There is no better place to consider setting up a business than Hong Kong right now. China is very close to becoming the biggest, strongest economy on the planet, so it’s fair to say that it really is a land of opportunity for overseas investors. It can be a daunting place at times, particularly for westerners, but this is only because the culture is very different.
A huge amount of emphasis is placed on formality and custom. Where British and American executives are used to reading between the lines and identifying the intentions behind the formalities, Chinese managers and entrepreneurs use traditional practices to demonstrate them. For instance, titles are very important and many a foreign visitor has lost out on a big business contract after forgetting to use the correct monikers.
At heart, though, doing business in Hong Kong is much like doing business anywhere. If you embrace the culture and please the big hitters, you can put yourself on a fast track to success.
Learn from the Locals
One of the quickest ways to immerse yourself in Chinese corporate culture is to move into an office that provides coworking spaces. For instance, the Hong Kong Virtual Office Solutions from Servcorp allow users to operate from shared environments. There are private workspaces available for hire as well, but coworking is a great way to meet fellow business owners, learn from companies that are like your own, and pick up some tips on how to impress Chinese partners and investors.
Avoid Being Too Physical
Westerners are a little more comfortable with physical contact than Chinese executives and clients. There is no back-slapping, high-fiving, or arm rubbing for the most part, even if the atmosphere in the room is convivial and very positive. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but it is best if you try to limit physical contact to a handshake with people that you don’t know outside of work.
Learn a Little Bit of Cantonese
This is not an easy thing to do. Cantonese is a tough language and even simple phrases can be a real mouthful. However, nothing delights people more than a foreign visitor who has taken the time to appreciate their culture. So, if you want to increase your chances of securing a big contract, learn a few choice phrases and pull them out as a friendly surprise.
Make Your Office Easy to Find
You’re the one moving into their territory, so make it easy for clients, customers, sponsors, and suppliers to find you. If possible, work from an office in one of the central business districts. If a conventional lease is way too pricey, swap it for a pay as you go virtual facility, at least until you’ve started to make money and can expand. Don’t forget that a prestigious address can be a very powerful tool indeed.
Get Your Greetings Right
The acceptable way to greet Hong Kong business associates, within a formal capacity, is with a handshake and a slight bow. You should always remember to greet the most senior member of the party first. This is very important; if you forget, you risk offending the person with the power to reject or accept your proposals.
Why Virtual Office Solutions Provide the Perfect Start
It isn’t always the most practical course of action to commit fully to an overseas relocation or expansion. This is especially true when it comes to very distinct cultures like that of China. In other words, it is certainly worth spending some time in Hong Kong, at a minimal expense, as a way to see if it is a good fit for your business. You can do this by working from a fully equipped virtual office facility in one of a number of prestigious locations.