Chinese Companies: A Box of Chocolates
When arranging internships in China for students from the “West”, quite a few future interns ask us what kind of businesses actually do operate in Chengdu, meaning what the business landscape looks like, and how companies actually look like from the inside. It is impossible to answer these questions in a blog post, so I thought I will answer all these questions in a blog post.
Together with students from the De Montfort University Leicester I visited three different companies within only a few days. We went to a law firm, a logistics company and an architecture firm. Each company showed us around and explained their business to us. As I have seen them within a few days only, I was able to see somewhat “natural” (branch specifics and industry differences), cultural and individual differences between them a bit clearer than usual. I think that these three companies represent a nice sample of the diverse company culture you are able to experience here in Chengdu.
The first firm we visited is a large logistics firm headquartered in Chengdu. The Chinese “laoban” (老板), who is also the founder, proudly presented to us the company history that prettty much resembled his own biography “from the dish washer to millionaire story”. What started with one single truck in Chengdu is now a logistics company that operates with several hundreds of cars all over China. In my eyes, this company perfectly represents something that may be called the “Chinese Dream”: with a good education and valubale guanxi-connections in your city, you can actually do very, very well – without too many buraucratic obstacles or other hurdles on the way.
The second commpany was a Chinese law firm that problaby has the poshest office I have ever seen (in real life). They gave us a really good and interesting ppt-presentation (notice the slight difference when we visited the architecture firm). Unexpectedly, the “laoban” – one of the senior partners of the firm – popped in for a few minutes. And it was one of those unexpected, short, spontanious moments that are quite inquisitive for someone looking for cultural differences between Western and Chinese companies. The senior partner actually burst into the room and immediatley took over complete control of the meeting, hold his own presentation for good ten minutes. Then he left. In Germany, for instance, this situation would have been taken place slightly different, I guezz. However, we were actually very honoured that he found time for us and it was a real pleasure.
And then there was this really hipster architecture and interior design firm. “Hipster” may be one of the most overused, blurry and inappropriately used word since the beginning of the century (also note how many “sensational” things suddenly occur in Germany these days). However, just imagine design people in design clothes presenting design in a perfectly designed “prezi” (no ppt)- there you go. It was really fun and one of those moments where I thought “dammit, why haven’t I studied something cool?”. The company is managed by English architects and designers who cannot speak Chinese on a professional level – that’s why they are assisted in their sales and business development by a Chinese business women.
All in all, you see three quite different phenomena that all subsume as “companies in China”: a somewhat traditionally managed logistics company where its employees sing the company song together every morning (I am not joking); a law firm with steep hierarchies residing in an office that rather resembles a four star hotel than an office with a fantastic view onto the biggest building in the world and the immense Tianfu Software Park; and a cool foreign architecture company with shallow hierarchies where pop music is played throughout the loft office all day long.
In a nutshell, Chinese companies are like a box of chocolate for us arranging internships and you interning in one of them: some are traditional, some have an unorthodox style, some are fluffy, others are hard (but long lasting!), and basically all are enjoyable. However, you never know what you gonna get.
Want to get your piece from the Chinese box of chocolate? Apply now for an internship in Qingdao, Chengdu or Zhuhai!