The regulatory landscape in China is often perceived by foreign firms as hard to navigate and strewn with barriers.
But Gohary, the only non-Chinese out of 100 managers honoured as Most Outstanding Manager by the Chinese authorities, told FoodNavigator.com that it is simply a different way of working to which newcomers must adjust.
In Europe and the US the law is laid down, it is very detailed, and food firms are expected to comply. In China, on the other hand, the law is less detailed and more flexible, leaving more interpretation up to local authorities.
The best approach Gohary has found in eight years of working in China is to put problem on the table and work openly with the authorities to find a solution together.
“Ask their advice on how to solve it. For sure they know better,” he said. In his experience most problems can be resolved in just one or two days like this.
“The authorities are not obstacles. They really want to help and it is their responsibility to give support, mainly to foreign companies.”
But he added that risk-taking is uncommon in Chinese culture, and people are worried about making mistakes. For people with authority, their position is very important.
This means at the beginning it is important to have patience and build up a level of trust. “Once they know you they trust you. When they know you will not cheat them they become your best partners!”
Five of Gohary’s eight years in China have been with Solbar Ningbo (wholly-owned by Israel’s Solbar Industries), which supplies soy protein to the Chinese noodle and meat industry and international firms and has annual growth of 40 per cent.
Gohary runs Solbar Ningbo in English, but when it comes to navigating the market in Chinese he relies on his six-strong management team.
“They know the company and the needs of the company. They are the best team,” he said.
The company currently produces 1000 metric tonnes of soy protein a month – and expansion is underway.
Gohary puts the fast growth down to changes in Chinese society: “The young generation more and more wants high quality, Western style food. They want ham and sausages that their parents wouldn’t touch.”
He expects this shift to continue. At present the East coast of China makes up the major market but the cultural and dietary changes are spreading inland.
The selection committee for the Most Outstanding Manager scheme was made up of members of the Ministry of Economic Development and Chinese economic news bureau. Criteria for the honours scheme, which is only run every five years, included company performance and contribution to the local economy and community.
Part one of FoodNavigator’s interview with Yossi Gohary was published last week, and dealt with managing Chinese employees. It is available here .