Whether it is a written set of criteria or ideas in your head, there is undoubtedly a checklist that you use when it comes to introducing new people into your business, be it as partners, employees or suppliers. When it comes to doing business in Asia, I have seen many smaller organisations fall into the mistake of letting the ability to speak English be the single biggest factor in their decision making. You cannot simply take on a new Asian partner because they speak English.
Taking it a step further, do not select someone solely because they went to a school or university in a western country or because they understand your product or service. Think about the criteria you have for partnering. You could be sitting across from somebody and they tick off all of the boxes you are looking for: Speak English, western-educated, appears to have some knowledge of your product and your market. They must be your best partner, right? Wrong.
The most important thing you need to look for when you are considering a partner is to find someone who shares the same business priorities as you. Defining your business priorities, philosophies and values is actually the first step in finding the right partner.
I help my clients navigate this critical process with a tool I have created called the Partner Discovery Process™.
It is a comprehensive assessment tool designed to determine the criteria you need to do business in Asia, and secondly to establish the criteria by which to choose partners.
The first part is to turn a magnifying glass on yourself and your business. By doing an internal assessment you will establish the strengths and abilities you need in your Asian partner. Answering the following questions is a good start.
- Do you have enough first-hand experience in operating in Asia?
- Have you or any of your staff had experience as an expatriate working in Asia?
- What percentage of your company’s sales revenue is generated from your Asian business interests?
- What is your long-term business plans for growth in Asia? How do you want to achieve these plans?
- Do you need to influence any market heavyweights to gain acceptability of your products or services in your Asian markets?
- What are the non-negotiable business standards or practices that you have in your business?
- What are the most common questions you are asked by shareholders or key stakeholders about your business in Asia?
The second part of the Partner Discovery Process™ is to establish the exact role of your partner and the characteristics that person or organisation needs to demonstrate. This is a critical process as it helps establish the exact criteria in terms of musts and wants you need in your partner. Then you can determine the role description and checklist so you can commence your search.
Once you have started the search and have discovered potential candidates that meet your criteria there is so much more to do when it comes to the actual selection which includes due diligence and discovery process. Investigate this person or company, just as you would investigate anybody who is going to work for you. What is their background, who have they worked for before, who do they know?
Take your time and do this work diligently. You are about to make the most crucial decision in developing your business in Asia.