How Red Circle Network came into being... and doing.
Imagine climbing to ascend Mt Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary, would you ignore his advice?
My business partner Simon Young often asks,
"Do you know how people navigate their way to the top of Mt. Everest?"
People say, "no, tell us."
"By following the path that all the dead bodies make on the way up Mt. Everest, milestones that are life-lessons, permanently frozen into place by the mistakes that people made on the way to reach the pinnacle of their aspirations."
The mountain of opportunity with China is equally perilous to those who ignore their guides. smart people learn from the failures of others. Wise people apply these lessons to prepare so that mistakes don't happen. Climbing Mt. Everest successfully is now almost as routine for the modern adventurer as traveling between continents on a plane.
Red Circle Network aims to simplify the China commerce journey and yet the rate of change in modern times has wildly accelerated. It is now easier to hop on app, than to hop on a plane to achieve your China Commerce aspirations. Red Circle Network is built around the ideology of achieving the most, in the least time at the lowest resource cost. We are the first China business support provider to build an agnostic real-time support platform to connect those who seek help, with those who can immediately provide it.
I learned that there are two China journeys.
1. The way up - the marketing journey to attract the Chinese customer.
2. The way down - the customer journey and lifetime value of the Chinese consumer.
As I began my own personal journey into cross cultural commerce, my first act was to download the full depth of experience of China influencer Simon Young.
I had been mentoring Simon in business process for several months. Our mutual trust developed to the extent that Simon invited me to invest and become the major shareholder. Simon also wanted me to take a leading role as managing director for Red Circle Network.
Simon wisely understood that marketing as we know it would be replaced by technology optimization. Technology isn't just the future of China marketing and commerce, it is the present. My background in deploying technology for business improvement advisory to achieve widespread fin-tech industry transformation would enable his ideas to become a reality.
Simon possesses the same kind of humility that all truly great pioneers exhibit along their journey to collaborate with experts and build teams around their vision.
We took on a mission to serve the Western business community. First by downloading Simon's extensive experience and networks. Then building a programmatic, edu-commerce approach to support challenger brands.
We wanted to support challenger brands to provide a more empathetic customer experience than competitors.
This begins with understanding the attention deficit of contemporary audiences. The average person has an attention span of 8.24 seconds online. A goldfish does better with 8.25 seconds attention span. Welcome to evolution.
And so we have the rise of the shift to mobile, vertical video format and other short form, lo-fi, brand influencer content. All being made on mobile phones, live in situation, directly by company owners and brand stakeholders.
The modern direct brand influencer approach includes guerrilla marketing, leveraging the efficiency of technology to gain attention, engagement and retention and referral for lifetime value through B2B channel partner and B2C consumer networks.
Forming partnerships through the use of agile-mobile technologies. While at a friends BBQ in Ekatahuna, you could be connecting to the Chairman of the 100 Chambers of Commerce. Using built in translation tools to come to an national partner support agreement.
This shift to mobile APPS means that challenger brands can now deliver an enterprise level, scalable customer experience, while maintaining the commercial advantage of a personalised customer experience to reach pinnacle of their business with China.
With this vision in mind, Red Circle Network began quietly and humbly through remote collaboration from Sydney, Australia and Titirangi, New Zealand. During this time, Simon backed off from public engagements.
We worked studiously, taking a hands on approach to understanding the engineering of every aspect of China commerce, mapping digital pathways and establishing a world class network of advisers.
Then we gave it a name.
Red for China, and the fact that all who commit to become involved in cross cultural commerce, become like blood relatives, sharing the aspiration to build a cultural bridge.
Circle, because the nature of cross cultural relationship is infinite. China has successfully traded with the West for centuries. The commercial aspirations of business people to share and to receive mutually equitable value across borders, will continue generations after factions on all sides are long gone. There will always be those who seek the prosperity of cultural diversity. Those who step into the circle, are protected within the circle and are treated as blood family. We understand that we are better, together. We understand that need to have each others backs, as we take on a difficult organisational change process. We quickly learn that a cord of many strands is hard to be broken as we develop supplier channels and other collaborations to simplify and orchestra distribution complexity. We understand the need to make the shift from conflicts of interest, to confluence of interest. Working through and not around each other. This is a circle of trust.
Network, because this is needed to achieve scaling up organisations to reach the pinnacle of business on the mountain of opportunity with China.
The same kind of supportive team approach that we see used to establish base camps and then climb up Mt. Everest, is required to scale up businesses.
Such principles as pre-immersion and acclimation, establishing way stations, milestones, key performance indicators and enterprise resource management.
For this reason, Red Circle Network purposed to take the long journey to trail blaze every aspect of China business process and achieve a position as an INDEPENDENT SALES (OR SERVICES) VENDOR. Being an ISV mean that RCN could collaborate with all technology and commerce partners and support agnostic solutions to China business process optimisation.
Working through and not around the best practitioners in the market place. We could now be flexible and respect stakeholder relationships, taking a supportive or a leading role, depending on the corporate structure.
The aim being to help the most businesses possible to achieve cost efficiency and operational efficacy. Deploying the best and brightest modern methodologies from agile/scrum project management, to remote collaboration, just in time creative manufacture processes, cost efficiency through HR cost reduction and automation and directly connecting those who seek help, with those who can help.
While also being pragmatic to use human resource to plug modern technology gaps.
There is little value to be derived from seeking out an experienced cultural guide or Sherpa, and then not listening to them. It is especially perilous to put valuable resources at risk, then drive head on towards a blind spot.
