CHONGQING, CHINA -- Most foreigners will tell you that doing business in China brings countless frustrations and difficulties.
Percival Darby has had his share -- enough to keep him working at times more than 20 hours a day.
As the general manager of the new Chung King Hotel in South China, Darby, 48, has had to cope with cooks who can sing better than they saute, waitresses who giggle as they spill the juice, and a chief housekeeper who thought getting hotel rooms "almost clean" was good enough.
A waitress was supposed to inform a guest, in English, that she was serving a hamburger. Instead she announced: "Here's your mushroom omelette with hot cakes, sir. Enjoy your meal."
Darby's wife, Norma, is teaching the cooks everything from how to speak English to how to fry an egg. She, like Darby, is a U.S. citizen of Jamaican origin.
Located a thousand miles south of the capital of Beijing, industrial, soot-blackened Chongqing, one of China's largest cities, is a jumping-off point for tourists taking Yangtze River trips. Darby hopes to lure such tourists into more than the usual one-night stay at his 200-room hotel.
Darby, a former university professor, has gained respect here, not only because he is well organized and works hard but also because he's willing to take the unusual step of dismissing employes who fail to meet the hotel's standards of cleanliness, quality and courteousness.
At last count, Darby had fired 52 workers from the staff of the Chung King Hotel, possibly a record for any hotel in China. The hotel opened last February.
Darby himself does not like to say that he fires people. "I don't fire people," he said. "They fire themselves. I make rules and penalties. You knowingly break a rule ... you're out."
It's unusual for Chinese managers to dismiss workers, except for those who commit crimes or engage in major derelictions of duty.
But some officials in the Chinese government clearly like Darby's style and want to learn from it.
Selecting Darby as a model for Chinese managers, the official New China News Agency last week quoted some of the American's criticisms of his Chinese counterparts.
Darby said Chinese managers lack a sense of urgency, work inefficiently and don't know how to provide good service. He said some managers were afraid to make strict demands on subordinates.
But Darby's example shows that even in China's hotel business, where conditions have been favorable for foreign investors, success requires extraordinary persistence and hard work.
Some foreign managers, for their part, say that they are constantly frustrated in their work. "I've seen very few foreign managers who could survive a second tour in China," said one such manager, who asked not to be identified.
Darby is one of the exceptions. He previously managed the Shenzhen International Hotel in South China, across the border from Hong Kong. He turned that hotel into an efficient operation, with a net profit last year of nearly $1 million. "I'm a sucker for a challenge," Darby said.
Service in the Chung King Hotel has improved and, according to Darby, "local Chinese are amazed that the floors are clean."
If anyone on the staff of some 600 fails to perform a task, he or she receives a warning. Repetition of the failure brings a fine.
If a staff member is caught spitting in the kitchen -- which is a common practice in many places -- it means instant dismissal. But if employes perform well, they can earn bonuses that raise their wages well above average.
On one of his unrelenting inspections, Darby found a hole in a napkin on a coffee shop table. He told a waitress he was fining her five yuan ($1.35) for failing to notice it. He fined his own wife Norma three yuan (81 cents). As supervisor of the coffee shop, she was held partly responsible.