With the recent health turmoil hitting major cities in mainland China and Hong Kong hard, many cross border physical activities have stopped. Friends of mine from the US have been cancelling their business trips to their Beijing and Shanghai offices. Most foreign owned companies in China have staff scattered still amongst their home towns or villages and many of those staff are being asked to stay there for the time being. Many foreign business owners in fact are still out of the country at the moment.
So where are most of these folks spending their workdays during this time when they cannot be physically with their team members in China? In my immediate circle of clients and close connections here’s my most recent tally of locations:
Hong Kong (12)
Middle East (1)
A significant number of them are extending their holidays or business trips in that place and were not prepared for this extension. Some booked flights out of China as the situation became worse and their home countries advised leaving.
Yet despite all this, I have noticed that business owners I know seem to be acting a lot calmer than I would have thought under the circumstances. They seem to be enjoying the downtime (well at least seem to be). Here are some interesting comments that I have gathered from some of our conversations:
Management and Communications:
Zoom – Zoom the free version was blocked in China right after its public listing. With the virus hitting China, the government has allowed the free Zoom version to be back to live and its now one of the top free download apps based on App Annie’s report 10 February 2020.
Wechat Calls – Wechat calls are very convenient to use because everyone has at least one account and the connections are always great. The only big problem it has is that it will be interrupted by incoming phone calls.
Virtual Meetings – I have been basically non-stop 4 hours of calls in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon. With clients based in the US and UK, the calls go all the way to late in the night.
New Rules and Communications Policies – from 9 am to 12 midnight my direct colleagues are up for answering emails and instant messages. During the peak hours – 9 am to 6 pm the wechat messages will have to be answered within 5 mins. Tough? Well we since we no longer can simply drop in and talk in the office, we may have to compensate by being more available and responsive than normal.
Well think about it – before our implementing the rules this morning, my hit rate was only 20%. And the colleagues who are also parents were always missing my calls. And then when they called back after 30 mins or an hour, their babies are screaming at the background. Or I received a message at 3 pm and it reads like this: – Oh sorry I did not see your messages – I fell asleep in my bed just now.
Getting New Clients, Invoicing, and Making Payments
The online accounting and office automation systems are coming in handy during this period of time. I saw some monthly billings are out the door automatically due to automated settings. It is also the time to allow business owners like myself to check on the financials through an online system.
For the accounting and billing – we are of course using our CanCan 看看 system and lately we are brushing up on our departmental budgeting and project budgeting modules. For electronic signing of contracts – we use Docusign and it is easy and convenient.
I wish the virus will go away soon, and everything can be back to normal. However, once we are getting used to this working from home and linked with good technology – it may be difficult for us to go back to the physically reliance old way of business life.
Let’s see what will happen in a month’s time. But I do feel a lot of surprises in the past month.
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