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2017's Summer Business Consulting Project: On the ground in Guangzhou

Candidate's Linkedin Post about landing in China.

Nine candidates are participating in the Guangzhou, China portion of the Telfer Executive MBA's Summer Business Consulting Projects this summer. This project requires teams in groups of three to complete a consulting engagement for a Chinese client over a four month time frame. It involves a one week trip to Guangzhou at the end of July to validate their research and meet with the Chinese clients for their consulting projects in order to gather information and close off their projects during the month of August.

The group of candidates, nicknamed the G9, were on the ground in Guangzhou during the week of July 31st. It was a busy week abroad. In addition to working on their projects and leveraging the partnership with Telfer Executive MBA`s sister program at Sun Yat-sen University`s Business School, candidates spent some time with executive briefings at local companies in Guangzhou, including Maximum Decoration Design, Manijeer Garments, Top Gene Biotech and our sister school Sun-Yat sen University Busienss School's Executive MBA program. Telfer Executive MBA's Executive Director Sophia Leong presented a gift to Vice-Dean Liu and Director Wang commemorating the School's visit to Ottawa in October 2016.

Read about the trip from the perspective of the G9 candidates:  
(click on the title below)

The trip to Guangzhou was a like a box of assorted chocolates for me; full of different flavours. Some of them, I would cherish all my life and some not so much, but it was a box of joy overall.

We made some new friends and got closer to old friends, the welcome and the warmth we received from all our hosts and our tour guides was overwhelming, their hospitality alleviated our discomfort because of the scorching heat.

And now, the most interesting part, food! Guangzhou is a food paradise, every meal is a never ending stream of dishes rotating on a Lazy Susan, but being a vegetarian was a punishment! But still the experience was great, the generosity of the hosts is amazing.

If you have dietary restrictions, it's going to be difficult, it's hard to explain there, so be flexible, carry snacks and just enjoy the experience with an open mind and heart.

Last but not the least, the BCP, it was a roller coaster throughout, there were many peaks and valleys, but no matter what, stick together as a team! Enjoy the process, observe the Chinese business culture and adapt fast. Agility is the key to sail through the tide.

To conclude, it's a box full of surprises, it may be a bit unusual ir unprecedented at times, but go with the flow. Embrace the experience, it would be beautiful and a trip to cherish for life."

The G9, like many other business trips or even vacations, will have unexpected twists and turns. Whether they be scheduling changes for leisure time or a complete reorganization of your key presentation - be adaptable, be flexible. Understand that you are a group working and living together with different preferences and personalities. Moreover, be accepting of evolving demands from the companies you are visiting; you are their guest and they are taking time out of their day to host you.

Be appreciative of the experience. It is very easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty of the assignment at hand or even be overwhelmed by the scorching heat – we all were at least at one point or another. The G9 is so much more than a Business Consulting Project. We all experienced the process and learned from this consulting project, but we also had the opportunity of a lifetime to take part in a journey. This past week allowed us to join in cross cultural business practices, learn from one another, and be inspired by fellow alumni. The culmination of the trip had many of us reflecting on some amazing connections built with new individuals we had only just met that week and most importantly to me, were the surprising and special moments shared with my fellow candidates. I am grateful to have built strong friendships that will last a lifetime.

The trip to China changed my perspective on Chinese culture and brought home the huge differences between what we hear in the media and the facts on ground.

For one, I was not expecting China to be as technologically advanced as I found it to be. I found that they have applied technology to most aspects of their daily lives, leveraging the power of technology in making their lives easier and have taken the concept of shared services to a whole new level, from the shared bikes to shared umbrellas. I found the place to be bustling with life and activity, and the people very hospitable and accepting of strangers. .

Another surprising point for me was the networking culture in China, which I found to be quite different from what we are used to in North America. The networking events are much more relaxed and in my opinion, targeted more towards relationship building than business per se. It is done over dinner and everyone gets a chance to go round the table, chatting and getting to know everyone else on a one on one basis. .

I will definitely prepare differently for Ho Chi Minh. In addition to the academic work, I will take time to research and gain some understanding of the local life and culture. I will endeavour to find out more about the way people use technology and the business culture, in order for me to be better prepared to take advantage of opportunities available in the region.

1. Expect to be tired. The week goes by quickly. Go out and make the most of the final trip and create lifetime memories with each other.

2. Stay flexible. No plan survives first contact, what matters is how quickly one adapts to the situation. Always be gracious and apply diplomacy in your interactions with people you meet and towards each other. Don’t over plan activities outside of official programme as there are often spin-off meetings and activities.

3. Study the local market to understand each sector from their perspective. For example, the G9 presented a few fintech companies to the client in China. We quickly found out they had little interest in North American Fintech because China feels they are already ahead in this area.

