Author Archive

Integrity At Our Core

by Joe

For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord, but also in the eyes of man.

2 Corinthians 8:21

In our November blog, we introduced the topic of the important values that we have built our consulting practice on. As members of the IMC, we ascribe to their complete rules of engagement. Daily commitment to these values has allowed us to build and enjoy client relationships at a depth of trust that not many consulting companies enjoy. Our December blog continues where we left off in November. We hope it encourages your own thoughts about the values you manage your business with. If it does, won’t you share your thoughts with us? We’d love to hear from you!

Rules of Engagement

5.0 I will treat appropriately all confidential client information that is not public knowledge, take reasonable steps to prevent it from access by unauthorized people, and will not take advantage of proprietary or privileged information, either for use by myself, the client’s firm, or another client, without the client’s permission.

This point is so basic as to be an assumption – except that we’ve found through our work with our clients that confidentiality is not as common as we would hope.  Many times, relationships break down here because consultants are working too hard to promote themselves and their worth by discussing their successes in other accounts.  However, we know that ‘loose lips DO sink ships’.  In serving clients, some consultants gain access to information that is not for public consumption and where releasing this information, or even referencing it could cause a client serious setbacks.  Our success has been built on the servant-leader model and we do not violate trust.

At Word4Asia, every client relationship is placed in what we internally refer to as a ‘vault’.  The vault is impregnable, airtight.  Discussions with our clients, and information concerning them only occurs within the vault and when we leave the vault, anything we’ve learned there, stays there.

6.0 I will avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of such and will immediately disclose to the client circumstances or interests that I believe may influence my judgment or objectivity.

Word4Asia is a business which has been built slowly, and carefully over many years.  We do not aggressively market or advertise our practice; referrals and reputation are how we have chosen to grow because we know that authenticity and credibility are much more powerful than anything we could ever say about ourselves.  We never could have achieved what we have, especially among the types of clients we serve, if there were ever any reason to doubt us.  We simply do not allow conflicts of interest to arise.  

To eliminate this possibility, we manage our relationships using the following policies which consider the following points:

  • We review which types of relationships could possibly represent conflicts of interest and thus need disclosure.
  • We continually scrutinize developing relationships to identify possibly areas of conflict.
  • We have developed specific procedures to handle, address, and root out conflicts of interest.

7.0 I will offer to withdraw from a consulting assignment when I believe my objectivity or integrity may be impaired.

Simply put, there is no business relationship that would, in our view, out-value what we would lose by working in a compromised position.  If we identify a potential for loss of objectivity or a slippery slope in the integrity of the relationship we will (a) decline the opportunity to serve a client (b) resign the client relationship.

Word4Asia is a Southern California – based consulting company serving clients whose aspirations include developing cooperative relationships in mainland China. For over twenty years, we have been the bridge for many American organizations, using our unique network of local connections throughout China. We help our clients in the following areas:

  • Elder care and hospice
  • Networking and public relations
  • Leadership training
  • Micro financing
  • Translation and interpretation services
  • Helping our clients keep pace with the changes in religious policy and regulations

If your future plans include mainland China, we’re happy to provide you an initial free consultation. Contact Dr. Gene Wood at gene@word4asia.com.

Word 4 Asia: Faithful Execution of Our Code of Ethics

by Joe

Word 4 Asia is a consulting firm offering service and expertise in a specialty field for clients whose objectives require a deep cultural understanding of China.  In particular, we are specialized in the communications field.  Our core competencies include deep understanding of Chinese culture, history, language and laws.  Our work helps to open mutually beneficial avenues for personal and organizational growth for the people involved on both sides of the transactions we engage in.

As consultants, we are proud members of IMC USA (International Management Consultants, USA).  We proudly identify with IMC USA’s Code of Ethics and we encourage our fellow consultants who may not be familiar with IMC USA to look into membership for themselves. 

This month’s blog is about some of the codes we uphold as members of IMC USA, and how Word 4 Asia interprets and implements that code within our daily business practices.


 IMC’s Code of Ethics

I will serve my clients with integrity, confidence, independence, objectivity, and professionalism.

A clear thread that runs through all five of these words is ‘trust’.  Long-time Word 4 Asia clients know from their experience that our character is disciplined, and that our word is our bond.  For example, as a matter of policy, should we be unable to faithfully complete what we were contracted to do, we return all payment.  Because we place excellence in performance among our highest priorities, our clients experience exceptional customer value every time we are engaged.

