There have always been wonderful experiences and stories shared from the EMBA Turku study journeys abroad, where insights into the local business scene and local culture are explored in many ways. Two weeks ago I embarked on such a study journey for the first time, together with my more experienced colleagues and 24 EMBA Turku participants. We headed to Hong Kong, where our collaborative partner, The Asia-Pacific Institute of Business in the Chinese Univerisity of Hong Kong, provided us with a week-long intensive programme that we had jointly designed.
Here are the first hand experiences from the EMBA Turku participants themselves, who took turns to write down their own thoughts and learnings from the various sessions during the week:
Sunday 23rd October, 2016
Hong Kong sightseeing tour
Hong Kong, meaning fragrant harbor in Chinese, is an international financial center as well as an important harbor. The modern city with its beautiful skyline still has strong roots in the Chinese traditions. In this city, traditional and new go seamlessly together in the architecture as well as in the way of life.
Monday 24th October, 2016
Adjunct Professor Peter Yam: 30 years of Doing Business in China: Emerson Journey
The presentation was an excellent start for our study week. It was a story about the Emerson technologies’ 30 years in China market as well as an overview of the acquisition of new premature markets. One message was that: Do not use EU/US standards when you apply to China because, one size doesn’t fit all. As leaders, we also identified that it seems to be a problem in all cultures by acquisitions, how to keep key workers motivated and engaged. The lecture provoked us to further think whether the business in China can be ethical and profitable.
Professor Chou Singmay: Introduction to China Business and the Chinese Consumer
It was interesting to hear that the Chinese seem to be really proud of their ability to take ideas and innovations from elsewhere and then customize them to the Chinese market. They are quick and flexible and know their own market and its regulations. The Chinese have a huge domestic market, which gives them great advantage in comparison to multinational companies in China.
The Chinese consumers can be divided into different groups by generation. As an example, the one child policy has generated “emperor consumers”. State owned companies play a major role in the Chinese business and they are under political control.
Lauri Sulanto, Fintrade-Mercer Group: One Belt, One Road: Chinese Global Expansion and Financing
China’s soft Power is increasing significantly in the coming years. China’s huge capital resources combined with the government initial are making China a superpower on takeovers. Especially foreign brands interest the Chinese companies.
One belt, one road: China is awakening the economic growth globally. Is it good or bad that Chinese money flows abroad? Currently China is ahead of US in deals announced. Every company should have a strategy to face the Chinese markets and competitors.
Tuesday 25th October, 2016
Dr. Stephen Frost: China’s Shift to a Sustainable Economy
When companies grow on sustainability they cannot survive on the race on CSR and ROI and the production will just move to the next area.
Silicon Valley style: fail fast, fail often. Chinese way: never fail, or you will lose your face. Cultural shift is required to boost creativity and innovations in China. Takes two generations to make a change.
Prof. Joseph Bosco: Chinese Economic Culture
In Chinese culture there issues such as the long relationship with business partners, Chinese lack of trust when out of the larger society, human beings not being equal and a culture of giving gifts that cannot and will not change. These issues are based on a long history.
There are also a lot of assumptions that do not hold on, such as Chinese always trying to cheat customers if it is possible. There is not just one Chinese culture, as it varies in different parts of the country. Chinese culture or society is not homogenous.
Wednesday 26th October, 2016
On Wednesday morning we got a chance to do martial arts with a sixth generation Choy Li Fut master. Our self-defence capabilities are now honed to perfection and Tai Chi is no problem at all. Would not want to go against the master though.
Top learnings from Martial Arts:
1) Be relaxed – let your inner power flow out easily
2) Always hit fast!
3) Sometimes moving slow is more difficult than fast movements
4) Believe in your power and enjoy your Ninja moment!
Dr. Kenneth Tse: Leading development of a world class port: the case of Yantian International Container Terminals (YICT) (joint session with a Dutch EMBA group)
During this an afternoon session with Kenneth Tse, we heard a vivid story about the development of first major container port in China. Kenneth shared both personal and professional experiences; the good, the bad and the ugly, on starting major joint venture business with Chinese partner. Importance of “Guanxi” was highlighted as Kenneth described how difficult relationship building is in China especially for an outsider. We learned about grey areas, work-a-rounds and utilization of MOUs, all essential bit of Chinese business culture.
