When it comes to winning business in China, contacts are essential.
Having worked for one of Shanghai’s leading architectural firms – a company with 2,000 employees – Weddle’s Lu Zhong certainly has them.
“We couldn’t work in China without Lu’s contacts, and her architectural and landscape architectural knowledge,” says Mike Bowell.
“Lots of international companies would love to work in China, but they haven’t got the relationships. It is incredibly difficult for British architects to muscle in.”
Lu agrees. “If you want to do business in China, you have to have contacts and I still have hundreds of professional contacts.
“Most of my previous chums and class mates are architects. They have their clients and they will introduce us to their clients because they have confidence in us.”
The fact that Lu’s father, Xian Hua Zhong, is a high level industrialist, involved in a steel roofing systems business, also helped.
“He encouraged me a lot,” says Mike, “and taught me about the commercial and the commercial contracts side in China. He’s our number one supporter.”
With the help of Lu’s contacts, Mike went to China on a lecture tour, speaking at leading universities.
“I gave one lecture at Nanjing University, which is a top university. A few months later, a lecturer who had helped to organise the talk said he had learned a lot of new things and asked if I would like to do a project with him,” says Mike.
The project was to build a massive business park, twice the size of Meadowhall, with 150 office blocks, in an area that had been designated an ecology corridor.
In the West, people often think of China as having a cavalier attitude to pollution and little interest in all things “green,” but ecology and the environment is becoming increasingly important to Chinese developers.
“There is greater interest and that is why we have won so many projects.
“Ecology is a precious word in China.”