Hui Yin Bi: New Girl in Town
Being a new business to the China market isn’t so very different to being the new girl in town, writes Cecilia Fan.
Imagine for a moment that you are the new girl in town. You’ve stepped out of your comfort zone, and for better or for worse, you’ve decided to build a new life in a new and unfamiliar place. You might spend several consecutive nights in the hotel ordering room service and browsing the Internet until eventually, you decide it’s time to explore your new city. You head to a local bar where you’ve heard that expats and locals mingle and share the complexities of life in China.
Now, imagine you have been charged with managing your organization’s activities in China. You are visiting or being posted to China, and just like the new girl in town – you need to decide who you’ll build relationships with, and how and where your business will fit within the local environment.
The first step for the new girl is to step out of her hotel room. In the same way, new organizations and businesses to China cannot merely look at the sparkling lights of the Shanghai Bund, freeways and overpasses curling through the city and the high-rise buildings growing like spring shoots after the rain, from the comfort of a boardroom glass window and expect to understand and know the full story for doing business in China.
Just like the new girl in town, new business arrivals to China need to ensure they are immersed in the reality of China and make their presence known in the market. When you walk into a new place as a newcomer, be it a noisy bar or a business seminar, you hope people will notice you, smile at you, and even introduce themselves. You hope that you can stand there like Obama or Angelina Jolie, and deliver your key message to a captive audience.
Unfortunately for most of us, it doesn’t always happen that way. No matter how well-known you are in your home town (or home market), in a new place, life will often go on, with or without you. Just as a newcomer in town has to go the extra mile to make friends and build relationships.
For the new girl in town, it could be a lucky night, and she finds that a nice enough guy seems particularly interested. She will need to consider though: what are his intentions? Are they aligned with hers? Why is this guy, interested in speaking to a likable Australian girl with an ordinary appearance and background, ahead of the blond Cambridge graduate working in a top law firm, or the Malaysian Chinese lady who speaks five languages and is showing off long slim legs under her short Qipao? Is this person hoping you’ll secure him a private dinner with Kevin Rudd just because you are also from Canberra? Is he someone you’ll play tennis with once a month, or someone that will join you and your friends in Thailand on roulette online australia a two-week vacation? Just like the new girl in town, a new business person to China shouldn’t be jumping straight into bed with the first prospect that presents itself.
Will this new contact be someone you’ll trial for a shipment or two, or are you going to authorize them as your exclusive agent for the whole of North China after just one meeting? Things aren’t always as they seem, and it’s sensible – whether you are the new girl or the new business in town to get to know as many people as you can and gather as much information as you can before you make any long-term decisions.
You should enjoy the freedom of being independent, and as the girl’s best friend would likely advise her – avoid locking yourself into a relationship too quickly, or with someone you barely know.
As your first adventure at the local bar comes to a close, you may have talked to many people, and find that you haven’t clicked with anyone in particular. That’s still a good start, and next time you come, you’ll already have a few familiar faces in the crowd. Not every minute or every encounter in life can be assessed with quantitative measurements. Some situations may, like a crushed grape, need a sedimentation process before becoming fine wine. Your company’s China venture may be new and seem enormously complex, but drawing on life experiences, which we all have, may help you to view the situation in a different light, and provide you with a level of comfort that you didn’t expect.
If you are the brave newcomer who has gone through the emotional processes necessary to arrive at this local bar, or you are ready to explore a new market – get yourself a glass of champagne and congratulate yourself on already coming this far. ■
*Hui Yin Bi – The Echo Wall welcomes all feedback.
E-mail Cecilia Fan at: firstname.lastname@example.org