Alex Gover | | email@example.com | +44 (0) 7771 900525
This week I spoke to a Singapore-based friend who heads up his company’s APAC operations.
“Loving it!” he said. “More time with the kids, and a video call actually saves me a lot of hassle like traipsing up to KL to meet some completely unqualified prospect.”
But he then went on to explain that, for his major customer in Seoul, his key supplier in Shenzhen, and his SI partner in Tokyo, he really needs to be there to make things happen.
“Often you know what the issues are,” he said, “but sometimes you don’t even know there are issues unless you’re physically there – and that’s when the real problems start.”
By some estimations, in a typical western company, APAC VPs spend more time travelling than on any other job function.
That’s partly to visit their HQ or family back in North America or Europe. But it’s mostly spent meeting key accounts and partners across the region.
With COVID-19 and the travel restrictions now in place, all that has come to a halt. And many are finding there’s only so much a Zoom call can achieve.
I recently listened to an interesting BBC Radio 4 programme, “ Conflict and Cooperation – A History of Trade,” which talked about the ‘tyranny of distance’ in relation to international trade.
The issue is not so much the difficulty in transporting goods: nowadays, international freight is cheap and software distribution is basically free. It’s more how physical distance limits the creation and maintenance of contacts, relationships and personal networks.
This is now a big problem for regional VPs who need to stay one step ahead by demonstrating the right level of support – both technical and emotional – to partners and customers, troubleshooting issues, and being constantly on the look-out for new opportunities.
So, what can you do when you can’t travel? One solution is to partner with someone who’s already on the ground in your main territories and has the linguistic and cultural know-how, the professional network, and the commercial experience to get the job done for you.
As far as East Asia is concerned, my company — Intralink — has been doing just that for 30 years. With offices in Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei, we effectively act as an extension of our client’s regional team with a remit to secure and manage customers, identify partners and troubleshoot local issues – basically doing everything they’d expect of their own people on the ground.
Even in the last few months, when clients have been unable to do in-country visits, we’ve been able to help secure deals with major corporates like Huawei, Panasonic, Toshiba and Samsung.
I’m now in the UK but, as a Japanese speaker, I used to work from our Tokyo office and often reported to our client’s Singapore-based VP of APAC.
I remember, on my first day, one client said to me: “Your job is to sort out the problems I don’t know I have.”
I thought he was slightly deranged at the time. But, after a few months, I came to know exactly what he meant.
If our teams in Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei could help you manage your Asia business in these turbulent times, please don’t hesitate to contact Alex on firstname.lastname@example.org.