Paulson: Expansion into China can help state companies grow sales and profits
By Brian E. Clark
It’s a long way from the family dairy outside Barneveld to the industrial city of Tianjin, China.
But that’s how far author/adviser/business consultant Dan Paulson has traveled in the past 21 years.
Paulson, whose book “Apples to Apples” came out in 2011, began his career after graduating from UW-Platteville by working for Menards. After four years there, he jumped to Madison-based Michael’s Frozen Custard, where he became vice president for operations.
His last corporate job, which he held for several years, was with Lands’ End in Dodgeville.
“In 2005, I finally decided to venture out on my own and launched InVision Business Development and Marketing,” said Paulson, 42.
WisBusiness audioThe main goal of the company, he said, is to aid businesses in executing their strategy to achieve maximum profitability and sales. In 2009, he set up an office in Tianjin, China to assist Badger State companies that want to sell their products and services in China.
“What I do is help companies figure out how they are going to grow and become more profitable and do so in a way that is going to best utilize their team, their people,” said Paulson, who also has worked with non-profits such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Paulson said he set up an office in China four years ago with a colleague to help U.S. companies export there.
Though he travels there frequently, he still spends most of his time in Wisconsin. That means he’s often on the phone and using Skype at midnight.
Paulson said he made the move to Asia after deciding he wanted broaden his efforts.
“I don’t care what size business you are, you are going to compete on a global level at some point in your career,” he said. “We’ve changed so much economically and how data and information is transferred that we really have to understand the global impact of people around us.”
Paulson said he first considered setting up shop in Europe, but a colleague got him to consider China and he made the jump. He is now working on a resort project there, finding a source to import pork into China and trying to sell energy saving and other sustainability technologies to Chinese companies.
Paulson said business in China “is definitely more relationship driven, more about who you know and you have to understand the cultural differences, which can be pretty significant.
“Where it aligns well with what I do is because on the strategic side, you need to go in there with a plan and a strategy. On the other side, the people side, there is this whole new communications style that has to happen in order to be successful.”
Paulson said he never dreamed he’d one day being doing business deals with China.
“Even five years ago, I would have never guessed I’d be doing that,” he said. “The goal was always to expand my organization beyond the four walls of the building I was in. The original thought was to be regional or national.”
He said he decided he wanted to stretch his boundaries, which led him to consider China.
“I don’t regret it for a minute,” he said. “It’s been a fascinating journey that is just beginning to grow. I encourage other businesses to look beyond their four walls and see what they are capable of. It is when you are able to stretch yourself that those opportunities occur for you.”
Along those lines, Paulson said he works with executives to figure out where they want to take their organizations.
“Then we break it down into something that is executable,” he said. “Beyond the facilitation of the strategic plan, I work with the executive team on how we get everyone down to the front line to do the right things in an efficient way so businesses can grow and be profitable.”
Paulson said he worked with CUNA leaders on one of its reorganizations to improve their internal communications from new executives up through the top management.
He said he has helped a number of other businesses during the recession, some of which have grown by double digits since 2007. Paulson said many manufacturers, community banks and healthcare organizations have done well in recent years. He said he’s also carved out a niche with dentists. With all the organizations he’s worked for, Paulson said he’s helped them plan for growth while differentiating themselves from their competitors.
He said the business leaders who hire him tend to be more “visionary” and are looking five to 10 years out, rather than from “day to day.”
He said they also see their employees as their biggest assets.
“You need people to run equipment, you need people to run computers and you need them to do it in an efficient way,” he said. “If you do the right things, you communicate well and get them involved and engaged in the process, you can actually be quite successful in growing your organization.”
Occasionally, Paulson said he gets pushback.
“In any change process, there is going to be pushback. I talk to people about the roller coaster up front. There are times that they will be really excited about change and there are times when they will be really frustrated with change.
“My role in coming into these organizations is to help them work through those difficult times where all of the sudden what seemed like a great idea hits some bumps in the road or we need to tweak the process. But people are creatures of habit and they want to pull back to things that they were comfortable with."
For more information on Paulson’s company, see