Skip Rosskam: The flavor of negotiations in China

David Michael & Co. has been doing business in China nearly 20 years, setting up a miniature version of its Northeast Philadelphia flavor plant, complete with labs, a sales force and manufacturing capacity.

I asked Skip Rosskam, president and chief operating office, about his Chinese experiences during my Leadership Agenda interview.

Question: How has it been doing business in China? Do you have any advice?

Answer: "My God, I could write a book on that! A couple of things: One is to understand that business is done differently, meaning that it takes longer to develop trust and relationships and there’s a higher value on those kinds of relationships. You just don’t go in and wow someone with a presentation and a product concept. Things take time.

"The other thing is that in negotiations, you may think you have an agreement on something, but don’t be surprised [if you come back the next day,] sit down across the table and [find] that you are going to start all over again.  That’s a very interesting aspect of Chinese negotiations."

Q: Hmm, then when do you know you are done?

A: "When the contract is signed and the money transfers."

Interesting note: A popular ice cream flavor, developed by David Michael, is "sweet potato." In Beijing, roasted sweet potatoes are a popular street food, perfect to warm hands and tummies in the cold winter.