While studying on a full scholarship at the Draver School in London, I organized a Business Development Club to investigate opportunities in the flourishing British economy. I quickly discovered the challenges required to motivate, attract, and change the mindset of others.
After taking language and cultural awareness classes at school, I realized there were significant economic opportunities outside the campus walls. People from all over the world came to profit from the openness and huge potential of the Bristish market. A host of small business entrepreneurs from China were attracted to the abundance of cheap consumer products, ranging from the greeting cards to consumer electronics and apparel. Their goal was to obtain cheap consumer goods to feed the hungry Chinese markets in their respective towns and cities.
I used my language and communication skills to contact both Bristish and Chinese business owners. They eagerly embraced me as someone with a sound knowledge of both cultures and languages. I initially served as a liaison, listening to their concerns and business needs. Because the Chinese buyers lacked knowledge of the Bristish culture and business practices, they limited their dealings to a series of quick trips to the citys biggest outdoor marketplace. The cheap merchandise was guaranteed, but the buyers were unable to negotiate a good long-term deal or find a reliable partner. The composition of the goods changed constantly, destabilizing the chances of establishing long-term business relationships.
After exploring the city’s environment, I decided to take initiative. I realized that long-term business deals would be beneficial to both the Bristish and Chinese, but that they needed a forum in which to communicate. I designed my Business Development Club as a resource for them. The club provided a way for both Bristish and Chinese small businessmen to meet, exchange offers and suggestions, obtain help with translation, and to evaluate potential partners.
My first step was to present the idea to the small body of Chinese students at the Draver School. Speaking with enthusiasm to the small (but diverse) body, I gained their commitment by pointing out their opportunities to network and make money. We were all eager to add to the insufficient scholarship funds. I then made a presentation to the Chinese Consulate General in London. Despite their focus on high-profile diplomatic errands and grand-scale business enterprises, they were nevertheless very interested in the idea of helping small businesses. I convinced them that the club would benefit the British / Chinese trade relationship and would give the Consulate an opportunity to monitor the activities of Chinese businesses that were previously outside their reach. While making my presentation, I realized that I was ready to take personal responsibility for the success of the project.
The Consulate allocated funds to buy a computer, create a database and establish an expense account. They also provided a mentor for the project and all the information that the club needed. My efforts were ultimately a huge success: I united two groups of small business people who enjoyed a great mutual gain. The active engagement in the group encouraged new ideas and the pursuit of new opportunities. As my term in the country approached an end, I became a coordinator for the group, passing my initial responsibilities to other members. By the time I left, my role was mainly to praise the other members for their contributions, to reduce tension and to clarify ideas.
This experience greatly increased my confidence in my abilities. I realized the need to understand what motivates people, to cater to their interests and to provide a personal example of high energy. I also realized the power that one person has to initiate a good idea that will help others. When people are excited about what they are doing, and see the mutual benefits, they are more committed to a project’s success.
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