Travel

Lessons Learned from a Business Trip to China

This past April I took my second trip to Hong Kong and Mainland China. The goal of the trip was two-fold: to secure new supplier relationships and further develop existing ones. Like many international business trips, there were significant lessons to be learned:

 

I timed my flights to be over the Canton Fair, which is the largest international trade show in the world. This fair has three phases which each span a week with product ranging from large machinery, home décor, children’s clothing and everything in between. The phases were each held in 10 football field sized buildings or more and the amount of product was severely overwhelming. Luckily I had done my research before and knew the exact booth numbers I wanted to hit, so I rushed the floor and was able to complete my visits all in an 8 hour window. Getting there was another story.

I landed in Hong Kong after my 16 hour flight and stayed overnight in Kowloon on the northern side of the city. After a couple short adjustment days, I embarked on my journey even further North into Mainland China. The differences between Hong Kong and my new location in Shenzhen were drastic. Where it was relatively easy getting around without the Cantonese in Hong Kong, Mandarin, a second Chinese dialect more popular in Mainland China, was the only form of communication for the majority of citizens. Every street sign and menu was written only with characters, which posed interesting challenges all along the way. After finally convincing the 6th taxi driver I stopped to take me a couple miles down the road to my hotel, I settled in and got ready to visit the factories.

It would have been very convenient if all factories were in one central location, but the fact of the matter is that they are spread out in any number of different towns and cities across China. Knowing this, I arranged for transportation from the hotel to my different stops, and was able to complete my rounds in a timely fashion. I had built my existing long-term relationships with the English-speaking representatives of these factories and was pleased to meet other influential managers and employees along the way. Though my sample size was small in terms of exposure to work life of the employees, I was relieved to see that their conditions were much better than expected. Even compared to my last trip, I have seen significant improvements in both observation and conversation with these workers which made me feel confident in my business with their employers.

After testing new equipment, negotiating terms with the help of a translator, and having a traditional round-table lunch with the managers, it was time for me to head back to Shenzhen for the night. It was of upmost importance to me on this trip to keep my clients in the forefront of everything I was set to accomplish. This continued into the following day which landed me 3 hours – you guessed it, North – to Guangzhou where the massive Canton Fair was taking place. Luckily I had a colleague who had been to the fair for the past 10 years and was able to show me the ropes here because it was quite overwhelming at first. Feeling accomplished after the long day a the show, I went back into Shenzhen to enjoy my last 48 hours and tour around the city, visit a local beach, and reflect on my experiences.

Overall, I found a renewed sense of purpose with Case Escape from my travels. The ability to assist entrepreneurs at a growing rate in the US and internationally by helping them with their own businesses is something that we have immensely enjoyed over the past two years, and are looking forward to further growth and expansion. Case Escape was founded on growing a community of business owners who have the freedom to choose their own paths, and I’m proud to say that this principle means more to us now than ever before.

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