Tag Archives: General Manager

How Can You Accelerate Offshore Learning Curves? Four Thoughts

Situation: A company has an offshore operation with 10 engineers and a good General Manager. They will hire five more engineers in the next month. Their target billing rate is projected to be profitable when they reach 15 engineers. Their challenge is that they need to bear the investment loss to have an offshore capability, but are not sure that they’ll see a pay-off. How can you accelerate the offshore learning curve?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Given the current situation, give yourself a window of 60 to 90 days. Create a go/no go decision point and let the General Manager know this. It will provide motivation for the off-shore operation to come up to speed faster.
  • Another company projected a 2 year break-even based on others’ experience in the geographic location.
    • They are nearing the 2-year point with the office up and running, on target with schedule, under a General Manager with proven experience.
    • They see payback on their initial investment at the 2.5 to 3 year point, and thereafter duplicating their payback every 6-12 months or better.
  • It is important not to undercharge for off-shore work.
    • One company charges $125 for work done in India that they would have charged at $180 if done in the US – a 29% discount. This is for high billing rates, with spreads even better for lower billing rate work.
    • If a client pushes for offshore rates, bargain for a lower initial discount for off-shore work compared with US-based work, but combine this with an offer to generously share additional discounts as the offshore location improves productivity.
  • Bottom Line: Stay the course. Long-term this investment will pay off.

How Do Get a Shanghai Office Up to Speed? Six Suggestions

Situation: A company recently set up an operation in Shanghai. An immediate shock has been that that the Chinese engineers have not been able to solve problems creatively. To date their solutions are limited to following an outline provided by the home office. How does the company address this? How do you get a Shanghai office up to speed?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Current Chinese culture is to do what you’re told, and not to vary from the direction given by those to whom you report. However, these are smart people. Given time and training they will get through this. Can you be patient enough to allow this to occur?
  • The most important role in your Shanghai location is a trusted, competent Chinese General Manager. This individual can get you where you want to be the fastest. It is also the hardest position to fill in China.
  • One option is to investigate connections through the SCEA – Silicon Valley Chinese Engineers Association. Many SCEA members are Chinese who have been educated in the US but want to return to China. You may find good candidates here.
    • The best candidates have bi-cultural exposure – they understand Chinese culture, but also understand US standards, expectations and operations.
    • Be sure to check US references of any candidates who are currently in the US.
  • Early operations and adaptations are the most difficult. Talk to people in Shanghai who have solved this problem.
  • Develop a separate project selection / development methodology for projects you want to transfer to China. This will change as the Chinese employees begin to approach US standards.
  • As you hire new Chinese employees, look for individuals who play and write music. They are naturally more creative. Microsoft has used this approach successfully in China.