Step-by-step guide: How to make it in China

Step 1: Find The Right Partner

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Anyone, who has contemplated taking their business to China, must have heard this piece of advice: Find the right partner! 

And this is really the most important step, stressed Lancy Jia, CEO and founder of Sumino.  Sumino is a Finnish educational content integration and localization company, headquartered in Tampere, Finland, helping Finnish education companies entering the Chinese market.  

More important than finding the right spouse 

“It is not really possible entering China on your own. No matter how much you have studied China – doing business is a different story.” 

Only huge companies, like the engineering firm Kone, known for its elevators, can afford hiring expensive consultants that can help with entering the market alone. For any normal Finnish company – especially startups – a Chinese partner is essential. 

“There is nowhere where you do business without a network. In Chinese business, network is particularly important,” Jia explained. “If you don’t know anybody, you cannot know the market.” 

A good local partner has the right connections. On top of that, the ideal Chinese partner can help interpret news and other market information. 

“They know what is going on under the surface, how the market really functions,” said Jia.  

Finding the right Chinese business partner might be more important than finding your life partner. You see, breaking up with a business partner can be much more difficult and expensive than divorcing a husband or a wife, Jia stressed.  

So, how do you find that all-important Chinese partner? 

Here are Lancy Jia’s top tips: 

Join exhibitions as a keynote speaker 

Joining an education fair or exhibition is a traditional and good way of entering a country and finding cooperation partners.  

Jia recommends participating in well-known, national exhibitions such as the International Digital Education Event (iDEE).   

Members of the Finn-Sino Education Club will soon have access to a list of all the top education exhibitions in China, plus information on how to apply. 

“We are happy to help companies finding the most relevant exhibition and help them with registration,” Jia said.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the major education fairs can now be found online, and according to Jia, they work just as well as the good old face-to-face exhibitions.  

When attending a fair, Jia recommends becoming a keynote speaker, if possible.  

As the exclusive Finnish partner of the iDEE Education Event, Sumino can help with this.  

“With a 20-minute keynote speech for an audience of 100 people, you will really get maximum attention from a relevant audience,” explained Jia.  

Find a trustworthy organization with contacts in China 

Trust is essential in any relationship, not least in international business affairs. 

“You might meet liars and be cheated,” warned Lancy Jia, highlighting Sumino’s position as a Finnish company with contacts in China.  

”How do you know whether a Chinese company is trustworthy and worth the money?” she asked, advising to “only go forward with a company you know.” 

Jia recommended cooperation with companies that are specialists in the same area – such as education – and that already have international experience. 

”The way of thinking in China and Europe are different from each other, so it is good to find an international company in China,” she said. “If you are working with local Chinese companies, you will need someone with cross-cultural competencies in between to smoothen communication.” 

Knowing how to communicate across cultures to avoid misunderstandings is crucial, said Jia. 

“To me, a trustful relationship is one where you are understood. You need to partner with someone, who can catch your company’s idea and understand what you need and want.” 

Get help from Finnish institutions in China 

Educational organizations can also seek support from their country’s representatives in China. For Finnish companies this would mean for instance Business Finland and the embassy in Beijing and consulates around China.  

They are however still foreign institutions in China, Jia reminded. Private companies often have more powerful contacts to draw upon. 

“Official institutions are good for sharing information about your company, and you can be sure that they won’t cheat you,” Jia summed up.


This is part of a four-part series on how to get into the Chinese education market.
Find all the articles here:

Do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about entering the Chinese market!