Hometown: Fremantle, Australia
Occupation: President and General Manager, Dalian Riviera Development Co., Ltd.
Tell me about your career path, and how you wound up in Dalian.
I have a background in publishing. I published trade publications in Singapore. Then I moved out of the publishing industry, after 15 to 16 years, and I went into the hospitality industry, and I’ve been in the hospitality ever since. I worked for a Moroccan guy in Singapore who had a vision of a culinary village. He had 12 restaurants that were all themed, and I was their marketing director.
Later I moved to Yantai in China, where I decided I wanted to do something for myself, and that was in the culinary and hospitality industry. Western food had a bit of a bad rep, and didn’t have very many restaurants in this part of the world or this part of the country, so I wanted to start up a Western restaurant. I was going to do it in Yantai first, but the building I wanted didn’t become available, and everybody was talking to me about Dalian, so I started in Dalian first. And as it turns out, that was a pretty good choice. Now I’ve been there nine years.
What sort of challenges are you dealing with?
Right from the beginning, the challenge of getting the right product was definitely one. I personally have been around to a lot of the farmers and the suppliers and produce people, tramping through the farmlands of Shandong looking for raspberries and whatnot, and going to farms to see cattle being raised. Using local produce is obviously the key factor in any restaurant, but, at some stage or another, if it’s not available you need to have imported products from other countries. So we bring in ham from Spain and various meats and cheeses from Italy and France. You can’t have these products replicated. You’ve got to go to the source, and that’s difficult. If you’re in Beijing or Shanghai or Guangzhou, these products are readily available, because you’ve got so many people using them. But in Dalian, I have to source them from all over the country, so that’s a challenge. The cost is a challenge.
Do you have a favorite travel destination in China or Asia?
I’m still trying to discover China. I don’t ever get tired of going to different places. I also love Southeast Asia. I spent many many years in Indonesia in my publishing days, and I love Indonesia. I love Singapore.
Do you have a favorite book?
The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure by Adam Williams.
Any advice for someone moving to China, or opening a business here?
A long time ago in Singapore, a friend of mine gave me this advice: “Never do anything in business without a lawyer.” And that’s so true. You can’t cut corners. There’s no such thing. So many people try to do it, and then they trip themselves up. I would say if you’re going to do business in China – or anywhere, not just in China – get a lawyer’s advice. Then follow the laws and regulations of the country.
As far as people just coming here to live: embrace it! Don’t just come here and try to imitate your own life that you had in your own country. Why? Then you might as well stay there. If you’re going to come to China, embrace China and really live here. Don’t just stay here. Just because you don’t know the language, it doesn’t matter, just go out there and give it a go. Just don’t be afraid. Jump in with two feet and start moving your arms and swimming down the stream.