Working in China, Part 4: Managing the Work

June 26, 2015

The team behind the Lao Niu Discovery Museum of the CNCC visits JRA's offices. From left, Mrs. Loretta Luke Yajima, JRA's Mike Meyer, Ms. Ni Zhang, Mr. Xuecheng Zhou and Ms. Hongxiao Li

The team behind the Lao Niu Discovery Museum of the CNCC visits JRA's offices. From left, Mrs. Loretta Luke Yajima, JRA's Mike Meyer, Ms. Ni Zhang, Mr. Xuecheng Zhou and Ms. Hongxiao Li

So you’ve finally signed the contract and work has started, but that's not the end of it. Instead, you’ve only begun your journey toward a new set of challenges.

It’s About Relationships
One of the most underestimated aspects of doing business in China is the value of maintaining an ongoing personal relationship with your client throughout the duration of the project. Keeping the client happy has a lot to do with the work you are providing them, but not entirely. Western firms often overlook this crucial aspect because we believe that if we do our work the client should be happy and we should be paid on time. Conversely, your Chinese competitors will spend more time "courting the client” even after the contract is signed - to ensure that the ongoing work process continues to go smoothly, which will hopefully result in getting paid, and in a timely manner. This does not mean that you have to take your client out to dinner every month or call every week. But checking on them from time to time to provide information or to just listen to their thoughts and concerns can make a world of difference.

Your relationship manager shouldn’t be your design lead, or chief analyst, or production manager, etc., as this can often muddy the waters between the needs of the project and the needs of the relationship. Instead, this should be an account executive or principal, someone who manages the project from a contractual standpoint, who focuses on keeping the communication positive and the client happy.

Always More to Learn
It’s important to remember that even once you successfully enter and compete in the Chinese market, there will always be much to learn as the business environment and cultural landscape continues to evolve.

For example, as you begin to make more in-roads into the Chinese market, you
may ask:

  • • What is the difference between a client who is a private developer and a government official?
  • • Why do some provinces have different tax terms?
  • • Why don't they conduct a feasibility study?
  • • What makes them think they can make that crazy opening date?
  • • Did they really get the land?
  • • Should I find a Chinese firm to be my partner?

These are all important issues that need to be understood in order for you to approach proposals and projects in the proper manner. By discussing these issues with your fellow industry professionals and learning from their first-hand experiences, you will be better prepared to understand and adapt to these issues as they come to light in your own business dealings. Hiring a local representative can also provide a great deal of insight and may be well worth the cost of consulting fees.

In conclusion, China is a complex yet dynamic market that will offer great opportunities to those who truly commit to adapting themselves to best fit the market and culture. It just takes patience, a willingness to learn, a flexible approach and an ongoing commitment.


 

Tags: Asia , Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio

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PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT: China Welcomes Its First Stand-Alone Children's Museum

June 24, 2015

In the wake of last week's dizzingly successful IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo, we are pleased to announce that Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum of the China National Children’s Center (CNCC) is now open to the public. Lao Niu Children's Discovery Museum is China's first stand-alone children's museum, a collaboration between the Lao Niu Foundation and Beijing Normal University. The 50-million yuan museum, located in the Xicheng District of Beijing, enables children from infancy through age seven the opportunity to enjoy an interactive and innovative experience of discovery.

Children and parents alike enjoy the interactive water table.

The Museum’s philosophy of education is to respect children, to value the moment when parents and their children interact with each other, and to improve cooperation, attentiveness and perseverance. JRA (Jack Rouse Associates) provided overall planning, design development, and fabrication and installation project management for the Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum’s 26,000 square feet of exhibit space, which is themed around the animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Playing pirate in the Drama area.

Within the museum’s five exhibit halls and fourteen galleries, children will be able to exercise their minds and bodies through observation, practice and exploration via a series of interactives and creative play experiences. They will also learn how to exercise proper judgment through testing, exploring and problem solving. Specifically, children will have the opportunity to:

  • • Immerse themselves in various scenes in the Drama area
  • • “Cook” and serve food in the Café
  • • Sell groceries in the Market
  • • Build a brick wall two stories high in the Construction area
  • • Role play as a veterinarian in the Pet Hospital or mechanic in the Auto Shop
  • • Ascend a colorful climber within the Museum’s Skylight Room
  • • Splash in the Water Table
  • • Discover the principles of gravity in the Flight Zone and
  • • Design and create art projects in the Art Studio

Learning about the human body through play.

Through the Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum, the CNCC hopes to provide children with opportunities to understand the diversity of their world, discover their potential and improve their resilience in the face of challenges.

Friday, we'll wrap up "Asia Month" with the fourth and final installment of our Working in China blog series. And be sure to visit our Facebook and Twitter pages for pics from last week's Expo.

The Construction area holds the building blocks for fun!
 

Tags: Asia , featured , Project Spotlight

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Working in China, Part 3: Using Outside Consultants to Get the Job

June 19, 2015

In our last segment, we discussed the importance of changing your business mentality and communication style when bidding on projects in China.


