April 30, 2016

Do What You Set Out to Do...Push Through!

"I believe that having principles that work is essential for getting what we want out of life," Ray Dalio writes in his book on life and management principles. Mr. Dalio, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer at Bridgewater Associates, an investment firm, further says: "I also believe that to understand each other we have to understand each other's principles. That is why I believe we need to talk about them." This post looks into a few principles I apply in my life.

Mr. Dalio segments his book, Principles, in three parts: "Part 1 is about the purpose and importance of having principles in general, having nothing to do with mine. Part 2 explains my most fundamental life principles that apply to everything I do. Part 3 explains my management principles as they are being lived out at Bridgewater." He presents the purpose and desired use of this book by writing:
Above all else, I want you to think for yourself—to decide 1) what you want, 2) what is true, and 3) what to do about it. I want you to do that in a clear-headed, thoughtful way, so that you get what you want. I wrote this book to help you do that. I am going to ask only two things of you—1) that you be open-minded and 2) that you honestly answer some questions about what you want, what is true, and what you want to do about it. If you do these things, I believe that you will get a lot out of this book. If you can't do these things, you should reflect on why that is, because you probably have discovered one of your greatest impediments to getting what you want out of life.
Mr. Dalio presents the following as his most fundamental principle: "Truth —more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality— is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes." I completely agree. I can name numerous examples of when my accurate understanding of reality was essential for producing good outcomes. Equally important, however, is the fact that I am able to provide many stories of an inaccurate understanding of reality that led to the production of negative outcomes. It is these moments that I take as learning moments and opportunities to strengthen my ethical core values.

"I believe that the desire to evolve, i.e., to get better, is probably humanity's most pervasive driving force" Mr. Dalio continues: "Enjoying your job, a craft, or your favorite sport comes from the innate satisfaction of getting better. Though most people typically think that they are striving to get things (e.g., toys, better houses, money, status, etc.) that will make them happy, that is not usually the case. Instead, when we get the things we are striving for, we rarely remain satisfied." I find great enjoyment in improving my skills whether I am speeding down the slopes at my favorite ski area, learning the Chinese language or building ROI3, Inc.

In his "Summary and Table of Principles," Mr. Dalio provides more than 200 enumerated principles. I am particularly fond of principles 8-19:
8) Create a Culture in Which It Is OK to Make Mistakes but Unacceptable Not to Identify, Analyze, and Learn From Them
... 9) Recognize that effective, innovative thinkers are going to make mistakes.
... 10) Do not feel bad about your mistakes or those of others. Love them!
... 11) Observe the patterns of mistakes to see if they are a product of weaknesses.
... 12) Do not feel bad about your weaknesses or those of others.
... 13) Don’t worry about looking good—worry about achieving your goals.
... 14) Get over “blame” and “credit” and get on with “accurate” and “inaccurate.”
... 15) Don’t depersonalize mistakes.
... 16) Write down your weaknesses and the weaknesses of others to help remember and acknowledge them.
... 17) When you experience pain, remember to reflect.
... 18) Be self-reflective and make sure your people are self-reflective.
... 19) Teach and reinforce the merits of mistake-based learning.
a) The most valuable tool we have for this is the issues log (explained fully later), which is aimed at identifying and learning from mistakes.
Throughout my professional career, I have learned that success (and failure) is often associated with team that you build. Therefore, I found principles 117-127 to resonate similarly to how I approach my management style:
117) Train and Test People Through Experiences
... 118) Understand that training is really guiding the process of personal evolution.
... 119) Know that experience creates internalization.
... 120) Provide constant feedback to put the learning in perspective.
... 121) Remember that everything is a case study.
... 122) Teach your people to fish rather than give them fish.
... 123) Recognize that sometimes it is better to let people make mistakes so that they can learn from them rather than tell them the better decision.
a) When criticizing, try to make helpful suggestions.
b) Learn from success as well as from failure.
... 124) Know what types of mistakes are acceptable and unacceptable, and don't allow the people who work for you to make the unacceptable ones.
... 125) Recognize that behavior modification typically takes about 18 months of constant reinforcement.
... 126) Train people; don’t rehabilitate them. a) A common mistake: training and testing a poor performer to see if he or she can acquire the required skills without simultaneously trying to assess their abilities.
... 127) After you decide "what’s true" (i.e., after you figure out what your people are like), think carefully about "what to do about it."
And quite simply:
188) Do What You Set Out to Do... 189) Push through!
What is your reaction to Mr. Dalio's Principles? What would you add?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

