I have emphasized the importance of relationships and trust building when doing business in China, and I will continue to do so. In addition to building a relationship with your Chinese manufacturer, there are more than a few cultural intricacies you need to master before attempting to do business there. The Chinese understand the potential of partnering with American companies, but because of cultural reasons they will always prefer to do business with people they trust and have already built long-term relationships with.
There are 7 basic ‘to-do’s’ you should know and learn before doing business in China:
- Begin by forming relationships
- Learn the Chinese business etiquette
- Be conscientious of your communication style
- Know the difference between gifts and bribes
- Learn how to negotiate
- Be prepared for lawsuits
- Learn to adapt and be flexible
I have already discussed the importance of forming relationships and learning the differences between Chinese and American negotiation tactics, but for the other 5 to-do’s I can offer a few tips of advice..
- Business etiquette – Everything starts with your introduction, and be sure to give your business card with two hands to whoever you are meeting with. The business card should include your name and the name of your company in English and in Chinese characters.
- Communication style – Be conscientious of your gestures; a gesture that may seem insignificant to you could be highly offensive to someone else. Also remember ‘Mianzi’ or ‘saving face,’ as this will affect how the Chinese communicate yes, no, or maybe so!
- Gifts vs. bribes – Gifts are small items such as pens, t-shirts, candy, or a touristy gift from your home country. An example of a bribe is a someone asking you to help get their child into a foreign university in return for helping to avoid paying city fees.
- Lawsuits – Lawsuits will commonly arise from Intellectual Property Rights violations. If you have to enter into a lawsuit, chose a major city where the judicial system will hopefully be less corrupt.
- Adapt and be flexible – The Chinese supplier market is forever changing so you need to learn to adapt and be flexible. Don’t fight the change, just learn when to go forward or cut back when necessary.
Remember these are only basic, superficial tips that I am providing to you. Do your research and be prepared for the unexpected because it’s unavoidable! Doing business in China can be highly beneficial and profitable and it will be a continual learning experience, but it will never be easy.
“No matter how much success you’re having, you can’t continue working together if you can’t communicate.” – Matt Cameron