Asia Task Force Events Review–Challenges
Market entry – Doing your homework?
How do you take your first bite of the huge Chinese cake? Like any other business, the first step is to understand the market and the customers. I attended the UK trade and investment (UKTI) conference where these matters were being discussed. Theo Paphitis of Dragons Den fame, described this simply as ‘doing your homework’. The next logical question would be how you do your market research? Many large organizations simply sub-contract this work out to specialist market research firms. Feelers are then sent out by sending their own people overseas, or setting-up an overseas office to learn more. However, these approaches are not practical to most SMEs who just don’t have the budget. What can you do then? What are barriers?
Market research is essential and the UK Trade and Investment is definitely the place to call for initial general support. With the government’s backing, UKTI has a well-connected global network. UKTI have several local offices and can be searched by typing your postcode. You can obtain quality and up to date information on the specific country or market that you are targeting. Why not use this excellent UKTI resource at least as an initial step?
Barriers – and how to cope?
The biggest barrier is communication, which relates to both language and culture. However, the culture barrier is often over complicated. Look at HSBC with their ridiculous adverts…what is considered good manners in one country, respect, honesty, integrity, is likely to be considered favorably in another. In reality, Chinese business people are very much like business from many other cultures. The culture difference lies more in perceptions and ways of handling things rather than how you hand out or receive business cards (both hands and look to show appreciation as many culture training lesson suggests). In fact these etiquettes culture difference are becoming less obvious because many Chinese people who are involved in international trade are learning about western cultures as well. They are more tolerant to the differences on this level and a good interpreter can help ease all of this. The important and difficult part normally lies in the maintaining relationships in business good times and hard times, especially when problems occurs.
One of the major concerns that many of the British firms brought up time and time again during the afternoon workshops was regarding intellectual property protection and finding the right people. This was also mentioned by every successful case study business at the event. You will have a good idea of what this means if you have watch the recent Top Gear when Jeremy Clarkson presented himself in front of a fake Starbucks, wearing fake designer clothes and carrying a fake iphone and ipad. If you were going into the Chinese market, you would have to prepare for this and do whatever you can to protect yourself. It is a situation that is improving all the time but sensible precautions such as registering your trade mark and taking the correct legal actions are essential.
Government statistics from CBI shows that 23% of the companies in the UK have suggested they are willing to employ mandarin speakers either to work here in their UK office or in their Chinese subsidiaries.
It would be relatively straightforward process for companies to recruit native, bilingual Mandarin speaker for a job. Looking for young, hard-working Chinese employees is not a challenge, the visa they have however may present a future challenge. Often the visa will be a 2 years post-study visa. Once the two years are up then there is no way of renewing it unless you are a company who have a specialist sponsor license (which is required when you want to employ non-EU nationals) This means re-employing and a lack of continuity. One of Simply Mandarin’s clients had exactly this concern during their set-up for their Chinese market. They wanted somebody not only with good command of both English and Mandarin but also with cross culture business experience. He or she will be responsible for advising and executing the company’s Chinese marketing plan and ideally stay with the company for a period of time. Of course, he or she hopefully can appreciate the fact initially the company might only require part-time work.
It is never easy to work out exactly what your companies own requirements are when venturing into new markets (often in startup companies in the first place). From what I see, many of these companies might not necessarily need a full time Mandarin employee. They normally only need them to complete a certain type of tasks where Mandarin language and culture becomes a necessity such as localization the website, translating marketing materials, meeting interpreting, managing Chinese social media platform for the company. That is where Simply Mandarin becomes valuable resource, we work very closely with our clients as part of their team as a contractor, provides the reliable access for mandarin speaking service and continuity without having to be paid full-time in office. We manage clients’ tasks and appraise performance with clients regularly to make sure the service level is satisfactory and constantly improving. Many British clients have bought the idea and have been benefiting from our service. More details please contact us or see what our client’s say on our homepage (Links.www.simplymandarin.com )
The staff retention issue is more serious for many Chinese organizations. When I was working as UK sales manager for a large Chinese telecomm company, staff turnover was the biggest problem. When the Chairman visited a potential big client, the clients then presented 10 business cards in front of the Chairman ‘Yes, your sales team are very proactive, 10 of them have all visited us and showed the interest to supply us’. THIS IS NOT GOOD enough for a serious business. It is almost the same management principle which applies to organizations from any culture, however, because in China, many of work cities similar if not bigger than London, Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Ningbo, Xiamen …you got the idea!), there are new opportunities everywhere. There are successful case though, don’t get me wrong, there is loyalty in Chinese workers the challenge is understanding their motivations and goals and provide them with a clear picture of where they sit in the long-term development plan of your business.
In a nutshell, UKTI has done a brilliant job in organizing the event. The government’s intention to encourage ‘export for growth’ is clear (with funding opportunities such as passport to export, export for growth etc) and the emerging Asia market, especially the Chinese market has been put into the spotlight( Chris from xx has openly stated that for his company over the next10 years, there will be only two markets-the Chinese market and non-Chinese market). UKTI as described by Theo ‘the best kept secret’ can definitely provide you with general support in your Asia-market development ambition, they have local offices in the country so definitely talk to them. When you have decided go to Chinese market, come and talk to us, we will be providing you with the Mandarin resources and capabilities to nurture and develop your plans.
**Simply Mandarin specializes in providing seamless mandarin business support tailored to your business requirements. We work closely with our clients to provide them the one-stop mandarin business support from translation, interpreting, market research, go-to-market plan, marketing, events, Chinese customer relationship management etc. More details :www.simplymandarin.com