April 25, 2016

Learning About Business Opportunities in Taiwan

Photo of the Taipei skyline:
http://ow.ly/4n5sQi
Did you know Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner with the United States? Bilateral trade between the U.S. and Taiwan reached $67.4 billion in 2014, according to U.S.-Taiwan CONNECT. While most Americans are aware of the strong trade relations that exist between the U.S. and mainland China, many people, myself included, are unaware of the business opportunities available in Taiwan for American companies. An event sponsored by the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle (TDA) explored the cross-border relations between China and Taiwan, as well as an examination of the market opportunities that exist for companies based in the Greater Seattle area. This post addresses some of the points presented during the Apr. 19, 2016 event in Seattle, Wash.

Andy Chin, Director-General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle, talked about how U.S. products are well-represented in the Taiwanese market. Mr. Chin cited examples such as Boeing's long-standing relationship with Eva Airways with the former selling commercial aircraft to the latter and Microsoft's success of not just manufacturing its products in Taiwan, but commercializing its cloud-based services to the island with a population of 23 million.

Upon performing some research for this post, I learned of another dynamic between Microsoft and Taiwan such as the collaboration between Microsoft Research Asia and Taiwanese academia that "began in 2003 with a partnership between National Taiwan University, National Tsing Hua University, and National Chiao Tung University. This alliance led to programs that foster new talent, curriculum innovation, and academic exchanges. In 2006, Microsoft Research Asia extended this collaborative partnership to additional institutions, such as National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan."

Joe Borich, Senior Advisor with Nyhus Communications, said U.S. products are well-represented in the market and noted that Taiwan is a good target market for high-quality, differentiated products and commodity items. He also remarked how Taiwan possesses a comprehensive modern legal system with an independent judiciary. Lastly, according to Mr. Borich, Taiwan contains a number of excellent higher education institutions that produce graduates who are well-prepared for the challenges of working in a global marketplace.

Seattle has maintained a long and storied relationship with Taiwan including the former's sister city relationship with Kaohsiung, Bill Stafford, a Senior Advisor with TDA, explained. He also commented that Taiwan serves as a good location to export to emerging markets throughout Asia. Mr. Stafford further said economic ties between Taiwan and mainland China will continue to improve with the latter increasing its foreign investments in Taiwan over the next few years.

According to the Doing Business in Taiwan: 2015 Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies, a report produced by the U.S. Commercial Service in Taiwan, "Taiwan is a thriving democracy, vibrant market economy, and a highly attractive export market, especially for U.S. firms." Moreover, according to the report, "Mainland China (including Hong Kong) is Taiwan's largest trading partner, accounting for 26.7% of total trade and 18.1% of Taiwan's imports in 2014. The United States is Taiwan's second largest trading partner, accounting for 10.6% of total, including 10% of Taiwan's imports."

The report also provides an overview of the sectors ideal for U.S. export and investment in Taiwan. I was pleased to read: "The Taiwan authorities have identified cloud and mobile computing as the most promising sectors in the Taiwan’s computer software and service industries." The report includes business application software and Software as a Service (SaaS) in its list of Sub-Sector Best Prospects and explains "the Taiwan authorities have identified cloud and mobile computing as the most promising sectors in the Taiwan’s computer software and service industries."

On the topic of openness to foreign investment, the Doing Business in Taiwan report says:
Strategically located between Northeast and Southeast Asia, Taiwan is an important hub for regional and global trade and investment, especially in the high-technology industry. Indicative of its developed and open investment environment, Taiwan ranks in the upper tenth percentile of major global indices measuring ease of doing business, economic freedom, and competitiveness. Taiwan's investment climate has improved in recent years with expanded cross-Strait trade with mainland China and expansion trade links with other partners in the Asia Pacific region, as well as reforms to enhance protection of intellectual property rights and rationalize other investment-related regulations.
My colleagues and I at ROI3 are in the early stages of learning about the opportunities that exist in Taiwan for our SaaS solution, which provide smartphone and tablet users with the ability to learn English language skills and use of the language in business, legal, medical, aviation, and other professional settings. Do you have any advice or lessons learned of doing business in Taiwan?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

April 21, 2016

Symposium on Global Health in China

"Contribute to strengthening global health through supporting the collaboration of China in the global health arena" is one of four strategic priorities of the World Health Organization's (WHO) collaboration with China as outlined in the China—WHO Country Cooperation Strategy. I have witnessed a number of initiatives over the past few years focused on China's increasing role as a major contributor in the global health arena. Given my personal and professional interests on global health, I appreciated having the opportunity to attend the "Symposium on Global Health in China: Harnessing the Power of Universities" at the University of Washington in Seattle. This post addresses a few points made during the symposium that took place from April 5-6, 2016.

