Barry Chien, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business My strategy for doing business in China

School has been out for three weeks now due to the Chinese New Year holiday and I’ve had plenty of time to study Chinese, meet friends and enjoy the holiday festivities. It’s time to prepare myself for the upcoming modules. I’ve completed approximately 25 per cent of the MBA courses and feel that I’m starting to get the hang of this unbalanced, all work, little play, team-intensive, case-packed lifestyle.

And now onto strategy. I recently stumbled upon a fascinating McKinsey Quarterly article about strategy that states there are 10 tests a company can ask itself in regard to its strategy:

  1. Will your strategy beat the market?
  2. Does your strategy tap a true source of advantage?
  3. Is your strategy granular about where to compete?
  4. Does your strategy position you ahead of the trends?
  5. Does your strategy rest on privileged insight?
  6. Does your strategy embrace uncertainty?
  7. Does your strategy balance commitment and flexibility?
  8. Is your strategy contaminated by bias?
  9. Is there conviction to act on your strategy?
  10. Have you translated your strategy into an action plan?

Interestingly, in a survey of 2,135 executives, 65 per cent answered yes to three or fewer, 25 per cent responded yes to 4-6, and only 10 per cent answered yes to 7-10 of the questions. I am curious to know what types of companies fall in this ideal top 10 per cent.

Similar to the McKinsey Strategy article, it is important to translate your strategy into an action plan. Some personal protocols that I’ve adopted for doing business in China include:

  • Government matters – understanding how they function will be key at high level positions
  • The power of localisation – the top competitors of multinational corporations are local, indigenous companies
  • Focus on adding value in private equity through hands-on direct investment deals and projects
  • Become indispensible in your job and know your field better than anyone else
  • Constantly train and build your Chinese fluency
  • Conduct primary research on local companies in Beijing to better understand the markets and to identify what type of firm to join.
  • Since commitment and flexiblity are directly inverted, I should maximise this time as an MBA student to explore fully the different avenues of private equity and entrepreneurship while I still have the time. Before committing to joining a company I feel that MBA students should leverage their time as a student to stretch their horizons. For me, I would like to stretch my experience into direct investing. Luckily, I have a mentor who is in direct investing and I hope to learn more from him in 2011.