Hui Yin Bi: Finding Mr Right


Finding the right management for your business operations in China is just the beginning, providing the right work structure is just as important writes Cecilia Fan from Beijing.
To the managers sitting in regional head offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore and Hong Kong, I have two critical questions about your China operations: Have you got the right person? Have you got the right structure?

These two questions should be asked as you begin your China operations, as well as periodically as your operations evolve.
First, let’s consider who might be your Mr (or Ms) Right.
1. Your China head needs to be able to understand the map of China in YOUR mind, so he / she can put himself in the right spot to start implementing your plans at your pace. You don’t want a Smart Alec who thinks they know better than you and overrules your decisions. And you certainly don’t want your head person to be positioning themselves as the irreplaceable king of your China operations. Your China head should have some ideas of their own but they must be capable of presenting them to you and convincing you before putting them in motion.
2. The right person needs to be generous when it comes to sharing information. They need the skills and awareness to allow efficient communication with the right people. Unless sufficient information is shared, you will never be able to see things from the same angle and thus you will be unlikely to be able to move in the same direction.
3.Your Mr / Ms Right may not meet the traditional candidate profile – such as experience with multi-nationals, overseas qualifications or an ability to speak English and/or Chinese like a native. However, they must possess the strengths you need, whether that is the passion to build a start-up spielautomaten online despite the harvest season being a long way off, the contacts to secure your first clients in China, or a strong personality to ensure your sales team toes the line.
4. Mr or Mrs Right should be someone you feel you can get to know. They may have their flaws but should never leave you with the feeling that there is something to hide, or wondering what happens in the China business when you are not around, or what might happen if one of your competitors offered them a pile of cash on the table.
5. Your on the ground China person should be someone you can dismiss when the time has come to say goodbye, and someone who will retaliate by telling the world what a horrible person you are in the bedroom or the boardroom. They should be someone you can still feel comfortable sharing a beer with even after you’re no longer colleagues.
Next you need to assess whether you’ve got the right structure. As you do, bear in mind the following points:
1. Don’t think you can sit back and relax once you have found a good manager for China. They may not be as good as you think and could leave without much notice. Have a back up plan.
2. Balance is the key to keeping your China ship afloat both now and for the long- term. Don’t blame your China head for being hopeless at managing files if simultaneously, they’ve made your business profitable within the first 18 months – hire a more “inward looking” deputy or an admin manager to compensate for the parts they are not so good at.
3. Work on improving your reporting structure continually. A single dotted reporting structure is the most common but it can be dangerous, as one dot point can impede all others. Multiple parallel reporting lines provide the efficiency and focus on specific functions but this structure can also create a silo within the same office as everyone has a different boss outside China. If you can justify a matrix structure, it certainly avoids the above problems.
4. Sometimes the issue is not about what kind of structure you have, but how it works in reality.
A unified corporate culture full of compassion and courage can operate even within a problematic structure and it will certainly have multiple positive impacts within a good structure. Conversely, a culture that is segregated, depressed and lacking ownership will result in low productivity, no matter how good the structure.
5. Auditing is essential, by headquarters and a reputable third party. Unless you audit, you won’t be sure whether your structure is really working for the whole team. Your audit doesn’t need to be carried out by a big firm that spends days pouring over your books and drawing hundreds of diagrams. It can be as simple as a few sessions in your office with some take away pizza, though you will ideally work with an external party who can contribute their experience and set the benchmark. 
* Hui Yin Bi – the Echo Wall – welcomes all feedback.
Contact Cecilia at:


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