Regular visitors to the famous Yu Garden in the Old City of Shanghai will know of the “Nine Bend Bridge” which links the beautiful gardens to the famous Huxinting Teahouse (built in 1855) enabling thirsty and weary travellers to safely cross the artificial lake to enjoy an immensely satisfying cup of China’s finest tea.
The presence of a zig-zag bridge in China is not exclusive to the Yu Garden in Shanghai. There are many others in China and throughout Asia. Some people explain the unusual design of the bridge by pointing out that the Chinese believe that evil spirits travel in straight lines and the bends prevent them from entering the teahouse. Others say that the bends slow you down to ensure that you take in the lovely scenery around you and look down at the colourful fish in the lake beneath you.
Whatever the reason, the Nine Bend Bridge is a perfect analogy to describe the process of doing business in Asia. It takes time, there are bends along the way and you should always travel slowly to appreciate the journey, bring others with you and keep focused on the main prize at the end. The rewards await those who successfully make it across the bridge and navigate the challenges along the way.
I use this analogy regularly when talking to CEOs, entrepreneurs and businesses who are starting or continuing their journey into Asia markets. Many of them are currently encountering at least one of these bends, but you can be sure there will be more to come!