Digital Bootcamp Asia Podcast

How should companies weather uncertainties in China with Arie Schreier, General Manager at PTL Group

August 31, 2020 Natasha Fang Season 1 Episode 7
Digital Bootcamp Asia Podcast
How should companies weather uncertainties in China with Arie Schreier, General Manager at PTL Group
Show Notes Transcript

Arie Schreier has over 20 years of management experience with companies and diplomatic missions throughout Asia, Australia and South America. He has spent the last 17 years managing logistics, administration, HR, recruiting, finance and manufacturing operations for foreign companies in China.

Since the year 2005 Arie fulfilled the role of  COO and VP Sales and Marketing of PTL Group and since  2014 he has been nominated as General Manager of PTL Group - China. 

Arie has worked with more than 300 international companies, managing and supporting their sales, logistics, and manufacturing operations in the challenging China market. He has also been involved in operational audits as well as turnaround and transformation projects for foreign owned entities in China. As one of the founders of the China Industrial Initiative (CI3), he is actively involved in the establishment and management of several manufacturing facilities in the country.
 Arie holds a Master Degrees in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, and Public Administration from Tel Aviv University, as well as a BA in Political Science and International Relations from Tel Aviv University.
Contact Arie Schreier on LinkedIn.

This show is powered by Digital Bootcamp Asia, sponsored by Tolmao Group. Natasha Fang is the Founder and CEO of Tolmao Group and CMO of Ebusiness Prime. She is a seasoned professional and futurist with deep expertise in marketing and promoting products, people, and businesses. She is a proven brand builder, business leader, and strategic thinker with the ability to balance innovative ideas with analytical problem-solving. She has a consistent track record of achieving results through innovation, collaboration, and hands-on execution.Connect with Natasha Fang on LinkedIn.


Natasha Fang  0:00 
You are listening to the Digital Bootcamp Asia podcast where entrepreneurs and business owners share their real-life stories and lessons learned on how to start growing and excel in their business in a digital era. This show is brought to you by tomorrow. Our integrated marketing agency. I'm your host Natasha Fang. Arie Schreier is the general manager of PTL Group China he has over 20 years of management experience with companies and diplomatic missions throughout Asia, Australia, and South America, he has spent the last 17 years managing logistics, administration, HR recruiting, finance, and manufacturing operations for foreign companies in China. Welcome to the show. Please introduce yourself a little bit and tell us what you do.

Arie Schreier  0:53 
Okay, so my name is Arie Schreier. I've been living in working in China for the past 17 years altogether. Two years in Beijing and 15 years here in Shanghai, and I've been the general manager of PTL Group. For the past 15 years, PTL Group was actually established in the year 2000 so over 20 years ago, and PTL group is helping companies to sell their products into China. So we support companies who come to China. Help them enter the market and help them set up an entity help them to manage the entity. We provide support for the company as before they have an entity and it can be from one year to 18 years so we have some companies that have been with us on this business model for 18 years, or when they're ready we help them to set up that entity, and we help them to manage it throughout their life here in China.

Natasha Fang  1:47 
So, umm with so many uncertainties ahead, especially the COVID impact in the business around the world. What are the top challenges for companies doing business in China?

Arie Schreier  2:00 
Well, there are many challenges, obviously, for companies doing business in China but at the same time there's a lot of opportunities. And as long as you manage the challenges in a safe way, you can enjoy those opportunities, just as well. I think one of the main things that is bothering, most of the companies including us as the management companies of foreign companies are the constant changes in rules and regulations. The Chinese government is very proactive. They're doing a lot of things to improve the procedures, but at the same time, it makes the life of the companies, quite complicated because the rules are constantly changing. Regulations implementation of the regulations and the companies have to get updated almost on a daily basis. We're facing surprises, almost every week we get new regulations from the bank from the tax office from custom office. Every time things that work to maybe last month, they don't work now. And now it's even more complicated because of COVID because people cannot travel. So for example if you want to open a bank account in China and if you're the legal rep and you're out of China, it's almost impossible for Wolfie to open a bank account. This is a smallest one example, other regulations banks are changing, big banks are becoming a lot stricter banks in China, banks in Hong Kong and banks, all over the world are becoming very strict for companies who are managing the business they have to put a lot of attention on the compliance with tax office with authorities with the banks, and so on.

Natasha Fang  3:38 
So, with these new regulations and policies be implemented, how do companies keep up with all these new changes make sure they make the right decisions in China.

Natasha Fang  3:50
Obviously, the best thing is to have a good service provider for each one of the topics. So if you have a service provider that can help you with the taxation with accounting, with the HR management, with their logistics regulation or customs clearance. You need to have good service providers who keep getting updated on a professional on the field. It's better than the companies who have come here to the business they focus on their core business, and they take third parties that are experts on what they do best, and this way they can rely on these companies, so they can keep up with the all ever-changing regulations.

