It's new, exciting, captivating and even a little sexy. It's taken the world's attention and firmly positioned itself as the new frontier in business.
It is China.
For more than a decade, I have been traveling back and forth to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taiwan, and each year the country becomes more advanced in business and savvy in the way of the Western world. And the interesting thing is that many business people in the West simply don't get it.
While conducting business, I have established many contacts throughout China. To this day, I am still amazed when they remark how businesspeople from Australia, New Zealand, and in particular, the US, think that they can simply jump a flight, turn up, put up a shingle and succeed based on the pure fact that China is booming and there are a billion people ready to purchase their product or service. From my experience, it just doesn't happen that way.
Here are some tips I learned on how to effectively conduct business in China:
- Learn the Language – China has a wide range of dialects. You can be surrounded by locals speaking Mandarin on one street and then walk two blocks and it's Cantonese. If you want to conduct serious business in China, then the easiest way to do so is to understand what’s being said in meetings.
- Find a Local You Can Trust – This rule of thumb doesn’t happen overnight. If you want an 'in' with local government officials and serious business people, then you'll need some local heavyweights to help you open some doors.
- Ten Years Too Late – Those who’ve been on the ground in China will tell you, “You should have been here ten years ago; you're too late!” If you’re thinking of heading to China for business, expect to enter a fiercely competitive environment.
- Pick a Number and Triple It – All of the expats I have spoken to there will tell you, time alone is the key to their success. And whatever they had budgeted for in relation to development time in China, they underestimated.
- Be Present – As an Australian entrepreneur, I've seen a number of Australian businesses arrive in China and do well. The ones that have done the best set up camp in the city and showed they mean serious business. So many companies attempt a move into China, only to retreat months and years later. Why? They took the country for granted by thinking they can simply drop in and out at will.
- People Does Not Mean Profits – Just because there are hundreds of millions of humans in China, it doesn’t mean they are all consumers of your product or service. You will still need to research the market for the real deal on who your target is, and to understand if there are enough of them out there to sustain your business model and purchase your product or service.
Troy Hazard, a former EO President, has owned, managed and run 10 companies in the past two decades. He is an international speaker and author of The Naked Entrepreneur.