Archive for the ‘Mark Hedley’ Category
Mark Hedley this week looks at the news of Saab’s acquisition by Chinese-Japanese consortium and how it is just the latest example of the increasingly global aspirations of Chinese companies.
A recent report by Rhodium Group suggested that Chinese outbound FDI could reach $2 trillion by 2020, with Europe being the favoured investment destination.
In spite of a difficult global economic climate, Chinese corporations are taking advantage of Europe’s economic woes by actively investing in ailing European businesses and manufacturing plants. Investment into the E.U. by Chinese companies increased threefold between 2006 and 2009, and then tripled again between 2009 and 2011, with rapid increase both in both greenfield investments and merger & acquisition (M&A) transactions across a variety of markets and segments. The automotive and technology segments in particular have been attracting significant levels of Chinese investment, with major investments in Europe by major Chinese corporates such as Geely, Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE.
Although outbound Chinese investment is hardly a new phenomenon, interestingly the report found that investment in Europe in being driven overwhelmingly by commercial motives. Whereas in years gone by, a significant share of Chinese overseas investment was driven by political imperatives, such as seeking natural resources for China’s development, these factors are no longer the primary reasons why Chinese firms are appraising opportunities in the European Union. The mix of industries investments are occurring in, the large number of investments by private companies and the competitive behaviour of these firms suggests that profit is the main motive behind Chinese investment in Europe.
Exploring this profit-seeking behaviour, the report also highlights the fact that Chinese companies have found that the acquisition of higher-value overseas brands, gaining technological edge and growing the business in a more regulated market environment are some of the key elements for breaking away from a fiercely competitive domestic Chinese market. For other Chinese investors, the crisis in Europe and an increasingly strong Renminbi, are enabling Chinese investors to acquire high-value assets at knock-down prices. For Chinese contract manufacturers of the labour intensive products Europeans consume, defending market share increasingly means expanding market presence. A final key driver is the need for Chinese manufacturers to tap into Europe’s pool of human talent and research infrastructure by establishing R&D centres in Europe.
Although the upwards growth trend in Chinese investment in Western markets looks set to continue, it is also worth noting that the total value of investment is small when compared to other major economies such as the U.S. and Japan. For example, per capita overseas investment by Chinese citizens was $227 in 2010, compared to an average of $15,600 for every American, and against a worldwide average of $3,200.
As the level of Chinese investment continues to rise in the future, there will be both benefits and drawbacks for European consumers and businesses. On the one hand Chinese investment is helping to revitalise many ailing businesses in Europe and is resulting in more competition, greater choice and lower prices for European consumers. At the same time, greater completion represents a threat to businesses in certain sectors, particularly at a time of economic instability and faltering consumer demand.
The original article can be found by clicking here.
This week, Mark Hedley takes a timely look at the issue of employee satisfaction
With rising unemployment figures, reduced income levels of the majority of workers and the contentious issue of bankers’ bonuses continuing to provoke strong public feeling in the UK, it seems the issue of how to keep employees satisfied and motivated has never been more relevant. In China too, the issue of worker treatment has started to receive much greater attention in the media. Most recently, Apple’s decision to investigate reports of poor working conditions and low pay at the Foxconn plant in southern China, following a spate of accidents and worker suicides, reflects a growing public mood in China for improved treatment of workers by both multinational and local Chinese companies.
While very few companies have employee problems on the scale that Apple currently faces in China, it is nevertheless true that many foreign companies in China often fail to invest sufficient time and resources in measuring and looking to improve satisfaction levels amongst their employees. Although this is particularly due to a failure of will on behalf of Western managers, this is also due to cultural differences in the way that companies are organized and operated in China. Nowadays, many Western firms have a localized management team in place, which means Eastern cultural values often remain entrenched in how these companies operate within China.
Chinese companies tend to be structured along more hierarchical lines than Western firms, where flatter management structures allow for greater interaction between senior managers and employees. While managers of Western corporations often look to engage employees from all levels of the business in the decision-making process, frequently gathering feedback from employees, Chinese managers are often less active engaging with employees in this way. It can be argued that Western society is conducive to an environment in which employees are more willing to give voice to their views in an open and often critical manner than is the case in hierarchical societies such as China. Conversely, senior managers in China are normally expected to take decisions without broad consultation from junior stakeholders, while junior staff may be disinclined to voice their opinions in an open and honest fashion.
Effective employee research arguably has a more important role to play in hierarchical management cultures such as China than in Western markets. Not only does effective employee research lead directly to improvements in staff, but it also enables senior managers to tap into a rich knowledge resource within the organisation. Employee research can also help to improve organisational performance, generate new ideas to drive business success and as an additional way of ‘sense-checking’ important managerial decisions. It gives workers opportunity to feed views upward, remain well-informed about what is happening within the organization, and to gain reassurance that managers are fully committed to the organisation.
As companies in China fight to retain their most talented employees and make the best use out of their existing human resources, there is likely to be a growing future demand for research that accurately captures the attitudes and needs of employees. Assembling a more satisfied workforce is a major competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive environment. Findings from employee research can be used to develop a strategy for building a committed workforce who will contribute to the well-being and future prosperity of the company.
B2B International is pleased to announce the dates of its upcoming training courses in Shanghai: On Thursday, 22 September 2011, we will be running a Market With Intelligence course, and on Friday, 23 September 2011, we will host a course on Value-Based Marketing.
As with all our courses, these full-day, hands-on training workshops will enable attendees to not only learn the theory of marketing, but – crucially – to apply the learnings to their own businesses. A brief summary of the course schedules is shown below, but more information can be found here “Shanghai Marketing Training Courses”.
