The importance of reaching out: Kurt Brown of Micro Benefits China
In this series social entrepreneurs discuss the importance of reaching out. From transforming strangers into business partners to saving flooded headquarters, contacts and future contacts routinely prove integral to every aspect of creating and running a social enterprise.
Kurt Brown works with Micro Benefits China to provide a turn-key employee benefits program to factories and factory workers in China similar to those we enjoy in the West. Amenities such as advance pay, credit, and insurance that were not available to employees previously, are now accessible through Micro Benefits China.
Dowser: What is something concrete and tangible you’ve learned in the last three months?
Brown: ‘Centers of Influence’ are extremely important in China. Do not underestimate the value of being connected to the right political and business officials. Be sure to take all the extra lunch and dinner appointments you can – despite the fact that those meals can last 2 to 3 hours and include and insane amount of ‘toasting’. On a recent licensing issue with the local government, our request was sent back for being insufficient (even though it was not). One phone call to one of our new friends at the politburo quickly took care of something that could have set us back weeks.
What is a mistake or mishap you’ve learned from?
We drastically underestimated the time it would take to complete mundane items because of the bureaucratic nature of the Chinese government. It’s so cliché but particularly when doing business overseas – things take much longer to complete than you anticipate. For example, it took us three weeks just to open a bank account in Hong Kong. I would have never in a million years expected this. You can’t imagine the mountains of red tape and paperwork associated with such a simple task.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Photo courtesy of Kurt Brown