Being the planet’s second-biggest consumer market, China is, without a doubt, a mouth-watering market for international business expansion. The Chinese nationals have the money and the will to spend on high-end products from the west, making the East Asian country a dream growth opportunity for any ambitious entrepreneur. The nation’s huge population is also a plus for western brands.
But even with so many positives, there still are many challenges that western brands have to contend with in order to fully leverage this huge consumer market. The country’s manufacturing industry, for example, is very sophisticated for multinational companies, not mentioning the unique cultural and logistical factors that distinguish China from the rest of the world. Without a proper understanding of the market, therefore, foreign brands often struggle to quite hit their mark, several of which eventually fail.
The language barrier is yet another uphill challenge that western brands face when setting up in China. You may need to spend a few months- sometimes even years- studying the market and the native language(s) before opening the shop. But after all, is said and done, you cannot allow these challenges to bar you from claiming a share of the Chinese goodies. That is why we invite you to check out the following tips on how to become a successful entrepreneur in China.
1. Avoid individualism, embrace collectivism
The biggest percentage of Chinese citizens still base their personal and professional interactions on communism, despite the fact that the country is fast moving on from communist rule. The Chinese believe in collective growth where business heads, partners, and employees are obligated to seek success and share it as a group, as a team. This is unlike in most western cultures where people embrace individualism more than familial or even societal progress. It is not unusual for a company owner in the west to prioritize his company’s growth and totally forget about the people who brought in the success. If you do that in China, your partners and employees will leave your company in a heartbeat!
2. Build personal friendships and trust with your associates
Personal friendship with your clients, business partners, and employees is always at the heart of every business interaction. The Chinese value trust over anything else and will go to great lengths to ensure that they don’t mess the trust other people place on them. Unlike in the west where business deals are done hastily and with a strictly formal approach, the Chinese want to know you and build a strong personal relationship with you first, and then everything else follows. As a matter of fact, foreign investors who develop deeper personal ties than business partnerships with the locals succeed more and faster than usual.
You will be happy to know that your business associates will readily give you the benefit of doubt when you request them to, but they will readily abandon you if you give them any reasons to doubt your trust. If you are struggling to cope with the high relationship standards that the Chinese have set for themselves, then you may have to engage a local Chinese recruitment agency to handle the HR issues for you as you figure out how to set things right.
3. Never underestimate the power of local bureaucrats
If you have been operating in the US, then you are used to doing business with minimal interference from the government authorities. You are fine for as long as you remit your taxes and abide by the set business regulations. This is not the case in China: Local bureaucrats have their hands on every sector of the economy. If you mess with them, expect them to fight back firmly and sometimes fiercely, no matter how punctually you pay your taxes.
4. Digitize your business operations
Almost everyone in urban China has a smartphone and an internet connection. Your prospective customer is online searching for the products and/or services that you are selling, so you must invest in digital or miss out on most business leads. Invest in a professional website (bonus is an e-commerce website), a strong social media team, and improve your customer experience with virtual reality.
5. Get the best from your local employees by setting up easy-to-follow processes
Because you will obviously need to hire several Chinese workers, you should figure out how to get the best out of them. The key difference between western workers and Chinese workers is that unlike in the west, the Chinese will rarely ask for clarifications even when they can’t understand your instructions. As such, you need to set up easy-to-follow processes for your local employees. Let them master the processes so as to eliminate the need for constant explanations and clarifications.