Wonderful trip to China

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Many thanks to our consulting partner, China Consulting of Advisory & Financial Management (CCAFM) for their hosting of our 10th annual International Consulting Project Asia program. They’ve again asked me to write an introduction for their special magazine edition. Although all in Chinese, there’s a nice write-up of our visit on their web site here, and a below is a report from-the-field on Radio Entrepreneurs.

Enjoy,

Greg

I am honored, for the third year in a row, to have been asked to write the Preface for this special CCAFM magazine edition. While a full year has passed since our last visit in 2012, the late nights we spent preparing the slide decks on the 22rd floor, the discussions inside the Melody KTV basement complex, and the look of satisfaction on the clients’ faces after the various Q&A sessions, all still seem like they occurred just last week. However, the real merits of our partnership, now in its 10th year, were truly rooted in the work we completed from January through May 2012, before this year’s new set of students began their annual work in June.

我感到非常荣幸,连续三年受邀为中华咨询杂志题写卷首语。距离上一次的受邀访问已经过去一年的时间了。那时,我们在22层的办公室里加班到深夜准备演讲的幻灯片,在地下一层的麦乐迪里一起讨论,在客户的提问环节过后看到他们满意的笑脸,这一切仿佛就发生在昨天。迈入合作的第10年,我们之间合作的核心议题的准备在新学生开始年度的工作前,就已经在2012年1月至5月之间敲定了。

Especially when working across cultures, it’s always easy to, for lack of a better term, ‘robotically’ go through the motions and casually throw around terms like cooperation, improvement and trust, as periodically mentioning them sounds like the right thing to do. However, it’s quite another matter to internalize forthright feedback, and adjust and change one’s work habits to conscientiously follow it. Company President Dr. Fu was kind enough to meet with me in Shanghai last May. Over dinner, we had a frank critique of the past projects, our communication model and how much value we were truly adding to CCAFM’s clients. While we had ostensibly made an enormous amount of progress completing nearly 25 projects in ten years’ time, we both agreed some crucial, infrastructure-type changes could only improve the preparations for 2013. Amongst other items on our large “to do” list, the research depth would have to be dramatically increased, the approach to locating pragmatic case studies changed, and a need to complete the analytics without having the benefit of CCAFM sending an in-person delegation to Boston in the fall. Key personnel who had amassed years of vital, past experience— our so-called institutional memory— would be shifting on CCAFM’s side, as well. But what would make the need to innovate that much more pressing was my acceptance that the message over dinner had neither been lost in translation nor was it originating from 2nd or 3rd hand sources. All of the feedback was coming directly from our CCAFM colleagues who each had years of direct experience with the ICP Program. No one, including me, ever likes to identify challenges, but the only way to keep improving is through a true willingness to eviscerate past practices, regardless of how comforting or familiar they might be, and thoughtfully commit to rebuilding from the ground up. With those thoughts in mind, on June 6th, 2012 the project specifications arrived, and the 10th year of the cooperation officially commenced.

跨文化的合作与交流看似容易,但若是缺乏合作的最佳时机时,只一味机械化的完成动议和沟通合作进程,并非为真正地合作,更难以得到质的提高,以达到深入交流的目的。去年五月,傅总在上海热情的接待了我。在晚餐期间,我们就去年合作的项目进行了坦率的交流与回顾,其中包括我们合作的方式,以及如何能够为中华咨询的客户带来真正的价值。在过去的10年近25个合作项目中,我们显然取得了巨大的进步与极大的进展。期间,傅总与我还就2013年合作项目中需要做出的关键性的改进达成了进一步的共识。这其中涉及需要进一步扩大研究深度,改变寻找实际案例的方式,在没有中华咨询代表秋季来访的情况下完成项目研究与分析。同时,我们称之为“机构记忆”的精良工作团队也将被派往中华咨询,团队中的每个人都从过去的工作实践中积聚了丰富的工作经验。然而,在这次晚餐中,让我觉得我们迫切需要创新的原因是我们之间的交流完全没有障碍,所有的信息和反馈都是来自于中华咨询的同事们的第一手资料,并且这些同事每个人都直接参与了ICP项目。没有任何一个人,包括我自己,喜欢去定义挑战,然而若是想要保持提高的势头,唯一的方法就是从以往的实践中去伪存真,在过去的实践教训中继续摸索。基于以上的想法,项目设计在2012年6月6日出炉了,第十年的合作正式起航。

This year’s students did a Yeoman’s Effort successfully navigating through the uncertainty embedded in strategic consulting around the concepts surrounding Cross Border M&A, Centralized Fund Management and Business Model Innovation. Despite the vapid looks I regularly encounter from new students, when I emphasized the need early on for multiple, value-added case studies to be located, the 21-person group, working in three distinct teams, rose to the challenge and performed admirably. But, I equally commend our CCAFM colleagues for their frank feedback across the three sets of preliminary presentations in August, October and December. As vociferously as many of those same colleagues had offered their critique in advance of my meeting with Dr. Fu, so, too, did they then energetically follow through on their promise to review each and every slide, as well as the respective speaker’s notes, and even took the additional step of regularly doing so in a timely fashion.

