5 Things: Andrew Collins' Tips for Business in Shanghai

By Ned Kelly, July 28, 2014

0 0

That's series where we ask a Shanghai-based somebody to tell us 5 Things specific to his or her life. 

Aussie Andrew Collins is the CEO of social media agency Mailman Group and an active member of Shanghai's Entrepreneurs Organization. Here he tells us some tips he has gleaned doing business in the city...

1 "Maybe I am crazy, I just hide it pretty well…"

In my early 20s I never thought about coming to China. I was always going to run my own company, but who on earth would consider China as the best place to do it? I'm only ever reminded of this when asked why I came here and tell my 'acquiring a fledgling media company at 26' story. The recipient usually just looks in disbelief as if I’ve descended from some alien spacecraft. “You must be crazy!” often follows, and then we get on with the show. Having been here for almost 8 years I’ve begun to think perhaps it wasn't that common, so maybe I am crazy - I just hide it pretty well.

2. “Sell like your life depends on it…”

Moving here in 2007 I inherited a media product that had certainly had its heyday. Believe it or not there was a time when postKards ruled the Shanghai outdoor media industry, but 2007 definitely wasn't it. The problem was I didn't have much of an option: I needed to make salaries, rent... not to mention support myself - so I had to sell. We had a team, and I had to show them I was more than some crackpot entrepreneur from Australia. I sold for my life. I told my team this product is fun, it's tangible, you can create stickers, posters, fridge magnets and more - there was nothing a postcard couldn't do. Some of our customers would say “I'm only buying because he's convinced it would work!” That was what we had and it had to work.

3. “Referrals aren't just important, they are everything…”

A city like Shanghai, while having a huge population, is peer-centric. Referrals aren't just important, they are everything. Meaning that unless you're getting folks recommending your service or your product, nobody is going to buy it. In the service industry, customers typically do their own research, ask around, do a few meetings, take it all in then decide on their preferred partner. I can't tell you how many clients have come to us saying, “We heard about you guys through this guy, that guy and those people, so we had to come and see you.” It's not like we're out there telling people to shout our name - it's just you’ve got to be a rockstar to everyone. Everyone is just one or two degrees away from what you want. Everyone matters. And here's a fact: everyone talks, so whatever you do never burn a bridge.

4. "Think of it like prison: the longer you've been here, the more likely you have authority in the community..."

In Australia, the term 'tall poppy syndrome' was coined to describe public resentment at society's innovators and achievers. You'll find a similar breed in Shanghai. Not restricted to any particular industry, they share one common theme - they've typically graduated beyond the 5 plus year mark, which gives them a level of authority over your success. You're going to really have to impress them, just accept it. Think of it like prison: the longer you've been here, the more likely you have authority in the community.  There's almost nothing you can do about it, so just get your head down and catch up.

5. “Leave. Be happy, get paid, but get the hell out of here!”

A few years back I had trouble with an underperforming team member. I knew it was time for her to leave. For anyone trying to fire someone here, it is almost impossible without proper cause (or money), and I learned that the hard way. This particular woman wouldn't perform as we wanted, but she wouldn't leave - unless of course we paid what she felt she was entitled to. I'd literally arrive at work and publicly ask her to leave, and she'd refuse, get on the phone to her 'people' and ask me to make her an offer. In hindsight, I was clearly fighting a losing battle and I should have just let her go happy; the effect it was having on the culture was terrible and it was just not worth it. I now take that approach: “Leave. Be happy, get paid, but get the hell out of here!”

Read more '5 Things’.

more news

Yao Ming Reflects on China's Basketball Past, Present & Future

We caught up with Yao Ming to discuss the growth of the game in China and its future in the country.

This Day in History: The Marco Polo Bridge Incident

On July 7, 1937, the cataclysmic event that led to the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

PHOTOS: Take a Look at the Real Santa's Workshop

How your Christmas decorations are made.

Useful Mandarin Phrases: Thanksgiving

A list of essential Thanksgiving phrases to help you through the classic American holiday!

This Day in History: China Star Li Ning Shines at 1984 Olympics

Defying a Soviet Union-led boycott, Li Ning earns the nickname Prince of Gymnasts.

This Day in History: China Ends the Eunuch Era

Finally banned in 1924, the system had endured for over 3,000 years and through 25 dynasties.

A Fun-Filled Family Weekend at Sound of Spring 2021

Thanks to everyone who made it such a great event!

8 of Shanghai's Best Parks

It’s the perfect time to check out some of Shanghai's most popular parks. Here’s our pick of the best.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at Thats_Shanghai for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Shanghai With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives