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What’s More Important? E-mail
Featured - Business
Written by David A. Dayton
What’s more Important for a successful business in China: Cultural knowledge or business knowledge? While the debate between anthropologists and accountants rages on, about the only thing that everyone agrees on is that it’s great for book sales. Personally, I’ve met a ton of Westerns that can’t speak a lick of Chinese and don’t know chopsticks from Fengshui but do quite nicely financially in China.

I’ve also know more than a few companies and individuals who were fluent in Mandarin who lost their proverbial shirts over here. So what’s The Answer? Yes. We’d like to stake out a nice seat on the fence for this fight. Why so decisive? Well, without a doubt if you don’t know your own business you are not going to be successful anywhere – even in your home country. You’ve got to know what your core capabilities are and stay focused on those.

Having said that, if you’re your company’s Engineering Manager negotiating business development issues like foreign office set up and registration, hiring employees, finding an office in the best area of a foreign country, qualifying JV partners and factories, understanding tax code and incentives in Chinese and even driving a car over are probably not on your list of core competencies. All of these cultural things can not just distract you from doing your business they can kill your business.

We’d like to ask some different questions. Instead of one or the other, how much of each? Between Anthropology and Business Strategy what are your priorities? Economists will point out that while the size of China is unique working in a developing market is not. Neither is working with a socialist government (even if it does have Chinese characteristics). So understanding the market, capitalizing on golden opportunities, managing resources and controlling growth and the bottom line will be keys to success regardless.

Anthropologist will point out that the being aware of the uniqueness of the Chinese business culture (whatever that may be) will highlight the opportunities, help interpret the market and warn you of potential pitfalls.

It’s always fascinated me that from the Wal-Marts of the world down to the guy buying a container of t-shirts that the cultural/business issues with employees, production, QC and QA and on-time delivery seem to be very similar. Only the dollar amounts seem to vary. Large or small some things in business are the same and one of those business issues is that cultural problems affect the bottom line.

Good luck!

David A. Dayton is the CEO of Silk Road International (SRI), an U.S.-owned and managed international procurement agency based in China. Click here to visit SRI's Website.
Our valuable Editor David A. Dayton has been with us since Monday, 02 November 2009.

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