Put Asia on Your Business Radar

Yang Luo-Branch Commentary

Put Asia on Your Business Radar
Walmart of Bentonville opened its first store in China in 1996. (Jeff Hankins)

A friend of mine, the CEO of a startup in Arkansas, once said that if you’re an entrepreneur not thinking about China, you’re probably not doing everything right. From the ubiquitous “Made in China” and “Made in Vietnam” commodities to agricultural imports and exports to rising industries like artificial intelligence, high-tech manufacturing and e-commerce, businesses in Asia and the United States are intertwined. As a forward-thinking entrepreneur, it is to your advantage to get Asia on your business radar for the following reasons:

Asia sets the pace of the global business dynamic. If you’re in business, you are probably paying attention to how the U.S. economy is influenced by the countries on the opposite side of the world. For example, it is estimated that if China retaliates in response to President Donald Trump’s tariff plans, Arkansas will likely be on the receiving end of a $383 million hit on its agricultural exports. There will be ripple effects a proactive businessperson will not ignore.

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Asia is a big market for your product. Asia is the most populous continent on the planet, with nearly two-thirds of the world’s people. U.S. beef and rice are set to enter China’s market, which will benefit Arkansas. I have accompanied CEOs of Arkansas companies to explore the Chinese market for their products on various occasions.

The “cool kids” from Asia are creating jobs and opportunities in Arkansas. In the past three years, five Chinese companies have announced Arkansas as the location for their U.S. bases, collectively representing $1.4 billion in investments and 1,520 jobs.

Asians are known for being hardworking, skilled professionals. Many first-generation immigrants from Asia are highly educated, accomplished, bilingual and dedicated. Asian immigrants in Arkansas can be great resources for your business, especially if you desire to do business in or with Asia. Hiring an Asian professional locally to manage your day-to-day business, help with language and cultural interpretation, and help you grow your network with the Asian community can help your cross-cultural endeavor.

As an Asian immigrant who works in economic development, I helped form a nonprofit business organization, the Arkansas Association of Asian Businesses, in June 2017. Leveraging the existing Asian base in Arkansas, the goal of the organization is to help bold and big-picture thinkers who are interested in doing business with Asia, but who need a boost to feel equipped with skills and resources to navigate business abroad.

Here are my tips on how to get started with your Asian endeavor:

Step 1: Break the unfamiliarity. Come to AAAB’s events to network and attend workshops to learn essential cultural skills. Don’t forget to voice your business needs to feel confident in this adventure, and we will listen and provide guidance with our own cross-cultural business backgrounds.

Step 2: Acknowledge the cultural differences while maintaining your authenticity. A sophisticated businessperson respects the differences, takes a keen interest in them and achieves business goals by building real relationships with their Asian friends, which is valued in Asian culture.

Step 3: Take a trip to Asia. Nothing can top firsthand experience. Seeing Asian countries in person will help you gain true perspective on the people and business ventures you are engaging.

Step 4: Continue to learn about your newfound opportunities with the help of the local Asian community. After you have taken a trip to Asia, you may want to stay fresh on the new language and cultural skills you have learned. What’s more important is that you just picked up a new way of thinking. AAAB is here to help you stay fresh and continue the growth in your cross-cultural business adventure in a productive way.

AAAB is hosting a cross-cultural business workshop on May 8 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Arkansas State Library at 900 W. Capitol Ave., Room 2121, in Little Rock. Admission is free for AAAB members and $10 for non-members. AAAB’s website is ArkAsianBiz.com. You can also find us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Yang Luo-Branch is the founder and president of the Arkansas Association of Asian Businesses. She works full time at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and part time as an artist. Email her at Info@ArkAsianBiz.com.