Guangdong Science Center

4. Getting It Right: Accurate Translation
Sounds simple, but are you sure your portfolio is properly translated or what you say in a presentation is accurately interpreted, so that the decision maker on the client side (who usually does not understand English) gets your message? Often, we all spend a lot of time writing an elaborate proposal or preparing a graphically beautiful package, but the only problem is - it's not in Chinese, or, even worse, it's poorly translated by a translation company that has as much insight into your business as they do with insurance or banking. High quality translation or interpretation cannot be overestimated. It's worth the time to locate professional translators that have experience in working in your specific line of business, who understand what you do, who care enough to take the time and exert the effort to get things right.

5. Get A Guide
If you were to go scuba diving in new waters, chances are you’ll go with a guide. What about navigating the waters of business in China? Even if you have been there many times, it never hurts to have a local resource to help you guide through unfamiliar territory. The sooner you acknowledge the barriers and get help, the sooner you are off to a more efficient and enjoyable journey.

Hiring a guide allows you to focus on what you do best – your business – instead of worrying about how to hail a taxi or how to interpret broken English. It is a small price to pay to engage a consultant who is versed in the Chinese business environment and understands its unique set of subtleties and underlying minutiae. Not only will this help you be more productive in your pursuit of qualified leads, but will also save you a lot of time spent in pursuing “opportunities” that are really wild goose chases. A knowledgeable representative can help you avoid potential clients just looking for free creative, will keep you away from participating in competitions in which you don't stand a good chance to win and can protect you from clients who just want to use your proposals as bargaining chips against your competition.

So you’ve gotten the job – congratulations! Now what? We’ll tackle that question in our final segment.
 

Tags: Asia , Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio

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Working in China, Part 2: Getting the Job

June 12, 2015

In our previous post, we mentioned that there are some significant differences in the Western and Chinese styles of attractions business. Believe it or not, as different as the Chinese are, more often than not, they have adjusted their work style to try and meet you half way. To meet this important market the rest of way, here are some guidelines to consider when pursuing or working on a project in China.

JRA's Coca-Cola Pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo drew in tens of thousands of visitors.

1. A shift in mentality
Perhaps the biggest hurdle that one faces in entering a rapidly changing foreign market is that a lot of the knowledge and strategies that had been developed over many years in working in the industry don’t seem to apply. This can be extremely frustrating and, therefore, it becomes all too easy to blame the client for their naiveté and for not doing things the “right” way. To properly gauge the situation, however, one must take a hard look at their own approaches to see if perhaps their work processes should be modified to best suit the needs and culture of the market. It’s important to remember that, more often than not, it is much easier to adapt oneself than to try to force adaptation unto a potential client or market.

2. Be accessible.
One of the best ways to bridge the geographical and culture divide that exists between East and West is to be easily accessible to your potential (and current) Chinese clients and to do so on their terms. Look at your current marketing material and protocol in handling Chinese inquiries. Can potential clients easily contact you? Can they call someone who speaks Chinese or do you expect them to write to you in English via the email address on your website? What seems easy to you may be viewed as a barrier to them. Yes, you may have successfully conducted business in Japan, India, even Korea, and were able to do so effectively through corresponding via email in English. But the reality is that when doing business in China, communication is much more effective through phone conversations in Chinese than through emails in English. It is simply a function of the manner in which your potential clients prefer to communicate, and you can easily adapt to accommodate this.

3. Voicemail, email and texting
It may be frustrating, but many Chinese don’t like to use voicemail or email (even though it's printed on their business cards). Don't be surprised when days have passed and they haven't replied to an important email from you. When that happens, the easiest way to get the information you need is to pick up the phone and call them (or better yet have someone that speaks Chinese call them if you don't speak Chinese).

Don’t worry, your clients won't be offended because it's 9:00 at night. A lot of Chinese business is conducted around dinner tables and through mobile phones. Unlike Western business, where one refrains from calling in the evening or weekends, it is less of a concern in China. You may also be surprised at how much business is conducted via text messaging. It's not unusual to see suit-clad businessmen and women tapping on their mobile phones like American teenagers. They’re not typing an email, but exchanging a text message. If you need a quick, simple response and are having a difficult time connecting to your client, next time try to text them. This is not to say that email doesn’t play an important role in communication, as more and more people use email, especially the younger generation. And, of course, emails are used heavily after the project starts for day-to-day correspondence and document transmission.

In our next segment, we’ll talk about the importance of outside help to your communication process.
 

Tags: Asia , Blog N Learn , Outside the Studio

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St. Louis to Singapore, Sochi to Beijing - JRA's 2014 Year In Design (So Far)

July 31, 2014

2014 has been a great year for JRA thus far.  We witnessed openings of our museum and theme park projects from Sochi to Singapore, and we celebrated the Thea Award for The Mind Museum.  We also enjoyed attending one of the biggest and best IAAPA Asian Attractions Expos ever.

We invite you to read about all this and more in our latest "JRA Studio View". Inside, you can learn about our projects, meet some of our team, and read Keith James' thoughts on the future of the burgeoning China leisure market (many thanks to our friends at Blooloop for publishing this piece on their Bemusement blog this week!).

Just click on the image below to access the newsletter. We'd like to think these announcements are just a taste of great things to come this year, so we hope you'll continue to follow us right here on the blog, on our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ pages and at @JRAtweets.  Coming soon on JRA + blog, photos from the Dubai launch of Angry Birds Universe and a look at how theatre and themed entertainment really aren't that different.  Thanks for reading!

 

Tags: Asia , Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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