MANAGERS ABROAD : Jade Gray, Gung Ho Ventures, Beijing

What prompted you to seek work outside New Zealand?
I have always been fascinated in travel and the adventure that lies in living abroad. As keen entrepreneur, China has always been natural fit for me. It’s massive market offering massive opportunities.

Can you provide brief sketch of your current role?
I am currently firing up my latest start-up company, Gung Ho Ventures, hospitality company that is focused on implementing western food and beverage concepts to China. We currently have boutique lodge at the Great Wall of China and are cranking up pizza enterprise. As with any start-up, my day consists of anything ranging from scrubbing toilets to investor presentations. I’m yet to work out which one I dislike the most.

How does it fit into your career path?
Don’t have one. I’m just enjoying living in the present, getting stuck into turning my ideas into reality.

What are the main challenges of your job?
Entrepreneuring in any market is tough but exciting. China just happens to be on steroids, so I think those highs and lows are intensified! I guess outside of the typical start-up challenges (tight cashflow/limited resources) the cultural, language and market conditions of China are what challenge me the most.
It’s taken 12 years on the ground to get comfortable playing the game by their rules. It’s even harder when those rules/conditions are constantly changing as China continues to grow and evolve at breakneck speed. Above all, the biggest challenge has been learning to build stable and capable team. Given the culture gap, there is an inherent ignorance/mistrust on both sides that can amplify random issues. I now have 75-strong team, the majority of whom would follow me into any venture I embark upon. That’s pretty rewarding feeling.

What are three learnings you will take from it?
Passion. Perseverance. Patience.

How do you now view New Zealand as country and an economic/business environment?
Love the place to bits and look forward to the day that I’m ready to move back. Living in place that is still working out who it is and its role in the world has given me far greater appreciation for the simple pleasures we take for granted in New Zealand. Democracy, freedom of speech, transparent governance are basic principles we should be thankful for every day because that ain’t given in most places in the world. Oh, and fresh air and walking around in bare feet.
What sort of ongoing contribution/involvement do you or would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic future?
China is going to have massive impact on New Zealand in this coming century. From the cars we drive to the food we eat. We are going to need people who can not only assist us to capture the economic, social and political opportunities that will emerge from China’s rise, but also steer us through the inevitable stresses that will come with this new and important relationship. I hope that by putting the hard yards in on the ground in China I will gain the skills to do just that. Right now I am on NZTE’s China Beachheads Board where I have the chance to assist key New Zealand businesses and their expansion into the elusive Chinese market.

Jade Gray is member of KEA, New Zealand’s global talent community, www.keanewzealand.com

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