Market with Intelligence – Thursday, September 22, 2011
This course introduces you to the key principles of market research and how research tools can be used to grow your business. Topics covered include:
• Introduction to market research
Value-Based Marketing – Friday, September 23, 2011
Our value-based marketing workshop explores the key marketing principles and how you can make them work for you, including:
• Market intelligence and value-based marketing
Mark Hedley this week considers the subject of how to approach product development research
I read a recent interview with Nielsen’s American chief of product development Vicki Gardner, in which she talks about Nielsen’s approach to product development research. The interview reveals that Nielsen has recently announced its new strategy for product development research, which breaks down the factors that influence a product’s success into twelve points. These twelve points cover issues such as how distinct the proposition is, how persuasively the message is conveyed, how well the product performs and the cost-benefit trade-off for the buyer.
Nielsen believes that, with its new approach, it can dramatically reduce the likelihood of a flop, with a success rate of about three in four. That’s compared to less than one in four for all new products, and just under half for products tested using the old approach. Explaining the reasons for this new approach to product development research in July’s issue of research-live.com, Vicki Gardner said:
Although Nielsen’s approach has largely been developed for consumer product development, its basic principles are also applicable to many business-to-business markets, where obtaining accurate and usable data for new product development initiatives presents a challenge. Although buyers in b2b markets often possess technical knowledge that allows them to visualize new product concepts, it is also necessary to present potential buyers with distinct new product concepts to test the attractiveness of a new product. It is then possible to assess reactions to the product concept in terms of its perceived benefits, cost-benefit trade-off, the ability of the product to meet a need, its benefits over alternative products, and so on. The more nuanced the dissection of these factors, the more likely that a company will succeed in developing or adapting new products to meet the real needs and unmet needs of the market place.
However, it worth noting that product development research in b2b markets should not just focus on the product itself, which is often just a small aspect of the requirements of buyers. For example, in manufacturing industries, the availability and speedy delivery of a key ingredients can often be as, if not more, important than minor product innovations that may not significantly alter the product’s performance (especially where a large number of substitute products exist). As such, the best product development research will not be carried out in isolation, but will also take account of other issues surrounding the product, such as packaging, services (i.e. technical support), delivery and marketing. The benefits accrued through the significant investment that may be required for new R&D activity can then be appropriately measured against investments in alternative areas of the business.
Ever the researcher, Mark Hedley this week ponders how easy and practical it is to measure happiness
As we move out of the long British winter and into the first days of spring I can feel my mood lighten a little every day as the long dark winter nights turn into bright spring days. Having lived abroad for the last couple of years, this was my first winter in the UK for quite some time, and I have to admit to being more than a little influenced by a distinct lack of sunshine and what I suppose would be referred to as ‘seasonal affected disorder’ (SAD) or the winter blues.
It’s a strange phenomenon, but I do find that my happiness levels are generally much lower between the months of November and February, which seems to bear out the scientific theory that human happiness is directly linked to the cycle of the seasons. Perhaps it’s not just the seasons that have been affecting my mood – it does seem that all the doom and gloom going on in recent months, with news of economic recession, huge public sector cuts, rising unemployment and inflation have further exaggerated the bleak feeling of the winter months this year.
Without wanting to get too morose and philosophical here, it does make you wonder what happiness is exactly and how it can adequately be defined (or controlled)? Does happiness vary between different people within different cultures, and if so, are there any universal measures of happiness common to all people? How important is money to happiness for example? How important are financial factors compared to health, relationships with other people, or job satisfaction? Finally, what role does weather and the environment play in affecting our levels of happiness and personal satisfaction?
It was announced recently that the British government has decided to start measuring people’s psychological and environmental wellbeing. Apparently, the Office of National Statistics has been asked to produce a ‘happiness’ index that can be used alongside the normal GDP figures to indicate national prosperity and wellbeing. Yesterday it was revealed that the ONS will soon be asking 200,000 British people in its regular household survey just how satisfied they are with their lives.
The survey will use a 10 point scale to pose a range of questions relating to levels of happiness and satisfaction. The survey will include some of the following questions:
While the purpose of this exercise is to enable the British government to use something other than hard economic data to formulate public policy in the future, it will also be interesting to see what the results of the survey are. What is the mean average happiness score for British people? Will this vary between locations, different age groups or between men and women? Are British people, on average, happier than the French, Greeks or Italians? I suppose that the real value of the study will lie in whether it is able to provide accurate and reliable data on what are the main drivers of happiness for the majority of British people, and what steps should be taken to help improve the happiness of a nation in the future.
The professional market researcher in me remains sceptical at the ability of this type of questionnaire to deal effectively with as subjective and ethereal concept as human happiness. Although a point scale questionnaire such as this offers useful general quantitative indicators on trends in happiness, it is questionable as to how far such a survey can really get to the bottom of the drivers that shape happiness and wellbeing for people in the UK.
In b2b research, as with sociological research, the principle job of the research is to get to the heart of the issue and understand the complex array of factors that drive behaviour (whether it be an individual or an organization). Nowadays it is generally recognized that while quantitative measures and scales provide some insight into market behaviour, this often only tells one side of the story. Examining the drivers behind the numbers more often than not requires a questionnaire format that includes open qualitative questioning to allow the respondent to give free reign to his or her thought and to tease out the hidden motivations that may shape behaviour. As when trying to understand the reasons why an individual may or may not be happy, in business to business research it is important to recognize that a myriad of factors can affect the views of an organization, including everything from product quality, price levels and level of service through to brand reputation and word-of-mouth recommendation.