Is It Time to Hire a Consultant? Setting the Table for Success.

by Joe

So,  you think maybe it’s time to bring in a consultant.  Do you know how to match the right consultant with the needs of your organization?    How you address this has a huge impact on the future of the relationship.  Having served many clients over the last fifteen years, we think we’ve learned quite a bit about what fosters productive client-consultant relationships and what doesn’t.

The Roles Consultants Play

One place to start is having a clear notion of what you actually want your consultant to do for you.  Consultants can occupy a fairly broad array of roles. 

As the client, you may be searching for a consultant to help you answer key questions about the business.  A market research consultant, for instance, is retained to study questions about how consumers react to ad messages, new product concepts and other marketing variables.  A good consultant will think beyond the bounds of the project as the client frames it and will ask questions about how the information will ultimately be used.  This additional perspective may result in the problem statement being reworked and the scope either broadened or narrowed.  Beware of the consultant who does not think beyond the RFP.

On another occasion, you may want a consultant’s help in solving an important problem.  For instance, finding a new raw material source, re-thinking a production process, or something else.  As in the first example, the best consultants will take the time to consider if the pinpointed problem is really the right one to address.  Questions Word 4 Asia often asks our clients include

  • ‘What solutions have worked in the past?’
  • ‘Which related aspects of the client’s work are not going well?’
  • ‘How will the solution be applied?’

It’s also important to know the prospective consultant’s record for correct diagnoses.   Ask for case-studies where correctly identifying the root cause of a problem led to effective solutions.

What recommendation delivery method is right for your organization? 

The follow up question to this is ‘What is the prospective consultant’s experience and success in delivering recommendations in the way(s) that best suit your team?’  Is your management team prone to change or is change something which is feared and/ or poorly executed?   A consultant’s ability to influence receptivity of their recommendations will also have a huge impact on the ultimate value of the project to the organization.

Do we have a proper learning environment?

The project your consultant is engaged in will not be the last time your organization needs to work through a challenging opportunity.  Can you find a consultancy that can help you improve your internal bench strength for future problem solving?  This single facet could possibly be even more valuable than the solution to the immediate need!

The Traits Great Consultants Possess

Not all consulting firms will be able to provide solutions to this list of considerations.  However, there are certain traits you can look for which will  help ensure at least some of them. 

Reliability:  It’s an old-fashioned notion, but we believe that doing what you promise and promising only what you’ll do are important in any profession.

Attention to Detail:  The old saying is true; ‘If a person cannot be trusted in the small things, how can they be trusted with the big ones?’  In consulting this olds true from the way an opportunity is approached to the quality of the finished written report.

Resourcefulness:  Find a consultant that is flexible and capable in a variety of situations.  You are hiring a consultant because you don’t have the internal band-width to address the question(s) internally.  Resources are already limited.  The consulting firm you hire must be able to produce outstanding results working on their own.

An inquisitive mind that sees beyond the obvious:  Its sometimes happened in our experience that the challenges we have addressed for our clients were not the ones they originally considered.  By seeing past the client’s own bias and perspectives we were able to ask different questions that ultimately led to the right conclusions and allowed us to generate better results.

For fifteen years, Word 4 Asia has been helping our clients to address a variety of challenging opportunities.  In fact, it seems that our environment has only become more interesting and challenging with the passing of time.  We’re proud of the contributions we make toward our clients objectives. Have you got a need we can help you address?  We’d love to talk.  You can reach Word 4 Asia by emailing Dr. Gene Wood at gene@word4asia.com

Want Success? Listen Up!

by Joe

Regardless of your industry, your business success eventually boils down to one simple fact. It’s all about how effectively you communicate. Excellence in this area is required to lead your team. Without listening, we cannot satisfy your customers needs.
It’s been my experience that the biggest challenge many leaders have in this area is that they are unable to get out of their own way. That’s too bad, because the secret is staring them straight in the face. All that’s required is a mirror and a little light to create a clear reflection.

THE ANSWER IS STARING YOU IN THE FACE

Look in that mirror! What do you see? If you’re like most people, when you quickly inventory your own face you should count two eyes, two ears and just one mouth – more importantly just a single tongue. You think maybe there’s a lesson there? Of course there is (yes, I’m now guilty of asking you a “leading question”.) Not to shoot a dead horse, but the point is this: the best communicators are going to spend twice as much time observing and twice as much time listening as they will spend time talking.

GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY

A wise man once said that when we are speaking, we are taking time to rehearse things we already know. But when we listen, we create opportunities to learn important things that we don’t know yet!

At this point, some people might benefit from being reminded that hearing and listening are not the same thing. Listening is an active discipline. While one can hear without processing, the same is not true in reverse and it makes all the difference in the world.

