Expanding in Asia? Hiring is tricky and there may be a better way …
By Alex Gover, SVP, Business Development
Despite COVID, many tech companies are on a global expansion trajectory, and looking to add bodies in far-flung places. But, because of the pandemic, they’re struggling to hire and unaware there may be easier and more effective options.
Tough & time-consuming
I’ve recently spoken to many people who are trying to recruit a Country Manager in China, a Sales Director in Korea, or a Head of Business Development in Japan. They’re all finding it both tough – can you really assess someone’s capabilities over Zoom? – and time-consuming. They’re telling me it’s taking six to nine months from posting a vacancy to getting someone onboarded and ready to work.
Even without COVID complicating the situation, hiring in Asia is no walk in the park. I regularly hear people say something along the lines of “Well, we hired X person. He’s OK … I mean he’s a lovely guy … but the numbers just aren’t coming through”.
When I tell them about Intralink and our surrogate sales programme, a typical reaction is: “Oh, we didn’t know that was a thing.”
One of the difficulties with hiring is it’s hard to know at the outset exactly what kind of person you need. Do you want them to be more technical or commercial? Networked and senior? Or young and hungry? What sector experience and contacts should they have?
You can only really work that out by speaking directly with your Asian prospects, customers and partners. When I was working for Intralink in Japan, my British fabless semiconductor client thought he should be targeting mobile handset companies. But, after speaking to all the market players, it turned out his real opportunity was in the DSC (Digital Still Camera) space, which fortunately we knew pretty well.
Alternatively, you may actually find you don’t need a full-time person at all – a specialist distributor or systems integrator may be the answer.
But even if you do think you need to hire, beware! This is particularly the case in Asia, where your idea of a Country Manager (= the guy to grow your business from the ground up) may be completely different from your candidate’s idea (= a senior job with a nice title).
It’s amazing how often it transpires that the guy that’s chosen is not as proactive or persistent as you’d like, or is in fact uncomfortable working outside their own network (“It doesn’t work that way here”).
Sales is everything
In addition, if a CEO or VP APAC of a growing company asks themself what they really want from Asia, they won’t need to think that hard – it’s sales. Period.
Sales is the oxygen of a growing business. Hiring and managing staff, setting up an entity and handling all the legal and admin tasks that go with it are all secondary and can be a big distraction in the early days.
More and more companies are realising that engaging a specialist sales outfit like Intralink with a strong track record of delivering deals makes good sense, particularly in the initial stages of business development in an Asian market.
What they need is a team that can start tomorrow, has a strong network, great local and sector knowledge, a sharp sales focus, and will help them properly understand the market.
That way, they can hire the right country manager and set up their own presence when the time is right - when they’ve already got a good foothold in the market.