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DIALOGUE: Connected Thinking for Commerce, Dialogue with Doris Hohmann, Regional Manager of the German Chambers of Commerce in North China, Tianjin Office
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Connected Thinking for Commerce

Dialogue with Doris Hohmann,

Regional Manager of the German Chambers of Commerce in North China, Tianjin Office

By Annie Ly

Having joined the German Chamber of Commerce, Tianjin as Regional Manager in October last year, Doris Hohmann brings a breath of fresh air to the support of German businesses in the city through her creative and connected thinking and execution of business and social events. As the economic and business potential within Tianjin continues to attract more foreign business, this month we spoke to Ms Hohmann to find out more about her and the work of the German Chamber of Commerce and what members are currently benefitting from being part of this circle.

dialogue01Could you give us a brief introduction to yourself and how you got in your current position as Regional Manager of the German Chambers of Commerce, Tianjin?

Before my university studies, I gained some valuable work experience with the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in my hometown, Bonn. Under my role, I specialised for the department of Vocational Training and Further Education. Later, I was studying International Business in the Netherlands and part of this course involved taking up an internship in Singapore for six months. There, I also worked at the German Chambers of Commerce. I found the international experience interesting, especially the Asian culture. For me, I always wanted to work in a job that covered a lot of business fields as well as follow my passion to work abroad. When the opportunity to work for the German Chamber in Tianjin arose, it felt like it was the perfect time to take on a new, yet familiar, challenge. Now I am very happy in this role.

Can you tell us more about what your role entails?

As Regional Manager, I am responsible for the membership management which means to support German companies, institutions and organizations. In Tianjin, most of these companies come from production and manufacturing sectors. Another very important part of my role is the organization and execution of Chamber events in Tianjin.

We run many social and business events. For the latter, we invite company representatives of member companies to discuss matters that they care about such as HR issues or provide law and legal advice, as well as visa support. For social events, we organise our annual soccer tournament, Christmas markets or networking events. We know that extending and developing your networks is important for businesses, so we try to offer creative and supportive events to aid them to do that.

Could you give us a brief overview of what the German Chamber of Commerce in China does, who its members are and what the Chambers does for its members?

The German Chamber of Commerce in China is the official member organization which represents German companies doing business in China. In Mainland China, there are three main offices of the German Chamber of Commerce; in Beijing, Shanghai and in Guangzhou. The office in Tianjin operates under our office in Beijing that covers the North China region.

dialogue02In mainland China we have 2.600 members in total, 600 in the North China region and 80 in Tianjin itself. Our members vary from big manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Airbus to small and medium sized companies. The sectors our members come from range from automotives, machinery, tools, aviation, hotels and education. What makes the members' base different in Tianjin is that we also have a lot of SMEs as members that we like to consider "hidden champions". They may not be well known at first sight, but they are really good at what they do. Strong examples include successful companies such as Turck Technology in XEDA or Wago Electronic in Wuqing.

The German Chamber helps its members succeed by providing up-to-date market information and practical advice. It offers a platform for the Sino-German business community and represents its member's interests towards stakeholders including governmental and public stakeholders.

With so many diverse businesses and industries currently working in Tianjin, how do approach your role to cater to all their different needs and interests?

It is difficult to reach out to everyone since most member companies are distributed widely around Tianjin. Besides my regular job, I personally like to focus on a sustainable integration of all German, Chinese and everybody interested in the German community and Chamber activities to bring businesses together.

Besides this, we find that many different types of companies experience the same kinds of problems or issues, for example, attracting talent, talent retention or increasing wage level. At our breakfast seminars, we bring together many department managers from different sectors to get valuable information about how to deal with their problems, as well as communicate with each other to exchange tips and advice.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role?

dialogue03The greatest challenge is to wait and be patient with feedback if there are many parties involved. I am always eager learning new efficient ways of working methods. I find myself challenged with the art of being patient, instead of appearing as too demanding. I am always keen on improving my performance and knowledge about how to shape task related processes.

This job also requires you to find the connections between people; use connected thinking to see if there is anyone who can be introduced to help each other. Although it can be challenging at times, I really enjoy this aspect of the role.

As someone who is relatively new to the city, what are your impressions of Tianjin and its potential for business and industrial success in the future?

There are so many industrial development zones in Tianjin. To emphasise the word 'development', I think there is a lot of room for growth in this city. Alongside that, the people here have a real desire to do more and want to attract more German business because they care about quality of their products. There is still more that can be developed, such as infrastructure, and there is still a creative element missing; like a mixture of 798 Art District in Beijing or Tianzifang in Shanghai with an international surrounding and casual coffee shops.

The German Chambers of Commerce in Tianjin run over 50 events a year. Can you give an overview of some of the events or activities you have been working on recently to the benefit of your members?

This first half year we have had a good run in terms of business and social events. We had the opportunity to hold the official Day of Logistics at Siemens SEDL in order let our members gain insight of the logistical process of a very well-known German company.

Apart from our major events, such as the New Years' Reception and German Night, we introduced a new event. Our Business Match Making enabled different business people and young professionals to quickly chat about potential future opportunities. With just two to three minutes to speak to each person, it was quick and dynamic and forced people to communicate. It allowed people to see potential in each other and make those key connections about how they could benefit each other.

dialogue05Which of these activities have you enjoyed organising most and why?

Overall, I enjoy all our seminar, workshops and social events. As a very cosmopolitan person, I prefer interactive events with high content. This brings local people and expats together. If participants are satisfied and provide us positive feedback, we know we organized it perfectly.

In your opinion, what is the key to developing strong relationships and networks to ensure businesses and industries to flourish?

Although it is a simple concept in our daily life, either business or private, communicating and listening to others is crucial. Apart from listening, the key to developing strong relationships and maintain them is the ability to approach people, using the appropriate choice of communication channels and finding a constructive way to compromise. Many people forget how to do this in the right way. Once you have made new connections and find out new information, it is important to be proactive and do something with that information to the benefit of each other. Scrutinise what you know and think of ways you can facilitate business exchanges to make strong relationships.

Why should German companies become members of the German Chamber of Commerce?

dialogue04Firstly, we are an information and exchange platform for German business in China. This means that we offer updated and reliable information and contacts, such as our yearly Business Confidence Survey which shows current economic challenges and expectations of German companies. We also have our annual Wage and Salary Survey which discloses information about the labour market.

Secondly, as discussed, we organize informative business and social events for further development and extensive exchange. We always aim to do this in creative and compelling ways to deliver good and innovative services for our members.

Last but not least, our platform can generally be used for networking and marketing opportunities for potential business. For example, we have a range of channels such as our bi-monthly magazine 'GC Ticker', brochures or website. Members can be Yearly Sponsor and get high attention in terms of their marketing or new restaurants and hotels can become a Benefit Partner. This means members are granted a range of advantages or discounts, as well as further marketing opportunities.

What can members look forward to from German Chambers in Tianjin in the near future? What events or activities will be organised?

We will continue with one of our popular social events, our annual Soccer Tournament in October and of course we are planning a festive Christmas market in December. In the near future, members can look forward to a company visit to a famous car manufacturer, but we'll be keeping the name a secret until closer to the time. The German Chamber is also planning a roundtable series for several pertinent topics such as Industry 4.0, HR, "Mittelstand" for SMEs and more. This gives our members more opportunities to exchange about their knowledge and experiences. Besides that, we will continue with regular tax, law and HR updates for our members to provide them with more useful information for running their business. This month, we will organize a special German movie evening - of course with Chinese subtitles. We hope this will promote a better understanding and mutual appreciation of Western and Eastern cultures. Everyone who is interested can join!


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