china

Doing Business in China

<p>Western companies are increasingly heading to China to buy ingredients, as the country offers vast resources and enticing prices. However, partnering with Chinese suppliers requires effective navigation of cultural and language barriers, as well as the ability to understand and adapt to the nuances of Chinese business practices.</p>

Western companies are increasingly heading to China to buy ingredients, as the country offers vast resources and enticing prices. However, partnering with Chinese suppliers isn’t just about the numbers.

As noted by Mark Tanner, marketing director at China Skinny, China is unlike any other market in the world, “both culturally and [through] the way business is done." For companies looking to source ingredients from Chinese suppliers, a deep understanding of the culture, along with help to overcome the language barrier, is critical to ensure a successful business venture. In addition, Western companies must be able to understand and adapt to the nuances of Chinese business practices. To tackle these challenges, companies can utilize a variety of resources, including business partners and translators, among other critical insights, to help facilitate business interactions.

“Given all the obvious challenges, it would seem some level of guidance and introduction is essential," said Ed Dougherty, business relations manager at NYDao.

Indeed, a business partner that specializes in China can help Western companies navigate the country and the culture, and importantly, it can connect Western companies with the appropriate business counterparts.

When conducting business in China, Trevor Rahill, president of Focus International, said, “It is all about trying to flatten out the learning curve and minimize risks. This is where an expert makes the biggest difference .... An expert should be able to guide you and introduce you to the companies that you may not be able to find by yourself." He added: “There are many companies who will not be suitable to your needs, but it can take you a long time to know this unless an expert can identify the good companies from the start."

Translators also help when conducting business in China. However, not all translators are equal; knowledge of the industry and an adequate understanding of the English language are key to successful communication. 

“A native speaker of Mandarin is useful, but if your manner of speaking is not familiar to someone who has never left China, in those cases, it would be helpful to consider a translator who has had English training in the United States," said Joe Huff, vice president, sales, BGG North America. Huff suggested securing a translator when technical information is discussed, or when meeting with someone in a management position. Further, an interview by phone prior to hiring can ensure the prospective translator has adequate interpretation skills, Huff said.

In addition, companies must understand Chinese culture as it relates business practices. Meeting face-to-face is important, and Chinese businesses prefer to conduct business in social atmospheres, such as during lunch or dinner, versus a standard Western conference room.

Matt Thiel, president of Rochem Intl., summed it up nicely: “Understanding the Chinese culture, how business gets done within this culture and adapting your business style to fit within their business culture will earn you great respect, and get you the kind of results you would typically be looking for when doing business with a Chinese company."

For more insight on effectively conducting business in China, download INSIDER’s Digital Pulse, “Doing Business in China."

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