10 May 2018

Looking to Asia for global growth

As one of OneChocolate’s European directors heads off to Asia for a week-long business trip that encompasses Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Korea, we are excited about the new relationships and opportunities that this could bring from emerging markets.

Post-Brexit, European companies will have to change the way we all do business and seek out new opportunities and indeed are already doing so. Doing business with Asia is not new but doing more business with Asia is.

Asia also must be looking over to Europe too as its relations with the US government are looking far from secure. The recent trade war with China being just one high profile example of that.

In Asia, Chinese companies are not the workbench of the world anymore but are currently in a transformation phase to become companies developing and producing refined products and solutions for the global market.

As in Europe, cultures and experience in the different key cities are very varied and we need to learn this. Not one size fits all. So, what are some of the differences? While Tokyo has long established hi-tech companies where quality is key, and refinement of technology is paramount, Hong Kong has more and more influence from mainland China, and is providing the entrance to Shenzhen and the Guangdong industrial area. Beijing, the political hub of China, has less tech and industry compared to other areas, while Shanghai is the business core of mainland China where the main players from all over the world engage. Korea has plenty of high tech companies, interesting political developments and a chance for further economic growth and development. Singapore, known for tech, finance and pharma, is extremely strong in R&D and is an already very accessible market.

And then we come to work etiquette. Here are a few tips from our European head who spent over ten years in Asia:

Time – plan to arrive early and stay late.
Small talk – start the meeting with conversation, not about business but about personal things; kids, holidays, their local culture, your local culture. Never discuss controversial topics like politics.
Your business card is key and serves as an extension of your identity and announces your position in the hierarchy. Accept and offer with both hands. They should be spotless, not crumpled. Study closely on receipt and never put it in your back pocket.
The harmony and unity of a group, not an individual, in a meeting is key. It is about a team not an individual.
Body language is key – remain calm and formal throughout. Don’t touch your face or hair, or other peoples. Clothes are key, too – they should mirror your status and your respect for the person you’re meeting.
Silence is considered a virtue. Let it happen, don’t interrupt it or try to break it. Embrace it.
Saving face – causing someone, including yourself, to lose standing or dignity is considered a major faux pas.
A gift at the end of your meeting from your local region is a well-received gesture. Two expensive champagne glasses from your local supplier is a good example of the perfect gift. Wrapping the gift too is a good base for a good Guanxi and be sure to use both hands when giving/receiving a gift.

Europe is possibly better placed than ever to be doing more business with Asia, but it will take time and long-term relationship building.