Hello there. Ross Hutchinson here. Taya tells me she’s been writing in this column every day for a month, which makes me so proud! Boy, has she stepped up to the challenge of living in a new country. She’s made some really nice friends — rather quickly actually. If I remember correctly, she attended a party our very first week here. She seems to be adjusting nicely to school, as well. And learning Chinese. I wish I’d had that kind of opportunity when I was her age.
Taya asked me if I would write a a bit here for her a couple of weeks ago. I know her Mom wrote that one, but didn’t want you all to think I don’t care. It’s just been a very busy time for me.
I don’t know if Taya told you, but I’m the general manager here for Avia Tech, a Chicago-based firm that design customized landing systems for aircraft. It’s a great time to be in China because the airlines here are building up their fleets as more and more middle class Chinese families are able to afford air travel. And boy do they want to see the world! We’re fortunate to be in a joint venture with Hangtau Group, which has been integral to the airline industry here. They have also been very welcoming to me, and very agreeable to work with.
I know a lot of Americans have a hard time making the transition to doing business in China. I’ve read a lot of books about it and heard the horror stories. But in the short time I’ve been here, I also think I’ve come to understand why a lot of people fail. They expect too much, too soon and they’re not willing to work within the Chinese system and adapt their business practices. It’s clear to me that you have to be patient and learn to be flexible. I think my years of experience in different corporate positions back home (at Motorola, Microsoft and V-Tech) are paying off now. As we used to say when I played football in college, ”
My company has also come here with a very clear and detailed business plan. I think that helps avoid the missteps. Our connections help too. Mr. Zhang at Hangtau Group seems to know everyone in the agencies we work with. My one surprise is that not knowing the language hasn’t been as big a barrier as I thought it would be. We have a translator, Ms. Tan (yes, like the author of those novels my wife loves), and she is excellent at bridging the gap between not only Mr. Zhang and I, but the rest of the staff as well. I’m a pretty good observer of people, so it’s interesting how often I can tell what they’re thinking or saying even without knowing the language. I can handle some courtesies, like saying xie xie and ni hao, etc., but I also think there is a lot of your basic personality you can convey even without words.
We have a lovely home in Imperial Estates and a very nice “ayi” , Lili,who cleans the house and cooks all our food. Her meals are tremendous and I always try to let her know that by saying,” hao chi,” when we’re finished eating. I also have a driver named Mr. Wang, who gets me to and from the office every day in this crazy traffic. I’ve started to get used to making calls and working on my computer on the way in, but sometimes I get distracted by something crazy going on on the roads. Last week, for example, the back door of a truck bed flew open and a dozen cages filled with pigs fell out on the street and created quite the circus. Fortunately, I don’t think any of the pigs were hurt, but the driver was yelled at by quite a few people.
The one thing that bothers me — and I think Taya, you would agree with this — is the air. I’m a former Division 1 athlete and I like to get in a good workout — running, biking, etc. But on some days the pollution has been so bad during my runs outside, I’ve worried about what I’m doing to my lungs. There’s a health club I can use if I get there early enough. It’s full of weight machines and treadmills and such, but it’s usually crowded with other residents. When I’ve been here a bit longer, I’m going to see if we can’t perhaps get a machine in the house, or even down here in one of the empty offices, so I can keep up my workouts. I need a clear head to do my best here and definitely have to find a way to work off stress.
Thanks for letting me visit. If you have any questions about working in China, please don’t hesitate to ask me.
Ross L. Hutchinson
Sr. Vice President and General Manager, Avia Tech Corp.