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Go global by thinking local, firms are advised

By Lan Lan (China Daily)

08:19, July 31, 2012

Small steps lead to giant strides in overseas markets, experts say

When asked how he feels about working for a Chinese company, Jeffrey Shafer, vice-president of global communications at Lenovo, responded quicker than a mouse click: "It's a global company."

Even a cursory glance at the company's executive list confirms the truth of that statement.

There are six nationalities among Lenovo's top 10 executives and 17 nationalities are represented in the company's top 100. The company has a presence in more than 60 countries and regions.

Chinese companies operating in ever-increasing numbers overseas have contributed significantly to the host countries.

According to a report released by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group, in 2010, Chinese companies employed nearly 1 million people overseas, and of these about 71 percent were part of the local workforce.

Local hiring has helped Lenovo, the world's second-largest personal computer maker, to gain local acceptance.

The company maintained local jobs after it purchased IBM in 2004. It has more than 2,500 people in the US and created 300 jobs at its US headquarters near Raleigh, North Carolina in 2011.

"If your executives and employees are from various backgrounds, it demonstrates the company has a cultural diversity," Shafer told China Daily.

Chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing moved his family to the US to better understand its culture after the purchase, though he didn't speak English fluently then.

Lenovo's market share is about 8 percent in the US and it is the fourth-largest PC company in the US, according to the company.

The company, built by former chairman Liu Chuanzhi 28 years ago with a few engineers in a hut, has put down roots in the US.

"When Lenovo purchased IBM most people expected it to fail. After seven years, we have become the world's second-largest PC maker," Shafer said.

The US market is obviously of strategic importance for any Chinese company looking overseas.

Despite the fact that only about 1 percent of US foreign direct investment came from China in 2011, more and more Chinese companies are set to enter the US market.

But the basic question remains the same: How do you gain acceptance and achieve sustainable success?

Peter Verrengia, president and senior partner of Communications Consulting Worldwide, said it is important to build a positive stakeholder relationship.

"It's hard to convince people in any area by telling them you are here to help them. They will question what you can bring and what you will take."

He suggested Chinese investors spend more time building bridges to local communities.

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