hat is your personal and business background?
I am from the Muensterland in North RhineWestphalia. After commercial college I completed a bank apprenticeship. When I concluded business studies at University I fulfilled my first dream of a career in Asia, relocating to Shanghai in 1999. There I joined Siemens Communications as intern in marketing and moved through the roles sales and sales operations manager, director business development building technologies, head of strategic management and marketing at Siemens Energy. After seven years with Siemens I fulfilled another dream by moving into consulting. I joined BearingPoint, a major player in ERP, and later founded and lead the China subsidiary of Highland Worldwide, a global network of consulting firms. After completing my MBA at CEIBS, I realized my third dream of owning a business by acquiring Articulate Ltd. In my spare time I enjoy horseback riding, golf, organizing barbecue parties, traveling, scuba diving and spending time with family. I am married with a seven year old son.
Tell us about your company and activities in China.
Articulate Ltd. provides management and technology consulting, learning and development, and interim and project management. Founded in 2008, the company first engaged in professional education, cooperating with respected business schools. Later, Articulated Ltd. expanded into consulting and interim management, and has since been serving local and multinational companies in strategy, sales, performance, organization, IT, cost reduction, restructuring, M&A, divestiture and process. Furthermore, Articulate Ltd. serves the market with public and in-house training programs.
What are the main challenges you encountered operating in China?
The main challenges I have faced – at established companies, while founding businesses, and with clients – are bureaucracy and costs from public reporting, tax, labor and foreign exchange. While my company’s costs for reporting in Hong Kong barely reach 1% of revenue, they reach 5-10% in Shanghai. Another challenge, apart from recruiting and retaining staff, is the combination of competition, rising resource costs and difficulty of refinancing. These challenges lead me to conclude that in today’s environment in China companies must closely monitor the effectiveness of their strategy and the efficiency of their processes, and ensure that IT systems are actually enabling strategy and business processes.
What has been your strategy in terms of hiring and localization?
In consulting I appreciate mixed teams of overseas and local professionals. Current emphasis is on building up a strong local consulting team. In in-house training we work primarily with local or overseas Chinese trainers, as Mandarin as the training language is often asked for by our clients. Current demand for interim management is still focusing on overseas experts.
What are the benefits for companies using your services?
Articulate Ltd. only works with professionals with solid service and industry experience. The principle of Articulate Ltd. is to be a different service provider. Instead of only advising clients on how they may realize their success in China themselves, we drive their success with hands-on execution. Our service approach is customized to every client’s needs. We only entertain resultoriented projects. Every project begins with base-lining and an agreement on tangible results, which will be measured at the end of each project.
What are your business aims and hopes for the future?
Certainly we hope to continue and expand our work with our current and new clients in China, and also to gradually begin serving local private enterprises. We aspire to become one of the leading and most respected mid-size consulting companies in Asia. Apart from China, we are currently looking at South East Asia for regional expansion.
Do you have any top tips for doing business in China?
Tight control of income and costs is paramount for success in China, especially amidst economic slow-down and political risk in China and worldwide. I thereby employ a rule of thumb: “Income will always be lower than forecasted; expenses will always be higher than planned.” For all companies this poses a challenge, as it means that tight control of the entire value chain is required, instead of isolated emphasis on parts of the process. It also requires optimization in parts of the chain, while not compromising the rest.
What has been your experience working and living in China?
I have found my experience in China enjoyable, at times exhilarating, and profoundly educational. It is no secret that the level of occasional chaos can be taxing, but it also provides opportunities for people to assume roles they may not be able to attain in other places and to shape both companies and themselves. I can’t recall instances of actual culture shock, but I have experienced a sometimes gradual, sometimes rapid adaption to local realities. Having an open mind has always been the attitude that I wish to recommend to every expatriate coming to Asia.