Anyone who has taken the time to read my LinkedIn profile, very quickly understands that I am no lightweight. I have worked with some the best and brightest people on projects of national and international significance. I know what I am doing and I have demonstrated serious capability to an international leadership level.
None of this matters with China.
While your intellectual (skills based) experience will help you to a degree, the key attribute that helps your success with china is EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, EI or EQ - This is our capacity to work and play well with others both internally and externally and encapsulates our capacity for virtue and our honor in and through relationships. If you don't believe me, study Harvard Business School.
Trust is everything.
Your experience with China, will to a large degree revolve around your ability to cultivate relationships. Because, in so far as China is concerned, personal relationship and therefore trust comes well before commerce. If you won't make forming relationships and trust a priority, you should walk away now. You won't have what it takes to make it in China. Just as the Chinese language is nuanced, so is relationship. Last names come first and so does family.
We are all experts at what we do, but unless we have the humility to become students of China's primary focus on forming trusted relationships, then the going will become very difficult.
Initially I sought to apply lessons that I had learned from well over $2m of research into business process optimisation. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of boutique management consultancy training and over four years at Attache Software as head of business improvement advisory. I had previously built successful businesses in retail, wholesale, media, education and technology, winning awards and accolades along the way. I had coached MBA's and PhD's and lectured to audience of 30,000 people on Blockchain with over 1.4 million views of my answers on Quora.
China says... SO WHAT!
What I knew wouldn't help me. I needed to get in the know.
As is turned out, part of that SO WHAT experience came in the form of service providers that either too broadly focused on having a relationship with all of Asia, therefore understanding few of the nuances of how trust is manifestly integrated into China commerce, or they focused on a singular, granular aspect of China business process and missed the big picture.
The latter was and is the current state of affairs.
With numerous agencies establishing silos around brand provisioning for industry vertical solutions with Alibaba OR Tencent. Then failing to consider the role of how we use APIs and technology integration to connect western and eastern business systems. Essentially we have a situation where in the West we understand the necessity to integrate systems and processes.
Yet inexperienced people are leading transformation, cognitively blind to China enabler business services infrastructure, which is mission critical to successful China commerce.
This becomes manifest when you see UK legislature that requires export labeling for China that it totally non compliant with China import label requirements. This is not China's fault, because these requirements are widely promoted. Usually, ignorance occurs on the Western side. Usually an ignorance by government or industry advisory lead. And almost always simple to resolve once known. So much money is being lost by corporations having to fix data mapping problems and the old advisory boards have few people with any practical experience with digital pathways to commerce.
We have experienced agencies waving China technology brand names around, inviting businesses to participate, without having mapped out the on-boarding B2B journey for their respondents. Flashy WeChat mini programs that promote businesses, who have no presence whatsoever, no experience and no business process in those ecosystems. As a result, very often these initiatives create serious workflow problems and may fail to become effective commercially. Promotion is happening, but the customer experience is diabolical. There is often a complete lack of empathy for the Chinese consumer experience.
No one seemed to understand the entire China business process end to end. Either support organisations had a marketing discipline OR a payments discipline.
Service vendors were all too often disinterested in the end to end solution for a business.
Which is kind of like ending up with having a Ferrari body and gorgeous steering wheel, with no engine.
Service providers often saw each other as enemies and poorly collaborated. Many Western and Chinese agencies were either incompetent or just plain lying to us about the business process.
We saw some industry behaviors as ultimately selfish, because one size doesn't fit all. Integration of competing platforms is fundamental to modern commerce. If a selfish software or services vendor makes a recommendation that suits only their own profits, they may misdiagnose the business solution.
Omitting an important part of the machinery for scalability and essentially ruining any future chance of that business process optimization for cost efficiency. We see this a lot. Organisations going for 'whole of wallet', in a quest for profit at any cost.
Someone needed to rise above all this noise.
Understanding the need for a holistic, integrated and a much more strategic approach, led Simon and I to introduce the mountain analogy with China Commerce.
There is a natural parallel and affinity between the kind of thinking required to ascend the Himilayas and what it takes to prepare yourself and your team for an expedition into China Commerce.
The average Antipodean tends to think they can turn up in Jandals, shorts and a T-Shirt to ascend. The "...she'll be right mate..." mindset may work on business at a small scale, where a specialist has grown a customer base, but as you begin to engage 1.4 billion people, that kind of thinking just doesn't scale.
This is why those who are good at business process are much more likely to succeed with China Commerce. They understand that a successful business must have integrated business processes that are relevant to the customer journey of the target audience.
China business systems are fundamentally different.
Over the last three years, Simon and I pioneered and piloted implementing and integrating not one, but all of the technologies required for scalability. During this time we experienced a number of epiphanies. We broke through industry misunderstandings, misinformation, silos, blatant lies and manipulation to eventually lead the way.
A stark contrast in the new high standard that RCN now achieves, can be seen in our methodology for provisioning WeChat Official Accounts.
Our fastest WeChat Official Account implementation successfully delivered in under 3-hours, compares with a publicly stated lead time of 6-weeks by competitors.
More recently as we have taken the global lead in provisioning WeChat Official Accounts, RCN uncovered the main reason that many organisations are peddling wrong information about the WeChat Official Account on-boarding process. Some practitioners suggest self-service, without walking through the real world experience. Theoretically, it makes sense,but bares little correlation for how things work in reality.
This kind of situation occurs because few companies invest the time to actually walk through every stage of an account set up. And if they do know a set up, they usually only know it for a single territory.