July 30, 2014

China presents business challenges, opportunities (AUDIO)

Dan Paulson, InVision (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Dan Paulson, InVision (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Governor Scott Walker is just back from a trade mission to China, and a Wisconsin business owner who has an office there says the Asian powerhouse presents opportunities and challenges for Wisconsin firms wanting to do business there.

Dan Paulson notes China is already a destination for one-third of Wisconsin exports, especially agriculture. “I think we can see growth in sustainable energy. We can see growth in biotech. We can see growth in a number of areas that are kind of unique to Wisconsin. And now it’s how do we expand on those opportunities.”

But Paulson, who’s had an office in China for four years assisting businesses, cautions Wisconsin firms eager to do business there – understand the challenges. “What we often see is that companies go over there, and they expect to set up business the exact same way they do over here,” he says. “They do not realize the difficulty.”

AUDIO: Dan Paulson interview (15:00)

Paulson says communication can be a challenge, even though many Chinese speak English. And the Asian cultural tradition of saving face. “A lot of times things go unchecked, or they’re not shared, because they don’t want to make their boss or their business partner look bad,” he explains. “This is where we see the challenges with quality, with productivity, even with communications related problems within the workforce.” Still, he says many Chinese firms can and do provide high quality products.

American business people are often amazed at the scale of China, and the workings of the still largely state-run economy. Take for example the city of Tianjin, where Governor Walker recently presided over the opening of a Harley-Davidson dealership. “The mayor of Tianjin oversees 12 million plus people. He’s actually more like the governor of a state in comparison to us. Provinces are similar to states, but they’re a lot bigger, and there’s a lot more control through the central government.”

Paulson is CEO of InVision, which works with firms interested in doing business in China. “Understanding that business culture, that overall Chinese cultural mindset. How they do things versus how we do things can be significantly different, even though the desired outcomes might be the same.”