To summarize: Personal ambition meets opportunity, learning by doing, building on friendships and trust, grow to great success and at the end remember that family is your most valuable asset.
We have listened today a very interesting story about evolution of a world class port. In the story where personal behavior, politics, economical growth and even luck are combined. It is amazing how huge things are built by small, small details.
Small things matter -> ”Feel the stones while crossing the river”… and never give up!
“Club Society” – The Hong Kong Jockey Club
Wau, we just arrived ALL TOGETER from HKJC, which is one of the oldest institutions in Hong Kong (founded in 1884). The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a horse racing operator and largest community benefactor, operating as a not-for-profit organization with some ELITE SPIRIT. During the visit it came obvious, that HKJC is “the place” for the networking and can provide almost ALL YOU WISH. After the exiting night including some OPTIMISIM, no VERY RICH MAN, but some MONEY MAN are part of our FOREVER FUN group – visit at HKJC and WIN IT!
The Jockey Club seems to be the old British way of Guanxi and probably it is still the meeting and mingling place in the same way as playing golf. Even if you are not interested in horses, it might be important to be there for certain business segments, such as banking and finance for example.
PS: CAPITAL LETERS ARE NAMES OF THE HORSES WHICH RACED TONIGHT
Thursday 27th October, 2016
Mainland China: Corporate visit to Yantian International Container Terminals
The visit to Yantian International Container Terminals proved that to be able to run such huge operations you need to be extremely well organised and polished. The port with a size of 400 football fields and 400.000 containers sitting on the ground for a maximum of 7 days requires a flawless operation. Even more important as a company and as leaders it is to be proud of what you do and have achieved. Having heard the insightful development story of YITC the day before, the visit showed a commercial-like perfect picture of a container terminal that seemed to have broken all possible records, being the fastest, biggest and most beautiful.
The Shenzhen area has grown so fast in the last decade that logistics of goods has been an essential element for the development. This has given very good fundamentals for YICT’s business. The company has invested a lot on customized planning and monitoring systems. To be able to handle such volumes, the ship and site planning needs to be on the top level. We also learned that mega ships with more than 10 000 containers can be loaded/unloaded in 16 hours.
Mainland China: Company and factory visit to Salcomp
The personal relations and hierarchical positions are in major role when doing business in Asia. Although the businesses establishing production into China have normally been the result of cost reduction targets in form of cheap labor, also great location for the volume markets has grown its importance. In these markets the Finnish companies can distinguish from the competitors with the quality and safe products – as Mr Jari Kaisanlahti from Salcomp put it: “the quality is an asset not a cost”.
Company visits are very important and the visit to Salcomp just proves the point – we can definitely use the experience of the host companies and use parts of it to implement in our own organisations. A simple example that the lifecycle of the products produced (chargers) is very short, reminds us of the increased speed in business and our lives in general. Do fast decisions and act before it’s too late.
Aiming for the growth, be ready for it, and check whether you have enough resources for that.
Friday 28th October, 2016
Peck How: China’s Outbound Investment and Its Global Impact
General equation of Chinese investments: Technology transfer equals Resources times Customer base. Small nations have to work harder and smarter to compete with the world. Chinese middle class today: Opportunity of 225 000 000 peoples’ market. Wei Ji – risk and opportunity. Diplomacy of trade and investment continues to grow.
On Friday afternoon we had a recap session and discussion on all the topics and experiences from the study week. All the participants received a diploma and we exchanged gifts with our collaborative partner as tokens of appreciation. It was time to leave Hong Kong behind and head back home.
Personally, in addition to all the business insights and cultural experiences listed above, my key take aways relate to people. The local people who at the break of dawn were practicing Tai Chi in the gardens to maintain a healthy way of life in both body and mind. Our local colleagues who live in fairly small accommodations with 1,5 hour commute time to work every day (one way), which they did not complain about. Our local tour guides who dream about one day buying a flat in a popular and expensive location, if only they had another 500 years of working life left in order to be able to afford it. The local families or parents with children, where moments of laughter and affections were visible even in the busiest rush hour times. And the people in our EMBA programme, with whom there were inspiring discussions throughout the week on life, leadership, people and quanxi.