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March 23, 2011 1 comment

How Do You Choose Your China Business Consultant ?

by Sara Cheng

China is a hot button and probably also one of the most frequent headlines of Aussie media nowadays. Coming along with this are numerous China business consultants emerging like bamboo shoots in all colours and with various language and education backgrounds. Australian businesses eager to jump onto the wagon to do business with China are surrounded and bombarded by China business seminars, conferences, summits, cocktail functions and then tracked down by all these consultants both during and after functions and events.

Are these consultants adding value or rather a worthless upfront cost for businesses?

The answer is yes and no, depending on who you work with and how you work with them.

It seems cliché but sometimes some businesses do not use common sense when it comes to choosing consultants which are critical for achieving their business success in China. Bear in mind the 3 must-have characteristics of quality China business consultants when you chose whom to work with:

China commercial experiences and capabilities: The consultant is not carrying out an academic research for you. They should be able to breathe the depth and breadth of your business, grab the essence of your situation and needs in the shortest timeframe, put this in a broad but practical China business framework and get solutions for you. China is a country full of cultural nuances and operates under a different system. Without systematic business-related education background and extensive personal commercial experiences in China, a business consultant will not be able to possess such knowledge and expertise to navigate you through the system and achieve success in China.

Chinese language skills-this is common sense. Mandarin is the official language in China. Though there are dialects and accents in various regions, especially in East China and South China, Mandarin is well understood China wide. Without this language skill, your consultant will only obtain 2nd hand (might outdated as well) information when conducting research and will not be able to communicate with Chinese stakeholders on your behalf.

Most competent communication capabilities: Your China business consultants will communicate with your potential Chinese distributors, agents, manufacturing partners, suppliers, joint venture partners, Chinese government agencies and industry bodies on your behalf. Any small mistakes in such communications may damage your relationships with Chinese stakeholders or compromise the quality of the work they do for you. Assess your consultants’ communication capabilities before you enter into a service agreement with them.

Just having a quality China business consultant cannot guarantee you succeed in China. There are 2 must-know rules to make sure you achieve the most through your competent China business consultants:

Provide genuine information they require from you: In lots of cases, ethical and experienced consultants can straightaway let you know the ideal model for you to work with China or the potential of your products/services in China if you provide them genuine and comprehensive information on your business strategy, situation and needs. If you have little chance to succeed in China, they may be able to advise you the difficulties upfront and hence save your time, money and resources to work on mission impossible.

Provide inputs, monitor milestones and work closely with them: No matter how smart and experienced your consultants are, they do not have the knowledge on your business as you do. Hence do not just leave everything in their good hands. Require progress report, communicate with them regularly, provide feedbacks, ideas and information when required or necessary so that they will refine and tailor the approach during project delivery and achieve the best they can do.

With a competent consultant and work with them in the right way, you will get the most and best out of your China business consultant and achieve success doing business with China.

Must-Knows about Business Set-up in China

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

More and more Australian companies are setting up their own presence in China in order to source products/services directly from China or enter the Chinese market. However, given the alien nature of local regulations and business environment in China, it is critical to be proactive and fully prepared before you take the strategic move to set up your own presence in China.

Here are some “must-knows” before you set up the business in China:

1.You have more than one option for a local presence in China. Your China presence may be in the form of a wholly owned foreign enterprise, a contractual joint venture, an equity joint venture, a representative office or a local representation by a third party (local secretary/representation service companies).

2.Carefully define your business scope for the China presence. China National Development and Reform Commission may prohibit, restrict, permit or encourage your business set-up based on your business categorization and scope. Hence it is critical to carefully define your business scope so as to be permitted or encouraged to set up the presence.

3.Select the right location for your China operation. China abandoned its preferential tax rate for investments of foreign companies from January 1st 2008. However, some areas still offer local preferential policies for foreign investors in terms of land leasing/procurement, staff recruitment and management, local tax etc.

4.Confirm the minimum registered capital for your China operation. The Chinese government requires certain minimum registered capital for various types of businesses. However, local Industry and Commerce Administrations may decide on your minimum registered capital based on their judgement of your business scope and operation scale. You need to confirm with local government agencies the minimum registered capital through local contacts before taking any other actions in case they require an amount far above your financial resources available for the China operation.

5.Integrate commercial clauses in the Articles of Association to maximise profit repatriation into Australia. You may have commercial arrangements between your Head Office in Australia and the subsidiary in China in order to guarantee maximum profit repatriation. However, some arrangements must be included as part of the Articles of Association to be valid. The Articles of Association is to be submitted to local government agencies for approval and filing during business license registration. Hence, you must incorporate necessary clauses in the Articles of Association in the first instance.

6.Fully understand employers’ responsibilities and liabilities in China. China issued the new Law of Labour in 2007 which specified issues on employment contract, redundancy, etc. Without preliminary knowledge of this law, you may end up spending a huge amount of time and money terminating the contract with under performing employees, as the structure of the contract was wrong. You also need to be aware of the mandatory employee welfare and benefits so as to include such cost in the budget.

7.Conduct thorough due diligence and credit check on your joint venture partners. Your partners may not be what they claim to be. China has the business culture to show their wealth and status by driving luxurious cars, wearing prestigious watches and owning an impressive factory. Hence your Chinese business partners may look financially viable and well connected but, as a matter of fact, live on bank loans and personal debts.

8.Develop a comprehensive local employee management system. It is a hard job to recruit the right staff in a foreign country. It is even harder to effectively manage the local staff in a foreign country. A sound and robust employee management system will encourage the engagement and commitment of local staff and avoid potential risks. You may include reporting and communication policies, staff training, performance assessment, remuneration, career management and employee management manual in the system.

Business set-up in China is a big project by itself, which requires financial and time commitments, business management knowledge and China expertise. Identifying a competent agent to manage the complex process will be a cost and time effective way to avoid potential pitfalls.

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