Companies from around the globe are flocking to China to buy, sell, manufacture, and create new products, but as former Wall Street Journal China bureau chief turned successful corporate executive James McGregor explains, business in China is never quite what it seems. One Billion Customers offers compelling narratives of personalities, business deals, and lessons learned, creating a coherent pictures of China's emergence as a global economic power with a dog-eat-dog business climate that has turned bureaucrats into billionaires and left many foreign business executives with their pockets turned inside out.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Lessons From The Front Lines Of Doing Business In China
With a population of 1.3 billion people, China offers companies from around the globe a massive market for their products and services. According to former Wall StreetJournal China bureau chief and corporate executive James McGregor, nothing about doing business in China is easy. In One Billion Customers, McGregor presents the stories, personalities, business deals, and lessons learned that can help businesses gain insight into how China really works.
McGregor explains that the consumer market in China has the potential to be larger than North America and Western Europe combined. In recent years, he writes, this sprawling country "has surpassed Britain as the world's fourth-largest economy." China has not only become the world's largest market for electronic appliances, but it now consumes 25 percent of global steel and 30 percent of cement.
Negotiations and Agreements
Why is working with China so difficult? McGregor explains that its laws are often only the law when they benefit China. He writes, "Negotiations can take forever and the resulting agreements can be promptly ignored." With an underlying reputation for corruption and secrecy, he adds, Chinese partners, customers and suppliers have a reputation for stealing technology and trade secrets from foreign companies. Why do outsiders fail in China? McGregor writes that foreign executives often get "run over by their Chinese competitors, the Chinese government, or their Chinese partners — or sink themselves through various combinations of unrealistic expectations, impatience, and lack of common sense."
To show outsiders what it is like to do business in China, McGregor offers the details of how specific business deals either worked or failed, and describes the actions of those involved on both sides of these deals, and how politics and prejudices affected expectations and outcomes. Through these stories, he describes the aspects that have both frustrated and rewarded outside businesspeople.
One Billion Customers is unique in its approach to delivering its business lessons. At the beginning of each chapter, McGregor introduces the players and the situation he is about to describe, and provides an overview of the context in which they find themselves. Next, he tells the story that unfolds as a narrative. Each ends with a summarization of what the preceding events mean to the reader, and how their lessons can be used to improve business conducted in China. Honed while working as a journalist and businessman during 17 years in that country, McGregor's easy-to-read style and first-person perspective make his observations highly digestible, timely and pertinent to readers.