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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

Walmart+ hopes to beat Amazon at their own game

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart has long been trying to become a serious Amazon competitor. Is their new membership program the edge they need to make that happen?

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Walmart grocery

We at AG have been watching Walmart’s moves in the online grocery shopping market for a while now. Their latest attempt to usurp Amazon’s throne is called Walmart+, and it’s being billed as a competing service to Amazon Prime. For $98 per year, they’re offering perks like same-day home delivery from stores and discounts on fuel. Walmart+ is promising, but whether it will truly rival Prime remains to be seen. They’ve tried a few times now, but Walmart has yet to substantially threaten Amazon’s near-monopoly on internet retail.

In 2016, Walmart rolled out Jetblack, a startup from their Walmart Labs incubator, that offered a text message-based shopping experience. Jetblack charged an eye-popping $50 monthly membership fee and, perhaps because of this, it drew very few users. Jetblack was scrapped in May of this year, but not before hemorrhaging $2 billion. Reportedly, Walmart was losing nearly $15,000 yearly per member.

…Ouch.

Way before this, Walmart Labs also introduced a short lived food box subscription service – remember those? They called it Goodies Co., and it barely lasted a year before being killed in 2013.

Now flash forward to one year ago when Walmart submitted a patent for what they dubbed the “Fresh Online Experience”. This came after Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods brought the two retail behemoths into direct competition.

The FOE system would incorporate real images and 3D scans of store products. The patent goes on to propose that employees filling these online orders will photograph individual fresh items like produce or meat, presumably in order to build consumer confidence in their quality when buying online, rather than in person. However, this has the potential to be a labor-intensive and slow process for stores, and it remains to be seen if this will be worth it for Walmart.

It’s unclear exactly how much Walmart+ intends to take out of the Amazon Prime playbook. It hasn’t announced features like video and audio streaming, for instance. Certainly they’ll have big plans for incorporating the “Fresh Online Experience” in there somehow, and that could be a game changer for Walmart.

One thing is for sure, though: Walmart+ faces an uphill battle to climb out of Amazon Prime’s shadow. Honestly, it’s just hard to imagine Walmart really competing with an entity like Amazon. Roughly 40% of all online purchases in the U.S are made on Amazon, and it is almost synonymous with the concept of buying stuff on the internet in general.

Yet, it’s difficult to discuss Amazon’s success without also thinking about the enormous elephant in the warehouse that enables it; Amazon is becoming increasingly notorious for having inhumane working conditions. Their treatment of employees has incited boycotts and protests, most recently due to the company allegedly ignoring COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in their warehouse facilities. And spoiler alert, Walmart also exploits their workers. If there’s going to be a big, exciting disruption in online shopping any time soon, it’s hopefully going to be an ethical one.

Either way, it’s about time we stop thinking of Amazon as king of the jungle. Consumers and workers are begging for a change, and it’s only a matter of time until the right challenger steps forward. But let’s face it… that’s probably not going to be Walmart.

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Walmart teams up with ThredUp: The online market for second-hand fashion is heating up

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart has teamed up with a new partner to sell second hand clothes online, hopefully this partnership works out better than the last.

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In the beginning of May, Walmart announced its collaboration with ThredUp, the online secondhand fashion giant. The deal now allows users who order off ThredUp, through Walmart, to take advantage of big-box perks, such as free shipping and convenient returns at local franchises.

The alliance of the two stores is a good business deal for Walmart, whose effort to enter the fashion market has failed despite numerous attempts to embrace millennials. Walmart recently had no choice but to cut its losses and cancel a deal they made in 2018 with Jetblack, a text-based, world-at-your-fingertips shopping experience. The dominant grocery supermarket has also teamed up with notable celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Kristen Bell, and Sofia Vergara to create fashion brands, but failed to create high traffic volume.

So, the attempt to pick up their clothing sales yet again may seem pointless. However, the difference with this deal is that, instead of investing (serving as a potential risk to lose capital), Walmart PARTNERED with ThredUp. Walmart is essentially opening up its fashion market, exchanging its notoriety for variety, while giving light to a smaller fish in the sea (ThredUp). It’s a win-win for both companies.

The collaboration does come with a price to smaller businesses whose doors have been forced shut due to the recent pandemic. The closures and restrictions have created a lack of game in the fashion market right now, and Walmart was quick to pick that up, expanding their clothing department and online services, at juuuuust the right time. For Walmart, a company that’s been looking to expand, this was the perfect opportunity.

Small thrift shops depend on in-person shopping, and many heartened thrifters believe the experience of secondhand buying can’t be replaced online. There’s something about walking into a hard to find, crowded thrift store, spending $9 and leaving with the two tops meant for you that you just can’t get online. The collaboration of Walmart and ThredUp do however, open up the door for secondhand fashion to many who would usually overlook the option. As so, as many other retailers watch what Walmart does, hopefully the partnership will also inspire a commercial way to expand into an eco-friendly, sustainable fashion market among other companies.

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Business News

Amazon sellers’ information will now be available to stop scams

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon cracks down on scammy sellers in the U.S by requiring sellers to list their real names and addresses on their accounts.

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Amazon scams

A Department of Homeland Security report to the President from January 2020 states, “Counterfeiting is no longer confined to street-corners and flea markets.” The report estimates that counterfeits made up over $500 billion in sales internationally in 2016. As one of the biggest third-party platforms, Amazon has one of the most “notorious” counterfeit problems, at least according to The Motley Fool. Even though they spent over $500 million in 2019 to combat fraud and abuse, the problem has not abated.

Seller information will be available to consumers.

Amazon recently announced to its sellers that effective September 1, a seller’s business name and address will be displayed on the Seller Profile page. This information is already made available to consumers in Europe, Japan, and Mexico. According to the announcement, Amazon is “making this change to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions.”

The United States makes up the biggest proportion of Amazon’s sellers. This move is to provide transparency, not only to consumers, but also to brands who are trying to go after counterfeits. The Washington Post reports, “”For Amazon to do this is a big deal,” said Rob Dunkel, CEO of the data analytics firm 3PM Solutions, which works with brands to spot counterfeits online.”

Consumers should still be on guard when shopping on Amazon.

This move by Amazon doesn’t mean that consumers can afford to let their guard down. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Before ordering from a third-party seller, check their reviews…not the product reviews, but the seller’s reviews.
  • As with any seller, if a price seems to be good to be true, it’s probably fake. Don’t buy from new accounts, especially those with thousands of items listed.
  • Look for “Fulfilled by Amazon” when using third-party sellers. Make sure the “A” is capitalized. Fulfilled by Amazon means that the item is shipped to one of their fulfillment centers. It’s a little safer when ordering from a third-party seller.
  • Always use Amazon for communications and transactions. This gives you some protection if you do get scammed.
  • Don’t give out your personal information to sellers as Amazon doesn’t require this.
  • Also, watch out for payment scams.

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