By Patrick O. Courtois
The Beijing Olympics have had a great impact on the city of Beijing, where a large infrastructure refurbishment initiative, fresh developments and a massive English language training campaign have been some of the elements of a drastic change and an amazing source of business opportunities for both local and foreign companies. Shanghai, with its upcoming Universal Exposition in 2010 is going through the same face-list, with the replenishment of the famous bund area, the accelerated infrastructure changes much needed to ease the megalopolis congestion problem and much more. Commercial opportunities are as well rising fast toward the May opening of the Exposition; opportunities that are being seized by both for local and foreign companies.
I have anticipated a rise in solicitaton from pavilion ran countries. Tendering processes are going on in most country having a pavilion presence, and many overseas third parties have, and still are, gotten in touch with me for solutions in search and selection of the pavilion staff, but most importantly staffing, enabling each pavilion to legally employ staff, local Chinese or foreign nationals, without having to establish a legal corporate entity in China. My firm being fully licensed and resourced for both activities it is of course a solution that we are capable of handling.
However what was not anticipated is the rise in solicitation from overseas SMEs.
Some the challenges faced by SMEs, while trying to seize their share of the tremendous financial and marketing opportunity the Exposition yields, can be briefly summarized as such:
• No local contact / connection in China
• No interest in forking out the additional cost, not to mention the lengthy process, of setting up a corporate legal entity for the limited duration of the Exposition (6 months)
• how to source bilingual and qualified employees locally
• how to legally employ local and eventually foreign national staffs during the Exposition period
The opportunities are there, the challenges as well, but most importantly, solutions exist. Solutions that are legal, hassle free and well… affordable.
When you are operating an overseas SME, with a limited margin for error or financial flexibility, the process of establishing a commercial or operational presence in China can be seen as a daunting task. Entrusting a local business partner becomes therefore a viable solution, as you can stress-free focus on what you do best, that is sell and promote your products/services, while the local partner handles the “Chinese” side of things, like recruitment, employment, payroll, labor law compliance and so on, on your behalf.
Before signing up with a staffing company a few essential points are to be kept in mind:
• Do your research and make sure the firm you are engaging yourself with is LEGALLY LICENSED… that make sense, in the west at least, but I can guarantee you that a casual “sure, I can help” answer, here, is not what you should expect.
• Make sure they do have experience and references available for their staffing activities…
• Compare prices, as tariffs for staffing solutions can go from a few thousand US Dollars to a few hundred Chinese RMB from a firm to another, per month, for pretty much the same service level…
• Make sure that the firm has the INTERNAL resources to provide you with a pro-active and professional service. Too many firms around will be happy to take your money but will outsource payroll, contracts, … In China, quality is not always here while dealing with third parties suppliers…
• Foreign staffing firm versus Chinese firm? This is entirely your choice… but bear in mind that a foreign firm does not necessarily have the flexibility a local firm can have in terms of terms of quick fixes and might not be able to provide additional services like last minute lodging, visa and such… In addition, a foreign firm might have larger overheads and as such that might impact the quote you received.
• Finally, trust your guts. If the few emails you exchanged gave you a somewhat dodgy feeling or your primary contact gives of the sense of being “lost in Translation” at every phone conversation … walk away…
…or better, call me!…
Patrick O. Courtois is the Director of Operations at DaCare Executive Search, a leading executive search and HR services consultancy, based in the heart of Shanghai, China. (http://www.dacare.com/). Patrick has extensive management consulting experience in Asia, as well as European markets. With a current focus in executive talent sourcing in Greater China, Patrick engages with multinational clients in professional services, hi-tech communications and industrial manufacturing. Visit Patrick’s HR blog at http://hrshanghai.blogspot.com/.