Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Ten Reasons Chinese Companies Fail In The U.S.




A couple of years ago, I did a post on my blog listing my 10 reasons why Chinese companies were failing in the United States.

In response to that post, Nina Ying Sun at the Plastics News Blog did her own post entitled "Why Chinese Companies Fail the US Market," explaining, agreeing on and challenging the items on my list.

I then did a new post, entitled, "Why Chinese Companies Fail in the U.S., Part II," responding to Ms. Sun.  Someone just tweeted on this post and when I followed the link and read it again, I realized nothing has changed.

Chinese companies are still failing in the United States at what I see as an alarming rate--and the reasons I see for that have not changed a bit.


Here is my list, with Ms. Sun's comments and then my comments on Ms. Sun's comments:

1. Chinese companies focus on a Chinese consumer, not an American one.

Ms. Sun's comment: "Chinese companies would like to find out more about their target American consumers, but they mostly rely on personal-level approaches to collect business information, lacking a systematic and scientific market investigation conducted by professional Westerners that understand the market."

My comment: Very interesting and, I think, accurate observation. Chinese clients have driven me nuts by asking my views on things that I know nothing about, and then completely ignoring my advice when I try to hook them up with real experts. The following are typical conversations:

Chinese client: How much should we pay for that U.S. trademark?
Me: I have absolutely no idea. I just do not know such business well enough to be able to help you at all on this. But, we have worked with a company that does nothing but value IP and I would be happy to give you their name.
Chinese client: But what is your best estimate?
---
Chinese client: Should we start out selling our product just on the West Coast or should we start out nationally?


Me: Good question. Difficult question. It seems to me the answer to this will hinge greatly on the costs involved and on your ability to set up distribution networks. My firm does not handle questions like this (and even if we did, I do not think it would make sense for you to pay law firm rates for this information) but I would be happy to refer you to top notch business consultants who do.
Chinese client: Should we start out in Los Angeles, Chicago or New York?
2. Chinese companies fail to realize that one reputation-damaging mistake in the United States could doom them forever here.

Ms. Sun's comment: This one is dead-on. And how come they don't realize this common sense? Because they get by in China and assume it's the same in the States.

My comment. Exactly.

3. Chinese companies fail to realize it will take time for them to make an impact in the United States and they are unwilling to spend the time and money necessary to do so.

Ms. Sun's comment: Chinese people take such pride of the fact that industrialization, urbanization and modernization have happened in China in a much shorter period time than in the West that they believe, if you try hard enough, everything can be done fast and well. Why don't they invest enough money to lay the ground work for the new market? Well, they look at the exchange rate. The same exchange rate that makes the Chinese production cost in yuan seem so low magnifies the marketing cost in dollars in the States.

My comment: Okay. But see number two above. Haste oftentimes makes waste.

4. Chinese companies focus too much on the end result (making money), and by doing so, they sacrifice the professionalism that would allow them to achieve long- term success.
Ms. Sun's comment: The Chinese would ideally like long -term success. But the drastic social, economic and political upheavals and changes in the past century have paralyzed Chinese people's long-term thinking. Fill the pocket as full as possible before the next change hits, be it credit policy, industry standards or consumer interest.
My comment: Absolutely true. Why think long term if there may be no long term? This explains the reason for the problem, but it still needs to be resolved.



5. Chinese companies tell users what they want instead of listening to users.

Ms. Sun's comment: This obnoxious mentality is a hangover of the old Soviet-Union-style "planned economy" (1949-1978). That period of time featured insufficient supply of necessities and one-sided propaganda.

Although it's hard to question about China running a market, capitalistic economy today, the country skipped some vital steps in the development of the Western countries.

My comment: Same as for number four above.

6. Chinese companies focus too much on making money in the short term, rather than on building the quality necessary to sustain themselves in the long term.

Ms. Sun's comment: What pops up in my mind includes: vicious and endless price wars, a business environment that has deprived consumers their say, and lack of technology and craftsmanship.

My comment. I agree, but what pops into my mind is that companies must be broad-minded enough to recognize that what makes sense in one country may not make sense in another. Indeed, one might even say this of China's regions and there are certainly plenty of Chinese companies that have managed to succeed in China as a whole by localizing their product or their marketing by region.

7. Chinese companies fail to understand how beauty and design might distinguish their product from that of their competitors.

Ms. Sun's comment: Traditionally, domestic consumers simply can't afford beauty and design. Price is the only distinguishing point. Plus, the companies don't want to invest much on design, because it's bound to be copied by competitors right away, thanks to the absence of intellectual property protection in China.

My comment: All true, but see my answers to Number four and number seven above.

8. Chinese companies rely too much on phone calls and face-to-face meetings instead of e-mail.

Ms. Sun's Comment: This is probably part of the Asian culture, underscoring personal communication instead of machine-generated and less interactive e-mail. I don't think it's necessarily a disadvantage though. Japanese companies have done well in the U.S. market, despite their preference for in-person meetings and phone calls rather than e-mail.

My comment. When in Rome..... But, I agree this may not be a disadvantage, so long as the Chinese company has the time and the people for it.

9. Chinese companies fail to use "simple and elegant designs."

Ms. Sun's comment: Unfortunately, they are trapped in between complicated traditional styles and a blank page of modern Chinese inspiration. Again, they can't justify investment on design, because it will be copied by competitors overnight.

My comment: See my comment to number seven above.

10. Chinese companies fail to realize their need to hire MBAs and those with local knowledge.
Ms. Sun's Comment: Call them cheap or arrogant. They don't trust MBAs or Western veterans unless foreseeable return is guaranteed. They also want everything under their control, not threats and risk brought by language barrier and different business values.

My comment: I don't know what to call this but I know it is not wise.

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1 comment:

  1. In another worlds, Chinese companies in US must act locally!

    Think Global, Act Local!
    The Right-ways to grow rich:

    http://rightways.wordpress.com/
    http://newscri.be/

    ReplyDelete