Mr. China Visits Northeastern

Story by Kristen Montana | Montana.k@husky.neu.edu

Jack Perkowski is Mr. China. He is well-known as a successful American businessman and one of the pioneers of foreigners investing over $500 million in China. Perkowski is the founder of ASIMCO Technologies, one of the largest producers of automotive components in China, with more than $500,000 worth of sales.

On Monday November 9, 2015 the Emerging Markets Club in Northeastern’s D’amore McKim School of Business invited him to talk about his experiences and to give advice for students interested in his history. He received an undergraduate degree from Yale University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Despite his prestigious background, he spoke with a certain colloquialness that put the audience at ease. He simply imparted wisdom to those willing to learn.

Perkowski commented that China changes remarkably fast. This seems to be common knowledge to the general public. The key to success lies within being able to predict these changes to some extent. The ability to differentiate between a short-lived fling in one industry and a sustainable one is of paramount importance. He chose the work in the automotive industry and although he acknowledges that he did substantial research in finding this industry, luck played an important factor as well. When he began working in the 1990s, China was only exporting 500,000 vehicles. Currently China is exporting around 24 million, which, according to Perkowski, is a staggering increase.

One of the other most fascinating pieces of Perkowski’s career is the fact that he does not speak Chinese, despite 20 years experience with China. He divulges that he was be able to conduct business without this skill as it is easy to hire quality translators, which he highly recommends to those interested in international business who lack a second language. He points out that learning Chinese would be a good skill to have, but it is in no way a necessity. What is more surprising is how he could survive in China in his personal life without knowledge of the language. He argued that so many of the Chinese speak English that it is not needed in that sphere either.

However, when asked what the most difficult stage of his journey was he cited issues with complete trust between his company and Chinese managers interested in what he had to offer. Would he have been able to formulate a more personal, trusted bond if he could speak to them in their native language instead of having a translator in between them? It seems appropriate to draw the conclusion that it would have done much to aid in his monumental success.

Regretting to speak the language wasn’t Perkowski’s only challenged.  He identified challenges between Chinese and U.S. relations to be another thematic issue in his journey. He stressed that at this time it was virtually unheard of for an American to be so brash as to try his hand at an entirely foreign market. Perhaps this was due to the ethnocentrism of both nations, Perkowski acknowledged.

In regard to the future of China, Perkowski identifies a few major industries that he predicts will take off. He mentions anything relating to the consumer market because of the sheer population size, agriculture because people are quickly migrating to cities so the industry must become more productive, and environmental technology because there is a sharp need for ways to clean pollution.

The lecture exceeded many of the student’s expectations, as Perkowski was overtly personable. The humorous and poignant lecture pointed out that Perkowski’s great success is due to calculated risk, a theme that Perkowski has followed throughout much of his professional life that has led him to the place he is at today.