24
Apr
2018

The long and winding road

When you work in China, networking is a way of life, but unlike those professionals who live and work outside of China who set an objective of attending an event or dinner with the key goal of talking to everyone to try and find that new contact who could turn into a piece of business, for those of us in the Middle Kingdom attending events like this is considered in a far less planned or devised manner. There is a beauty to this approach which often results in some completely unexpected outcomes, more of which later.

I have said it many times, and no doubt you have seen it said by others often that China is a long game. Now this may seem like a contradiction when you read how fast things happen here, but they happen fast when you are on the inside of the system rather than on the outside of it. By this I mean that it takes a long time and a consistent approach in order to get to a point as a business or an individual where you are trusted enough to be accepted on the inside. Don’t think that you can rush it.

In recent weeks I have met many Chinese of course and some non-Chinese who live and work here and have done so for many years just like myself. They, like me have established a business and gone through the stresses and strains and highs and lows that any entrepreneur has to handle, but in the case of China these are more extreme. When I think of comments made to me by those who live outside of China that revolve around ‘why do you do it if its that hard’, I understand that anyone like myself must be made of relatively tough stuff and tempered to the extremes of China just as every Chinese business person appears to be; they don’t necessarily get it any easier but they keep working hard at it.

I am digressing slightly but its very hard to explain to family or business people who live in a stable environment what drives those of us who are based here, but put simply we know that China is an opportunity that you are either in 100% or your out; there can be nothing in between. And this is a topic of conversation when two non-Chinese business people like myself meet, we hear and see businesses outside of China desperate to take a piece of the market, but they think they can ‘dabble’ in it at first so that they minimise their risk, unfortunately this does not work. As a topic of conversation this leads every one of us to state clearly that China is a long game and you are either in or out.

The phenomenon of sitting on the fence when it comes to China appears to apply to businesses from Europe to the USA, admittedly many are not multinationals but equally many are not aiming to generate income of $100’s Millions each year, and a fraction of one percent of the China market would be perfect for them. But I must repeat the same message again ‘you are either in China or you are not’.

It is also important to acknowledge that business and social activities in China’s main cities is getting expensive these days, and I understand that for many businesses committing to the development of the Chinese market for a minimum of 12-24 months may represent a sizeable investment, but the potential upside is enormous.

China still represents perhaps the greatest opportunity on the planet for an overseas business to grow over the coming 10+ years and although everyone wants to be here, the market still has capacity for newcomers and importantly there are many in the international business community who will continue to sit on the fence leaving you a chance to start your journey on the long and winding Chinese road.

Don’t be deterred, prepare mentally for the long haul, and adopt a flexible attitude because as I pointed out at the beginning of this piece, in China networks and contacts typically come as a result of not planning rather than the other way around.


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