今年,学生们做出巨大努力并成功地找到方法将收购并购,资金的集中管理和商业模式创新相关概念植入战略咨询的应用中去。我早期曾提出我们需要确定多样化的增值案例,这支共21人并分为三个独立队伍的小组接受了挑战并且出色地完成了任务。同时我也要对中华咨询的同事们在项目初步介绍中提出的坦率的建议表示赞扬,他们也非常热心地批改了每一页幻灯片和演讲者笔记,并且更进一步把此活动变成了一项年度活动。

While every consulting project is always a work-in-progress, even up through the Q&A session with one’s clients, I’d like to believe we’ve come a long way during the 2nd half of 2012. Each presentation this year cannot not only be delivered as a full, 100+ slide “story,” but they’ve also been specifically prepared such that different elements on management theory, the individual case studies, and the summary slides at the end, can efficiently be extracted and re-packaged into shorter, equally persuasive presentations. The hope is that different versions of this year’s work can be sent to various CCAFM clients, each of whom has their own respective goals they’re trying to achieve, as supported by CCAFM’s ongoing counsel. Particularly gratifying is the positive feedback this year’s work has uniformly received from many of these same CCAFM colleagues.

即使进入了客户问答阶段,咨询项目仍就处于项目进程中,我相信在2012的后半年中我们仍有很长的路要走。今年的演讲不仅是一个个100多页的“故事叙述”,更具体的在每一个演讲内容中呈现了不同的基础的管理理论,独立的案例研究和结尾的陈词总结,每一个演讲经过重新提炼打包,可以组成更简短更具有说服力的新演讲。希望今年的研究能够根据中华咨询不同客户的需求,提供个性化的研究成果。特别令人欣慰的是,今年我们收到了来自中华咨询的同仁们一致的积极的反馈。

Outside of the day-to-day work with the students, we have also tried implementing different, bigger picture concepts related to our ICP Program. In terms of Programmatic marketing, our BC web site was expanded to better spread-the-word about our joint cooperation and to highlight many of the Chinese and English articles which had been published from past teams’ work. Additionally, a senior consultant from CCAFM agreed to call-in to a weekly radio show I began co-hosting to talk about her experience in the first-person, and the same radio station later agreed to broadcast other segments on the graduate students’ work for ICP. In terms of student recruitment, the videos from a few minutes of the actual 2012 presentations in Beijing were filmed and edited, and posted on the same BC web site, to provide prospective ICP students a unique vantage point on what to expect. From CCAFM’s side, and for their clients’ benefit, they followed through on their promise to vigorously, and frequently, promote the consulting work presentations, and conclusions, on their own bi-lingual web site.

学生们除了日常的工作外,更着眼于ICP项目的整体规划与执行。从项目推广的角度来看,波士顿商学院的官方网站上更提供了中英两版的已发表的项目文章来展示我们合作的成果。此外,一名来自中华咨询的资深咨询顾问将在电台中分享她过往的工作经验,同时,该电台还将在其他频道的栏目中播放学生们在ICP项目中的工作成果。此外,波士顿商学院的官方网站上还将提供2012年该项目在北京工作汇报的介绍短片,向未来ICP项目的学生们展示他们可以期待的项目的独有优势。另一方面,从中华咨询自身及其顾客的利益的角度出发,中华咨询的双语网站上将会提供咨询项目的幻灯片以及项目成果。

However, probably the most exciting innovation over the past six months was discovering how to eventually implement General Manager Mr. Qiu’s suggestion of receiving external feedback on the students’ work, before the successive PowerPoint drafts were sent to Beijing for review. Within the close-knit team of “outsiders” I ultimately located, we would have to contend with confidentiality concerns, time management and a need for forthright feedback (often in absence of people having complete knowledge of the ICP Program’s overall scope). We owe a true “thank you” to the copious time this small band of executives spent supporting CCAFM and the students’ efforts.

在过去六个月中,最令人振奋的莫过于实现由邱总所提出的收取外部学生工作回馈的建议,在这之前是连续不断的PPT稿件被发送给北京进行回顾检查。与我们紧密结合的“局外人”团队,我最终定位为,我们需要去应对保密性、时间管理以及直截了当的回应需求(人们经常缺乏对ICP项目整体范围完整的认识)。我们应为这些付出大量时间在支持CCAFM的执行者们和做出贡献的学生们说声感谢!

