at Huawei — and perhaps clearing the way for promotions — is that staff can retire at 45. If they've spent eight years at the company, they can hang onto their shares and reap the dividends, though they lose their voting rights.
Huawei is led by a board of directors, who are voted in every five years by a group of 60 representatives chosen by shareholders.
Image: Karen Friar