It their welcoming letter, Judy Wasserheit and Stephen Gloyd, co-chairs of the symposium, wrote: "The symposium goals is to create a forum to help define future directions for academic global health in China, and to discuss how best to facilitate university collaborations with institutions from both high and low income countries." Drs. Wasserheit and Gloyd continue to explain that "the symposium will provide our Chinese university colleagues with an opportunity to meet a wide, interdisciplinary array of faculty, students, and other stakeholders to strategically plan for future collaborations."

I was surprised to learn about China's long history of sending medical aid teams to over 60 countries and regions, with most teams being sent to Africa. In his keynote speech, "Emergence of Global Health in China: Prospects and Implications," Lincoln Chen, President of the China Medical Board, noted the first China Medical Team (CMT) was sent to Algeria in 1963.

Regarding its domestic market, Dr. Chen said, "China has increasingly equitable care that can provide a model for the developing world." However, while China is making progress in modernizing its domestic healthcare system, the speed of such progress is slow. "China is still evolving from a Soviet-style medical system to a Western-style system."

He also remarked that China "is intellectually engaged in global health issues" and as a global economic power, the world's most populous country "wants to contribute more, which shows it is taking up its responsibilities as a global power."

During the plenary panel titled "Global Health in the Chinese Context," panelists discussed how global health is defined, what global health means in the context of activities supported by China, and how Chinese universities contribute to this global effort. In remarks made by Yinou Li, Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's China office, Dr. Li noted that China has made progress in certain areas such as reducing tobacco use through restrictions on tobacco advertising and banning indoor smoking. Moreover, she provided some insights on collaborative efforts by the Chinese government, health organizations, and universities to create advocacy campaigns in support of tobacco control measures and social marketing campaigns that aim to educate people and change attitudes about tobacco use (namely, making smoking socially unacceptable and unappealing). Success in this area could serve as a model for other emerging or developing countries.

On the topic of eradicating infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, the Gates Foundation says, "According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 1 million people develop tuberculosis (TB) in China each year—more than in any other country except India. In addition to a high burden of the disease, China has about one-fifth of the world's cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), which is especially difficult and costly to treat." Dr. Li noted that a majority of funding by the Gates Foundation in China is allocated to supporting the efforts of the Chinese government. For example, the Gates Foundation's website explains its support of a grant to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, which focused on "developing and demonstrating innovative TB-control models that can help China further reduce the number of patients who develop TB, and particularly MDR-TB."

The Gates Foundation is also helping China control its HIV epidemic by "reaching high-risk groups with prevention programs and accurate information, testing, and efficient and effective treatment programs." This has been done, according to the Seattle, Wash.-based organization's web page on combating HIV in China, through financially supporting "the Chinese government and community organizations on a program to expand HIV prevention (through testing and interventions) among those most at risk of infection and to provide care and treatment to those infected. In some program cities, more than half of all newly detected cases were identified through our collaboration with community organizations." Again, if done efficiently and effectively, China's efforts of reducing tobacco use, eliminating TB, and controlling HIV could serve as a model in other emerging or developing countries.

In the plenary panel, "Chinese University Partnerships with Low and Middle Income Countries," panelists talked about China's efforts in improving its bilateral health cooperation and greater participation in global health work and governance. Feng Cheng, Professor and Chief Physician, Research Center for Public Health and School of Medicine at Tsinghua University said expanding partnership opportunities will facilitate the development of health technologies and quality products to contribute to global health. Such partnerships will help transfer appropriate health technologies between Chinese universities and low and middle income countries with the aim to improve global health outcomes.

I want to express my appreciation to the symposium's co-chairs, planning committee members, and organizers. While I am not a member of the academic community, I found great value in attending this symposium to learn more the benefits through the collaboration among Chinese and American universities. I plan to learn from these lessons and apply them to the efforts my colleagues and I at ROI3, Inc. are developing to promote health and wellness in emerging and developing countries through localized mobile software solutions designed for smartphones and tablets.

