Sunday, 2 October 2011

Connie Chen

Connie Chen has an interesting perspective on doing business in China.  Based in Holman Fenwick's Sydney office (one of the firm's three Australian offices), Connie specialises in international corporate and commercial transactions and China-related investments in particular.  Her role requires an insight into both.  She talks of the classic divide we have all read about - the west's focus on productivity levels, profit and cashflow: the east's preoccupation with businesses 'doing social good'. A case of never the twain shall meet? She describes the rude awakening for many western companies in China when the credit crunch hit, forced to realise what this difference really means in practice when blocked from making redundancies to balance the books again. But what I find fascinating is her view of the changing perceptions in these straitened times of the west by the east, and of the east by the west.

What some western companies are starting to question is whether there might in fact be  commercial as well as social benefits to be gained from not making redundancies: more stability, not just in the individual company but their broader business community too, stronger staff loyalty, etc. Some are saying these companies will come out of the recession in a stronger competitive position than those that made harsher personnel decisions. Is there a leaf western businesses could take out of the communists' book.

Eastern business are learning lessons from the west too, she says, particularly with commercial contracts.  The west famously has an insistence that everything be governed by the letter of the contract and a very legalistic approach that is rather frowned upon by easterners, who prefer to limit contracts to expressing broad parameters only, expecting the detail - and any differences - to be sorted out by relationships, discussion, negotiation, and trust between the parties. With so much contract wrangling taking place now thanks to the credit crunch, she says that some eastern business people are now seeing benefit in negotiating more detailed contracts at the outset, the parties articulating in finer detail how they see things, and looking at scenarios for what might go wrong, improving everyone's understanding of expectations and intentions at the start - even if in the event of a dispute the contract is ultimately set aside and the matter resolved through relationships and discussion in the old-fashioned eastern way.

Perhaps the twain between east and west is starting to meet after all...

Exciting news from Shakespeare's Globe this week: an amazing initiative next Spring to bring all 37 of his plays - yes you heard that right: all 37 plays! - to the stage in one  six-week season, each performed in a different language. Great opportunities here for global firms to think of creative ideas for sponsorship and client hospitality. 

The Globe team has scoured the world to find exciting or novel productions.  As well as offerings from the heavyweight international theatre companies, there will be a rendition of Othello from Chicago in hip-hop form, a production of Love's Labour's Lost in British Sign Language and a version of Cymbeline from the world's newest country, South Sudan, which became an independent state only in July this year, after 50 years of conflict:  Apparently the pitch for the South Sudanese theater company included a heartbreaking note from the brand-new country’s presidential adviser on culture:  “I used to lie in the bush under the stars reading Shakespeare’s plays, not thinking about the killing that would take place in the morning.”  Powerful stuff, this Shakespeare.

If you missed the news of the Globe to Globe initiative this week you can catch up here.


This month's Tweetinglegals tweetup was fun.  Thanks Shireen Smith (aka @Azrights) for organising. Some 50 legal tweeters met up on Monday night at The Old Bank of England in Fleet Street.  For anyone still unconvinced of the value of twitter in business, these tweetups, giving you the opportunity to make human contact with fellow tweeters, so make the point that networking online is not separate and mysterious from networking In Real life: the two go hand in hand.  

If you're good at networking in the real world, these social media platforms just open up new doors and expand opportunities.

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