Here’s a short bulletin from The Culture Shack!
I remember two years ago when I was active with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan’s Small Business Committee, I gave a short talk – one among many other speakers – at DV8 Pub on Fuxing S. Rd (Gary’s place) for one of the events. Carrie K was there, John K was there, Josh Yang was there, Jenna, Andrew Lunman, Joe O’Brien, and many others. Maybe you?
The gist of the talk was slightly uncomfortable: Beware of being in a business relationship with Taiwanese partners – investors, contract partners, etc. – where you lack important leverage or knowledge, because they have a home-team advantage that might make you an easy mark.
Who you gonna call? Cross-cultural busters? I don’t think so! Sorry, eh!
Locals have detailed, deep and varied and local knowledge –language, customs, guanxi (connections), legal status, etc. You don’t. If you’re smart, you’ll get that.
In my brief talk, I summarized a few sob stories about expats who’d put a lot of time, passion and money into small enterprises here, only to get burned badly.
Two years later, looking back, after various experiences, inputs and considerations, I’d like to reiterate this message:
Nothing has changed at all. Be very careful about the devil in the details in a business relationship with Taiwanese partners – investors, contract partners etc. I mean it.
The locals’ have home-team advantage might make you an easy mark, if they are so inclined.
This is intended for expat small business start up people. The big companies hire big lawyers and avoid this kind of BS. You have to do this using your own noggin.
I’ve just heard two recent stories that only confirm this:
- One expat I know signed a bogus rental contract for a new business location that was actually scheduled for demolition.
- Another signed what they thought was a rental contract for a new business, but was actually an agreement stating that they would guarantee payment of the rent if the actual tenant could not.
Both “contracts” were in Mandarin and were not checked out by CPAs, lawyers, or trusted Taiwanese people with close unambiguous relationships.
Both expat guys got screwed, and not in the good way.
- For any location search and contract negotiation, get the help of a Taiwanese person with local connections to the area in question whose business interests AND social interests align (or at the very least do not conflict) with yours.
- For any contract, use a CPA or lawyer, for whom YOU (or your very very trusted Taiwanese partner) are “The Client”.
This will probably save you some misery and some money!
Or take your chances and add your list to the “I got screwed in business in Taiwan!” club.