Business in China - 002 Make or Break for Consultants

The below does not always happen but happens often enough to discuss.

When you get your first client in China there is a make or break situation that once again comes down to cultural misunderstandings. You sign a contract and a scope of work with the client. About 3/4 of the way through the project your client suddenly asks you to do additional services, such as packaging design, an additional accessory, etc…

In Western culture you would write to the client and say this is beyond the scope of the original project and you need to add more money to the project. If you do this you will suddenly find your client to be cold and after the project they will not contact you again. If you do the additional services as a gesture of relationship building you will find the client to be very engaged and you will both get more projects from them and suddenly other firms will contact you for work.

You may be saying “they are just trying to rip us off for freebies”. You would be wrong. You are proving that you are a good friend and the relationship between your companies is long lasting. Again, everything in China is about relationships. You have to be friends before you can be business partners. Your proof that you value the relationship above money will allow the client to feel comfortable introducing you to other Chinese business friends with no chance of loss of face.

I don’t suggest you accept the extra services for free on every additional project. I suggest you modify your quote to be less transparent and have extra time entered to handle additional services. But not the full ammount. Remember that any loss of money is cheap advertising for your firm at the CEO level in China.

If this bothers you then save yourself some grief and don’t do business in China. Remember that “time equals money” has no validity in China. Relationships equal money.

Very well stated. I think that exact scenario knocks many foreign designers out of the game. Mistake #2 is ________________________

Mistake #2 is “Out of sight, out of mind.”

The US and China are on opposite sides of the world and literally night and day from each other. Because business is about being friends before being business partners, it is very disturbing for Chinese companies when the US person leaves and does not communicate except when there is a business need. The business only communication makes them feel they have lost their friendship and is unsettling.

While politics should be kept out of the communication, try to read about things going on on China and email a small message to your contact. Example - Congratulations on your China’s spacewalk this week. It must create great pride in this accomplishment.

Yeah, I know it sounds corny but it works.

You know, it actually doesn’t sound that much different than business anywhere. Everyone wants to work with friends.

Maybe Dale Carnegie should be mandatory reading in ID schools?

Oh, my!
Tim you know Chinese deep enough…:smiley:


Thanks for the compliment. The longer I am here the less I really think I understand about China.