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Making headway into China’s health and aged care market is a tantalising prospect for Australian businesses. Thanks to the one-child policy — now abolished — China’s population is ageing fast.
But getting ahead in China’s greying – and growing – market, isn’t a straightforward process. For Paul Montgomery, chair of the Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) Board, their pioneering work didn’t come easily – it required adapting to a new culture and perseverance.
RDNS has made enormous headway in China building major aged care projects in conjunction with local organisations as early as 2013.
Here are 11 tips for success in China which Mr Montgomery shared with the health and aged care business stream of the Australia Week in China conference in Beijing this week.
1. Invest time to understand the culture and different business practises
Mr Montgomery said he found differences in culture and business practices between his Australian organisation and Chinese counterparts to be significant. Overcoming the differences is, he says, a “question of reading and taking cultural training and development.”
2. There are important and significant differences in developing a business
Businesses are advised to hire lawyers.
“There are a lot of technical regulations that have to be navigated,” Mr Montgomery said, “and believe me, they’re very different to Australia. But there is also the L-O-R-E, instead of the L-A-W, and the L-O-R-E is probably more significant.”
3. Relationships DO matter
“In fact, relationships are critical,” says Mr Montgomery.
“If you don’t have good relationships, you’ll have absolutely no hope of doing any reasonable business.”
4. Choosing the right partner cannot be overstated
Mr Montgomery said RDNS have been particularly conscious of finding the right partners. RDNS used their lawyers and Austrade to help identify and link in with respectable partners..
5. Austrade and State Trade commissioners provide great support – use it
“We can’t speak highly enough of Austrade or of the support we’ve had from the Victorian State Government. It’s been absolutely critical to where RDNS is today,” Mr Montgomery said.
RDNS have used Austrade to help find leads, and for interpreting services who have also given solid advice in negotiations.
6. Never think of China as one big market
“We have been conscious to try and present ourselves at all levels of government – national, provincial and city levels — to say ‘We’re here, this is who we are and what we’re trying to do’,” Mr Montgomery said.
“We haven’t ignored any part of the Chinese hierarchy. Whether that’s helped or not – I hope it has, but that’s what we’ve done.”
“This is what you need,” said Mr Montgomery, “and copious quantities of it.”
Mr Montgomery gave examples of when perseverance unfortunately didn’t work out for RDNS, but also examples of when it has been essential to its success.
“It’s a matter of staying in touch and persevering. In China, patience and consistency is rewarded.”
8. Use senior people in your organisation
Mr Montgomery told the delegation that matching the right people in his organisation with the right people in the Chinese organisations they deal with has been key to their success.
“We were most unsuccessful with getting access to decision makers when our executives were asking their executives to produce the chairman or the president of the company,” he said.
Mr Montgomery said he spent around three months in China in 2013 giving presentations and meeting with key people.
“Our CEO spent longer than three months in 2013 doing the same thing.”
“We put a big commitment in from the senior people in our organisation and that has made a big impact with the people we’ve been dealing with and has enabled us to move more rapidly than what otherwise might have been the case.”
Flexibility is critical when doing business in China according to Mr Montgomery.
“We have to be very responsive to the demands of our partners – and they can be very demanding.”
“Always think about trying to share long term goals. Make sure that you work out a win-win.”
11. Be aware that one of the “hardest sells” is the powers at home
Getting results in the Chinese market is a long-haul and often the results might take some time to materialise.
“And for those people at home who don’t understand this, it’s easy for them to run out of patience quickly” said Mr Montgomery. “Many attempts by Australian organisations to penetrate this market get impacted by that.”