10 business opportunities created by the Olympics

The whole world is watching the Olympics. And as we cheer on our athletes, can we cheer on our companies? What specific business opportunities is the Beijing 2008 Olympics creating for American companies?

Below are the top 10 that are the most apparent:

• The first three: English English English — English language, English media and English educational products.
English language instruction is paramount. We’ve seen it happen all over the world: When the Olympics come, the street signs become romanized (using letters instead of characters), and countries strive to learn English.

Any visitor to China will instantly see that the country is rapidly leaning English — businesses, students, even taxi drivers (who must speak three sentences in English to patrons). This creates opportunities for English schools, English learning websites and English workbooks.

English media is also desired, such as movies, DVDs, songs, bands and magazines. Even old, antiquated TV shows, “B” movies and unheard-of story books have a market waiting in China.

English educational products refer to products that teach in English. For example, accounting journals that teach accounting methods. There’s a strong desire for master’s-level curriculum on anything for agriculture to industry to medicine. Chinese production engineers want to learn the latest techniques, and to do so in English.

• Western service techniques — With more exposure to the West, the demands for service have changed. Hotels, airlines, restaurants and resorts need to learn to cater to Western tourism students and businesspeople. This new level of service may differ greatly from the old-style communist service industries.

There’s an enormous opportunity to teach customer service basics, sales, change management and problem solving in these industries.

• Chinese business education — China’s new leaders want business education from the best of the West. The large, famous Western universities are already in China.

However, there are many vertical markets that remain up for grabs. Associations such as the American Society for Quality (ASQ) already are teaching executives their ways. Western manufacturing standards are being taught in China. Environmental remediation firms are making inroads into China.

• Western business education (about Chinese) — China’s new markets bring opportunities for those of us who can educate Western firms about how to do business in China.

Cross-cultural training, interpretation and translation firms all receive enormous benefits, and there’s an eager audience in the West. The West needs to learn culture, standards, business practices, law, finance standards and, of course, Chinese languages.

• Promotion of Chinese brands (show off the technology) — The billions of dollars China is spending aren’t just to give athletes a better swimming pool or a nicer volleyball court. China is showing the world that it can be a world-class manufacturer, and that its technology and design will be second to none.

These new Chinese brands will need Western marketing muscle, technology and business savvy to efficiently penetrate Western markets. Western firms in advertising, logistics, marketing, distribution, media, law and finance all can seek new clients from China.

• Promoting foreign brands in China — We can’t all be Coca-Cola, which will spend billions to conquer the Chinese soft-drink market. We all can’t be Starbucks and open hundreds of outlets.

However, with the Olympics comes interest about Western goods and services. New Chinese consumers will thirst for Western soft drinks, hunger for our foods, crave our consumer products (hundreds of thousands of Iphones in China, which have been illegally unlocked) and be fascinated with our recreational activities.

Not only will the companies that produce the brands benefit, but so will firms that facilitate brand promotion. These firms include shipping companies, advertising agencies, banks that finance deals of this nature, brokers and consultants.

• Importing from China — As Chinese curiosity grows about us, so does our curiosity about things Chinese. Consumer food firms may wish to add a Chinese line. Chinese music has yet to be commonplace in the United States. Chinese games, sports and recreational activities (board games, dance and art) will find a new home outside Chinese borders.

Firms that can import these products or concepts will realize additional revenues, from their existing clients and from many new customers.

• Business centers (to help foreigners in China) — Planes full of Yankees are heading into China. Most of them have no Chinese market savvy.

When these executives don’t pay to hire the right people, or learn about the Chinese market, they’ll be in for a shock when they hit Shanghai.

Business centers are a common quick fix to this problem. A good Chinese business center should be able to supply translation, interpretation, training, logistical support, tourism, hotels, concierge services, health care and banking relationships to unprepared clients.

These centers aren’t restricted to China, and whoever takes this market space will enjoy a loyal clientele.

As we cheer on the Olympic Games, we should be aware of the business prospects that are created. We can do a lot more than put an athlete on a box of cereal.

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