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Socialize with a purpose when doing business with Chinese

The importance of knowing how, why and when to socialize while doing business in China can help any budding business or established tradition flourish when working abroad.

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Chinese Business Culture

Chinese Business Culture

Socializing: a critical part of business

We all know that socializing is part and parcel of doing business. From dinner and drinks after important meetings to happy hours for employee motivation, socializing (or bonding outside of office hours) is crucial for solidifying any business relationship. Through this process of business socialization, we learn what norms and values we are expected to exhibit. My mentor even goes so far as to suggest that one should dine with all potential employees to get a better sense of the person with whom they’ll be working.

Getting to know the culture

When doing business abroad, it is of the utmost importance to be “on-boarded” with the local and corporate culture you’ll be engaging with. In most cases, time is of the essence, so socializing is necessary. I find engaging with clients abroad by socializing outside of office hours, I tell them much more about me, our potential business relationship, and company than any presentation or white paper could.

This reason is two-fold. On one hand, your foreign hosts recognize that you have just spent a great deal of effort and time traveling overseas to do business and want to be as hospitable as possible. On the other hand, becoming “fast friends” gives your potential business partners a glimpse into the personalities (vices and all) they’ll be working with as well. Socializing in this manner lessens the learning curve.

How to fit in: stay flexible

Most foreign hosts will want to have at least one main social event (banquet, party, outing, etc) and possibly a smaller social event (happy hour, dinner, reception, etc). When visiting their home country, keep your schedule flexible after the first day or two. In China, hosts normally give you a couple days of breathing room to relax after the long travel.

But by the third day, you’re expected to be up and running! The smaller social event may be held in the middle of your stay and the larger event toward the end of your trip. Remember to reserve some energy for these events, as you’ll be expected to participate throughout.

Business and personal socializing are different

Business socializing is definitely more of an art than a science. It must be done gracefully and graciously. While the old adage “be yourself” is true in this case, I often suggest being a more conscientious and aware you. Keep the purpose of the socializing in the foreground of your mind. The Chinese are friendly to a fault and as such it is easy for business socializing to quickly become fraternizing in the blink of an eye.

With courtesy in mind, a good Chinese host will never let your glass be empty, your belly be hungry or your hand be cigarette-less (if you smoke). With this in mind, moderation can be hard to maintain for the sake of politeness. All too often I have seen a Westerner at a banquet in China accept an offered drink or cigarette while saying “I’ll just have one.”

Minutes later, another is being offered. To say no directly would be offensive, so the unsuspecting foreigner is unintentionally causing their host to lose face. The same thing happens with food and drink. Leave a bit of each as to not offend your host. Once your plate or glass is empty, it will quickly be refilled.

Takeaways

  • Use social events to glean as much information as you can.
  • Be on your Ps and Qs as you are being watched, but don’t exude a fake personality.
  • Rest up as soon as you land, if possible, and ask your host for an event schedule.

Monica Moffitt, founder and Principal Cultural Consultant at Tianfen Consulting, Inc., has traveled the world and enjoys linguistics and all things culture. Having split her career between project management and business analytics, Monica merges logic, fluency in Chinese and creativity in her new role as cultural consultant. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies/Chinese from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration (International Management and Marketing) from University of Texas at Dallas.

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Business News

This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.

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A small jar of cannabis on a desk with notebooks, sold online in a nicely made jar.

The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.

Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.

There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.

Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.

Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.

Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.

“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.

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Business News

Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?

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Woman in car working on engineering now allowed a flexible schedule for working from home.

The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.

As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.

And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.

Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.

How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.

Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

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