Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette
The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget
Oh how how how, you’re a rock ‘n’ roll suicide
You’re too old to lose it, too young to choose it
David Bowie, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
Had a great lunch yesterday with four people who provide professional services to companies (PR, consulting, and legal). All five of us do a lot of work relating to China and much of the lunch focused on various aspects of doing business in China — ranging from whether American retirement homes can succeed in China to how to capture service business from Chinese companies.
There was an interesting split on the last issue, with three of us of the view that it is not worth the time to pursue Chinese companies as clients. To roughly quote one of the people at the lunch: I can remember back when I used to try to get Chinese clients how they would just milk me for information and then end up not hiring anyone at all for their project.
Yup. I can remember those days also, and the only reason my memory is somewhat faded is because my law firm stopped making any effort at getting Chinese clients a long time ago. We spend no money on that nor any time either. Why? Because it makes no sense to spend twenty hours for the possibility of getting a bad client when we can spend five hours for the possibility of getting a good client.
Sorry, but that’s the truth.
My good friend Andrew Hupert would likely say the same thing. Heck, he pretty much did say the same thing in a post he did on his ChinaSolved blog, entitled, Doing Business in China – You Want it When? In that post, Andrew had this to say about doing business with Chinese companies:
You might be tempted to fork over too much information too fast – especially if the Chinese side is holding out the promise of a lucrative, long-term contract. Expat service-providers know that if the Chinese side is in a hurry to get information – even if it is in the name of performing a needs assessment or RFP – then they have to be on their guard. Western consultants have logged countless hours of unpaid labor for potential Chinese clients that simply wanted someone to scope out the business problem and outline an action plan. The actual contract is then awarded to a friend or family member.
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Regular readers of ChinaSolved and ChineseNegotiation.com know that we believe Chinese deal-makers use time as a strategic variable. They rush you when they want information and stall when it favors them. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as you understand what is happening and take an active role.
Next time you are pitching a China company for your service business, ask yourself, do I have the time for this?
What do you think?