What We Can Learn From Businesses In China & Thailand

I’ve been traveling in beautiful Asia this past week with Pepperdine’s Executive MBA program. We met with government officials, creative folks and economic strategists in Beijing, China and Bangkok, Thailand. The businesses varied from government-subsidized city planning projects to creative technology to import/export gemstones. There were tons of amazing insights, lessons and ah-ha moments that your business, regardless of size or scope, can use and benefit from. Let’s jump into a few of the main concepts and how you might use them.



You’ve probably heard the saying, “Think Global. Act Local.” Despite drastically different cultures among the U.S., Chinese and Thai countries, this saying was said in every business meeting. It’s important to recognize that there is a big world out there, while focusing on your local market needs—regardless of what local means to you and your business. What this means is looking outward and opening up your perspective to opportunities and threats you may not have seen before. You may see partnership opportunities or identify where outsourcing can affect your business. The same concept could be looked at in terms of your business positioning. Is there an international theme you can take and apply your local flair to? Is there a similar business to yours doing business in a different country that you can get a different perspective from? All of this is meant to open up your eyes to business outside of your small area and in the end, will make your business more adaptable and competitive.

Power of Relationships

We all know business is very much about who you know but not all of us love networking for business. Well, it appears this concept isn’t going anywhere. In fact, in our meetings, we heard time and time again that business was able to be conducted because of who they knew. Had they not had those contacts, no traction would’ve been made in these countries. You may not need contacts to get licenses and permits in the U.S., like in these Asian countries, but you are lying to yourself if you think you can get by without making some contacts. For those that loathe networking, let’s shift the perspective a bit. Try looking at this at genuine relationship building. Choose events that truly sound interesting to you, with attendees you genuinely would like to get to know. Talk and meet with people as you would making a new friend and treat them as such. Take the time to build mutually beneficial relationship for your business and theirs. The same goes for social media. Meet some cool folks and then take it into the real world. Who knows, you may make a lifelong business buddy.

Happiness Factor

In Thailand, you can’t help but be in awe of how happy everyone seems. They are all smiles and are very pleasant to interact with. It was later confirmed in business meetings that this happiness culture is a part of their country and a way they believe business should be done.

“Unhappy employees means unhappy customers,” one business owner said.

Seems simple enough right? In the U.S., many companies are having issues attracting and retaining employees in a new workforce culture that is looking for more work/life balance and employee benefits. Whether you have 1,000 employees or it’s just you, happiness needs to be present in your business or it will spread out to your customers and partners. That’s just not good for business. So, set aside some time to think about what needs to be done in your business to create a culture of happy. If your company is just you, can you create a schedule for yourself with some morning free time for your favorite yoga class? If your company is a few people with a small budget, then maybe it’s adding in afternoon walks to the coffee shop together to connect and decompress. If your company is larger, can you send a nice handwritten note with a small token of gratitude for employee anniversaries? There are a lot of things that can be done regardless of company budgets. Get creative, think about what your staff cares about and start doing it consistently to make some real traction. Your company culture, customers and partners will thank you big time.

Customer is King

Asia has outstanding, over-the-top customer service. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was one person’s job to simply remind us of an unnoticeable step. Wow! There is an overall understanding, that is a part of Asian culture, that customers are king and are to be treated extremely well.

One business owner said, “Customer service is integrated into the company and training from the start, even if it costs more to provide it.”

In the U.S., I would bet most companies would be willing to sacrifice some level of customer service if it meant they could cost cut. What’s interesting about this is that it can actually be a differentiator among competitors, in the short run costing more, but in the long run actually helping your business to earn more revenue than competitors. Take a look at your business and ask yourself whether you are providing top-notch customer service. Are there any areas you can improve? Any areas you can go out of your way to help your customer? Take a look at your competitors. Is there somewhere you can go the extra mile where they won’t?

Now it’s your turn. What is the most useful concept here to your business? How do you plan on using it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and be well!


Hi, I'm Tiffany! I'm a business coach and consultant who believes businesses with soul is the way to go. That's why I've made it my mission to help entrepreneurs live out their business purpose and grow their ideas into profits. Meet other like-minded entrepreneurs now in the Dreamer & Creator online community.

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