China was an experience. In full disclosure, I personally did not do the heavy lifting that my team did to make the project come to completion successfully. And I give them major props for enduring/surviving the 6 months worth of long flights (in coach), the questionable water and food to eat, the crazy driving and the Giardia tainted street food. Learning to navigate the ins and outs of working internationally was quite a curve. Things we didn’t know we had to consider:
Visa requirements – knowing about the treaties in place with the country to which you will be traveling. This determines the length of trips you can do, legally. As well as total time in country.
Travel costs and arrangements – Flying internationally is tough. It is important to negotiate at least business class flights into the contract and if the client doesn’t want to pay for it, it may be worth paying for the upgrade for your employees. Consider how long the flight will be and charge the client for travel time hours at a discounted rate.
Project timelines and schedules – Negotiate the schedule up front. It will be important for your employees to know how much time they will get to spend home with their families. Our Chinese client wanted support for 4 weeks straight and were willing to provide remote work for the 2 weeks that our employee was home. That was important to us, because even though our employee traveled home for 2 weeks he remained fully and solely committed to the project. If he didn’t have remote work to do that would have been a problem for us.
Living arrangements/accommodations – Transportation was important. There is nothing scarier than arriving in a foreign country where no one speaks your language and everything, I mean everything is different. Make arrangements to be picked up from the airport and to be shuttled back and forth from the hotel to the site. Have a local person set up your hotel stay. In China this was especially important because if you ended up at a less than desirable or cheaper hotel you would get relentless calls through the night from call girls willing to, well you get the picture.
Insurance – When I proposed the notion that SpecLine was going to be traveling to China for work, my insurance guy flat out told me, that’s not a good idea. After some reassuring on my part about what the situation would be he got comfortable enough or at least he could see my resolve that I wanted to do this he loaded the company up with all kinds of provisional insurance that I would highly recommend you have in place.
Lawyers and Contracts – the first contract that came to me was in both Chinese and English. At the end of the contract it stated that when in doubt the Chinese version of what was written would rule…I don’t speak Chinese. Have your legal team review the contract and make sure things are right before signing agreement.
Now that it has been over a year since we successfully finished the project I can say it was a great learning experience for SpecLine. We got paid, the client was happy and our employee made it home safely with an awesome experience to add to his resume. I hope this helps if you are considering consulting internationally.
Author: Josephine Oldham, President, SpecLine Consulting, Inc.