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Lessons from China

I am writing this week a few days after coming back from Hong Kong and China with a UKTI trade mission. To be privileged enough to visit the hot-bed of the world’s economy was an inspiring (and in some ways challenging) experience. With the massive growth in the Chinese economy has come both a plethora of designer shops around each corner and also a new interest in western food, which funnily enough was the reason I was there – to see some prospective new customers in both Hong Kong and China that are looking for a gourmet food supplier.

Author: Paul Hargreaves
Date: Nov 25, 2009 - 6:58:17 AM


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I am writing this week a few days after coming back from Hong Kong and China with a UKTI trade mission. To be privileged enough to visit the hot-bed of the world’s economy was an inspiring (and in some ways challenging) experience. With the massive growth in the Chinese economy has come both a plethora of designer shops around each corner and also a new interest in western food, which funnily enough was the reason I was there – to see some prospective new customers in both Hong Kong and China that are looking for a gourmet food supplier.

However, my blog this week is on the more general lessons we can learn from China, which is essentially a nation of entrepreneurs. Despite some of their business practices being either illegal or bordering on it, there are many within that growing economy that challenge our western small-mindedness:

  • The Chinese are very open to taking risks. I think, possibly due to their history of traumatic cataclysmic events, the attitude is very much that “we have nothing to lose”, so let’s go for it. They back themselves to succeed and very often they do. If not they will pick themselves up and start again with no time for self-pity.
  • They are great sales people. Anyone with any time to spare will get out on the streets and sell a “copy watch”. The guy who shouted “idiot” after I refused him perhaps hasn’t been to the latest sales training course, but he was certainly keen to do business!
  • They are a nation of hard-workers. Most businesses seem to function six or seven days a week and the business owners put in a tremendous amount of hours – perhaps this is one that is not completely alien to many of us.
  • Customer service and hospitality are high on the agenda. Yet again when travelling out of the west, I was struck at how customers are made to feel special in many places – and this isn’t in the hope of getting a tip. Tipping is not part of Chinese culture. Two examples of this. Firstly, the first hotel I stayed at in Hong Kong gave me two presents just for checking in! Secondly, in a restaurant in Shanghai when going to the loo, there was a guy who ran the water in the basin, squeezed the soap onto my hand and got the towels from the dispenser. (Fortunately he didn’t attempt to help me any earlier in the process!
  • Finally, they are very quick to see a new opportunity. They seem to be able to get on with a new venture incredibly quickly and grasp a new opportunity much quicker than most of us would. This is largely due to their short-term view of the future - a business plan of longer than six months would be slightly unusual for a start-up.

I have come back full of energy and inspired to go for expansion in my own business and start to take more calculated risks in 2010. Let us all open our eyes for opportunities in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

Have a good week.

Visit the Speciality Bites wholesale food blog for more gourmet food supplier articles.



View all articles by Paul Hargreaves

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