The mar­ket for hir­ing trusted ser­vice providers in China was ripe for in­no­va­tion and needed to be rev­o­lu­tion­ized.”

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

of­ten well over 50 per­cent, some­times up to 70 per­cent. In ad­di­tion, agen­cies bait and switch, mean­ing they show the re­sume of one in­ter­preter but then as­sign a dif­fer­ent in­ter­preter to do the job, he said.

At SeekPanda, only 20 per­cent of com­mis­sion is re­quired, and this is the startup’s only rev­enue stream.

Over the past year, it has served more than 200 cus­tomers in more than 1,000 meet­ings, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tions such as the one led by US Sec­re­tary of Com­merce Peggy Pritzker, and sev­eral of the world’s lead­ing ex­pert net­works.

SeekPanda’s suc­cess also has a lot to do with the two founders’ clear re­al­iza­tion that one of the keys to suc­ceed­ing in China is build­ing the right con­nec­tions with the right peo­ple and find­ing the right Chi­nese part­ners. “This also re­lates to trust and the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing key com­pet­i­tive in­tel,” Kohn added.

To achieve this, they have spent lots of time net­work­ing and build­ing re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple who have aligned in­ter­ests with them and work with them to grow to­gether. Dur­ing the process, they make sure to point out that SeekPanda is a win-win online plat­form for cus­tomers and Chi­nese in­ter­preters where cus­tomers can find bet­ter in­ter­preters for more com­pet­i­tive prices and in­ter­preters can have more job op­por­tu­ni­ties with bet­ter clients.

To guar­an­tee the qual­ity of the in­ter­preters, the first wave of about 250 in­ter­preters were all vet­ted and ac­cred­ited by the two founders, in per­son. It’s time-con­sum­ing but nec­es­sary, as Kohn said that when they were form­ing SeekPanda they saw through us­ing LinkedIn, and found that even if an in­ter­preter looks re­li­able on pa­per they might not have ad­e­quate IQ and EQ to suc­ceed as a busi­ness in­ter­preter.

With its de­vel­op­ment, these ini­tial in­ter­preters grad­u­ally helped to screen and qual­ify new in­ter­preters.

Other than the two ma­jor fac­tors lead­ing to suc­cess, the two founders’ pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence in fi­nan­cial ser­vices in the US, the trust be­tween them, and the fo­cus on the long-term vi­sion of the com­pany all con­trib­uted to com­pany’s healthy growth and promis­ing prospect.

Un­like the two founders of SeekPanda, Charles Hubbs, an Amer­i­can liv­ing and pro­duc­ing med­i­cal prod­ucts in China since 1989, waited for 10 years be­fore tak­ing con­crete ac­tions to­ward re­al­iz­ing his dream of selling med­i­cal de­vices on the Chi­nese main­land.

Hubbs first had the idea of ex­pand­ing to the China mar­ket at least a decade ago, but he waited be­cause he found out that hos­pi­tals back then were not suf­fi­ciently de­vel­oped to use his prod­ucts, which are mainly de­vices of­fer­ing pro­tec­tion to med­i­cal work­ers in the op­er­at­ing room, in­clud­ing mi­cro­scope and equip­ment cov­ers, pa­tient drap­ing, and sur­gi­cal ac­ces­sories.

His com­pany, Guangzhou For­tu­nique Ltd, was es­tab­lished in 1995 as a solely owned for­eign en­ter­prise and, in 1997, be­gan selling his prod­ucts un­der the brand Premier Guard. The home of­fice of Premier Guard is in Hous­ton, Texas, with its Euro­pean sales of­fice in the Nether­lands.

The com­pany has made on ap­pli­ca­tion to sell its med­i­cal de­vices in China. Hubbs said he ex­pects it will be three months be­fore he gets ap­proval, but he’s op­ti­mistic about the prospect of his busi­ness here.

So far, his com­pany has tested Premier Guard prod­ucts in 20 hos­pi­tals in Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Guang­dong province and has been in dis­cus­sions with Chi­nese med­i­cal dis­trib­u­tors to mar­ket prod­ucts through­out the coun­try.

“This is the right time to en­ter the China mar­ket, as the hos­pi­tals here have de­vel­oped to a level that ad­vanced med­i­cal de­vices are in de­mand. Chi­nese peo­ple’s av­er­age in­comes has also in­creased to the ex­tent that they can af­ford the ser­vices pro­vided by these med­i­cal de­vices,” said Hubbs.

Another fac­tor that made Hubbs so con­fi­dent about his busi­ness out­look in China lies in the unique­ness of his prod­ucts. “Up to now, no Chi­nese com­pa­nies man­u­fac­ture the prod­ucts we make,” he said.

How­ever, Hubbs also ex­pressed his con­cern of ex­pand­ing his busi­ness in the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy.

“I never ex­hibit my prod­ucts in any ex­hi­bi­tions in China, as I found that some Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers have al­ready copied my prod­ucts. Although they might look alike in ap­pear­ance, the qual­ity dif­fers greatly,” said Hubbs.

He hopes that the gov­ern­ment could is­sue more strict reg­u­la­tions on con­trol­ling the qual­i­fi­ca­tion of Chi­nese plants to man­u­fac­ture med­i­cal equip­ment.

All of the 300 em­ploy­ees in his com­pany in Guangzhou are Chi­nese, but most are able to speak English. Hubbs said that he will re­cruit more Chi­nese for the com­pany’s head­quar­ters in Hous­ton who have grad­u­ated from US univer­si­ties.

“I find it eas­ier to re­cruit Chi­nese-speak­ing staff in the US than to re­cruit English­s­peak­ing staff in China, as a per­son who knows how to speak a lan­guage doesn’t mean that he can un­der­stand com­pletely and com­mu­ni­cate free from bar­ri­ers in this lan­guage,” said Hubbs.

More than 30 mil­lion com­pa­nies are reg­is­tered and are ac­tive in the US. Many small and medium-sized US com­pa­nies have the de­sire to en­ter the Chi­nese mar­ket, as China’s ever-ex­pand­ing do­mes­tic mar­ket clearly of­fers tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ties for Amer­i­can com­pa­nies. For these com­pa­nies, the big­gest dif­fi­culty of course is their lack of lan­guage ca­pa­bil­ity, said Har­ley Seyedin, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce in South China.

The cham­ber is con­stantly en­gaged in ed­u­cat­ing US SMEs on the fact that China now of­fers highly ed­u­cated English- speak­ing Chi­nese work­ers and ex­ec­u­tives, and this can as­sist them with over­com­ing the lan­guage bar­rier.

Most US com­pa­nies es­tab­lished in South China are al­ready prof­itable and grow­ing at a healthy pace. This is due to their in­no­va­tion, unique prod­ucts and ser­vices, and their abil­ity of ad­just­ing to the chang­ing and chal­leng­ing busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, said Seyedin. Con­tact the writer at huangy­ing@chi­nadaily.

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