Andrew Hupert has been working in Asia and Greater China since the early 90s, but the China Solved story really began in 2003 when he moved to Shanghai to manage a joint venture between some well-connected locals and a Silicon Valley hi-tech firm.
Following the same basic international management game-plan that had worked so well for thousands of other Americans in Taiwan and HK the first few months went extremely well.
Then, without warning, it all went sour.
Relationships turned confrontational, routine tasks were forgotten or bungled, and his team starting missing important benchmarks. The more he tried to turn the situation around, the worse things got. Other expat managers explained it as “TIC,” – “This Is China.”
Solving this disconnect between Western standard operating procedures and Chinese approaches became his mission.
Local Problem – Any Local Answers?
Like many American managers, his first step was to ask local Chinese friends and colleagues why it was so difficult to reach lasting agreements and keep teams engaged. They thought they could help me most by showing me how to be less annoying to the Chinese side. In those days, Chinese people really thought that when Americans had management questions, what they really wanted was to be less obnoxious and offensive to the Chinese.
Unfortunately, the most aggravating traits of American managers where things we consider vital to success – like sticking to schedules, maintaining high quality standards and honoring contracts & agreements.
Three Questions – One Answer
Taking a more systematic approach, Hupert began asking three simple questions.
- What mistakes or problems did you encounter when doing international business in China?
- What were your successes, or things you did right?
- What’s one piece of advice that you would give someone – just like yourself – who was coming to China in 6 months?
By asking these questions over and over again – to Americans, Europeans, Australians, overseas Chinese, non-Chinese Asians, and local Chinese – responses began to converge.
The answer was boiled down to one word: Relationships.
As a hard-headed, modern deal-maker who didn’t have time for archaic traditions like Chinese guanxi (networking) and mianzi (the Chinese concept of face), Relationships, were the by-product of successful business – not the substance. If you made someone money, then you would naturally develop a healthy relationship. Transactions came first – relationships followed.
In China the opposite appeared to be true. The one thing that really stood out was the most successful Western negotiators were the ones devoting the most time and energy to developing connections and relationships.
Back to the Beginning – China Solved
Building and maintaining relationships with Chinese counter-parties is a business problem – not an emotional chore or cross-cultural hurdle to cross. Hupert’s efforts to solve the China management and negotiation dilemma evolved into The China Solved method of Western-Chinese negotiation. Developing a step-by-step approach that addresses the concerns, strengths and vulnerabilities of both sides of the table makes success a more attainable goal. Westerners learn to approach Chinese counter-parties with respect and a new understanding, but still transact business while protecting their companies’ interests. The Chinese side benefits from a more organic negotiating process that respects their sensibilities and customs, while providing equitable deal structures.
The China Solved method has evolved into an effective, step-by-step system for helping Western managers of all levels of experience negotiate successfully and build profitable relationships with Chinese counter-parties.