Gründer Magazin – edition 03/08

GO EAST: Tying the knot in China

Many people regard the Chinese market as ‚lucrative’, others describe it as suicidal and paint horror pictures on the wall. If we look behind the decision making, particularly in medium size businesses, it is underlying insecurity which finally leads to false conclusions.

Anke Weier, who lived and worked for several years in Singapore and China, has created with her organisation, Welcome-guide, a basis for businesses new to China to acquire wide ranging knowledge. With workshops and seminars she helps German companies and Chinese ones here in Germany, sets up contacts and has already supported a number of business relationships. Our Gruendermagazin expert, Emil Hofmann, has spoken to Anke Weier and was given some surprising answers.

GM: More and more small to medium size businesses and well as some new ones are going about working the Chinese market. What are they doing wrong?

Anke Weier: There are many stumbling blocks in the sector. Even the word ‘work’ is a term which can easily be misinterpreted in this context. What or who do you want to work? That may well still be possible in Germany with mass mailings or high pressure selling, but such methods will lead nowhere in China and Asia.

GM: Can you give an example?

Anke Weier: We can describe it as impatience. In Germany we learn that we should pursue business contacts. But if you pursue an Asian, he will perceive this as pressurising and will never close a deal with you, however friendly his smile remains. Patience and respect, particularly in the field of negotiating, play a very important role. Without these it will not be possible to survive in the Chinese market.

GM: What do business people and their staff learn in your workshops?

Anke Weier: Among other things we offer a one or two day programme with a lot of practical elements. The wide range of these elements covers the various aspects which are important for a business relationship with the Chinese, for example. It ranges from making contact to greetings, from presents for the host to table manners – in others words, getting on with each other in all aspects. In the long run you will lose if you don’t understand and respect the other person.

GM: You also take care of Asian business partners in Germany. Why do you think this is important and valuable for your German clients?

Anke Weier: Deals are better if there is a good atmosphere and mutual respect. It includes also choosing the right restaurant, deciding on the guests and organising excursions. The seating arrangement plays just as big a role as behaviour in unusual situations. What should not be spoken about? Is the topic of Tibet taboo or not? Are questions about religion or the family allowed or not? What does the year of the tiger symbolise and what is the Qingming festival?

GM: And if Asian partners settle in German for a longer period, do you also offer your help?

Anke Weier: Of course. And the other way round. Many of my clients have to go to China for several months and are stressed not only professionally but also personally.

GM: From what fields do your clients come?

Anke Weier: First and foremost large companies which have a branch or production facilities in Asia. But there are also more and more small to medium size businesses as well as new ones who want to get a foothold in Asia. Ideally I am involved at a very early stage before important decisions are made concerning sending staff or the first trip.

GM: Beyond that you are en route as lecturer and active in some associations. What do these people learn from you?

Anke Weier: First of all the basis for communication between differing cultures. I help to get rid of fears of making contact and to assess risks more effectively. Many companies regard the Chinese as plagiarists, as someone who gleans knowledge from us and then does everything on his own. Of course there are some cases of this and the protection of intellectual property must be treated with sensitivity. The aim must be to form a successful relationship, cooperating fairly, dealing honestly with each other with understanding for the thoughts and actions of the other.

GM: So, in brief, what can we learn from the Chinese?

Anke Weier: We must learn from each other. Knowing the history of China, remaining patient and not just looking for a quick buck is the right way to go. If the German government demands of migrants that they learn German and involve themselves in the German mentality, that can be transformed to the demands I put on my clients: take more note of your hosts and the country you are living in and with which you want to do business. Remember the Asian saying: “Before I do business with you, I will be your friend”.

GM: Thank you for the interview.