Running a Company in China from a Distance: 5 Key Elements

by | April 21, 2020

Running a Company in China from a Distance: 5 Key Elements

April 21, 2020

There are estimated to be over 700.000 different business books in the world, and a significant portion of those books are about managing a company. The amount of literature on management shows the importance and difficulty of managing a business. There are many different crucial components to running a business and being close to the operations of the company is definitely one. So how do you deal with management when you are not close, but thousands of kilometres from the office, the team and the business?

There have always been companies which have been managed from a distance, however since the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 the challenge has become more mainstream. Many borders are either closed or require a period of quarantine, as currently is the case in China. Some managers were too late in going back to the location of the office, and others are not allowed to leave their home country.

So how do you run a company in China from a distance, both literarily and figuratively? There is no solution which will completely mitigate the challenge, however there are some crucial ways to make the best of the situation. 1421 Consulting Group has vast experience in management consulting in China, both nearby and on a distance. We identified five key takeaways on running a company from a distance.


Running a company in China from a distance: Local leadership

The first and most important takeaway for running a company from a distance is the need for local leadership. When managing a company on a distance, you need someone who is your partner in managing the company. The local leader could be a young talent you perceive to be the future leader of the organization, the local leader could be your local CFO or an external management consultant. Besides being your eyes and ears in the organization, the local leader helps you to maintain your control over the organization.

Picking the right person for the job as your local leader is not easy. The local leader needs to be loyal to your collaboration for 100%, your goals need to align. You need to be able to fully trust the local leader. You need to be able to communicate clearly with the local leader. The local team needs to fully accept the person as the extension of your leadership and therefore as a leader. Finally, the local leader needs to understand the Chinese culture.

When you have proactively chosen to manage on a distance, the solution was chosen on the basis of a person suitable for the role of local leader. However, when suddenly forced onto such a situation, it is hard to select the right person. If no one in your office suits the role of local leader, there are two alternatives: splitting the role between several team members or consider hiring management consulting in China.


Running a company in China from a distance: Meeting & reporting rhythm

A very basic yet crucial part of running a company from a distance is a rigorous meeting & reporting rhythm. Perhaps when managing closely to the team, you prefer a loose rhythm and reporting upon request. This is the moment to adapt that towards a system with recurring meetings and reporting. Such systems provide structure to yourself, your local leader and your team.

Some examples of recurring reporting could be a weekly cashflow statement, a monthly profit and loss overview, a quarterly management report and a weekly project report. To increase your control even more, you could opt for management tools such as, tracking status of projects, action items of the teams and outcomes for clients. Examples of meeting rhythms could be a daily call with your local leader, a weekly finance update and a biweekly management meeting.


Running a company in China from a distance: working on relationships

There is a big pitfall to having a great local leader in your office. Entrusting him with everything, including the relationships towards the other staff in your team. Working on those relationships is crucial for three main reasons: The potential day of your return, a change in local leadership and insights from different angles.

On the day you return, the team still needs to recognize you as their leader. Such recognition is based on an existing relationship. A received message for their birthday or a card in challenging times are simple steps to showing you are still part of the team.

When the local leader leaves you or you need to let the person go, it is important that the rest of the organization stays intact. People are more likely to be loyal when the actually have a connection to a leader.

Furthermore, it is important to gain insights from multiple angles. If the local leader is the only source of information on what is happening in the company, you might miss crucial parts of the running business. A complete picture of your organization is more challenging and more important on a distance.


Running a company in China from a distance: Vision and goals

No matter if you are close or far away, vision and goals are important to reaching results. However, such alignment is even more important when you are far apart. People need to understand the direction they are going and the goals they are reaching for.

A simple but effective way is to hold a digital strategy day/week. Allocate a set amount of time during that week on developing a shared vision and shared goals. Creating such a vision and goals together with a significant part of your organization, will increase the support base for both.


Running a company in China from a distance: Software

You are fully dependent on modern technologies to manage your organization from a distance. There are many different tools out there, with different prices and benefits. Some of the tools that we use as an organisation are:


Goal Tool
Cloud Microsoft Onedrive
Project management
Online communication ZOOM
Time tracking Toggle
OKR Management
Email Outlook
Digital brainstorming Miro


Support for running your company in China from a distance

The overall goal when running your company in China from a distance, is to maximise control and insights by implementing leadership, meeting rhythms, clear communication using the right tools. By doing so, you will be able to keep your organization running smoothly, without being present.

We have helped many of our clients with setting up their “management from a distance” system, and even helped them with locally managing their staff. So if you finished with reading another of the 700.000 business books and are still interested in learning more about our services for Management Consulting in China, feel free to reach out to us.

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What happened in the year 1421?

From 1421 to 1423, during the Ming Dynasty of China under Emperor Zhu Di (朱棣) the fleets of Admiral Zheng He (鄭和), commanded by the Chinese captains, discovered Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Antarctica, the Northeast Passage; and circumnavigated Greenland.

Due to this endeavour we can conclude that “1421 is the year that the Chinese discover the world”.