Monday, June 29, 2009

Review: Managing the Dragon

One of the greatest challenges of doing business in China is that the country and its laws are constantly changing. The greatest challenge to anyone who writes about doing business with China is that once the book is written, the country and its laws have changed. However, Jack Perkowski does a very nice job of balancing his experience and advice with the ever-changing business landscape of China in Managing the Dragon. Even some of the laws he mentions have already changed in the year since this book was published. Fortunately, he spent enough years in China to see the changes for himself, and he's willing to share his experience with readers.

It's difficult for me to comment on specific business advice that Perkowski provides in his book because I'm not a businessman and I don't know all the laws in China. But, much of his advice can be applied to those who intend to spend an extended time in China. He mentions that the first time he saw a Chinese factory he thought, "[W]hat we need here is some good old-fashioned U.S. management to get these places organized and cleaned up!" Unfortunately, many people have this thought when living and working in China. Perkowski makes it a point that one can't change China or impose American-style management so easily.

Perkowski provides specific examples of the processes he and his partners went through in creating a successful company. He describes the business end of every step of the process as well as the cultural. As with creating any business, he makes clear that it's not easy and requires careful planning. While there is plenty of advice that should be obvious, he also includes his plan to create a high-caliber local management team--another tremendous challenge considering the lack of managerial talent in China compared to the much larger need.

One of the highlights of Managing the Dragon is that Perkowski doesn't focus on the negative or the positive--he balances all of his anecdotes. He admits to some serious problems, and discusses how he and his company fixed them. He also shares experiences that were amazingly positive even though he didn't have that much to do with the outcome. He shows readers the extremes that one might encounter--personalities of the managers and workers, landscapes and accomodations, and anything else he's experienced in more than 15 years in China.

Managing the Dragon is a great guide for anyone who wants to do business in China. But, it's also useful for anyone who plans to work there. I would even recommend this book to English teachers who will work in China, because it helps explain a lot of the attitudes and managerial techniques that one may encounter.


Satina said...

Hey, fellow traveler. My blog is You are in the States now? I am about to leave for China, to a college near Shanghai. Question: I need to buy a train ticket before arriving in China. Do you know anyone who takes VISA, or do you have any other suggestions?

Matthew said...

Unless things have changed around Shanghai, you can't buy train tickets that far in advance (usually about a week before the date). And it's a cash only process. If you know someone already there, they might be able to get you a ticket before you arrive.