Education HawaiiWritten by Jason Ubay On 13 June 2011
How to do business in Hawaii now a textbook lesson

If only Mainland schools taught companies how to enter the Hawaii market, it would be so much easier.

Well, now there is. (Or at least a case study.) CB3, a consumer behavior textbook for a college-level business administration class, has published a case study by Derrek Choy, associate professor of business administration in marketing at UH West Oahu. The publishers approached Choy to write a case analysis on organizational culture.

The lesson focuses on Mr. Smith, owner of a Minnesota-based high-end cabinet maker who wants to do business in Hawaii. He looks at the numbers and thinks he can do approximately 5,000 installations because of the high average income and high price of homes, relative to other U.S. states. He is wary, however, because his friends have failed in their attempts to enter the Hawaii market. He consults with a local home remodeler, Mr. Ching.

Mr. Ching is glad that Mr. Smith has asked for his advice. He says that one of the common mistakes that mainland businesses make when entering the Hawaiian market is assuming that Hawaii is the same as any other market in the continental United States.

Mr. Ching explains that in Hawaii, building a relationship with the people you’re selling to is an integral part of whether or not you will be successful. If you do not take the time to get to know the people in the company you want to sell to, and let them get to know you, there is a good chance they will not buy your product.

There’s a part that plays up stereotypes, but it’s something to keep in mind, especially for foreigners dealings with local residents and businesses for the first time.

To many potential clients of Asian ancestry, coming into a business that you are not acquainted with and pushing your product in an aggressive way is equated with rudeness and disrespect. Also, people from Hawaii are often initially quieter than business people from the Mainland are use to. Unfortunately, this quiet demeanor may be misinterpreted as weakness or a lack of interest. In reality, the local business person is often simply observing and assimilating the facts that are being given.

Choy says the characters are a compilation of individuals and businesses that he has worked with over the last 30 years.

What advice does Choy give to companies entering the Hawaii market? Responding via email, Choy says, “As you enter the Hawaii market, understand the people that make up Hawaii. Know how Hawaii’s unique culture has been developed. Yes, business has basic concepts that hold true in all markets. However, Hawaii has a melting pot that integrates a mixture of all cultures that creates a blend of people’s beliefs, ideas and values.”

The textbook can be purchased on Amazon.

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About Author

Managing Editor, Hawaii Business magazine. He's also representing the mag on Facebook and Twitter at @hawaiibusiness. You can follow him on Twitter at @jubay.

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Very interesting post.  I find that more than a melting pot . . . Hawaii has a handful of different "groups" which we must treat differently when engaging in a business environment.  Further these are evolving everyday.  For example, there seems to be a growing number of younger business professionals that have more "mainland" influence while the older generation have more traditional philosophies.Thanks for the post @jubay!