IN TOUCH : Managers Abroad

Andy Wilkinson: senior vice president/GM Asia Pacific, webMethods – and NZ vineyard owner

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
Initially I left New Zealand on my “OE” in early 1971 to travel to Australia and to see the world. The attraction of travel continued for few years with jobs around Australia including jackaroo on cattle station and bar manager in the far north of Western Australia. I also travelled across India and Asia for year in the early ’70s which developed keen interest in the region. Once I settled into Australia and began working in IT, the options in New Zealand seemed less appealing. The larger Australian market provided broader scope and was more attractive financially. For number of years, I had responsibilities for the Asia Pacific region as part of the IBM PC unit based in Sydney. Then in 1993, the opportunity to relocate to Singapore and establish the IBM Software Group was logical career move.

Can you provide sketch of your current role/s?

I am currently the senior vice president and general manager for Asia Pacific and Japan for US-based software company – webMethods. In this capacity I head the region for sales, marketing, support and services, with offices in 12 locations throughout the region. In conjunction with this, my wife Misha runs our family business, Misha’s Vineyard Wines, developing vineyard and wine business located in Central Otago.

How does it fit into your career path?

The software industry and IT in general has been my chosen career for more than 30 years. This role is great way to combine the love of the Asian region and my experience in IT. The vineyard business is pure passion. We love good quality wines and are immensely passionate about the quality of wines from New Zealand – especially pinot noir. We have on our team, arguably New Zealand’s best viticulturist (Robin Dicey) and the best consulting winemaker (Olly Masters), which leaves our role of sales and marketing within our fields of expertise. Misha has an extensive marketing background with lot of Asian experience. This translates to our focus on producing high quality wines suited to Asian cuisine, and selling into Asia.

What are its main challenges?

Running business across the Asia Pacific and Japan region requires knowledge of the business norms from the western styles in New Zealand and Australia, to the tightly structured and nationalistic business models of Japan. The generally held view that Asia Pacific is one homogenous market is problem for many companies operating from either US or European base. New Zealanders in general, seem to have greater appreciation of the difference in business and social culture that exists in the region – maybe due to the small domestic market size and greater exposure to the regional markets.

What are the learnings you will take from it?

The most important thing to realise is that the market is always more powerful than the businesses seeking to enter that market. To do business successfully in Asia or Japan requires business structure, partnerships, relationships and business practices aligned to the country in which you are marketing or selling.

How do you view New Zealand both as country and economic/business entity from where you stand now?

New Zealand is small domestic market with some great products. New Zealand’s strength is the sense of adventure and innovation. In the wine industry the quality factor and boutique nature of the industry is competitive advantage that New Zealand must fight to retain. What is missing for New Zealand companies in general, is the investment capability to expand into new markets and to use the IP and innovation to best benefit New Zealand through export earnings.

What sort of ongoing contribution can you/would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic/social welfare?

We have business plan to develop quality wine company with more than 80 percent of the product going to export markets. We have made substantial investment in the vineyard and employ number of people in the company – and this will continue to grow. We see the opportunity to further develop the New Zealand wine market as our major contribution to the economy.
•Andy Wilkinson is member of KEA, New Zealand’s global talent community – www.keanewzealand.com

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