Chinese investors in US: do your homework

Updated: 2014-03-31 10:58

By Michael Barris in Dothan, Alabama (China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

It's a message that seems obvious - if you're a Chinese business person planning to invest in the United States, and are unfamiliar with its cultural and business traditions, do your homework.

Yet, despite the flood of recent books and articles on the differences between the two nations, Chinese investors often fail to conduct sufficient research to boost their chances of succeeding in the US market. As Chinese business people increasingly weigh establishing operations in the US to take advantage of its lower energy and labor costs and to be closer to a key export market, learning the finer points of how to do business in the US is critical.

"Not only do they (Chinese business people) need to know English, but they need to understand the US culture," said Fanny Wang, a program director with Sozo, the Hong Kong-based economic development group that co-presented the US-China Manufacturing Symposium in Dothan, Alabama, last week, where the message of doing your homework was stressed repeatedly.

At the simplest level, Wang said, Chinese considering US investment need to be able to communicate their expectations clearly to employees. "You want to make people want to work with you," she said. "You can't really use a translator or a translation to tell them what you want, because you can lose a lot in a translation. So you really need to put an effort into learning the language."

Francisco Sanchez, former US undersecretary for International Trade at the US Commerce Department, advised Chinese business people in the audience who were contemplating US investment to "take the time to learn how things work here. The best advice I can give you is to challenge deep seated assumptions you may have about what it takes to be successful."

Chinese investors in US: do your homework

"Put the right team around you, get the right advice, learn what it takes to be successful, get the right partners," Sanchez said. "You better have the right lawyers when you start to run a business, especially in a country like the US, where the rule of law is so strong."

"Get a good accountant," he said. "Get good local consultants. Getting the right team makes all the difference in the world."

Time will tell whether these words sank in. Judging from the participants' reviews, the symposium got things off to a good start.

"It was a good stepping stone for Chinese companies to set up operations in this area", said Colin Young, Asia manager for the International Commercial Banking Group of BBVA Compass, the Birmingham, Alabama-based financial-services company. With manufacturing in China straining against rising labor costs and overcapacity, Chinese business people must "diversify their marketplace and globalize their business, Young said. The symposium has given Chinese investors an incentive to follow South Korea's model in putting money into the US South, said Young, an Atlanta-based native of Seoul.

Matt Parker, president of the Dothan Chamber of Commerce, said the event "opened the eyes" of first-time visitors to the South. "They see that it is easy to do business here," he said.

Jeff Carroll, a Dotham resident who runs Great Designs Inc, a local contracting company, said the symposium helped "open up the dialogue and forge a relationship between the two countries. It gave each country an opportunity to learn about the other," he said. "We're different, but with a lot of similarities."

Jim Yu, a representative of the town of Donalsonville, Georgia, forecast increased Chinese investment in the South, crediting the symposium. "They love the Southern hospitality," Yu said. "The next five years, just watch, Chinese investment in the region will go up."

 Chinese investors in US: do your homework

Amschel Foltz (left), a local translator, speaks with Lian Ning, the general manager with Nanjing Zijin-Lead Electronics Co in the sponsor tent at the US-China Manufacturing Symposium in Dothan, Alabama. Michael Barris / China Daily

(China Daily USA 03/31/2014 page1)