We’re introducing a new column to help our readers get to know the AmCham Shanghai committee chairs. In this issue, we talk with Canadian Paul Lin, Chief Strategy Officer for Possible and Co-Chair of the Marketing and Media Committee.
Q: What top two issues face your industry in China today?
Paul Lin: “Marketing in China is a dynamic and fast paced industry. One of our biggest issues is talent – finding the right talent, keeping people and nurturing them. Digital talent is in demand; you’ll find resumes where people have had four jobs in three years. Loyalty is low.
“The other issue is profitability. There is so much competition, from MNC’s to digital agencies to niche players to local companies, how do we add value and make a profit? The old model is being rendered useless, yet as an industry, service and revenue models have not evolved to keep up with the competitive landscape.”
Q: Who are the leading Chinese companies in your industry?
PL: “From the agency side, it’s companies like Blue Focus, the Leo Group and Kong Ming. They cater to local client needs, are agile and low cost compared to global agencies. From the brand side, companies like Alibaba, Tencent, Xiaomi and Huawei lead their respective industries, and have a model that works in China. To continue to grow though, they need to export their technology and services.”
Q: What traits do you look for in a good leader?
PL: “A leader’s role is to create other leaders. By empowering and inspiring them to do great things, you will motivate them to step up. Leaders provide a strong sense of direction yet trust your abilities and instincts to do the right thing. While I give my team the freedom to grow, they have to demonstrate they can step up to the challenge.”
Q: What’s the best business decision you ever made?
PL: “Moving to Shanghai from Toronto. I had done my time in Canada, learned from some of the best, but wanted a bigger canvass. Moving to Asia has been a life changing experience.”
Q: What is the biggest opportunity for U.S. companies operating in the Chinese market?
PL: “Go rural and tap into tier 3 and 4 cities. There is a tremendous amount of growth and investment in those areas, especially around digital commerce and O2O services. Also, if you are an American or foreign start-up, there is a community that is starting to form in China around tech start-ups. Entrepreneurs are setting up in Shanghai and Beijing, VC’s are here scouting for the next thing, and investment is abundant.
Q: Any advice for newcomers to your industry in China?
PL: “Aim for the top. Apply to companies with name recognition and purpose in your industry and field. Don’t focus on money. Work for the best company and boss you can find. Learn as much as you can, as that training and company name will open doors for future options as your career progresses. Think two jobs ahead to stay focused on your goals.”
Q: How do you use social media?
PL: “I’m at a point where social media is about my work – reading a news story, engaging on content or networking. My personal brand image is public, so I keep my output and communication professional.”
Q: What’s your go-to restaurant for business guests in Shanghai?
PL: “Sichuan Citizen. The food is great and the atmosphere is just right. And it’s walkable to many bars so you can grab a last call before they head back to the hotel.”