In my opinion, whilst establishing a brand story, deep niche and financial capacity to support your China market entry strategy are critical to your chances of success, nothing is more important than embracing the local culture.
A company-wide commitment to a deep cultural understanding, awareness and acceptance of how business gets done in China, and how differences can be embraced, managed and/or worked through empathetically, needs to start at the top and filter down to every level of the organisation. There is no way of faking this in China.
So what are the critical elements involved in developing cultural awareness within your organisation? Here are some thoughts:
Curiosity – an organisational culture which encourages curiosity, exploration and learning
Intelligence – evolving from ‘IQ’ and ‘EQ’ to ‘CQ’ (‘Cultural Intelligence’) requires education, training and support
Diplomacy – resolving differences, conflicts and clashes, whilst saving face
Language – understanding that the Chinese language is a ‘window’ into the culture
People – embrace culture, diversity and multiculturalism at every level, starting with recruitment
Hierarchy – vertical rather than horizontal
Respect – negotiate hard but always show respect
Relationships – putting relationships first – transactions and profits come later
It’s hard to do justice to such a complex, multi-faceted and multi-layered topic in just a few words and sentences. For those who haven’t read it, my Three Cups of Tea provides additional insights and there is no shortage of books and resources on the topic written by leading experts and practitioners.
It’s actually the single and most important factor that will determine your success or failure in China.