Willingness-to-Change is another hallmark of the way we do business.  Our clients entrust us with their projects because they know we keep a very close eye on China’s changing legal landscape.  We will only do things in ways that are transparent and within the scope of Chinese law.  We know that our longevity and ability to deliver what we contract for is entirely based on maintaining a friendly relationship with the Chinese officials.  As China continues to evolve, this requires us to continually adapt in appropriate ways.  

I will mutually establish with my clients’ realistic expectations of the benefits and results of my services.

In order to faithfully execute our client contracts, we have to be very good at a number of ‘soft skills’.  These include:

Recognizing our limitations.  Depending on the project, these may be defined as available time, financial resources, areas of expertise, and more.  

An ability to accurately predict and manage around the kinds of situations (internal or environmental) which could impact our ability to deliver on a promise.  We are thorough in our planning and diligent in our execution.  For every plan, there is always at least one and usually more than one back-up plan.

I will avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of such and will immediately disclose to the client circumstances or interests that I believe may influence my judgment or objectivity.

From the start, Word 4 Asia has conducted bench-marking exercises and adopted practices from other non-competing organizations and industries when we thought it was beneficial.  The Gap Consultancy is one such organization whose practices encouraged us in this area.  Their Nine Principles of Consulting Excellence’ include:

We are responsible and good citizens. 

  • We conduct our business ethically. 
  • We foster an ethical culture. 
  • We provide excellent consulting services which deliver the outcomes clients seek and need. 
  • We are transparent with clients in response to their concerns. 
  • We always strive to improve the value we can deliver to our clients. 
  • We undertake training and professional development planning each year. 
  • We promote strong core consulting capabilities and specialties in our consultants and teams.
  • We support our employees career progression, professional development and welfare.

Before accepting any engagement, I will ensure that I have worked with my clients to establish mutual understanding of the objectives, scope, workplan, and fee arrangements.

I believe that client satisfaction and project success can be determined in the early ‘scope-setting’ phase of a relationship or project.  When Word 4 Asia conducts this critical phase of a project, we follow a four-step process which includes:

Starting with customer-centric curiosity.  We rely on a series of open-ended questions which we post to our clients.  The goal of this interview process is to identify the ideal outcomes of the project and to identify any areas that might require a unique approach.  No two projects have ever been identical, nor have any two clients represented the same set of factors we’ve needed to plan to.  The interview process ensures we identify everything or almost everything early.

Following every meeting, we create a written summary which provides an opportunity to clarify any confusion or prompts further important questions.

Since we provide customized solutions, budget setting is always a factor.  We work closely with our clients to identify their priorities and budget limitations.  Then, we work hard to provide an approach that accomplishes the client’s project goals within their budget.  There are times when we have to help our clients identify their highest priorities, since scope determines costs.

For over twenty years, Word 4 Asia has faithfully served the aspirations and goals of our clients when their goals lead them toward China.  If yours are leading you there as well, we’d love to talk with you.  You can reach Dr. Gene Wood at Gene@word4asia.com.

The Importance of Empathy

by Joe

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately.  In our business at Word 4 Asia, we find that its presence is a very important predictor of success in all our relationships.  We have to have it in order to establish and nurture our client relationships and we need to exercise it throughout our entire business environment.  This is true because everything we do involves doing it with other people.  In fact, I can’t think of any enterprise – business or non-business related – that doesn’t involve people working together.  And yet, there does seem to be an marked lack of empathy in our world these days.

Empathy comes easily to many of us, but there are some people who seem to be in startlingly short supply of this critical personal asset.  Anger is a major obstacle.  So is self-protection.  If we cut ourselves off, we don’t have to feel the discomfort other people are experiencing.  

Additionally, by refusing to identify with other people’s situations, we don’t need to confront certain issues in our own lives that we may have buried.  Finally, some people fear intimacy.  Empathizing requires making ourselves vulnerable to certain degree. 

However, the benefits we enjoy by overcoming our own squeamishness to empathy make the personal risk and the hard work of doing so well worth the effort.

Successful salespeople have learned that customers will show us where their real needs are (as well as the sales opportunities).  All they have to do is ask the right questions and let their customers speak!  However, getting to ‘yes’ with prospects means that salespeople have to probe for the customer’s “pain points”.  This is more than just good sales technique; this is empathy in action.

