Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Business Scavenger Hunt

Starting a business in East Asia is a little like doing a scavenger hunt. I often wonder if the next step will read something like: “Get the signature of a man in a red hat eating a banana. Then take the document he signed to the purple building on the corner of 4th and University to a woman who goes by the nickname “Kiki” to get instructions for the following step.

Okay, it’s not quite that ridiculous. But there are a LOT of forms to download, fill out, make up from scratch, translate, etc. And then we still have to track down the right person at the right office, on the right day (who is most likely coming in late, leaving early, and taking a 2-hour lunch break, in addition to being out on national holidays and “doctor’s appointments” conveniently scheduled just before or after national holidays).

Bottom line: while opening a small business is crucial for my business partner and me in being able to get long-term visas here, it is in no way crucial to the hundreds of small offices that we have to visit in order to get everything in proper legal order. Plus, every time we ask someone to approve a form, it means a little extra work for them, which they would often just as soon avoid.

So rather than reject our applications outright, they find little things to nitpick. The font is too big. The copy is too light. The date should be at the top rather than the bottom. The bank statements don’t look official enough. The translations need an official stamp. And every rejection means another re-write, another appointment with a friend to check the newly added information, and another day of work lost.

In all, there are 35 consecutive steps that need to happen in order to get a new business opened. And they all need to be completed in approximately 6 months, or else the forms from the first few steps start to expire.

We started going to offices at the beginning of September, and have so far completed… 3 whole steps. With each step we finish we added a link to our paper chain commemorating all we have been for. Stay tuned for more details on the struggle of step 3.

1 comment:

ethicsprof said...

I would love to have had you in my Organizational Behaviour class today. Right now we are dealing with organizational culture and talking about how the various anthropological analysis of national cultures can be applied to organizations and organizational practice. Your story could have given me some time to nip downstairs for a coffee! (Tho' I would have stayed to listen, of course.)