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

April 7, 2016

Remedies for Business Disputes in China

Based on my experiences of doing business in China, I agree with The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai's (AmCham Shanghai) assertion that "China offers many opportunities for American companies looking to grow their business. However, in order to succeed in China's market, businesses must thoroughly investigate their specific market, take heed of product standards, and pre-qualify potential business partners." The independent, non-partisan, not for profit, business organization produced a webinar series focused "on planning your market entry strategy to minimize the likelihood of ending up in a business dispute with your Chinese partner." Dan Harris, a founding member of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Barcelona, and Beijing, presented the fourth and final webinar in the series on the topic of "Remedies for Business Disputes in China." This post highlights a few points made by Mr. Harris in his presentation, "Avoiding and Winning China Disputes."

Mr. Harris, who also serves as co-editor of the China Law Blog, started his presentation by explaining the importance of choosing a good partner, which is defined as whomever you are choosing to do business with in China, and having a good contract are two keys to avoiding and winning China disputes. With respect to the former, Mr. Harris explained the importance for foreign companies to perform due diligence on the Chinese company to verify its validity. "Legitimate Chinese companies are less likely to engage in fraudulent behavior than a company that does not exist," Mr. Harris said. He warned, however, certain investigative techniques performed in the normal due diligence process in Europe or the United States may be illegal in China. Furthermore, documents produced by the Chinese company may be faked. "If you find something that seems faked, that may be a good thing since you now know what kind of company you're dealing with."

Guidelines of having a good contract with a Chinese company include having the contract in writing, one official language that is clearly delineated (ideally in Chinese if there is a chance the contract will be disputed in a Chinese court), and excruciating detail. In addition, a good contract should consider dispute resolution such as the location or jurisdiction of where the contract dispute will get resolved. Finally, a good contract should have a liquid damage clause (also known as "contract damages" in the Chinese legal system), which is defined as monetary compensation for a loss, detriment, or injury to a person or a person's rights or property, awarded by a court judgment or by a contract stipulation regarding a breach of contract.

Clarity, prevention, and enforcement are three reasons for having a good contract, according to Mr. Harris. "Drafting a good contract in Chinese will provide tremendous clarity" with respect to the expectations for all parties named in the contract. Regarding the latter two reasons, having a good contract will present an indication to the other party of your intent to sue to have the contract enforced if there is a violation of any term clearly set forth in the contract. And with respect to judicial corruption and the enforcement of contract, Mr. Harris noted that not all Chinese judges are corrupt despite the reputation otherwise.

The final point that I wish to cover is China does not have a discovery process similar to what is found in the American legal system. In the Chinese court system, one party cannot ask questions of the opposing party nor can you compel the other side to produce any documents. Mr. Harris recommended that "as you are drafting your document, you will need to be planning for which documents you will need" so that you can be victorious if you decide to litigate in a Chinese court. "On the plus side, cases can move very quickly."

While I will not address them here, I should note that Dan Harris' presentation covered arbitration options outside of China (e.g., Hong Kong, Singapore, Vancouver, and New York) as well as options within China through the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC).

I found this presentation informative and I encourage any company looking to conduct commercial transactions in China to watch the webinar in its entirety. In future posts, I will discuss additional webinars produced by AmCham Shanghai, through its SME Center, in collaboration with the U.S. Commercial Service.

What tactics have you used to remedy business disputes in China?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

April 3, 2016

Japan's Importance in the Future of Asia

While it has been 12 years since I conducted any business transactions in Japan, I hold fond memories of my trips to the East Asia island country and warm interactions with the Japanese people. In addition, as a resident of the state of Washington, I have come to appreciate the close relationship the Pacific Northwest has with Japan. Therefore, I was quite interested in attending the "Update on Japan and Role in Asia: Japan's importance in the future of Asia" conference on Mar. 31, 2016 in Seattle, Wash. Sponsored by the Japan-America Society of the State of Washington (JASSW), this conference brought together Japan's foremost researchers and top political minds in the areas of economics, geopolitics, and international relations to discuss the current state of the country and projections for Japan's role in Asia's future. This post highlights two of the presentations made during the half-day event, which was comprised of three excellent speakers and a panel of four highly accomplished individuals.

