International Management Challenges – China
The author of the book “Managing the Dragon”, Jack Perkowski, is a distinguished graduate of Yale and Harvard Business Schools. He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to parents who were born in the United States, and whose grandparents had emigrated from Poland in the early 1900’s. His parents were from large, middle class families; his mother a high school graduate who worked for AT&T and his father left school in the ninth grade to work in one of the many steel machine shops in Pittsburgh. He received an education in the catholic school system in Sharpsburg, a suburb of Pittsburgh that was a mini melting pot. It consisted of four schools and parishes that were predominantly Polish, Irish, German, and Italian. Being Polish, the students from his school did not mix well with the children of the other schools. A very significant time in his life occurred was when the plant where he father was employed relocated. His father was unemployed during a recessionary period in Pittsburgh. Everyone in the family sacrificed by working part time jobs like his mother cleaning homes, he and his brothers mowing lawns and taking paper routes and his sisters babysitting. Growing up with these values being infused into him, with a concentration on education and strong work principles, monetary conservatism, resilience, and strong family values prepared him for his later success in life.
During his senior year in high school at North Catholic, he began to have a breakout season in football. Only 175 pounds, he started at offensive tackle and defensive end. Their team won the Pittsburgh Catholic League Championship, and he was recognized as an exemplar athlete. College coaches started coming around to prospect for players and he began to get attention. His head coach pushed him and other teammates with the grades, to strive for the Ivy League schools. A Yale alumnus contacted him and paid a visit to his family at home. He applied to Yale and a short time later was touring the campus. At this point is when he decided that this was where he wanted to attend college. He waited for the acceptance letter, but was wait-listed instead. He was accepted into Columbia University and the Columbia coach came to his home and told him that if Yale really cared about him he would have gotten in on the first try. The coach asked “Well, Jack, what do you want to do?” and he responded saying that he wanted to attend Yale. The author received a telegram from Yale the next day informing him that he had been accepted. During this time, he experienced much success on the field and in his studies, making many friends and what people refer to as “guanxi”, which means connections or relationships. This network of friends would prove to be one of his greatest assets.
Jack spent twenty years on Wall Street, starting in the investment banking business and eventually rising to the top of Paine Webber. Many of his positions and references came from his “guanxi” network. He received accolades from his firm upon closing a major deal with Yasuda Life during the week of Black Monday that helped to keep his firm afloat. The fact that he could even close a deal in the wake of Black Monday said a lot about his will and determination, as well as Paine Webbers resiliency. After this time, Jack decided to move on to bigger and more self-fulfilling ventures. He learned that individuals that can recognize and capitalize on significant new trends can build organizations with the unique right to sell a company’s goods or services in a particular area. Mr. Perkowski decided that he wished to identify and then act on this desire to do something truly unique and act on the opportunity. This is what brought him to Asia and then to China. By traveling to a foreign country with a different language and many cultural differences, he was making the same journey that his grandparents had made 100 years prior.