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A journey of 1000 miles starts with one step

Commentary

By Judith Cambridge, Director of Judith Cambridge Ltd, Chartered Accountants

Impressions: An absolute sea of people, on average younger than New Zealand and all carrying iPhones!

The Journey: “Learn to love China if you are going to do business there!” This was the resounding phrase I took with me from the NZCTA/NZTE/MFAT Symposium I attended in Auckland shortly before leaving for the first CIE [China International Import Exhibition], in Kunshan, China, March 2012.

I was determined therefore to love the place and people and I wasn’t disappointed!

I was a first timer to China and found on landing in Shanghai I could have been in any very large city around the world, ignoring of course the faces of people and billboard script. I think degrees of pollution also define places and so the clean air challenge must definitely be on the Chinese government’s agenda. Actually I have read about it somewhere. And when they do start addressing the pollution, like everything else in China, expect it to be cleaned up fast!

I have always said you should grab the opportunity to visit countries when you have friends or family living there as it provides the opportunity to change the perspective on a place from window shopping to participating ‘in-store’.

So it was with my business partner XingDong Yan who is Chinese, fluent of course in the language, armed with his New Zealand experience including Te Reo Maori and completely unfazed by the journey, we went to China. Perhaps the major issue for him was assisting the navigation of me through the experience. I think he is too polite, like most Chinese I met, to admit this. Construction of more tall buildings, street food, crowded streets any day or night of the week, shrinking alley ways which reminded me of Delhi, a huge roading and overpass network lined with ‘planter boxes’ and vast marble entrance halls of hotels and public buildings alike were accompanied with ease.

Why did we go? How do you grow business in New Zealand where you are restricted by the size of our population? Our 2012 strategy is to grow client business capability, knowledge and scaleability by implementing and collaborating on the ‘best web based (cloud) business systems for efficiency’ and then grow the sales side by exploring export opportunities. We can run our own business from anywhere in the world with internet access and we proved that while in China! Our ‘left field thinking’ got us to China and has now created ‘real opportunity’ for our client and ourselves

We know there is little funding for the SME sector from government, but we are also absolutely convinced that we MUST look after this NZ business foundation which makes up ~95% by number of this nation’s businesses! I recall Rugby NZ learned this lesson about looking after regional rugby, the roots from which the next ‘international rugby great’ emerges. As the professionals with the China business capability, we are well placed to help New Zealand SMEs to ‘grab’ these China opportunities.

Kunshan – CIE 2012

Use Judith Cambridge Ltd: Chartered Accountants, Business Consultants and Cloud Business Specialists [with interest in China market opportunities: ‘get on a plane and go do it’!]

The mission: accompany an SME client to a market [China] to seek opportunities for growth.

The client: Jane Stanton, Owner, The Seriously Good Chocolate Company Ltd, from Invercargill, New Zealand [makes the best chocolates in the world].

The product: seriously good handmade New Zealand chocolates, including wine infused chocolate truffles from award winning NZ wineries, chocolate coated NZ grown berries, green tea, salty caramel, hokey pokey, kiwifruit, pavlova…chocolate, chocolate, chocolate from the country renowned in China for clean, beautiful and safe food, particularly milk powder and specifically ‘baby milk formula’!

Impressions in two words: “absolutely fantastic”

Secrets for Trade Fairs: get to know the organisers and in-market support people long before going. Using Skype, get to know them better. Share your own and your business philosophy. Be very well organised and presented. Look very well organised and presented. Wear some red! I personally don’t agree with the Kiwi Casual Friday approach. Think about how you will deal with media in China. Have someone with you who can speak Chinese fluently and ideally understands you and New Zealand. Think about your physical process for recording enquiries. Have your business cards translated. Is you title appropriate for China? Watch your belongings. If female with blond hair be prepared for photographs with other females! Shoes, weigh up the great look of heels vsvs comfort, you stand for long periods of time. Get a China SIM card for your iPhone. Carry tissues in your handbag.

Results: opportunity… ‘don’t worry about demand’ but how you will manage that demand? Get help to find the right partner/agent/distributor in China, and be prepared to build a long term relationship!

IP: start the process before going? Suggest this money may be better spent directed toward clarifying, protecting, enforcing and marketing the New Zealand Brand? Urgent. What is the New Zealand brand? Chinese consumers ‘love’ New Zealand, particularly food products. They need absolute confidence that any product is indeed ‘made in NZ’.

Thought Summary

I know I could now complete the journey and communication of my basic needs in China via use of my iPhone ‘Learn Chinese’ App, limited phrases I know, sign language and the high probability of finding an English speaking resident. English is widely taught in their school system and has been for some time. But the ability to build those important relationships required for long term business success in this market are so much harder to achieve without being able to communicate and understand both the language, the culture and context of discussions. This is the vital link which I believe our China business consulting provides.

China Now

Get on a plane and ‘go there’! Do your homework but go! The time is now for China. And China is about ‘differentiating yourself’. GO and then come back and grow your business. New Zealand needs you to have BIG aspirational goals for your business!

Judith Cambridge is a director of Judith Cambridge Ltd, Chartered Accountants www.jcca.co.nz and Yan Cambridge Global Ltd, a China Business consulting firm. They can be contacted on judith@jcca.co.nz or xingdong@jcca.co.nz

If you would like to share your experience doing business in China and be heard by the NZCTA network in both China and New Zealand please contact Luke Qin, Editor of “China Now” luke.qin@nzcta.co.nz