IN TOUCH : Managers abroad

Bruce McNabb, general manager Pertronic Trading (Shanghai)

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
I was asked by my company, Pertronic Industries, to establish sales and support office for the company’s electronic fire alarm control products in China. Pertronic was encouraged by China/US joint venture company to manufacture fire control equipment for the China market.

What is your current role?
I came to Shanghai in June 2006 to establish sales and engineering support office. This involved:
• Finding suitable premises.
• Liaising with various organisations to form Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (WFOE); this enables us to sell local product and imported product (from New Zealand) within China.
• Managing the technical aspects of gaining functional and quality certification for our equipment to the China fire standard – an ongoing task.
• Employing local marketing/sales staff to build local customer base.
• Determining and specifying the engineering requirements of fire systems in China so that new or modified product can be developed.
• Direct involvement with sales visits, quotations, delivery and installation of our equipment; then back-up support.
• Customer support.

How does it fit into your career path?
I will be 65 this year, so this job will probably be the penultimate of my career. Previously I was mostly involved with electronic and software engineering. I was engineering development manager with Pertronic NZ for 16 years before taking on this job.

What are its main challenges?
Apart from the bureaucratic challenges… these have included:
• Obtaining technical and engineering information for the various jobs we have been involved in. At meetings it can take lot of talking (in Chinese) to discuss particular topic and the result may not be an answer, so the process has to be repeated or postponed for another time. Much patience is required. I am lucky in having Chinese engineer who has spent six years in New Zealand to help me with this.
• Ensuring my requests to New Zealand for engineering product are pertinent to what is required here in China which varies from district to district. Resolving this when, initially, we had few contacts within the local fire protection industry was difficult.
• Getting to grips with the pricing structure (or tiers of pricing structure) has been challenge but this has become clearer as we’ve become more familiar with the market structure.
• Finding potential customers. Trade shows and referrals have helped and, as our operation matures in the market, we increasingly come into contact with other potential customers.

What are the learnings you will take from it?
To be patient; be careful about information that is received because it’s likely to change. An honest and straightforward approach is best. Employing Chinese who have lived in New Zealand has been essential to the progress we’ve made. Showing potential customers that we are interested in supporting them and demonstrating technical competence has helped us establish good customers.

How do you view New Zealand both as country and economic/business entity from where you stand now?
New Zealand is great country with great people. One plus in being citizen in New Zealand is that you can be individualistic. However, the country needs an enlightened and long-term vision of development that encompasses science and engineering. And this vision must come from the top.
China has recently appointed non-Communist Party member (an unusual move) as its Minister for Science and Technology. He is very experienced in this field and will promote and guide that essential aspect in China’s economy. China has that vision.

What sort of ongoing contribution would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic/social welfare?
My wife and I plan to return to New Zealand in two years or so to live at our property near Kaikohe. Depending on opportunities, I’d like to help underprivileged persons in my area with education – particularly with scientific/engineering emphasis.

What is the most useful piece of advice you could give young executives who are contemplating career stretch offshore?
Gain experience in New Zealand first, then choose the country that appeals to you and get job that will broaden your experience.
Don’t stop learning.
Always respect and consider other people and cultures. You will find that people are pretty much the same everywhere – the good, the bad and all sorts in between.

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

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