Superpower 4: The importance of developing an empowering ecosystem in China
You worked hard to get educated, you did the necessary research to identify the market opportunities in China that will benefit your company and you were able to write down your vision, in the form of a budget and business plan. Everything is moving in the right direction, but you can’t do it alone.
Superpower 4 is all about the importance of developing an empowering ecosystem in China.
Having a solid network of professionals and resources in China will help your business grow. Lawyers, Chambers of Commerce, advisors, other business professionals, and local connections, they can all be part of your ecosystem.
The current COVID pandemic reduced the possibilities of meeting people in person through trade shows or conferences. However, there are some events being held virtually, that still represent a chance to meet others and can be used for networking.
It is essential to create connections in your industry. Business cards are becoming obsolete, and WeChat is becoming the main point of contact and communication in the working world.
This Chinese social media application is a tool that will be invaluable for your business. It will be a way for you to maintain relationships and start conversations as well.
LinkedIn is probably the best source for meeting individuals. It is not blocked in China, and the Chinese are getting more and more familiar with loading up their profiles. It can also be a great tool when it comes to hiring. This site has around 10 million users in China.
Among the Chinese, Daije is a more popular site for online professional networking. This network is bigger than LinkedIn – reflecting what is happening in Chinese social media in general, with Chinese citizens tending to favor their own networks.
Dajie has approximately 30 million members and the average age of users is 30. Dajie is frequented by job seekers, employees, educational institutions and companies, providing plenty of opportunity for building relationships.
While Dajie is a key network, some of the other popular professional platforms in China include Wealink (369,000 daily users), Renhe (98,000), and Tianji (84,000).
The different Chambers of Commerce are another valuable ally. They have interesting mailing lists, which you can subscribe to, and offer access to presentations and publications. You can contact individuals and start a conversation, thus building a stronger ecosystem.
Networking events are difficult to find because of COVID restrictions, but they may become available once more in the near future. These are highly recommended opportunities to network.
In the meantime, you can join networking events online, Zoom presentations, and webinars. This will allow you to connect with other businesspeople in your industry.
At Woodburn, we have developed through WeChat, a China roadmap community of people. This group includes clients and companies who are establishing their business in China, but no service providers.
This community of professionals is based in China. Participants have a forum where they can share their experience, advice and vision with others. This is a great way for professionals to communicate and exchange ideas.
Some of the subjects that have been addressed recently include challenges that people face in 2021, and the general political situation in China, the Unites States, and United Kingdom affecting markets.
Building an ecosystem is vital if you desire to grow. You can start by writing down a list within your network of the people who can help you today, and who in your industry do you need to meet to push your project forward.
It is important to analyze who you know and contact them. They could even refer you to other people and expand your network. It is rather simple, and in China professionals tend to like to make the introductions, usually free of charge.
China is a fascinating country and can potentially offer amazing business opportunities. However, culturally, it is very different than other Western countries. They way relationships are built and developed varies greatly from those customary in the West.
When it comes to building relationships or connections with the Chinese, foreign business professionals find it often difficult. In many cases, networking is the only way to achieve real business success and therefore has to be approached responsibly.
Chinese business relationships are based on Guanxi, which is a bond of trust and understanding between two individuals that provides the key to networks of professional ‘connections’ (the literal meaning of the word in Chinese) and contacts. In order to obtain the key, you have to recognize that the system is built on obligations and favors that play an informal but essential role in Chinese and Asian business.
Guanxi building is not to be confused with the dining and drinking cultures that surround and support it, even though these traditional habits of hospitality are used to build the personal connections that the guanxi system eventually benefits. In China, the personal relationship is vital to the beginning of all serious negotiations.
Sometimes, foreign professionals struggle to understand that business deals in China are often more based on relationships than on contracts or actual transactions.
For the Westerner, a personal relationship may build up over time in an organic way, but the important issue is to sign a contract as the first stage towards completing other possible contracts.
However, exactly the opposite applies in China. Only after the process of guanxi or network building has taken its course and a solid relationship is developed, will the Chinese party move on to consider a commercial transaction.
In other words, the rulebook about not mixing business with pleasure or the personal has to be thrown out of the window. The route to a profitable business relationship in China is usually approached from the opposite direction.
For a foreign professional seeking to launch or expand a project in China, how to build guanxi is not only important to your business. In many cases, it IS your business.
Research from the Harvard and Columbia business schools also shows some rather strong distinctions between China and the West in the way we trust those we do business with.
According to the study, Chinese managers use both heart-based and head-based (cognitive) trust in business relationships. American managers use cognitive trust in business, but very little heart trust – which is something reserved more for personal relationships.
This means that forming professional relationships and partnerships is likely to require more time and effort in China, whether online or offline. You might be expected to spend considerable time socializing with business partners, and to become a friend to them rather than just a professional associate.
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DISCLAIMER: All information in this article is verified to the best of our ability and is assumed to be correct at time of release; however, Woodburn Accountants & Advisors does not accept responsibility for any losses arising from reliance on the information provided within. The information provided is for general guidance and does not replace specialized advice.