China’s Rules of Engagement
Jack Perkowski is the chairman and chief executive officer of ASIMCO Technologies, one of the most important players in China's automotive components industry. He founded the company in February 1994, after spending three years investigating opportunities in Asia and China and before others recognized the significant role that China would play in the global economy. With seventeen factories in eight provinces and fifty-two sales offices located in every corner of the country, ASIMCO Technologies is unique because it functions as a foreign-invested company built to specifically to serve the Chinese market. Under Perkowski's leadership, ASIMCO has gained a reputation for developing local management and integrating a broad-based China operation into the global economy. In 2005, ASIMCO was named one of the "Ten Best Employers in China," ranking third in a survey conducted by Hewitt Associates and 21st-Century Business Herald.
Jack’s new book Managing the Dragon: How I’m Building a Billion Dollar Business in China (Crown Business; March 18, 2008) discusses Jack’s experiences building ASIMCO from the ground up and the lessons he learned in developing the company’s local management team. The book also covers a wide range of topics such as decentralization; China’s different cost perspective and how it creates two markets for any product; intellectual property concerns; and practical advice on how to start a business in the country.
Jack Perkowski: I think the first thing is that, China changes very, very quickly. And so, what I tell people and what I did is rather than listening to experts, and you certainly talk to all the experts you can, but the point is that rather than relying on those experts, you need to take what they have to say but then never let it substitute for your own personal investigation.
So the first thing you need to do is to really when you go to China is to always see things for yourself and try to make sense out of China. And China, to a lot of people, seems like a very complicated country and it is. It has a lot of mystery surrounding it and so forth but it does have a logic, and so you need to start to observe and start to understand the bits of logic that when you put them together, start to explain how China works. So the first thing you need to do is just do that personal investigation. Coincidentally, that also gives you a tremendous amount of credibility with the Chinese, because if they see you going in and rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work and really trying to understand their country and how it all works, they start to gain respect. And what I found is that everybody from China is actually from Missouri, very hard workers. Don’t tell me what you say; I won’t listen to what you say; I want to see what you do.
And so, what happens in China is that people come in and they make a lot of statements about what they’re going to do in China, all the investment they’re going to bring, the companies they are going to set up, and then, 9 out of 10 leave and never do that. So Chinese have become very skeptical about people that come in and conquer the world and China.
But on the other hand, they have a lot of respect for somebody who comes in and says, here’s what I’m going to do, and then goes about the process of doing it.
So getting that mutual respect, that mutual trust is very important. There’s no other way to do it other than just by going ahead and kind of following through on whatever plans you have for China.
Recorded on: September 22, 2008
"Everybody in China is actually from Missouri," says Jack Perkowski. They are hard workers; they are skeptical of optimistic outsiders, but they respect success.
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