After six days and five nights in Hong Kong, I am now prepared to offer a thorough evaluation of a city that has existed for thousands of years.

OK, I know that I’m not qualified to make any more than a “first impressions” commentary. However, there are three aspects to Hong Kong I picked up that are relevant to your business and mine.

#1) A city’s — or office’s — “energy” is a real thing.

Frankly, I tend to be a bit reticent about new age aspects like “the Universe” or “vibes” — however, there IS an energy to Hong Kong that is real and electric. Many other professionals on our trip mentioned it, as well.  And, a significant portion of it comes from the enormous volume of people on the streets.

I remember a study from years ago about Indianapolis.  It was known then as “India-NO-PLACE” because it was such a boring city. What the researchers told the community leaders was that a city was often judged by the energy it generated, based on people on the street.  If no one was on the street, it was easily assumed there was nothing to do and the city was dying.

Indianapolis placed two major sports arenas — then the Hoosier Dome and Market Square Arena — downtown. It’s easy for locals to forget what a huge gamble that was, for at that time, most everyone lived in the suburbs…dined in the suburbs…shopped in the suburbs…and, unless they were going to and from work, stayed away from downtown.  The result of the sports initiative was that restaurants sprung up to feed the fans attending the sporting events and concerts, which generated a “buzz” about downtown, which meant more people wanted to live and shop there. (Which, of course, would lead to more restaurants, hotels, condos, and more — and became practically a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

If you haven’t been to downtown Indy in the past few years, you’re missing a real treat. It has some of the best restaurants in the nation, the largest Children’s Museum in the world, and so much more…downtown.  Salesforce has its second biggest campus in downtown Indianapolis and the tech scene is thriving and attracting thousands of Millennials to move there. The “energy” of my old hometown is a real thing.

What does this mean to your business? For some reason, we don’t want to do business with someone or someplace that isn’t busy. I don’t want the accountant who has all the time in the world or the lawyer with nothing on her calendar. I don’t like dining at an empty restaurant or shopping in a deserted store.

Make certain you provide the appearance that doing business with you is one of the hottest things to do in town.

#2: Our opinion on much is based on little — so everyone matters.

I left the Hong Kong airport, and met Max…my guide to the hotel and for the week. Max was smiling and enthusiastic. He told me how much he loves Hong Kong. The driver of the car I took to the city was happy. The hotel desk clerk seemed to genuinely emphasize how much they appreciated my five-night stay.  I was hungry after my long flight from Sydney — and not feeling a sense of culinary adventure at that point — so I walked across the street to McDonald’s. The clerk was helpful and cheerful.

I decided I loved Hong Kong. Sure, part of it was the overwhelming nature of the city’s skyline. Part was the unique feel of being in a very different land. However, four individuals and their attitude formed the majority of my opinion about a city of almost eight million people.

Your community isn’t going to manage the attitudes of your employees.  But, you can. Are they generating the impressions on your customers that I have about Hong Kong?

#3: Live YOUR culture

It’s pretty obvious that Hong Kong does not want to be like the United States. Sure, there are more than enough KFCs and McDonalds to go around — but, more important, they take great pride in the local cuisine. They revel in their customs and they way they do things. (Meaning, “You can do things how you want to when you’re at home — here, you’ll do things our way.” It’s a message delivered with a humble posture and broad smile.)

An often-heard frustration was directed to those they called “Chinese immigrants” — in other words, people from mainland China who were taking advantage of the relatively new relationship between Hong Kong and China.  According to lifelong residents, many have moved from mainland China to live in their city and receive their benefits without contributing to the system like someone who had grown up in Hong Kong.

Even though I was technically in China, Hong Kong has its own currency — the HK Dollar — that is separate from the Chinese system. Every car in Hong Kong drives on the left side of the road — like the British Colony it formerly was — unlike the rest of China that drives on the right side.  It’s just more ways of demonstrating that Hong Kong lives its culture — which it views as separate and distinct.

What’s your culture? Do you have it defined as precisely as Hong Kong has theirs? Do you know how it compares and contrasts to other organizational cultures — just like Hong Kong knows how their culture is unique from the traditional Chinese?

You cannot live a culture if you aren’t certain of its values. 

Start there. Start with developing your core values — and the live and grow your organizational culture.

Hong Kong may be the most vibrant place I’ve ever been. I can’t wait to return.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if I felt that your business was that iconic?

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