Neo Kong is CCL’s Global Business Development Director, leading teams in the UK and Shanghai, China. His role involves building relationships with traders across the Far East and managing large-scale logistics projects for CCL’s global bluechip clients. He also regularly trains Chinese Customs officials on the impact of eCommerce logistics on traditional freight forwarding. Neo holds the status of Chartered Practitioner with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
How did you come to join the team at CCL?
It was in the year of the London Olympics, 2012, I was head-hunted by a recruiter. In fact, I was the first person that CCL interviewed for the role. The recruiter put me in first because they knew how competitive I was, and they wanted their first candidate to be a strong one.
Rudee tells me I set the bar high. I just tried to do my best, as I was very keen on the job. I was attracted to the challenges and the opportunitites that CCL offered. They said there would be plenty of travel, and lots of different types of projects – and they weren’t wrong!
What was your job like at first?
When I started, I was by myself, a one-person team. But I was given lots of opportunity to learn and develop, and make contacts across the world. I was learning how to develop and present the customer proposition, and it was good to meet partners and customers – and potential customers – to learn directly from them about their own challenges and needs.
And how has your role evolved?
As the job and the company has developed, I was able to grow the team and now we are seven – so we’ve added one person per year, and now I’m responsible for managing and developing my team.
The amount of travel I do has reduced a little, compared to the early years. Initially my role was all about brand exposure. I travelled to attend many industry events and conferences, and spent a great deal of time introducing people to CCL, meeting customers and building relationships. These days my focus is around specific and more challenging projects, and I meet more often with high-level bluechip companies.
How is that different from what you were doing before?
Projects like these don’t come together from a basic sales pitch. It takes time to develop relationships and understand what these more complex global corporations need. That means we have to be prepared to go beyond standard presentations and glamorous corporate entertaining.
Every client is looking for something different and in order to present a bespoke solution, we need to acquire a deep understanding of their business, and their vertical space. So I do a lot of groundwork, researching, analysing and evaluating what the business needs and whether a particular service is feasable, and if so, how we can structure a viable proposition.
Deals don’t come together in a meeting or two. The business development process is likely to involve comprehensive data analysis, direct approaches to specific executives, several meetings and conference calls, product development, project specifications and, ultimately, detailed negotiations.
Our aim is to be more consultative, to demonstrate that we’re thinking for these big corporates, anticipating the things they haven’t even thought of. We want to consult and advise, demonstrating our value and presenting designed solutions. That’s a solid investment of time and resources, but that’s the way to gain the trust and confidence of big global corporations.
That sounds like a very wide-ranging job
Yes, I think it is. My role has expanded in a way that’s become hard to pidgeonhole. It’s not just about sales, or marketing, or finance, or compliance. It involves every area and I need to understand every aspect, right across the board. I also need to have a good grasp of the legal and regulatory environment, as we may need to restructure our services as things change – for example, for Brexit.
Just to illustrate, there’s the issue of road transportation. One of the biggest impacts of Brexit will be around road freight. It’s an area in which CCL has not historically had a great deal of involvement. With my team, I’ve needed to review all the possible ways in which Brexit might impact, get up-to-speed on all the likely issues and configure a range of options on how we will address this, depending on how Brexit unfolds. Even the Government doesn’t yet know how this will all work out – but we have to have workable solutions for every possible outcome!
You have to have eyes everywhere, don’t you?
Yes indeed! That brings up the job of what you might call ‘issues management’. We have become adept at identifying and addressing situations before they become crises. For example, a problem might arise because we learn that a customer’s shipments are non-compliant for Customs purposes; perhaps the customer is deliberately trying to abuse the system. CCL’s reputation is at stake and we need to be proactive in addressing the problem. That could involve consulting with HMRC on behalf of the customer and developing and applying rulings, with HMRC approval.
We need to be ahead of the game, anticipating problems before they arise, both for our own sake, and the customer’s – so our reputation doesn’t suffer, and so they don’t get slapped with huge backdated penalties.
What do you especially enjoy about working at CCL?
It’s everything about what we call The CCL Experience. It’s the culture and the attitude; it’s the internal support; it’s the encouragement and development of new and young staff. It’s the privilege I feel in being able to support and develop new team members the way I was encouraged and developed. And it’s the pure pleasure of working in such a dynamic and multi-cultural team.
We’ve just launched a quirky video about what The CCL Experience means to us. You can watch this here.
Tell us a little about your home territory, in China
I come from a city called Zhengzhou, which is the capital of Henan province in Central China. Over recent years it’s become one of the fastest developing cities in China, thanks to extensive Central Government investments. The infrastructure has expanded rapidly and the city is now home to well over 10 million inhabitants. Every time I return home, I see something new, big changes like new areas, new roads and stations. The changes are happening so fast that I hardly recognise my old home town, even the area where I used to live. There’s a new airport, and it’s almost ten times busier than the old one. One great thing for me is that it’s just launched a direct flight to London, and that will certainly encourage me to go back home more often.
Zhengzhou used to be a ‘tier 3’ city, away from the coast and not as accessible or as significant as the larger conurbations, like Beijing or Shenzhen. But that’s all changed. It makes me proud that my home city has grown in status – and because the development has come more recently, they’ve been able to make the most of the newest technologies. Zhengzhou is on a fast-track to modernity.
One last question – what’s your attitude to the future?
When you look at the state of things in some regions these days, the divergant perspectives and attitudes and all the political parties and movements, it can seem as if the whole world faces some very difficult challenges. But no matter what the challenges, I see a positive outlook. Without challenge and change, there is no progress.
Inevitably there will be winners and losers – some sacrifice, now or in the the near future. Data predicts that we may be headed for a global recession, but we need to face this by preparing, proactively, not by being passive, waiting for the consequences and becoming victims. We need to collaborate, plan and develop our strategies – and we need to be smart.
CCL has grown and developed over its 20 years in business by anticipating change and planning for it. It’s why we are today more successful than ever, and better placed to meet new scenarios and respond to changes in the global trading environment.
We all need to take this attitude to our hearts, both in our businesses, and in our personal lives too.
To contact Neo and his team about new global business opportunities please complete this enquiry form;