A case in point:  Ryanair, a major European airline, had been in a sales slump for multiple quarters when their CEO, Michael O’Leary, implemented a customer service training program called “Always Getting Better”.  The program featured identifying with the real needs and frustrations of airline passengers and effecting changing in many areas of their operations.  The result?  Ryanair saw a net profit increase from €867 million to €1.24 billion (US$1.39 billion). O’Leary famously remarked, “If I’d only known being nice to customers was going to work so well, I’d have started many years ago.”  Hilarious.

“If I’d only known being nice to customers was going to work so well, I’d have started many years ago.”  

Michael o’leary; ceo, ryanair

There used to be a sarcastic joke in some business circles that went “The beatings will continue until employee morale improves.”  In today’s multi-generational workplace, lack of empathy is not supportable any more.  Good, high-performing individuals have lots of employment choices and the millennials, who represent the future of any business, vote with their feet.  Consistently.  In a recent Gallup poll, 60 percent of Millennials indicated openness to new job opportunities.  In the same study, however, only 29 percent of them reported feeling engaged at work.  That’s bad news for companies that aren’t considering company culture as they look toward future growth. Fortunately, making small, subtle shifts toward improving empathy in the culture can make a big difference.

There are many ways that organizations can let their workers know that they are valued and respected.  One way is to listen closely to how employees talk about their work. Ask them what would make their jobs easier and make them feel heard.  When they do reveal what they need and value, it’s even more important to act on that information.  Otherwise, all that has been achieved is a more frustrated workforce who feel even less valued than before.

One example that shows the value organizations receive from treating their employees with empathy is Google’s Project Aristotle.  A study Google published in 2017 showed that the company’s most important new ideas came from B-teams (teams comprised of employees other than the company’s top software programmers, scientists and engineers and so on).  These so-called “B-teams” were composed of comprised of employees who possessed a wide range of skills including: equality, generosity, curiosity toward others’ ideas, empathy and emotional intelligence. Project Aristotle revealed that when team members feel confident speaking up and know they are being heard, great ideas are born.

In 2015, a UK consulting firm created an Empathy Index of UK-based firms whose cultures ran the spectrum of low to high empathy and then ranked the firms.  Each of these firms were analyzed on the basis of financial performance.  The results are very telling.  The top 10 companies increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10 and generated 50 percent more earnings (defined by market capitalization).

Since empathy is a communication technique, there are a number of behaviors that management and employees can all be trained to exhibit.  These include:

Paying attention to verbal and nonverbal signs

These include posture, lack of eye contact, facial expressions and a sense of wellness or uneasiness.  (To quote Bob Dylan, ‘you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows…’) 

Vulnerability – Team members want to know that their directors and senior management know the same thing about themselves that they know; chiefly, that they are not flawless or infallible.  Being approachable and being human is critical if we want to have open-communication in our organizations.  Remember that God came to man in human form because He wanted more communication with us! 

Less reliance on technology (texting, email, even phone) and more speaking face to face.  Too many important non-verbal cues are missed when we rely too heavily on technology.

For instance, think of facial expressions and body language, tone of voice, posture and so on. 

Word 4 Asia has been building bridges of communication in mainland China for our clients for over twenty years. As always, I welcome your comments about this blog, or anything you might have on your mind. Just drop us a line. You can reach me, Dr. Gene Wood, at gene@word4asia.com. I look forward to it!

CONSISTENCY: GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS GAINED SLOWLY OVER TIME

by Joe

CONSISTENCY: From the mid 1830’s through 1870, over 400,000 westward bound settlers used the Oregon trail to reach new dreams and start new lives. The consistent use of this well worn trail made it possible for families to start new homes, and new fortunes to be made.

It might seem overly obvious, maybe a little cliché even; consistency is an incredibly important element in succeeding in any business enterprise.


As an example, imagine what the McDonald’s brand might be if, on every occasion you visited a different location, you had a totally different experience.  They might even all be positive experiences.  Still, because they were all different, consumers would never be able to form expectations about future experiences.  This is the polar opposite of brand, and as we all know, McDonald’s grew to be what it is because it very successfully established a unique market position and then, like little tin soldiers, stamped out restaurants in the thousands. EVERYONE knows what McDonald’s is. When consumers and customers get what they want, they are happy and will return.