FOUR BUILDING BLOCKS

There are four important building blocks to active listening. These include:
Paraphrasing:  Summarizing what the speaker has said in your own words. Doing this opens the opportunity to see if you’ve fully understood the speaker’s ideas.
Empathizing:  Empathy goes beyond intellectual interpretation of the message. It means that you’ve properly understood how the speaker actually feels about what is being discussed. Often, there are non-verbal cues (body language, tone of voice, volume, etc.) that provide this information. Your ability to properly respond requires that you have the EQ (emotional quotient or emotional maturity) to interpret the message. People with aspergers disease will struggle here. Unless you are in this group, there’s really no excuse for missing these signals. Appropriate responses require patience and an open mind. (Judge not, lest ye be judged!)
Questionning:  This step is probably going to be necessary in order for the paraphrasing, addressed earlier, to accurately reflect the speaker’s original intentions. Focus on asking open-ended questions that draw out more details and reveal as much as possible about the speaker’s intentions.
Balanced Response:  There are going to be times when you, as the listener, are not going to agree with the speaker. Agreement is not essential but a respectful, constructive, thoughtful reply always is. A balanced reply is one that emphasizes the points you and the speaker have in common, or the points that you agreed with or admired, while also creating space to share your own personal thoughts on the subject and where you and the speaker might differ. It’s been my experience that the best solutions to many business challenges reflect the combined input of several people or even an entire team.

Motivate Your Team By Showing You Listen and Value their Input

When your customers and your team identify you as truly ‘tuned in’ to what they share with you, your ability to lead and motivate will increase in exciting ways that might surprise you. Nothing shuts employee participation down faster than a grandstanding supervisor.  Show your team that you respect, desire and actually need their input and watch job ownership take flight.  Suddenly, demotivated team members feel valued.  When these things happen, the quality of their work improves, volunteerism rises, productivity is off the charts!  

Revolutionize an Industry By Listening to Your Customers

It works the same way outside your company doors, too.  Successful brands listen closely to their consumers and provide solutions that better meet market needs and satisfy market wants.  Provide a better mousetrap than your competition and be rewarded in the marketplace.   Small brands can still beat entrenched giants.  If you need proof, go visit Detroit some time.

Take the time to hear what your team and your customers have to say and understand what they need to feel supported. Stretch your own EQ and feel the emotions behind what your customers share with you and how your employees feel about their jobs. I believe you’ll be glad you made the effort to participate at a deeper level in the communication process. After all, hearing is not listening but listening is the pathway toward long term success.

 

 

Word 4 Asia has been working with teams in North American and Asia for over twenty years. We think we’ve learned a bit about communication in all these years. If your organization has interests in Asia on its horizon, we’d like to share what we’ve learned with you. You can reach us at gene@word4asia.com any time. We’ll be listening!

China Celebrates the Year of the Pig!

by Joe


In Ancient, pre-Christian times, life was challenging and unpredictable.  Many early societies attempted to create a sense of order in a world that mostly felt uncontrollable.  Looking around their environment, they thought they saw order and causality coming from things such as the location of certain constellations in the night sky.

Of course, educated and enlightened people no longer hold to these beliefs.  Instead, we seek understanding in our relationships with God and through a better understanding of the hard and soft sciences, for instance physics and psychology. 

As we all know, the New Year was celebrated in China on February 5 at which time the Chinese ushered in the year of  The Pig.   We thought it would be fun to learn a little about how the calendar is arranged in Chinese culture and we offer you this blog.

 

According to legend, the Jade Emperor invited all twelve zodiac animals to a party he was throwing.  The emperor was about to assign each animal to its respective position in the twelve-year zodiac cycle depending on each animal’s order of arrival.  Being last (twelfth) to arrive because he overslept, The Pig was assigned the final position.   The Chinese calendar actually revolves around a 60 year cycle, with each animal appearing once in each of five different cycles that are tied to natural elements, wood, fire, earth, metal and water.  Chinese people who are born under any of the twelve zodiac/elemental combinations are thought to have certain personality traits.  The year of one’s zodiac sign is thought to bring a lot of bad luck.  The best that someone can hope for during their zodiac year is to ‘stick it out’.

Personality and characteristics

In Chinese culture, pigs are perceived as having beautiful personalities, blessed with good luck and are symbols of wealth.

Other associations with the zodiac pig:

·         Association with the earth element, di zhi (地支) hài ()

·         The hours between 9 and 11 pm

·         Yin (in terms of yin and yang)  

Pigs are known to be very group oriented, realistic, and thrifty.  They do, however, enjoy life and so pursue entertainment and treating themselves.  Their materialism is motivation to enthusiastically work.  Their success leads to occupying positions of power and status and once they have this, they have a right to speak their minds.

 

The Pig/ Earth combination:

Besides this current year, 2019, the most recent Pig/ Earth combination occurred in 1959.  People born in this phase of the sixty year cycle can be described as “…social butterflies with friends from all walks of life. They have a lot of support in both work and life. They have fortunate lives and can find happiness. They are successful later in life. However, they aren’t the most romantic people and might need to work on that.”  (https://chinesenewyear.net/zodiac/pig/)

According to Chinese tradition, associations with people, numbers, minerals and other things can be either lucky or unlucky for people born in a particular zodiac year.  Here’s how it works out for people born in the year of the pig:

Most Compatibility

Least Compatibility

Things that are Lucky
for Pigs

Things that are Unlucky
for Pigs

People born under the following signs:

Tiger

Rabbit

Goat

People born under the following signs:

Snake

Monkey

Colors: yellow, gray, brown

Numbers: 2, 5, 8

Minerals: Agate

Months: April through July

 

 

How Can We Help?

