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!

Staying Fresh in Consulting; Every Product Has a Sell-By Date.

by Joe

Age discrimination may be illegal but age is still a reality. Most consultant’s primary product is THEM.  What is the expiration date on THEM?

In sports we all agree “father time is undefeated”…. We may be an outlier such as Peyton Manning but even Peyton will someday transition to another realm of work. 

Suggestions:

Stay in good health and stay fit. Don’t need to look and act like your thirty which usually makes us look even older. But be in reasonably good shape for your age. Primarily to bring energy to the table. 

Stay relevant in whatever field you are in. Unlike the medical, CPA and legal realm independent consultants seldom are required to take courses and test in them. So, we must be driven from within to not only stay current but rise above the norm in our fields of expertise. 

Example. In China people don’t want to know what we saw and experienced in China or where we were or how often we visited  but when were we there last and how broadly have we gained exposure. What levels of exposure and how deeply we are experienced. No place in the world changes more rapidly than China! 

Clients ask discreetly about our age. 

“How sustainable is your work?”

“What are your transition plans?” 

Instead of feeling like you’ve been carded at the bar, you should take these questions as complements. It means your customers value YOUR contributions and they want you to continue to make them while you still have energy and all your marbles.  

Be honest. No one is forever. Also, as the competent professional that you are, you should be able to look forward to a time when you don’t need to work. Rather, strive to provide the best possible work at the best rate you can earn for as long as you are still providing good value to your clients.

My response is basically “I could retire and be fine. My wife might even be happy, but I enjoy working. Have worked since I was 16 and it is a habit I’m not eager to break. As long as I can be effective and relevant I have no plans to quit.”  

What contingency plans can we offer should something unexpected arise?  We should know and be able to articulate what these are: Poor health, health of a spouse requiring our attention, a sudden change in the political environment where we work, etc.  

Word 4 Asia encourages our clients to think in terms of three year initiatives and we promise that we can fulfill these with or without my personal presence. We have a team which can sustain any project(s) for that duration of time in place. 

Furthermore almost all our contracts are one year in duration. This provides a time for evaluation and off ramps if necessary. 

We cannot deny mortality. We should also be conversant with the norms for Boomer retirement.  Most all say they wish to work forever or at least until full retirement age, which is 67.  However, only a small percentage actually do. We should know why this is the case and make sure we’re honest with ourselves and upfront with our clients. Let’s keep living in the real world. 

Consultants who advise others must demonstrate wisdom in their own work and lives. That single factor may be our best sales presentation.

Need a little more inspiration, check out this wonderful Ted talk by boomer, Tom Hering, “How I Became an Entrepreneur at 66”. At 64, Tom was shown the door by his employer who felt he’d ‘aged out’. Two years later, he was the founder of a successful company, his passion project that turns industrial waste into packaging.

http://boomermale.com/2018/10/22/how-i-became-an-entrepreneur-at-66/
Click the link to view Tom Hering’s Ted talk.

What are your thoughts on remaining vital in your career, even as time continues to march forward? I’d enjoy the conversation. And, as always, if your organization’s plans include. expansion in China, perhaps you should contact us. Our large network, and more than twenty years of practical experience might be just the advantage you need to succeed! I can be reached at Gene@word4asia.com.

The Three Principles We Manage By

by Joe

Word 4 Asia has been been serving clients in our unique niche for over twenty years.  During that time, we’ve worked with many clients to help them achieve difficult goals.  Looking back, I can see a common thread of things that I believe have contributed towards successful projects.  While, every organization is different, there are a number of principles that we’ve ‘top of mind’.  Doing so has allowed us to succeed.  This month’s blog is about those principles.

Principle Number One: Serve From Our Strengths

We’re only as good as the combined set of our company’s and our team’s experience.  From time to time, we’ve been asked to partner with certain organizations on topics that were outside our ‘wheel house’.  We’ve passed on most of those opportunities.   We know that when our prospects come to us for help, its because our reputation is very good and they’ve received strong referrals.   We know that new clients are often hiring our reputation because to them it’s a promise of what they can experience.  We will never sell what we cannot deliver. 

When we commit to a project, it’s because we know we have the right experience for it.  To us, this means

We understand the environment our customers want to succeed in.  There are so many differences between working in mainland China and the world that most of our clients inhabit in the western world.  We have been to China hundreds of times.  We know the people, how things get done, what to look out for and how to get things done more easily.  We can’t say the same for other regions of Asia, so we don’t work in those other regions.

Our word is our bond.  If Word 4 Asia make a promise, it’s going to happen.  We also do everything in our power to accomplish those promises within the scope of the time period and the project budget.  One of my pet peeves is a vendor who over-commits and under-delivers.  My entire team knows this and they’re trained and cautioned about making that mistake.

Trust is everything in our business.  Many of our customers have relied on our expertise for years.  Trust is one of the most important reasons why they continue to come back to us.

Principle Number Two: Willingness to Partner

We stand behind our work.  Completely.  We’ve got such skin in the game that we promise to return our client’s fees if we were unable to complete anything that was in-scope. 

By aligning our fee with our clients’ outcomes, we believe we’re communicating several very important messages.  One, that we believe in their work and their organization.   Two, that we are committed to their success for the long-term, not just during the period under our contract.  We’re saying that we’re willing to assume the same level of risk they are, because we believe in our own work, and in the work our clients perform as well.

One sub-point under willingness to partner relates to the way Word 4 Asia responds to our client’s “Requests for Price/ Proposal”.  Some consulting firms are so focused on limiting their exposure that they even submit boiler plate replies to the RFPs they receive.  You’d never find that with us.  When we quote an engagement or project, we take the time to consider every facet of the project.  Besides being accurate, this also helps us stay true to the points discussed under ‘trust’ and ‘integrity’.

Principle Number Three: Fees

Many organizations are now listing ‘fees’ as the second highest priority, after experience, when it comes to choosing between potential consultants.  This hasn’t always been the case but it does show how important the Purchasing department has become in consultant selection.   For some consultants, this might seem threatening.  However, to our way of thinking, its just business as usual.  As true partners to our clients, we’ve always considered stewarding their resources a very important part of our role while serving them.   Our proposals are heavy on details so the fairness of our quotes is readily apparent.  We’re proud of that.

Perhaps your organization is looking for a trusted partner to help you achieve your goals in mainland China.  Word 4 Asia is an experienced and trusted partner to many organizations in the USA.  Perhaps we have the right combination of background, personnel and skills you need.  The best way to find out is to contact us at gene@word4asia.com or you can phone Dr. Gene Wood at 714) 769-9114.   We’ll be ready for your call!

 

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