What's the point of 'Tipping Point'?
A successful transaction in China depends on three critical factors
WHEN dealing with China, you probably will need the advice and support of many contacts to help you move your project along. However, after many close calls and utter failures, I have realized that having a network of contacts is not enough to make a project succeed.
After having one particular project fall on its face, I was given a book by my brother-in-law that has helped me understand what I was doing wrong. This national bestseller, "The Tipping Point," written by Malcolm Gladwell, describes how little things can make a big difference in life, and what make such things happen.
The three rules of the Tipping Point are: the law of the few; the stickiness factor; and the power of context.
» The "law of the few" refers to the rare people in our life who seem to know everyone and who everyone seems to know. These people are called connectors. They are the rare individuals you can call upon to connect you with the right people based upon your needs. These are the same people who can persuade others to follow, or sell new fads, ideas, or accept new concepts.
» The "stickiness factor" refers to the value of the message and how it is packaged. If packaged correctly, the idea is memorable and will move people to action.
» The "power of context" refers to the environment in which the message is received. If the environment is ideal, a tremendous change, fad or response will happen immediately.
In reading this bestseller, I began to analyze how Gladwell's tipping point theory can be applied to any business transaction.
The following is an example, of my own business dealing, of how the same Chinese project was successful when the three rules of the tipping point were applied, and unsuccessful when the three rules were not applied.
The same information was funneled through two different connectors, with drastically different results:
The law of the few
The connector in the successful project was credible and presented it without any reservations. Therefore, when he transferred the message, it was sent as a unique opportunity and received with open arms by the receiver.
On the other hand, when the same project was not successful, the connector had not been fully supportive of the project and had passed on the project with reservations. Accordingly, the receiver of the message did not see the project as a unique opportunity but rather as a project with question marks, and was referring it to others just in case the project was authentic.
In fairness to the unsuccessful connector, he had based the strength of his endorsement on the advice of his own Chinese partner who had shared his reservations about the project. The partner could not understand how he had to learn about the project from the connector who had never been to China, when the partner was supposedly the China expert. I believe that in this situation, pride got in the way of his better judgment.
The stickiness factor
In both instances when the project was successful and unsuccessful, the project information given to each connector had been the same. One connector accepted the project enthusiastically and sent the message out with the same enthusiasm. The other connector viewed the project with skepticism and proceeded to send the project out to receivers of the message half-heartedly. Therefore, the message received was dictated by how the connector perceived the project and, in turn, packaged the message.
In hindsight, this was the main reason for the success and non-success of the two connectors.
The power of context
In the instance where the project was a success, the party receiving the message was ready and familiar with investment opportunities in China. The party responded to the opportunity immediately and quickly met with our partners in China.
Conversely, where the party receiving the message was not ready to invest in China, any and all excuses were used to delay a meeting with our partners in China.
The party raised the question of whether the project was real and whether the Chinese government had indeed issued the license. These were questions and concerns which easily could have been answered if the party had conducted his own due diligence in China. Clearly, this was not the right environment or party to be offered this opportunity.
ALTHOUGH THE tipping point is a theory, it puts into perspective how a business project can be successful when channeled through the right connector, its message packaged correctly and placed in an ideal environment.
But, speaking from personal experience, even if the message is packaged correctly, all connectors are not equal and not all connectors are able to feed projects into the ideal environment to succeed.
In my case, I fell into the rut of using the same connectors over and over and relying upon the connectors to deliver the message to the ideal investors or environment. However, instead of learning from these failures and determining that the connector was wrong, I attributed it to the project or the message or the environment.
The next time you venture into China or an international project, make sure you are dealing with individuals who are true connectors, that the message has been properly packaged and that the environment is ideal for success. If you follow these simple rules, you will save yourself a lot of heartache, time and money and, more important, make it easier for your project to succeed.
Richard M. Sakoda is chief executive of Sino-Hawaii Association of Businesses and Manufacturers Inc., which is online at www.sino-hi-association.org