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Some Common Mistakes

Recently, they did a post on five mistakes that are common to American companies doing business in China. Avoid these, they say, and you can at least minimize some heartbreak.

Although this list is written from the perspective of doing business, they apply across the board as well. In other words, whether your are managing a factory, running an orphanage, administering an educational program, partnering with churches, or doing humanitarian work, these are important lessons.

Here is the list, with a key sentence from each description. Trust me, though; you'll want to read the whole thing here.

1. Do not underestimate China's up-front time commitment.

Doing business in China is difficult, and almost never works without high-level people from the home office coming to China for at least a couple of years.

2. Do not underestimate how long things take in China.

Many Chinese companies are not primarily motivated by economic efficiency. Their goal may be employment for the local community, or to fill a quota, or to get the boss's son a green card.

3. Do not think you have a deal with a Chinese company until you have the deal.

A Beijing-based American lawyer recently told me that around half of the deals on which he has worked "never closed due to cultural differences between the American and the Chinese sides."

4. Do not underestimate the difficulty of finding quality personnel for your China operations.

Few Chinese professionals today understand what American companies need. They generally do not understand the level of detail, the idea of thoroughness, the standards and the expectations that American businesses take for granted.

5. Do not rely on guanxi.

Those who use the word guanxi seem to use it as an excuse for abandoning common business sense.

I think that #5 is a particularly helpful warning. How many times have your heard (or said), "we don't need to worry about rules or the proper channels; we have guanxi!" Building and maintaining good relationships IS important (something that's true everywhere), but we must be careful lest our reliance on guanxi is greater than our commitment to excellence.

Photo Credit: the_gman1

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio