Majoring in American studies at Yale might not seem the typical path to founding one of the most successful Western-owned businesses in China. But, nevertheless, Jack Perkowski ’70 seems to have found the formula for success.
The CEO and founder of ASIMCO Technologies, a manufacturing company that produces car and truck engine components, Perkowski’s new book, “Managing the Dragon: How I’m Building a Billion Dollar Business in China,” sets out to “de-mystify China” from the perspective of a businessman unfamiliar with the country.
“I knew nothing about China when I went there, I didn’t speak Chinese — actually I still don’t speak Chinese,” Perkwoski said. “It’s a book that will appeal to someone not only starting a business in China, but also anyone interested in China.”
Perkowski first began working in China in the mid-1990s after a 20-year investment-banking career on Wall Street.
“I went there [China] completely on my own,” Perkowski said. “Asia and China represented a new growth trend.”
ASIMCO Technologies, which employs 12,000 workers in 17 factories across eight Chinese provinces, sells 85 percent of its products in China.
Perkowski, who regularly speaks to company executives, undergraduates and MBA candidates about his experiences, said his audiences frequently told him he should write a book about his experiences. But he said he was hesitant to do so until Thomas Friedman, who featured Perkowski in his best-selling book, “The World is Flat,” told him that “there’s a book in you.”
The book, scheduled for release March 18, is divided into three parts, based on questions he frequently receives from audiences, Perkowski said.
The first part of the book describes how Perkowski went from Yale to the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration to Wall Street — and finally ended up in China. The second part includes the key to what Perkowski said he has learned in China — “you have to develop and empower a local management team.”
Paul Bracken, professor of management and political science at Yale, said local management teams are of particular importance in Asia and specifically China.
“You have to find a local team that understands the language and culture,” said Bracken, who is an expert in global competition.
The final section of the book deals with broader thematic issues related to business such as intellectual-property rights in China and why prices are so low there.
“It’s all written from my point of view and details what I’ve experienced over the last 15 years,” Perkowski said.
He has also been working on a Web site, managingthedragon.com, which provides ongoing commentary on business news in China as it occurs.
Perkowski will be speaking at a Master’s Tea on April 3 in Davenport College, in addition to speaking at the Yale School of Management.
During the Master’s Tea, he expects to discuss both the book and the larger context of China, he said.
Perkowski’s advice to Yale students who are interested in business in China is simple: travel.
“While you’re at a place like Yale, take advantage of the courses and professors,” Perkowski said. “Take every opportunity you can to travel to China and get as much exposure to China and to the Chinese language as you possibly can.”
Perkowski co-founded the Yale Club of Beijing in 1995.