Natasha Fang  4:28
That sounds good, I think, um yes strategic partnership in China is definitely one key element taught you, make sure you run your business successfully in China, and leverage the resources you have. And I'm interviewing you in this beautiful PTL Group offices, which just recently renovated and I see you have created this community. Right, not only your employees working here but also different companies working here. Can you elaborate a bit more on how you created this space what kind of vision behind the whole picture?

Arie Schreier  5:03 
Right. So we changed our office to be more of a community atmosphere space. So of course we have the working station that our team can do the work properly. And we have offices or working stations for that for our clients, but at the same time we created an event area, and we try to hold as many events as possible, and the events are aimed to create a sense of community, sharing information, I think that this is probably the key element, because so many of us are facing different problems, every day, and we need to find solutions every day. So if we share this information. We can conduct our business in our lives better in China. I know that our members have many WeChat groups or LinkedIn groups and many times, I see questions that people are really solving each other's problems. and this is really important for the sense of community. We also created here a library with a lot of foreign books, and we encourage members or non-members, just to drop by have a coffee, and take some foreign books, which might be not that easy to find. We don't charge anything for this is we just like to have people coming hanging around asking questions or getting advice from other people. And I think this is the one special thing about Shanghai, China, in general, being an expert here it's a little, you need a lot of support. But it's quite easy in a way to get to meet people, there are so many networking events, and getting people together is really important to keep up with what's happening in China, and helping each other to cope with the challenges that we are facing here.

Natasha Fang  6:50  
Yeah, I agree with, like, the local communities here in Shanghai, in a way they are more collaborative than ever. Also, because during the COVID in especially tier-one cities such as Shanghai. People are stuck in Shanghai and they are not traveling, as me personally we run also a lot of offline events at Digital Bootcamp Asia, what we have observed that just produce events when we can see how many people actually showed up. So, surprisingly, a lot of people come to the offline events without being scared of the virus situation so how's your feedback about the recent events that you've done here, you tell us a little bit about the outcome you had to the topics you had and what do you want to achieve through the offline event?

Arie Schreier  7:39 
Yeah, I'm very happy to talk about offline events because for the past six months we've been involved with so many webinars, we just did a webinar yesterday. And the day before I had an offline event, and it was such a different feeling to do an offline event where you can shake the hands of people we can look them in the eyes. We can drink wine together and enjoy a good conversation, as opposed to doing a webinar when you look at a screen that you don't know who is out there. You don't know if they're still there and pretty much, you know that by the end of the presentation, they're all doing something else. I think people after all their social creature, they want to interact. They want the feeling of meeting other people and think COVID put people in such a stressful situation that now they're hungry for events. I was surprised how easily I published this event and invited people that I was maybe only in contact with LinkedIn, with them, and they happily came to the event maybe I met them a long time ago, but there was so happy to come share information that was my event but I learned so much from this event just as well, because every person had his own journey in China, and each one of us has a wealth of knowledge, just by coping with, with normal life here, and it's so important to share this information because this is the essence of living in Shanghai It's fun. It's great. It's challenging. And if we help each other It makes life a lot easier.

Natasha Fang  9:14 
Yeah, definitely. Also, Shanghai has become a very wide burn city. A lot of like new changes happening you could see a lot of stores have been closed, but a lot of new ones have been opened with a new concept. Also, we pass by and see a Starbucks they change their brand positioning like the logo or the store decoration so a lot of exciting changes happening in China, and my personality, I personally consider Shanghai as already post-COVID-19 era. So, what are the key takeaway? You think the companies that are outside China can learn from China, especially in this day and age.

Arie Schreier  9:54 
Well, I think that COVID has pushed business on many levels just like SARS developed the online business, many years ago, COVID pushed to a totally different level. Two days ago the offline event that I mentioned we had the VP from a very well known brand. And he told us some amazing stories about how they developed throughout COVID.

Arie Schreier  10:20
So many platforms that they didn't have before. online platforms KOLs pertaining to the to a whole new level, things that I wasn't even aware of. And that helped them to grow their business dramatically more than any other branch around the world actually all of their branch branches are not doing so well. That's the only branch in China that thinks fantastic. He was embarrassed to say that COVID was the best thing that ever happened to them. But it's true and he feels that they're 20 years ahead of their branches overseas. So I think for multinational companies like these companies, they should come and learn what happened here in China because the future is here. The future is happening here. And I'm always shocked. How many things are happening every day I just cannot keep up with technology. I think that I know something that immediately. I just learned not too long ago but WeChat work and now there's another Ding Ding. There are so many things every day you learn about something new here and it's very hard to keep up, and therefore sharing is very important.

