Rudian Dong - Mountbatten Program

Rudian Dong

Rudian Dong

Entrepreneurial Alumni

Program: London

Intake: March 2018

Current Roles: Founder of Nianzhi – Business Consulting and Services


Rudian set up her company Nianzhi, a multi-service think lab offering a wide range of customised solutions for entities and organisations worldwide, over a year ago.

After working in the corporate world for both large and small companies, Rudian realised that her most satisfying work had come out of freelance projects.  This gave her the idea to establish her own consultancy, which brings together expertise from different cultures, countries, types of companies and roles within the business world.  Rudian is currently based in China.

Describe your business and your role within it.
I am the founder of Nianzhi, a multi-service think lab offering a wide range of customised solutions for entities and organisations worldwide. We connect businesses, cultures and nations by delivering ideas, insights and strategies.

Currently, my primary responsibility is business development and service delivery. I am building a team of experts specialising in market research, policy analysis, public relations and digital transformation. Our dream team will help clients seize business opportunities, leverage technological innovations, avoid potential policy risks, and embrace cultural nuances.

Nianzhi aims to model itself on the values of a social enterprise and embed sustainability across its value chain. We charge clients a discounted rate for projects that are designed to create a positive social impact. In the same spirit, we are advising on programs that work to achieve the commercialisation of non-profit projects. The idea is to make these projects self-sustaining and reduce their financial dependence on corporate donations.

How did you get into this line of business?
While undertaking the Mountbatten Program in London, I joined a large financial information service corporation. This experience honed my professional skills, broadened my horizons and exposed me to new ideas. I engaged with interesting individuals and professionals around the world. The resulting collision of ideas refined my values and vision. It reinforced my belief that the world is built on exchanges; we need more bridges and ladders that enable us to exchange knowledge, information, resources and products. I felt inspired to build such bridges and ladders.

In the midst of the continuing self-discovery phase, I was awakened to the fact that working in both large enterprises and small companies had not suited me. I had engaged in freelance projects before, and the more I compared, I realised it had been the most fulfilling period in my career. This was the inflexion point when I decided to position myself as an independent consultant.

As I began serving various organisations in this capacity, my ambition urged me to establish my own think lab, Nianzhi, which I infused with my own vision and values. I really enjoy communicating with our clients and partners, as it continuously challenges me to become the kind of person that can help shape a better world for everyone to live in.

How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
I wanted to start my own business a long time ago, but doubted if I was ready, due to lack of experience or resources. One day, I was trying to persuade a world-famous PR agency to work with me. They showed interest and asked if I owned a business entity that they could sign a contract with. Despite feeling a little hesitant, I knew that if I wanted more challenging projects, I needed to find high-skilled partners to build a team, which could then go on to garner trust and a reputation for long-term development. I decided to quit waiting and began my entrepreneurial journey.

Our initial main focus was brand marketing for private sector organisations. However, considering the turbulent global milieu, I am acutely aware that we must take account of political issues and policy factors. Plus, many commercial clients claim they implement an ESG or CSR approach, but there is too much talk and not enough action. Therefore, Nianzhi is actively expanding into the public and non-profit sectors. We are eager to leverage our insights and network to forge symbiotic partnerships, implement strategies that generate social benefits, and communicate learnings and successes.

What else is in the pipeline?
I am currently developing Nianzhi’s talent strategy and company culture. It isn’t fully developed yet, but I am happy to share some fundamental ideas.

First, we are not looking for employees, but partners. As a future-ready organisation, our essential values include mutual trust, flexibility and respect for individuality. Our team can work remotely from any location of their choice, and we are working on hybrid arrangements that would maximise team well-being and efficiency.

Second, although we recruit partners for particular projects, we encourage them to create their own working titles, define their own responsibilities, find their own positions, and show what values they can bring.

Third, we have an inclusive hiring strategy whereby we will tap into the expertise offered by young and retired professionals from various sectors and industries. We want to bridge the gap between the wisdom of best practices and the dynamism of future possibilities as we contribute to a new and improved global reality.

What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
My proudest moment was when I realised that I had a vision and decided to honour it. At university, my career goal was simple: to join a top company and become the best manager with high earnings and a solid reputation. This is one of the reasons why I applied for the Mountbatten Program in the first place. Even though it was a decision driven by vanity and utilitarianism, this program gave me the opportunity to rethink my career path and goals. Interestingly, this transition occurred organically as a result of diverse life experiences, such as travelling with other Mountbatten trainees and learning about their cultures. These eventually deeply influenced my work life and decisions.

What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
I think that I am still very young. I cannot recall any previous mistakes serious enough to be called “the biggest”. I do however look forward to learning from my big mistakes in the future.

I make small mistakes every day though, which push me to question how I can improve myself. For instance, why did a client refuse to work with me? How do I find the right partners? How can I communicate efficiently? Should I use certain technology to get a project done? I also imagine viewing my company and brand from the perspective of a lawyer, an accountant, an investor, or a governmental official. Continuous adaptation and innovation are my learning and development strategies.

Who are your role models?
I do not look up to a particular person as my role model. I believe my values are influenced by many people subtly, but nobody has a direct, serious impact on my life choices and behaviours.

Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
Know thyself.