If you know me well enough, you know that the Chinese culture interests me very much. For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about that fascinating culture. One of the very first things I learned about China is to respect the business traditions and to value the importance of building a strong network/business relationship.
My little disappointing story
One businessman I know wants to grow his business in China; he has a little niche market there and after a modest market research, he realized that he could expand his sales a lot. Since I really want him to succeed in China, I introduced him to a Chinese businessman, who lives in Calgary, and who is very well connected with certain Chinese provinces as well as with some Chinese import/export organizations. I strongly believed that my Chinese friend would be able to help my client find the right distributor and export his products in China.
After the first meeting between these two businessmen, my Chinese friend made the impossible for my client and convinced a Chinese television to produce a small video/advertising that will be broadcasted in Taiwan, for free! That’s such a great story, isn’t it? I was so excited of being part of that deal and it was a proof that everything can happen when having the right connection in China. Unfortunately, I had a huge disappointment when I learned that my client didn’t do any follow-up with my Chinese friend in order to thank him or to inform him about the release date of the video.
The Importance of GuanXi
Translated to “connection” and “relationship”, Guanxi is the most important concept to be aware of when doing business with a Chinese businessman. Even if Guanxi is being translated by connection and relationship, the concept has a much larger implication than having a good network. Guanxi reflects a deep feeling of trust between 2 people and integrates the important idea of “face” (MianZi), which has a strong prestige and social status connotation in China. The Guanxi concept is an important key for having success in China and it’s the key for finding the appropriate suppliers, employees, business partners, paying the right price, etc. Guanxi also means that if someone does a favor by introducing you to the right contact, you will be expected to repay the favor to that person one day; it’s a tradition that goes back thousands of years which values loyalty and obligation.
Since Chinese and westerners do more and more business together, the concept of Guanxi is being questioned. However, Chinese people still consider the concept extremely crucial as being part of their culture.
The exchange of a favor doesn’t have to be an exceptional act of kindness but failure to repay the favor has a negative connotation to Chinese businessman. For anyone that does business with China, or a Chinese person who lives in America, consider reading about the culture and not making a Chinese businessman losing face.
I don’t mind even if my client didn’t recognize the efforts I made to introduce him tomy Chinese friend. However, by understanding the importance of Guanxi, I am really upset that my client didn’t take the time to acknowledge the role of my friend in his new exposure in China. I don’t think that my client got the respect of my Chinese friend and I am reconsidering making other introductions between my Chinese friends to other of my customers without teaching them some important facts about China.
Be sure to respect Chinese culture and make sure to understand it before doing business with China! And don’t forget, a thank you note doesn’t cost anything, whoever you are doing business with.