How to Get the Best Value from Your China Business Consultant

Consultant 顾问 [gùwèn]If you have attended a China related seminar, conference or even trade-show then you have probably been approached, surrounded or bombarded by consultants of all colours, language and education background – all claiming to have the best solution for you ranging from China entry, licences, registration, sourcing and negotiations to business plan and market research. How do you know which consultant could bring the best value for your business?

Every company would have different needs and money to spend on consultants. Some would prefer to use a one-man-show consultancy due to lower costs and complexity while others have a larger budget allocated. If possible, the consultant you would hire should have a team of people that complement each other and the needs of your business.

Here are three characteristics that should be considered when picking your China business consultant:

Commercial education and experiences:

No business is alike and your consultant should be able to quickly and effectively grasp the depth and breadth of what your company is doing and what it aims to achieve with its China operations. The consultant is obviously not hired to write you an academic paper but the structure and knowledge of business school education together with extensive commercial experience should enable the consultant to put your situation and needs in a broad but practical China business framework. Do ask for resumes of the consultant or his/her team to evaluate their competencies in delivering solutions for you.

Speak, read and write Mandarin Chinese:

This may seem like common sense but you’d be surprised of how many China consultants there are that do not speak or read the language properly. If they don’t, they obviously do not have access to first-hand information and will need to rely on others to communicate on your behalf through interpreters or translators.

Competent communication:

Speaking Mandarin Chinese may not be sufficient. Your business consultant might be required to communicate on your behalf with government agencies, potential partners, distributors, agents and suppliers. Mistakes in this communication may compromise your relationships with stakeholders or damage the quality of the work they do for you. It is therefore important to assess your potential consultants communication abilities before you enter into a service agreement with them.

So now that you have found the right consultant to help you with your China business, here are two suggestions to make the best out of the relationship:

Provide genuine and comprehensive information:

Most experienced and ethical consultants would be able to provide you with the ideal model for your China approach and the potential success of your products or services based on your genuine and comprehensive information such as business strategy, situation and needs. If the consultant find you have little chance of success, they may be able to advise you the difficulties upfront and hence save your time, money and resources to work on mission impossible. If your team is involved in process, do make it clear for them to open-minded, honest and transparent with the consultants.

Provide inputs, monitor milestones and work closely with them:

No matter how smart and experienced your consultants are they do not have the knowledge and insight of your business as you do. Hence do not just leave everything in their good hands. Require progress report, communicate with them regularly, provide feedbacks, ideas and information when required or necessary so that they will refine and tailor the approach and achieve the best they can.

After having identified the most competent China business consultant and established good working methods you should be able to get the best out of them and help you on the way to success of your business in China.

2 comments to How to Get the Best Value from Your China Business Consultant

  • Alwin

    Hi David,
    Interesting discussion. Your theory is right as long as it concerns consultancy in how to deal with Chinese, how to structure you company, how to deal with licenses and government. But be carefull if your consultant is supposed to deal with your Chinese customers as well. In that case I would suggest always take a non-chinese consultant with China experience, living in China (and if possible speaking the language, but not required). Chinese consultants always tend to be on the side of other Chinese, even if they get paid by you. That is just how they have been raised here in China, they believe they have to help their country and their fellow-countrymen.

  • David Petersson

    Hi Alwin,

    Thank you for your comment. I wouldn’t be quite as negative of how ‘locals’ behave but yes, communicating with customers is best handled by yourself and/or people you would fully trust and whom are fully aligned with your vision and goals.

    All the best,


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