Retail in Asia

In Markets

Hiring consultants in China: Do your due diligence

Looking East for new opportunities to expand your customer base? At 1.3 billion and counting, China is home to approximately one fifth of the world’s population and represents enormous market potential. However entry into China’s retail, leisure and hospitality world comes with a number challenges. As with any burgeoning economy there are numerous consultants who can expedite your plans; but how do you know which consultants to engage? 

Once you have established your requirements it’s time to do some groundwork, check with your contacts and associates, contact government trade organisations – they will likely be able to give you advice as well as make recommendations. Do your research, find out as much as you can about the companies and their staff. This investigation requires time and effort, but it is time well spent as you will be prepared to ask the hard questions to either confirm or disprove their statements and narrow down the options.

Thorough due diligence is an important part of the process, and being able to establish credentials is paramount. To help you get started, here are some fundamental questions to ask:

  • Does the consultant have a local presence and an international connection? This will reduce your risk of engaging a recent university graduate with no experience.
  • Do they have the relevant experience in China? Has the consultant successfully completed similar assignments? Did they actually carry out the work or was it a colleague in the office? Can they provide you with references – people to talk to about their work?
  • Who will be responsible for your project? The consultant you have been meeting with, or another person in the office? Who will be your main point of contact? A mix of expatriate and local staff should provide you with someone who understands your objectives as well as a thorough understanding of the local customs, culture and people. However, you need to know who will be representing you.
  • Are they independent? Is there any conflict of interest? A good working relationship with other professionals, suppliers and contractors can be beneficial; however, you should have the final say in the engagement of any additional specialists. Exposing existing relationships will ensure you know where you stand.
  • Be wary of a consultant who promises they can do everything. Do they have all that expertise in-house? Will they be using other companies and charging you a premium?
  • Do they offer full transparency and an auditable process? Full disclosure will give you greater confidence in their abilities.
  • Are they financially strong to deliver on commitments? Who actually owns the business? How many clients are they currently providing services for? Company background information will assist you in substantiating a consultant’s financial position. 

There are many benefits to hiring consultants for entry into and projects to be delivered in China. They can expedite the process, and reduce your risk as well as exposure to unfavourable practices, saving you time and money. Ensure they are professionals in their field with a results-orientated approach. And once you have engaged a consultant, ensure they are clear about your requirements, objectives and goals, and put in place a solid contract agreed by both parties.

“We did not have a lot of experience with delivery in China, and needed a consultant who knew what they were doing. inProjects helped us decide on the best delivery method and procurement route, identified capable vendors, and managed our project through to a successful completion. Their experience and knowledge of the China market was indispensable.”
– Steffen Brandt, Sales Director Asia, Gebr. Heinemann

China is one of the world’s oldest cultures, having developed over thousands of years. The country is complex and challenging on many levels, making it an exciting and interesting place to do business. Engaging a business partner who is trustworthy, independent and objective can be mutually beneficial. Contact us if you would like more information – or to help get started on researching a move into China, go to:

US-China Business Services Directory
The American Chamber of Commerce PRC
UK Trade & Investment
China-Britain Business Council
European Union Chamber of Commerce in China
China’s Changing Culture and Etiquette (China Business Review)

Sources: CIA Library, Sideroad, Due Diligence China, Management Consultancies Association (MCA)