In a previous post- Why Transplanted Managers Fail, we talked about the high rate of failure for managers who transfer from the US to start doing business for the company in China. In this post, I want to talk about ways to ensure your success in this transition.
Check for Understanding
This may sound like common sense, but you actually need to go a lot deeper than just getting agreement from the manager you want to transfer. Maybe you’re a gridlocked organization with few current opportunities for advancement or maybe heading China business operations is an opportunity to accelerate an already rapidly growing career.
Whatever the case may be, you need to ensure, as much as possible, that your manager fully understands what a move to doing business in China entails. Probably the most important point to get across is that you are looking for a long-term commitment. Some companies make the mistake of saying the manager will just need to be there a year or two to set things up and then they can come home. In our experience, this rarely turns out to be true.
The Chinese market is complex and there is so much to learn. Switching out management in your first five years could derail everything you had set up. Besides, you don’t really want a manager going in if their heart isn’t in the move.
At least one trip to China is a necessity, but I would encourage several. Really making an investment and sending your manager 3 months in advance just to learn the language and culture, with limited work responsibilities during that time, is an excellent precaution. It will both give them a huge step up by having learned a lot beforehand, without the pressure of actually achieving results, as well as ensure that they understand fully what they’re getting into and won’t back out just a little while down the road.
Make Sure Everyone is Onboard
So your manager is fully onboard and you even sent them on several trips and they’re still committed to the move. But what about their spouse or any children? Doing business in China is as much about family as it is about operations and you can take a cue from the Chinese in this regard. They understand that family and business are often strongly intertwined.
It’s often unlikely that your manager’s spouse will be able to find work and the entire family will be plummeted into an entirely foreign culture. One of the most common reasons for a manager to pull out of a China role is not the challenges they face, but the challenges their families face. Relationships can become stressed and strained and an unhappy home leads to poor performance on the job.
Hiring a Relocation Service
If you ask me, relocation services are more than worth the investment for any organization planning to do business in China and send key leaders abroad. Relocation services do far more than just help your manager find a home and schools for the kids. They often provide pre-trip preparation such as cultural and language lessons for the entire family. Depending on the company or service package, they will also offer continued support after the move.
This continued support after the move is actually the most critical. All the preparation in the world actually does little to ensure a smooth transition. It’s only when the pre-move preparation is tied to after-move support that we see a high shift in success rates. Until truly arriving on the ground and living in a foreign country, you just don’t know what you don’t know. Language lessons that were just for fun become vitally important to securing that peanut free snack or explaining to building management that you have no water in your apartment.
Doing business in China can be tough, but daily life can be just as tough. Getting used to brown outs, constant traffic, and heavy pollution or not having the ability to drive because you don’t have a license are all huge stressors on families.
With the spouse working all day, family members will need someone to reach out to. Relocation agencies may offer a personal service themselves, but will also know all the expat communities in the area and any English-speaking services geared towards them. This can come as a huge relief to someone already suffering culture from shock and struggling to adjust.
Successful Transitions Lead to Successful Operations
Strong preparation, agreement from all interested parties, and great post-relocation support are steps that will lead to a successful transition for your manager. I’d say the two most important are buy-in from the spouse and post-relocation support services. A happy manager with a happy family will have the time to devote 100% of his or her energy while at work and ensure your move to doing business in China is a success.
Casey W. Xiao-Morris is a veteran China Business Consultant at Leverage China, LLC., helping her clients succeed in China’s market. Casey can be reached at cxmorris@LeverageChina.com.