Three Quick Lessons If You’re Doing Business With China – From Hank Paulson’s “Dealing With China”

I recently read “Dealing With China” By Henry “Hank” Paulson – a fantastic read that I’d go as far to say is essential reading for anyone wanting to do business in China.

I’ve read a million “How To Do Business In China” books. Most I’ve found either too anecdotal or too theoretical. Paulson’s book’s strength is in its ability to draw lessons from (very high level) deals with which he’s driven in China.

There are a few lessons I’ve learned which I’ve adopted into my negotiations with Chinese counterparts (an essential part of my position)

Decision Processes Involve Many

Spread your efforts wide. Paulson found this the hard way with his early Shanglong deal. As he says, “…many officials could approve a deal, but it took only one well-placed official in a consensus-ruled system to kill it”

I’ve found that actively managing relationships in Australia and China is critical. All needs need to be met by each division in each country. Failing to do this will make your efforts fall flat in a second.

Uncover Hidden Reasons

This is tricky. Hank Paulson found that until getting an accurate gauge of what China was after as a country, and how that could apply to what he was doing, his efforts might fall flat. He worked at a level where he needed contacts that understood the higher priorities of China’s leaders and the policies that were being put in place.

Vice Premier Zhu Rongyi was pivotal in brand new IPOs. He wanted Bank of China to have a successful IPO. Having a successful IPO specifically on the New York Stock Exchange held little value. Paulson changed his approach when he realised this underlying motivation.

Although not quite to that level, I’ve found that by uncovering KPIs, reasons and motivations of my Chinese counterparts, I’ve achieved a lot more, and got much better traction with my deals.

How do you do this? Get to know your client in informal settings. Take them to dinner, to banquets. You won’t get the hidden reasons in a couple of meetings at their office.

Patience

It’s a cliche yes,  but patience is the key. Paulson’s take on China is that it does need to change a lot about its policies and practices, but as Westerners, we need to be patient. This is a country that did not have the industrial revolution. It is a country that has been an economic miracle. If the country comes to a halt, China will fall over pretty quickly, and we need to acknowledge this.

I’ve often been frustrated that things for me haven’t happened as quick as I’ve liked. I’ve wanted the whole deal at the start and come back with nothing more than vague next steps. But being patient, being a good listener, being a good supplier to the Chinese reaps rewards eventually.

I’m convinced that Western business is what can do for them whereas China is about who you are for them. Best friends aren’t formed overnight. Build relationships – it will one day be worth it.

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Spend 20% of your time on the road (Part II)

I just got a great reply to my 20% post – Thanks Lucas Olmas !

Lucas introduced me to a Japanese principle that sums it up: “Genchi Genbutsu” (Go and See)

Question is – how?

How do you call on people outside of sales calls, especially if they’re not your client? (Lucas asked me this.)  Great question.

I’ve actually found it easy to engage people beyond sales calls, as they’re generally a lot more at ease when you’re not trying to push them into something. People love talking about their business, new trends, what makes a good supplier to them, what information would help them, so if you visit them (take them to lunch or coffee) with that mandate, it’s very effective and they feel no pressure. Active listening always yields great results. And if you can show how the information they supply shapes the business offer, they generally feel they’ve contributed to something great.

Everyone in Marketing Needs to Spend 20% on Road

I make it a mandate.

20% on the road. Talking to customers.

Asking them what are they hearing? What’s changed in their business?

Where does the power lie?

For example – in my current role I’ve found all product / fitting / design specifications are being made by Marketing / Real Estate Agents. This is a brand new thing. Never have this segment had so much control.

Solution?

I need to reach Marketing / Real Estate Agents.

What makes them tick? What can I do to from a suppliers’ perspective to make their job easier ? (i.e. sell properties)

But if I was in the office designing marketing strategies based on dated information – how useful would that be?

 

Why Markets Are Efficient

Here’s why I’m learning towards efficient markets.

Following Tim Ferriss’s recommendations, I’ve read, in this order

1. Buffett – The Making of an American Capitalist
2. More Money Than God
3. The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read

I’ve just finished the third. This book falls under the “efficient market” hypothesis whereas the first two were strong advocates of the “inefficient marts” hypothesis. I have to admit I was pretty convinced by inefficient market theory, but Solin’s book has kind of blown it out of the water.

Anyway – this book is great. Its aggressive tone against what Solin calls “hyperactive” investing and the complete lies of the financial industry make this book mandatory reading for anyone interested in investing, regardless of whether you’re an efficient or inefficient market guy.

If more people read this book, it would make lives harder for unethical brokers pushing unsuitable products with no fiduciary responsibility. And that’s good in my book.

A lot of people don’t really consider critical things such as fees when they’re buying actively managed funds – this book explains in black and white what the dangers are.

Best of all there’s a very simple and clear approach in the final section – the book is not just a rant!

Great stuff.

The Market is Inefficient – at first

“People form opinions at their own pace and in their own way – the notion that information could be instantly processed is one of the ivory tower assumptions that has little to do with reality.” Sebastian Mallaby, More Money Than God

So this is one of the many cases for Inefficient Markets Theory. It’s in stark contrast to Dan Solin’s opinion laid out in The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read

Where am I with these opinions? Still undecided. But I do have a few opinions.

  1. You may be able to ‘beat the market’ but only temporarily. Soon enough whatever amazing strategy you’ve come up with will be replicated, and the market will become ‘efficient’.
  2. If markets were efficient, there would be no such thing as hedge funds – they couldn’t exit. No investing ‘edge’ would ever work
  3. It’s a very small minority who can continually ‘beat the market’ meaning that even if markets are inefficient, there are very few who can be relied upon to do it for long periods of time. This obviously has ramifications for who you should invest your money with.

I’ll be exploring Efficient vs. Inefficient – will be interesting to see where this lands.

First step is to see what people say online.

Mindfulness in 30 Seconds

I’ve been practicing Mindfulness meditation for over a year now.

I’ve tried a million things to try to improve my life. I can truly say that the 9 minute meditation I do each morning has fundamentally changed the game.

I typically use a guided meditation* from Sam Harris.

I’m now getting to clearer and deeper realms of consciousness. But my point in writing this post is not to go into that.

Recently I’ve decided to try something new.

Spending ten minutes meditating in the morning is great, but how can I apply it to my whole day? I can’t always sit cross-legged on a chair or the floor every time I feel anxious.

What if I could use Mindfulness to observe any negative thought that comes into my head throughout the day (I get many!) and redirect it to positive thoughts?

I’ve come up with something I’ve been doing over the week and it’s worked like magic. And it takes all of 30 seconds.

Here’s what I do when I get a negative thought:

  1. Stop what I’m doing.
  2. Label the thought under anger, fear, dread, doubt, resentment, hate, whatever.
  3. Breathe and concentrate on my breathing for 10 seconds (practicing Mindfulness)
  4. Think of one of the three things that I’m grateful for**

This is hard the first few times, but soon I found that after practicing to the point of second nature, negative thoughts just keep getting deflected.

I can carry around happy and positive emotions – and it shows in my interactions with others.

I hate carrying around fear, dread, doubt, hate etc. all day. It’s not helpful. And it manifests upon itself with others. I’ll admit I’m pretty guilty of doing that.

Try my four step method – hope it helps.

*Below is my daily meditation from Sam Harris.

**I use The Five Minute Journal to come up with 3 things I’m grateful for each day. More of that in a later post.