Managing in the mainland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 April, 2000, 12:00am

See the big picture: Be aware the mainland is not a uniform, integrated market. The market for lower-priced consumer goods may be large, but for higher-priced products it may be similar in size to smaller European countries.

Maintain guanxi: That is the Chinese word for connections. The mainland workforce's preoccupation with relationship-building is unique, but perhaps can be over-emphasised.

Ask questions: Do your homework and ask all necessary questions before the deal is signed. The Chinese will usually answer precisely the questions they are asked. They will not usually volunteer answers to fill in the gaps.

Keep your options open: It is advisable to have an alternative when negotiating with a joint-venture partner. For example, granting a national franchise to one joint venture could prove a costly mistake if the partnership fails.

Remember where you are: Adapting products to the local taste and culture is an important aspect of the business plan.

Communicate: It is important for expatriate senior executives to communicate actively with the head office. The head office should be informed of difficulties, unforeseen problems, and the fast-changing environment.

Choose employees wisely: Choose the right managers. The people who are most likely to succeed in the mainland are those who have an interest beyond their expatriate world and in the local culture.

Train locals: This is important because it reduces the cost of hiring expatriates and installs somebody familiar with the local culture and business etiquette.

Have patience: Do things step by step. Execute part of the plan, see the result, and then move on.

Keep management consistent: Chinese value long-term, personal relationships.