Member Spotlight: Dunn Global How Jim Dunn came to start and own his own business in China. 1. Sitting Down With Jim Dunn2. A Q&A Session With Jim

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Member Spotlight:
Dunn Global

How Jim Dunn came to start and own his own business in China.

1. Sitting Down With Jim Dunn
2. A Q&A Session With Jim Dunn
3. Lessons and Advice from Jim Dunn

Dunn Global

Sitting Down With Jim Dunn

Most aspiring business men and businesswomen will tell you they have a CEO they admire and seek to emulate. Mine was Steve Jobs, although I probably valued Walter Issacson’s telling of his story than Jobs himself. This is likely because Issacson successfully portrayed a self-inflated idealist as a trendsetter and a role model.

Jim Dunn, founder and CEO of Dunn Global, says his favorite CEO is the renowned Jack Welch, who ran GE for 20 years and saw its value rise 4000%. His favorite Welch quote reads,

“Be candid with everyone”

Jim Dunn definitely takes this advice to heart. I really appreciate a man who is not afraid to use four letter words in an interview. Also, Jim is an Oilers fan, meaning he’s been through some hard times. Jim graduated from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with a degree in Architecture and Design. Like many Lehigh grads Jim moved to New York City, which he said was “his favorite city to visit, but not to live.” So, he began reaching out to CEOs around the US and Canada at interesting companies in interesting places. He settled at a company in Manhattan Beach, California where he worked for a number of years burning the candle at both ends. His daily routine included partying until four, arriving to work at five, going to the gym at lunch, and then more partying. Quite a demanding schedule.

“Change before you have to.”

With his wild California days behind him, Jim decided to volunteer at an AIDS clinic in Togo. Jim concedes that this was a necessary change in his life, but after realizing that he could not sustain himself solely by volunteering, , he took a risk and moved to Shanghai.

“If GE's strategy of investment in China is wrong, it represents a loss of a billion dollars, perhaps a couple of billion dollars. If it is right, it is the future of this company for the next century.”

After starting in China at an engineering company, Dunn decided he was ready to start his own company, which he named Dunn Global. I asked Jim about the failures and setbacks he experienced in his professional life and how he learned from them. He said Dunn Global’s first business deal was a direct connection to a Chinese manufacturer, but he soon found their business was dealing with stiff competition from the powerhouse alibaba.com, a B2B website offering a similar service.

“If you don't have a competitive advantage, don't compete.”

Eventually Jim realized he needed to adjust his strategy: he and his colleagues decided they should make better use of their backgrounds in engineering by building houses instead of just selling the materials. He found that demand increased as they began to do the building themselves. Now, they offer their services to places in need of temporary structures, such as disaster relief sights.

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A Q&A Session With Jim Dunn

“An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Q: Do you think learning Mandarin is essential to doing business in Shanghai?
A: When I got here I took a 6 month Mandarin intensive, but learning a language is born out of struggle. It’s really easy to get by without knowing in my position because a lot of my job is talking to western companies.

Q: What do you think a company in Shanghai can gain from having Canadian personnel?
A: The ability to know that relationships and money matter. It’s just a matter of finding that balance.

Q: How do you think your definition of success differs from work in China vs. work in Canada?
A: Figuring out if you’re a successful in China is more difficult. I don’t know as many people my age doing the same thing I’m doing here, so it’s tough to compare. If I was back in the US or Canada, maybe I would be making more money, but I also might not have as many people working under me. In 2007 I owned his business outright.

Q: What do you find stifling about doing business China?
A: Summer heat. No air cons. (I’ll also say this about the heating in winter)

Also, the first answer we get from our employees met with an unfamiliar challenge is usually “no.” So we have implemented profit sharing program, which has drastically improved this problem and our efficiency.

A problem like this arose when dealing with a customer in Hawaii explaining what he wanted for his condo; it was looking over cliff, so he wanted glass on three sides. The Chinese way of thinking is to say, “no we don’t do that, there for we can’t do it,” well the answer was of course that we can we just need to upgrade from the steel we would normally use.

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Lessons And Advice from Jim Dunn

1. Shanghai is going to push back on you, all you have to do is push it back to where you want to go. Wear your emotions on your sleeve, put on your armor and jump into the fire.

2. The expat community offers a rare opportunity to meet a lot of powerful people, chances are if you’re sitting in a coffee shop and see a westerner they might just be a VP or head of accounting. Go ahead and talk to them, you’re in the same boat.

3. Save time. Put your office near your home.

4. You expect things to be a lot cheaper, but a Snapple costs 7 USD and the guy out there picking up trash is making that in a week. I wish I could look at my budget back when I started, what a joke that would be.

5. Everything costs three times more than you expect – the price of your office might be as much as an office in New York City.

6. In China the dollar does not ride everything like it does in the US. In China it’s relationships first with the dollar. A man found that a factory was grinding him to get charge $10 an hour, probably because he just didn’t like him. The guy they ended up using was $8 an hour and that’s because they took the guy out for KTV.

7. Becoming a WFOE is not as easy as it used to be, the registered capital amount has been raised to keep out foreign mom and pops. Even though the Chinese can’t keep us out, they can be more choosey.

8. On corruption and bribes in China: to get a paid during a deal – to get a red envelope is still common and if you don’t take a bribe you are sure to lose that deal – but the other side of that is once you get that envelope you’re brothers in business together. What westerns have to understand is that a lot of Chinese value loyalty more than the truth.

9. Routinely dealing with petty problems. For example, a landlord wanted to charge the same price for identically sized spaces; one however required a healthy amount of renovating including new toilet and lighting. “But you just have to figure out a way to accept their way of doing things, it takes a lot of patience. “

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