A common mantra from those of us in China business is Due Diligence, Due Diligence, Due Diligence. That is still true and should not be forgotten.
Today, I want to add another useful emphasis, Expectations.
It is useful in any context, but you would be surprised at what people expect cross culturally that will work for you.
A contract can help clarify expectations and should be used, but contracts and agreements rarely hit on all critically important expectations.
On the first day people work directly for me, I usually have them write out their expectations for this position. I write out my expectations for this person, and then we put them together.
Some people want more space to work and others want support. Some expect to get paid for overtime. One person asked that I not yell at them. I agreed, and we worked together for 6 great years.
Joint Venture partners are a critical expectation question. Contracts may not say that the Chinese side wants to gain increased prestige leading to better positions in the Party. It may not say that he hopes to get his kid to America through this relationship. Understanding all players expectations in this context is invaluable and worth searching out in informal discussions.
Vendors, Government officials, and customers also are candidates for deeper delving in expectations. Finding the expectations that lie below the surface is more than worth your effort.