Leadership guru John Maxwell said: “Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”

Consistency is not just a critical tenet of branding; its important in every aspect of your business.

When it comes to leading teams, effective managers and leaders know that they have to be consistent in their behavior and attitude. When bosses are inconsistent, the trust that working relationships rely on is eroded.  Organizations that are shot through with distrust are not effective. They become politically driven, hostile, terrible places to work.  Your best employees will leave, in time, and what you have left are employees no one trusts. Trust is built on the foundation of consistency.

Businesses set goals and objectives which require consistent effort persistently applied to be achieved. Consistent focus is required.  As the author Jim Rohn once put it, “Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”

 Consistency is Important Across the Entire Business.

Products/services: McDonald’s is a great example of success bred from consistency in products and services; however, McDonald’s is a massive corporation with a lot of protocols in place that allow them to execute with this very high level of precision. It’s not as easy for smaller companies to do.  In small business, it’s fairly common to have variances across a number of operational categories.  Because of this, I’ve experienced inconsistency in product quality more often from smaller businesses than large ones.  The consequences usually include disappointed customers, lower profitability due to lack of operational controls that larger companies have long-since addressed, lost business and a higher rate of returned merchandise.  

Employees:  Happy employees are better at creating positive customer experiences than unhappy ones are.  Companies where HR policies take this into consideration often generate better customer experiences than those where employee morale is not elevated to the same level of importance.  Companies that have standardized, clear and written employee policies create a sense of stability for their employees that would otherwise be missing.  This stability fosters more trust and more contentment.  

Suppliers:  Consider this scenario – Timely payment of invoices is certainly one aspect of a mutually satisfying relationship between customers and suppliers.  However, if payment is late but reliable, most suppliers will forgive the infraction.  This is because the relationship has existed long enough and payment has been reliable with each transaction.  

Advantages of Being Consistent

  1. Measure Changes – If you think back to high school science classes, in order to test whether a change in a system produces any given effect, all other variables have to be held constant.  This applies to business, too.  To know whether a change in the business processes is leading to the desired effect, it’s important to know that the change is being implemented in every case, by every person involved in the process.  Without this kind of consistency, conclusions can’t be drawn. 
  • Creates Accountability – For this one, think of any cross-functional team project you might have run in the business.  Consistently scheduling and conducting periodic team meetings, publishing minutes of those meetings, and managing the project by timelines are all common experiences that illuminate how well the team is functioning as well as where any performance gaps might be occurring.  If these practices are consistently followed, all team members will feel a greater level of accountability and projects run more smoothly.  
  • Builds Reputation – Companies that consistently deliver exceptional quality products, on-time, and at a fair value develop excellent reputations.  In the tech industry, Apple Inc. has such a reputation and because of this, Apple consumers are very brand loyal and will pay a premium for Apple branded products although there are substitutes in most of Apple’s product categories.  
  • Command Staff Allegiance – As the leader of your enterprise, you set the vision and the direction.  Consistency in the way strategy is set and maintained makes it much easier for your line and staff to follow your direction.  Meanwhile, leaders who waffle lose their team’s respect as well as their willingness to make the personal sacrifices needed to achieve stretch objectives.  
For over twenty years, Word4Asia has steadily added to the kinds of successful results that our partners and clients have sought to achieve in mainland China.

Word4Asia is a consulting company that works with client organizations whose strategic plans include expansion in mainland China.  Over more than twenty years, we have built a reputation for faithful execution of our client’s vision and objectives.  We remain as true and committed to helping our clients in today’s fast-changing environment as we ever have been.   If your plans include expansion in mainland China, we hope you’ll give us a call. We’d like to know more about it; perhaps there’s an opportunity for us to help!  Feel free to reach out to Dr. Gene Wood at gene@word4asia.com.

 

Integrity At Our Core

In our November blog, we introduced the topic of the important values that we have built our consulting practice…

 

Read More

 

Ethics

Word 4 Asia is a consulting firm offering service and expertise in a specialty field for clients whose objectives require a deep cultural …

 

Read More

 

The Importance of Empathy

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately. In our business at Word 4 Asia, we find that its presence is a very important predictor of success…

 

Read More



Word4AsiaWord4Asia

Word4AsiaWord4Asia

Copyright © 2017 - Word4Asia