Savio Chan, CEO of US China Partners, Inaugurates Grove School of Engineering’s Aziz Ahmad Leadership Lecture Series
When initiating business dealings in China, “know the cultural nuances, or you will fail before you start,” warned Savio Chan, president and CEO of US China Partners Inc., in a lecture at The City College of New York earlier this month. Mr. Chan’s firm helps United States businesses expand into Chinese markets.
His talk, “Five Rules Of Doing Business In China,” was the inaugural presentation of the Aziz Ahmad Leadership Lecture Series at the Grove School of Engineering, endowed by Mr. Ahmad, a CCNY engineering alumnus who is president and CEO of UTC Associates, Inc., a network and systems integration firm. The three-part series brings business leaders to campus to share their wisdom and help cultivate entrepreneurship in engineering on campus. Future speakers are: Joseph Laezza, president and CEO, Glowpoint, March 15, and Michael Millegan, president, Verizon Global Wholesale, April 19.
Mr. Chan, who helped fast-track iPhone’s official entry into the Chinese market and has shepherded many joint ventures between Chinese multinationals and Fortune 1000 companies, illustrated the importance of cultural nuances with the story of an American businessman who presented a prospective Chinese business partner with an expensive Tiffany clock. Unfortunately his gift deeply offended his host since the word for “clock” resembles “death” in Mandarin. He had unwittingly wished for the rapid demise of his host, and it took six months to repair the blunder.
To present his five rules, Mr. Chan used a mnemonic that spells “CHINA”:
• “C” = Culture: Understand China’s Cultural Complexity. Many of its business customs may be counterintuitive.
• “H” = Harness Government Relationships. Build relationships within local government and use this human network to make local business connections.
• “I” = Intellectual Property Rights. Remember that the rights to use a patent or trademark in China go to the first to file. Large companies have spent millions of dollars in China buying back the rights to their own names or logos from an individual who beat them to the punch.
• “N” = Navigate Markets with Strong Local Partners. Only a Chinese business partner can identify the pitfalls unique to the local market.
• “A” = Anticipate Fierce Local Competition. Engineers must adopt designs that minimize others’ ability to copy them, since outright copying is common and unregulated.
In addition, Mr. Chan recommended that any entrepreneur in China should be patient, persistent and have deep pockets to weather a long entry period. “Even when you are the biggest and most successful company in the world, it is not guaranteed you will be successful in China,” he said.
The fact that China’s president is an engineer is an advantage to engineering-based businesses, said Mr. Chan. “By and large, the Chinese government and industry respect engineers more than other countries do. There is a lot of opportunity for engineering school students to explore and take advantage of this.”
All presentations in the Aziz Ahmad Leadership Lecture Series are free and open to the public. They will be delivered in the first floor lecture hall of Steinman Hall on The City College campus. Steinman Hall is located at W. 140th Street and Convent Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10031. Times, dates, speakers and topics for upcoming lectures follow:
12:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15 – Joseph Laezza: “How Cloud Based Technologies and Services are Changing the way the Global Business Community Operates.” Mr. Laezza is president and CEO of Glowpoint [NYSE AMEX: GLOW], which provides cloud-managed video services.
12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19 – Michael Millegan: “Leading Verizon Global Wholesale Transformation.” Mr. Millegan is president of Verizon Global Wholesale, a business unit of Verizon Communications Inc. [NYSE: VZ]
About the Aziz Ahmad Leadership Lecture Series
The Aziz Ahmad Leadership Lecture Series was made possible through the generosity of City College alumnus Aziz Ahmad, BE EE ’82, ME EE ’84. Mr. Ahmad is president and CEO of UTC Associates, Inc., a leading systems and network integration company. UTC also develops software for information technology and telecommunications applications.
Mr. Ahmad serves on the board of Grameen Solutions, a Bangladesh technology and small business development company chaired by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus. He recently received the CUNY Asian American Distinguished Alumni Award from the Asian American/Asian Research Institute – City University of New York. During the past several years, he has served as an adjunct professor at the New York City College of Technology – CUNY and he has taught graduate-level courses in converging technologies at Pace University.
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