4. Eat well. Try foods outside of your comfort zone and pay attention to cultural dining etiquette by watching others around you. If you have food restrictions, plan by keeping healthy snacks in your bag so you don't get hungry if the host serves food you cannot consume.

5. Clothing and footwear. Research the climate and pack business clothing and shoes that are suitable for the region.

6. Make friends with hotel concierge. Concierge staff can really help you out in tight situations. They will go an extra mile if you are courteous to them and offer insight on local norms.

 

I am lucky to be on a team of very tolerant and flexible professionals for the G9 project. We had an objective to be as proactive as possible, to be as flexible as possible, to get the job done well, and to be as prepared as possible for the presentation. I felt very confident working with Megan and Diana, and am thankful to be able to work with them.

The essence of "Guanxi" is very strong. Building a relationship with your clients and business associates is very important in order to help move ahead with any project. The collaboration among businesses is something to be respected and modeled. Each company owner and employee that I had the pleasure to meet had a sense of pride for their business partners and associates. They wanted to help their friends do well, and also collaborate among the businesses to share knowledge and expertise for mutual success. They have the collaboration senses like Silicon Valley, but lack the fail fast - fail forward experience.

I found it useful to leverage the knowledge and experience of their business associates, but also other industry experts. This helped me gain more knowledge to help my client, but also help leverage existing solutions that have been built and the solid experience of the experts. By interviewing some industry experts, we could uncover some limitations in solutions, or even potential problems that may need to be solved.

My recommendations for any team that is working internationally would be the following:

  • be prepared with multiple mediums of communication on all devices and PCs prior to departure:
    • WeChat - IM, Video calling, translation
    • WhatsApp - IM, Video calling,
    • Zoom - Video and VOIP calling
    • Skype - IM, Video calling,
  • International teleconferencing line - voice calling
  • Set up a Box or Drop Box folder and set up access on all devices and PCs
  • Backup all files on to a separate hard-drive prior to departing
  • Any embedded videos in slides need to be tested while offline before departure.
  • Install VPN applications on all devices to get around some in country limitations.
  • Plan and Schedule meetings with clients, stakeholders, and industry experts very early in the process.
  • For China, install and set up the OFO app (and maybe the Mobike app) to rent bikes anywhere.

Learn to embrace the cultural differences, enjoy eating anything with chop sticks, respect the tea drinking rituals, and enjoy the genuine hospitality of the Chinese people. As large as the cities are, the Chinese people remind me of the small town friendliness that I like. Make business friends in all locations. There are most-likely mutual business opportunities in each country.

The trip to Guangzhou, Guangdong, China over the summer was a fantastic experience. To summarize, China is a world on its own. It is extremely fast-paced, well maintained, and very advanced when it comes to the technological factors. On the bright side, they are not done yet. They continue to grow their GDP even during the time of recession and we were able to observe and assess how they are able to overcome this economic downfall.

The people that we collaborated with are very patriotic, humble, and traditional. The Chinese work culture is all about working extremely hard, doing your job exceptionally well, being respectful, and humble. They go above and beyond when it comes to taking care of their guests. They introduced us to their history, culture, norms, and traditional foods with extreme warmth that made us (foreigners) feel welcome and comfortable.

There is a huge advantage of working with a Chinese company directly from the destination itself. It enables the perspectives of the Chinese business dynamics in a holistic perspective. As North Americans, we are exposed to the business culture and norms of doing business in North America only. By being on the ground in China we were able to understand the business decision-making process and perspectives that go beyond the value of revenue generation and profitability. It is about doing the right thing, ethically speaking, in order to impact the country as a whole in a positive manner.

This was my first time doing business with companies in China and I can confidently say that there will be many more opportunities to come. As we plan to travel to Vietnam next year, we will prepare differently. It would be wise to start understanding the history and traditional of Vietnam well in advance in parallel to performing business with them. This shows respect and earns the trust of the business partners. It is also recommended to take at least few more days to stay in the country and to expose yourself to the real culture of the destination. I found it humbling to meet various types of personalities who are extremely accomplished and treat you with the uttermost respect and kindness that is not seen on a daily basis. The existence of leadership without entitlement is the key takeaway from this trip and this virtue has become one of my core values of career and personal growth.

For G9 next year, I recommend to start reviewing the Chinese traditions and culture in advance, and get up-to date with technologies and mobile payment systems. Take all opportunities that come your way to try new things and accept every new experience as a positive one. Also, take some time to observe and reflect why China is considered a giant around the globe. There is a reason for their success and continuous prosperity.

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Published: August 2, 2017 | Category: Latest News

The Telfer Executive MBA pushes you to new limits in a protected team environment. The result is a newly found, greater sense of confidence, both personally and professionally.
Jeff Bardsley, EMBA 2011, National Business Manager, HEAD Canada Inc.
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