The golden rules of business relationships are universal


“Many companies that don’t have a lot of experience conducting business in China and other areas of Southeast Asia think they need to treat foreign business decision-makers differently than those in the United States. But that’s not the case.

“For any import or export program to be successful, it needs to start with direct, yet respectful communication, because a profitable and healthy business relationship with any company anywhere is rooted in fairness. And the vast majority of Chinese and Asian business leaders fully understand that. They’ll do what’s needed to ensure a program’s success, but the company based in the U.S will often only get out of it what it puts into it. Business decision-makers here need to set the right tone and drive dialogue that produces clear expectations.

“Companies in the U.S. also need to make the distinction between hard work and productive work. When leaders of U.S. companies send people to Asia for business, they should establish clear goals long before anyone steps on a plane and also send an agenda in advance so people there can prepare. They also need to put the right people on the plane. If it’s an engineering issue, for example, don’t send someone from purchasing. And don’t overlook the critical need to hold people on both sides of the ocean accountable for visits that need to produce results.   

“I thought about this one summer day while sitting outside a restaurant in China. As I watched children eat ice cream and play, it struck me that kids are the same everywhere. So are business people. Those responsible for Asian imports and exports shouldn’t lose sight of that.”