Of course, a wrap up of our accomplishments this year would be woefully incomplete without writing a heartfelt “thank you” to the many people in Beijing and Chestnut Hill who worked tirelessly, and in multiple languages, writing, reviewing, editing and translating the content. Despite the countless time zones separating CCAFM’s offices from our classrooms in Fulton Hall at Boston College, during this year more so than in others, I sincerely felt each side had a true partner, and friend, after the “send” button was pressed on email. Compared with past ICP’s, conference call scheduling was much easier, humor was injected into many conversations, the language gap admirably dealt with, and mutual respect acknowledged for everyone’s hard work. Our students, with whom I had daily interaction, never ceased in their hard work and dedication, with many of them even working well into late December amending different portions of their PPT slide decks. To say they were excited to meet you face-to-face would be a tremendous understatement.

当然,我想由衷的对那些在北京和波士顿两地辛勤写作、审查、编辑和翻译的项目工作的人道一声感谢。尽管时间和地域将我们分开,但是每当发送完一封邮件,我能深深的感受到来自大洋彼岸的真挚的合作与友谊。相较于以往的ICP项目,现在的电话会议行程安排更加的人性化,会议氛围更为轻松,语言的障碍常被诙谐的语句给美妙的化解,双方都为彼此所付出的辛勤劳动感到尊重与敬佩。那些每天与我互动的学生,在12月份,项目的期末仍在努力修改订正演讲中的不足,也一直在为项目不断地努力与奉献。

As much as continuous improvement is necessary internally, nothing can ever be successfully implemented without giving credence to the exogenous factors affecting today’s business environment. 2012, with all of the ups and downs, will certainly be a hard year to forget, and one that will likely be etched in the history books for years to come. Whether from my business and social networks, my commercial real estate tenants, or the growing Rolodex of current and past students, I’m often asked my thoughts on the short-term, and long-term, outlook for the US economy and my general thoughts on China. I continue to be bullish on each, acknowledging, however, that both countries are concurrently repositioning their economies for the long-term. China has had a statistically somewhat slower year, and 2012 was gradually improved for the US. Hopefully the worst is behind for all of us, with 2013 boding well for financial markets, consumer confidence and unemployment. On a personal level, I’m still maintaining my investment positions in stocks and bonds worldwide, optimistic that the events of the past few months, and even daresay years, will eventually firmly be routed in our respective rearview mirrors.

没有成功能离开外部因素的影响,当今在内部得以不断的提升和优化的同时,经营环境更易受到外部因素的不断影响。2012年跌宕起伏,这将会是难忘的一年,更将铭载于历史。无论是我的生意还是社交网络,包括我的商业房租客和我不断增加的学生通讯录以及已经毕业的学生,我常常思考美国经济的近期和长期状况,以及对中国的看法。我对中美两国能长期不断进行经济交流抱有乐观态度。中国今年经济增长速度减缓,而美国逐步递增。希望最糟糕的情况已经过去,更希望在2013年,金融市场好转,消费者信心增加,失业率下降。就个人而言,我将依然保持在全球范围内的股票和证券投资,乐观地来看,过去几个月甚至过去几年出现的情况,只会成为过去。

In conclusion, I wrote last year that my late father, who was always a huge source of guidance and inspiration in all facets of my life, often reminded me that “any company standing still, is essentially moving backwards,” as successfully running, or consulting to, a business, is a dynamic process. Win, lose or draw regarding the results, and critique, of everyone’s hard work from the middle of 2012 to the present day, thank you, once again, for another fine year of cooperation. As always, we look forward to continuing deepening our friendship in the near future. Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.

总而言之,我曾在去年提到,我已故的父亲是我生命中的导航灯。以他丰富的经验给予我指导,并且鼓励我生活的方方面面,他常常提醒我:"任何一个得以持续运转的公司,关键在于不断总结过去的经验教训。”对于一个公司来讲,成功的经营和不断的咨询是个动态过程。再次从2012年下半回顾至今,每个人工作中的成败输赢,亦或就结果批评进行分析。再次谢谢你们每个人,谢谢你们这一年的精诚合作。同往常一样,我们希望在不远的将来不断增进友谊。祝福大家在2013年,幸福、健康、繁荣。

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About Author

Gregory Stoller

Greg Stoller is actively involved in building entrepreneurship and international business programs at Boston University in the Questrom School of Business. He teaches courses in entrepreneurship, global strategy and management and runs the Asian International Management Experience Program, and the Asian International Consulting Project.

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