What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
High taxes and limited career prospects. This was during the time of the Muldoon government, the controlled economy, and marginal tax rates near 60 percent. All the disincentives to work and succeed caused an exodus of New Zealand talent and I was one of many. I took up a position in Singapore in early 1979 working for a US company to develop business in Asia. That green-field role was very challenging and an opportunity to learn and grow in a much larger and more rewarding business environment than was available in New Zealand. I did not imagine then that I would be working overseas for 29 years and in so many different countries.
What is your current role?
Vice president, North Asia region based in Shanghai since early 2005. Working for The Lincoln Electric Company of Cleveland, Ohio--the world's largest welding products manufacturer. Responsible for the company's business in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan. The business includes three directly controlled manufacturing facilities in China employing over 1500, joint venture operations employing over 1600, and a sales and distribution network throughout the region. New business development and integration of acquisitions are key strategic elements of the role.
How does it fit into your career path?
I took on this role for two key reasons. One was the interest of my wife and I to experience life in China at this exciting time. The other was that eventually most of us recognise what we are really best at although sometimes too late to influence career outcomes. I am most comfortable and effective working in situations of new business development or rebuilding of businesses where survival is in question. This allows me to use the best of my skills and experience learned as an expatriate manager.
What are its man challenges?
People--always the main challenge. Finding, training, and retaining the right people. Putting them in the right positions and the correct structure to allow them to perform at their best.
As the amount of foreign investment in China increases there is strong competition to hire good people with the ability to work in a multinational company environment, with adequate language skills, and suitable qualifications and experience. That has led to rapidly escalating employment costs with employees switching jobs regularly, often for income increases of as much as 50 percent. …