The Year of the Rabbit – a chance to look beyond?

This week I’ve had my sports towels picked up around me, every door opened and at least two waiters hovering over my every meal. I’ve had my glass continually topped up after every sip, I’ve had transport laid on and seen staff manage the impossible. I’ve seen at least 15 versions of the same store duplicated all over town within metres and I’m sure I’ve put on kilos over the past five days experiencing the world’s best culinary delights — ordered from an iPad!

Where am I? No, not in Sydney, I’m in Hong Kong experiencing the world’s finest service levels in a world of contrasts — those who have much and those who have little. I’m back here again after years of experiencing and living with those contrasts, as a traveller with a backpack and a corporate visitor. While acknowledging the lows and highs, the smog, the sheer volumes of people, the amazing food, extraordinary consumerism, some of the world’s best hotels and best service and of course all the irritating habits that come with packing 1.3 billion people into 9.6 million square km in the third largest financial hub in the world.

The buzz of Hong Kong is pulsating. It is a very different scene from sleepy Sydney where our distance from the rest of the world creates a very different pace and a very different place for our business, our staff and our service and product offerings. I am invigorated!

There’s no doubt that travelling overseas into different cultures extends the boundaries, introduces new standards of excellence. I will probably return home a better boss, a better mother and a better consultant to my customers.

Why am I here? I’m taking the opportunity, on request from a long-standing client, to offer new services and products in cultures far removed from my own. Although I lived and worked in Hong Kong years ago, and my husband and I set up and supported distributors around Asia, Sydney’s wonderful climate and relaxed environment was the ideal environment to raise our children and start our own businesses.

Back to my point, the innovation that other cultures, particularly China, provide for businesses in Australia is exciting and re-energising. Partly because of the sheer risk of operating in such territory and partly because of the exhilaration of being first to market in a market where the figures and numbers look like Monopoly. Today I’ve spent time discussing business opportunities and learning more about the potential that my business and I have to offer on a global basis than at any other time.

I’ve come to China to keynote to a global industry worth approximately US$15 billion a year about taking action to unite and create change. A fascinating opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

I spent two hours talking to a prospect about the market in Australia yesterday and in thanking me for my time, she called me ‘teacher’ and said, “When you gift someone a rose, the scent is left on your hands”.

While here, I’ve had many of the traditional ways of operating as a business challenged. So what have I learned?

• The opportunity of offering incentives to increase productivity — I’ve experienced first-hand the difference between workers incented in Hong Kong and not in China;

• The sheer potential of mankind and the power of cheap labour when it is available;

• The necessity of, and entrepreneurial spirit and risk involved in, innovation;

• Taking the time out to re-think and re-stabilise in an entirely different background uncovers new opportunity;

• Take a moment to spot the opportunities and then to have the guts to take the risk;

• Nothing beats working hard, and the working harder. The billionaire businessmen I am dealing with started with nothing;

• I could have travelled alone, but I invited a staff member to accompany me – and I am witnessing first-hand the power of a team;

• Do your preparation — it is essential;

• Do your research —it shows;

• Keep an open mind on all that you experience;

• Don’t knock other cultures, you could be missing a chance to learn;

• Be flexible and expect to adapt to changing circumstances;

• Use your two ears and two eyes inrelation to your one mouth — it pays to listen and observe.

My time in China has re-calibrated me. Every leader deserves the chance to break away, have time to think and exchange intellect. The scent of that rose is very firmly in the palm of my hand.

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