Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Business realities

One of my occasional employers - a Chinese university (groan!) - is trying to badger me into taking on a course of classes on giving presentations.

Alas, the fee they are offering is woefully inadequate. Even with a travel allowance (small, and subject to tax) and a supposedly "enhanced" rate (too small an "enhancement" to be visible), it's still barely more than 200 rmb per hour after tax. I don't think anyone else - even Chinese universities - is offering anything less than 250 per hour these days, even for fairly basic business English teaching. In fact, most of the decent employers were paying at that kind of level 8 or 10 years ago (and the cost of living in Beijing has nearly doubled in that time). And teaching presentation skills is a high-level and demanding kind of training: it requires a lot of out-of-classroom preparation. You really need a highly skilled and experienced trainer for this kind of thing; and you need to be paying him at least 400 rmb per hour (post-tax).

Now, here's the thing. The client has booked this training at very short notice - even for China - because they'd already begun the programme with a different training company, but were dissatisfied with the trainer and/or the content and canned it after two weeks. And they'd specifically requested me, because I'd just done another seminar there and received excellent feedback from the participants. And I'm already signed up to do another series of - much less demanding, much less specialised - trainings there at a significantly higher fee.

So, my dipshit employer has all kinds of leverage over the client. How can they possibly accept a LOWER fee than that already negotiated for the other trainings I'm doing? Beats me. This is China.

Well, I put my argument to them about how much this sort of training was worth, and how much I would expect to be paid (less than 400 p/h; but more than they were initially offering). And even if they're too chickenshit to try to ask for a fee supplement from the client, I'm damn sure they're already getting paid a lot more than 400 rmb p/h for this - so, they could quite easily give me 300 p/h without destroying their bottom line.

But will they? Oh no. They are a Chinese university, so they are COMPLETELY INFLEXIBLE.

They would rather cancel or postpone the course because they can't find a trainer to take it on. Or fob the client off with some high school teacher who hasn't got much of a clue about business skills training.

It is baffling that such utterly inept outfits can remain in business. I surmise that it is only possible because the competitive environment is so weak: almost everyone else is just as crap as they are.

And this doesn't apply only in education and training; you find it in almost every sphere of commercial activity. China's vaunted 'economic miracle' still hasn't passed the able-to-hold-a-pissup-in-a-brewery test, as far as I'm concerned.

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