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 Street Journal 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.
Startup and Turnaround
McGregor begins One Billion Customers by pointing out that China is "simultaneously the world's largest startup and the world's largest turnaround." After 2,000 years of continuous imperial rule, and a "crippling encounter with communism that left an impatient, hungry and hardworking population determined to get rich and regain its rightful place in the world," McGregor writes that China presents opportunities and challenges to global businesses on a range and scale that have never been seen before.
To help businesspeople capitalize on the stories he tells, McGregor concludes each chapter with a collection of tips called "The Little Red Book of Business." In these sections, he boils down the fruit of his knowledge into several bulleted points that describe exactly what can be done to succeed in China.
Why We Like This Book
One Billion Customers is filled with a fascinating collection of valuable stories gleaned from numerous interviews with those on the front lines of China's rise to power. By offering a deep look into the minds of the Chinese people and their business practices, McGregor helps outsiders grasp the fine details that can either make or break deals with their Chinese counterparts. Full of great writing and international intrigue, One Billion Customers delivers a wealth of information and advice. Copyright © 2006 Soundview Executive Book Summaries