Daisuke Karakama, Chief Market Economist for Foreign Exchange at Mizuho Bank, served as the first speaker with his presentation, "Abenomics and the Japanese Economy." He noted that "Japan has been suffering from low growth for two decades." The country's annual average real gross domestic product (GDP) rate has fallen from 4.7 percent in the 1980s to 0.8 percent in the 2000s. Furthermore, nominal GDP in 2012 at 475.1 trillion yen was the same in 1991. And while Japan's Consumer Price Index has increased 0.3 percent annually since 1990, the Urban Land Price Index has declined by 4.4% during the same period resulting in a drop of 65 percent over the past 25 years.

Mr. Karakama then provided an overview of economic policies advocated by Japan's Prime Minister Shinz┼Ź Abe, which are commonly known as "Abenomics." The three arrows of Abenomics include fiscal stimulus, monetary easing, and structural reforms. Mr. Karakama provided some indication that Abenomics is working such as Japan's unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since 1997 at 3.3 percent, the ratio (1.17) of job offers to applicants hit an 18-year high in 2015, and the Nikkei 225 Average reached its highest level since 1994.

Certain economic indicators, Mr. Karakama said, are getting worse during the past two years of Abenomics. For example, the rate of increase real wages (year-over-year) has gone from -1.0% to -2.2%, the ratio of non-regular staff increased from 35.6% to 37.9%, and the percentage of households with no savings increased from 26.0% to 30.4%.

Photo of Tokyo and
Mount Fuji: JASSW
Japan's economic recovery is stalling, Mr. Karakama explained. One cause for the stalled recovery is weak demand for Japanese goods by China as the Middle Kingdom's economy is experiencing a deceleration. While not as high as Malaysia's 8.4 percent or South Korea's 5.4 percent, value-added exports to China represents 2.2 percent of Japan's GDP.

Mr. Karakama, however, seemed cautiously optimistic about the future of Japan's economy citing a continuing trend of declining unemployment rate and a gradual increase of active job opening-to-applicants ratio. Moreover, real wage income for Japanese workers will continue to increase at a solid pace due to the rise of employment of women and seniors. Mr. Karakama also said the following three factors the Japanese economy will achieve a growth rate of one percent in FY2015: Support from monetary policy by a continuation of monetary easing due to the moderation of inflation, support from fiscal policy through the postponement of a further consumption tax hike coupled with implementation of emergency economic stimulus measures, and support from the low price for crude oil.

Noting that Tokyo, both the capital and largest city of Japan, will host the Games of the XXXII Olympiad (2020 Summer Olympics), Mr. Karakama said Olympic-related investments will push the GDP up even further through capital investments of JPY10 trillion by four Olympic-related sectors (services, real estate, transportation & communications, wholesale & retail). As a result of hosting the Summer Olympics, Mr. Karakama said Japan's growth rate will improve to mid 1% by 2020.

Mariko Kawano, Professor of International Law at Waseda University presented "Regional Security and the Law of the Sea," which addressed maritime security and maritime disputes in Asia, the role of international legal rules in maritime disputes, the settlement or management of maritime disputes and the rule of law, effective and stable utilization of marine resources in disputed maritime areas, and the importance of the regional cooperation in the process of the settlement or management of maritime disputes.

Dr. Kawano presented three basis features of the dispute in the South China Sea, which contains a crucial shipping lane and high potential of marine resources, among China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. China's claim on the basis of the so-called nine-dash line for maritime features and maritime areas (see left map), a co-existence of the claims of several coastal states, and an accumulation of unilateral acts of coastal states to manifest or enhance their claims and entitlements.

Citing an op-ed suggesting that ASEAN, a political and economic organization of ten Southeast Asian countries formally known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, remain neutral on the South China Sea dispute, I had the opportunity ask Dr. Kawano if she agreed with this opinion or should ASEAN, together with India and Japan, join in a united effort to condemn China. While she refrained from providing a direct opinion, Dr. Kawano noted territorial disputes in Africa involved the support of countries that not have a direct claim in the dispute, but had an economic interest in seeing the dispute settled in favor of the claimants.

While this conference produced excellent information about the important role Japan has played in the geopolitical arena since the end of World War II, it is still unclear what role the country will play in Asia's future. It should be recognized that Japan is the world's fifth largest economy after China, the European Union, the United States, and India. However, for Japan to maintain its importance in Asia, it must address its domestic issues such as an ageing population, improving sexual equality (where the country is bottom of the rich world in most rankings), and increasing industrial production. For now, Japan will continue to play an important role in regional security and stability.

What is your view of the future of Japan's economy? Will the dispute in the South China Sea get resolved amicably?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.