Being an entrepreneur, I just love how just about all the entrepreneurs I come in contact with, all seem to have some form of ADD(Attention Deficient Disorder) and as soon as my book gets mentioned, invariably the next question is ”So. What are the most made mistakes?”
They don’t want the top 10; that apparently is too many. No, they just want me to give them the main main main ones.
Ok. Here you go.
Mistake #1 – Rookie Mistakes
Everyone does them from time to time.
We get distracted or have too much going one, whatever…
I’m talking about doing something that we know from experience, is a mistake.
And as sure as night follows day AS SOON AS we make the mistake, maybe even before the result is there, it dawns on us, our eyes roll and we brace ourselves for the full impact of what we know is coming.
It may be as simple as forgetting to wipe down the public toilet, or as serious as not doing your independent reference checks for a new hire or partner. Whatever the situation… it’s not good. When you do it to yourself, you grit your teeth, face the consequences and do whatever you have to clean up the mess you just made.
You probably beat yourself up a bit mentally, but God help the poor sap on your team who makes such a mistake.
Experience tells us that every industry, every market, every product, every whatever… has their own unique set of lessons or truths that are obvious in hind sight but seem to be mistakes made over and over by those just getting started. Well, China is no different.
Ok. If that was not concrete enough for you…
Mistake #2 – I know what I know and that’s what I know
Stay with me a second…
I’m pretty sure we all have patches of memories from when we were little. Flashes of scenes that happened long ago, that for one reason or another have always remained fresh and clear; scenes that seem to re-play themselves like commercials of a previous decade’s products.
Well, I have this one memory of when I was a kid growing up in Texas. I was on my own, sitting in the backyard on the patio furniture and in the middle of the table was one of those wide, shallow, flat-bottom pueblo colored plate/bowls. Well, crawling on the table was a single, pretty-big, black ant. I guess he was off looking for something because he moved in a purposeful fashion. And as it is my memory let’s say he was on a mission.
Well, after a quick survey of the table, he finds the plate/bowl, climbs up and begins walking along the rim. It was a pretty wide bowl so I imagine to his little legs he felt like he was making good time and traveling in the normal straight line. In no time he had circumvented the plate/bowl and started on round 2.
I was transfixed, watching this purposeful little guy, who was doing what, from his perspective, was the right thing; he was moving determinedly forward on the path in front of him. Around once… Around twice… Around thrice!
He just kept going.
He didn’t stop to see if the surroundings looked familiar or waiver and venture off the path. It’s not like he could stop to ask directions, there were no Guide Ant along the way. And besides as a guy ant, asking for directions didn’t seem to be in his hardwiring.
No, he kept going on the path, his path. He stuck to doing exactly what he knew and what he thought was right.
Somewhere in the middle of Round 5, I had visions of this poor fella dying of starvation on the rim of that pueblo plate/bowl. So I took a deep breath and blew him off rim. It took him about a half second to survey his new surroundings and then he was off searching for whatever he was searching for.
That memory has always remained fresh in my mind and likes to replay itself.
Last night was Friday night and I went to a bar with some buddies. Now, my daughter is almost 2 1/2 and so I really cannot remember the last time I went to a bar on a Friday night with some buddies. Don’t get me wrong, I know I have been to bars with buddies before, I simply cannot remember they last time.
Anyhow, I saw another buddy there whom I hadn’t seen in a while and we got to talking about what he was up to. Well, he’s doing business development for a large, successful American brand that is new to the China market. He’s been in China a while and his job is to develop China.
The company is very successful in the US and quite large, yet is new to China. They know what they know and they see the path ahead. From their perspective, the path is clear.
In no time we had the same (tired) conversation about quality, or rather the US side talking quality, quality, quality and my buddy and I doing the same, ‘Oh jeez, I know where this is going’, slow head shake.
While the West loves to talk quality, the China market seems to care very little about quality; at least compared to how much they do care about image.
In other words, it all comes down to face.
We then had a brief conversation about how the US has a very famous brand and how they cannot believe the few customers they have had so far, want to get rid of their logo. Which takes us back to the idea that, your ‘world-famous-back-home brand’, means zilch here.
My buddy knows he has a 2 front war* on his hands and will calmly face the battles ahead; I just hope he can blow them off course before they starve along the path.
* Struggling to gain ground in the China market and struggling with corporate back in the States.