Whether you have just started your new year this past month, or like most westerners, you began it on January 1, Word 4 Asia wishes you a happy new year!   We hope this is the beginning of a successful year for you.  If there are ways that we can help you pursue your goals in 2019, we’d be happy to talk more with you about them.  Feel free to reach us at gene@word4asia.com

 

Market Opportunities In China: Healthy and Natural Products

by Joe

Since 2014, China has held the mantle of being the most health-conscious country in the world.  Changed attitudes and increased interest in healthy and natural foods and beverages has led to a booming industry which by 2020 will exceed $70 Billion.   

As an example of growing demand for healthier foods and beverages, the marketing research publisher, Mintel, recently published a report on plant protein drinks (PPD) in the country.  Nearly nine in ten (87 percent) Chinese consumers now drink plant-based concoctions, be it soybean drinks, juices or grain drinks.  

The quest for better health is pursued differently among different Chinese consumer market segments. This chart from management consulting group, McKinsey, provides detail about five major segments.

Factors Behind the Trend

Increased Affluence:  A growing middle class living in China’s largest cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, have increased awareness about healthier living and are willing and able to pay higher prices for healthier products. 

Rising Influence of Western Culture:  Western media has increased Chinese awareness for healthier eating and healthier life styles.  Gyms and fitness centers comprise a $6 Billion industry.  There are now over 37,000 gyms in China.  Nearly seven million Chinese are members of gyms, this is twice the amount as compared with 2008.  Sportswear, to go along with the more active lifestyle,  is also growing in popularity.  By 2020, this category will be more than $43.1 Billion in size. Fitness apps are also a recent craze.  One Chinese fitness app, Keep, actually boasts 100-million downloads/ users. 

Demographic Factors:  There are 415 million millennials in China today and many of them have the income to support interests in fitness and health related products.  Conversely, there is also a ‘graying’ among Chinese citizens.  Nearly 22% of the nation’s population will be over 60 in the next eight years.    As we have seen in the United States, aging consumers are looking to dietary supplements and exercise as preventative medicine aids. 

Two Consumption Paths:  Two distinct lifestyles have emerged in China in recent years.  One portion of the population has been influenced by China’s open policy to Western culture and lifestyle as well as technological development.  Another portion of  the nation’s citizens continue to live more traditionally Chinese lifestyles.   Those leaning toward a Western lifestyle tend to rely more on the media when forming attitudes about consumption.

Those Chinese who lead more traditional lives show greater demand for organic and healthy food, disease treatment and simpler recreations as hiking or going to the movies.  Chinese who are more westernized are opting for sports and fitness, and overseas travel.  These consumers tend to rely more on word of mouth from friends and family

The roughly even split in consumers’ lifestyle preference cuts across income groups, generations and geography.

 

Nutritional supplements are among the growing categories that Chinese consumers are turning to in their quest for wellness.

High Demand Products

Sales data extracted from Tmall presents these general consumption trends in greater detail.  For instance

·         Skincare products (e.g. moisturizer and sunscreen) have grown substantially, especially among products made with natural ingredients.

·         Vitamins and food supplements

·         Fresh produce

·         U.S. seafood (demand for local seafood has diminished due to health concerns)

·         Sporting Goods – including both outdoor gear and equipment for specific sports or workouts

·         Organic products – formaldehyde-free furniture, preference for natural textiles versus polyester, growing preference for sustainable products

 Astute marketers with an eye on growth in China will be looking to their products and marketing plans and making appropriate strategic and tactical decisions. 

 

Selecting healthier foods, pursuing a more active fitness regime and monitoring activity and diet with smart phone apps are just several of many ways that Chinese consumers are striving for wellness.

 

Word 4 Asia has extensive experience working on the Chinese mainland.  We help our clients achieve their objectives there by staying on-top of the ever-changing dynamics of this massive nation.  We work closely with our large Chinese network and the Chinese authorities to ensure that our clients goals are achieved under the parameters of Chinese law.  Success in China requires an intimate understanding of the cultural, legal and market forces at work there.  We only work in ways that are sensitive to local law, customs and China’s cultural heritage.  If your organization’s ambitions point towards China, we’d love to talk with you.    

Our sister company, Wellness 2 Asia, specializes in bringing better nutrition and health to China through a line of nutritional supplements.  We are leveraging our strong mainland network to reach even the hard to reach rural communities. 

To contact Gene Wood about consulting services or possible new distribution opportunities, use either of his two email addresses:

gene@word4asia.com

gene@wellness2asia.com

 

Is it Time to Hire a Consultant?

So, you think maybe it’s time to bring in a consultant. Do you know how to match the right consultant with … …

 

Read More

 

Want Success? Listen Up!

Regardless of your industry, your business success eventually boils down to one simple fact. It’s all about how effectively you communicate. Excellence …

 

Read More

 

China Celebrates the Year of the Pig!

In Ancient, pre-Christian times, life was challenging and unpredictable. Many early societies attempted to create a sense of order in a world that …

 

Read More



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