Natasha Fang  11:32 
Yeah. Totally agree and through the offline events we produce and where you are the panelists, you talk about a lot of companies before they're relying on the budget come in from other countries, and now there's all of the business operating in China and they are in China and they are for China, so can you tell us like a little bit about your experiences or the case studies you have encountered about how the local business is thriving in China, other multinational companies were there, China, you know, call operation has been helping the global market to survive.

Arie Schreier  12:13  
Right. So I would say if I look at our clients and we have more than a hundred clients. The ones that have been established in China for the past few years, the ones that invested enough money in teams in marketing in infrastructure supply chain infrastructure agent distributor, these companies are well established, and they're not going anywhere, because the market is here, if they're established and they prove that they have a market. The market, the Chinese market didn't go anywhere. If they are, if they're dependent on the supply chain that goes back to the US or to Europe, then they may have suffered some damage but if the end-user the consumer is in China. China still needs all of these technologies that they bought before so for the majority of our clients that are selling it to China. They would not too much be affected by COVID because of course there was some interruption during Q1, but I think they're catching up in Q3 or Q4 and pretty much that it will be a reasonable year after all. So, obviously the companies who invested in the brand, and they may need to adopt some new, new channels because as I mentioned, China is developing so quickly. Maybe the traditional channels. Not enough, and there are so many channels now that we didn't even think about how to use it. Most of our clients are traditional industrial companies. They may never think of using e-commerce or also traditional media channels, but they may consider it. There are so many options now. So they need to open their mind maybe use some creative agencies that can help them to develop to another area that they never explored before. So I think that for these companies the market is definitely there of course competition is fierce, because there are so many brands here, everybody's competing for the same piece of the pie. So, each one has to be more creative and find its advantage. Way to explore how to find more clients.

Natasha Fang  15:24
That's a very good input there. And also, for the companies who are just looking into entering China, this year. I will say 20 2021. What are the key channels they can use to leverage their, let it be like online channels where they'd be online channels they can establish and grow their business or community?

Arie Schreier  15:54 
I think I'm entering China now has to be in a very careful way. There should be a clear study of how to enter China, what is the best channel to start the journey, and how to follow up. So for many brands, cross border trading would be the easiest solution. Also, companies that are not sure about the US, China relationship and they prefer to stay out of China, so of course, water is an easy solution they just sell the products into China and they stay outside, but obviously, if you want to take a bigger piece of the pie, the cross border is not enough and then you need to follow up into the real e-commerce world or to do real offline business world in China. So obviously you need to do your homework and try to see where is the best place to start the business, different places could have different markets and different suppliers in different trends, whether it's the North part of China south part, Shanghai, Beijing Guangzhou they're all different. And you need to understand, where's the best place for you in terms of clients in terms of suppliers in terms of workforce, where to find good employees. It's not easy to find everywhere. First Year sees the second to see this 3rd year, there are so many elements that you need to consider. And you need to decide where to invest your your your your money because you can very easily spend your money in the wrong place. You can run out of funds very quickly in You didn't even scratch the market. So preparation is key. Before entering China. And it's very confusing again here there's so much information, and so many agendas of local governments who try to attract you to come and invest in their zone, and so many incentive plans and send some grants. Everybody tried to increase foreign investments. So it's very hard to know and it's very hard to decide what's the best solution. So again, I suggest to use a third party who knows. Okay, this can do a study and evaluate what are the benefits disadvantages, and advantages of each place, and help their fund companies to decide what they should do and not jump straight in and set up a company that you cannot change, later on, it's very hard to change later. So preparation is key for coming to China.

Natasha Fang  18:33 
That makes sense. And I guess also if Laney helped like ours come to PTL Group to help,

Arie Schreier  18:39  
Yes, we can do part of the work because we have so many years of experience with companies who came to China. We've heard every, every bad story possible. And we know mainly what not to do. And, but of course, we can learn from some of the success stories and recommend, what, what can be done. How to do it in a very moderate cheap and careful way. Many companies are using our platform before they actually jump into the water and set up their own entity, so they can employ people through us to consider in our offices, they can use our licenses for certain businesses they can import products, sell products, and so on. And when they're ready they, we have to set up their own entity and move all the assets that they have until that into their own entity.

Natasha Fang  19:31  
It sounds amazing. And I think what you did here is trying to create a community trying to bring values, either through the online webinars or offline, and are truly amazing. So thank you so much for joining us today at the show. So can you tell our listeners how they can find you online?

Arie Schreier  19:48 
Sure, obviously, LinkedIn is a very easy way to find me or find the PTL Group website, of course, feature is quite easy. And of course, we have an official account of WeChat. So all the normal channels would be easy in Facebook I think, China's not so useful. Okay, thank you very much for listening.

Natasha Fang  20:10 
Thank you. Sounds good.