I grew up in Havelock North, mostly, with a few years in Germany when I was “hot off the press”. After high school, I flatted in Wellington’s Cuba Street and in Kelburn while completing my bachelor degree at Victoria University before finally wrapping up my studies in Hamburg with a Master’s degree.
Why did you leave New Zealand?
Having completed my studies in Europe, I worked in Germany for a while before getting the chance to work in Asia. To be honest, I did give NZ a “shot”, for three months, but my “reverse culture shock” was quite strong, so I welcomed the opportunity to work in Korea’s dynamic environment, where I was able to build the foundation of my career.
Tell us about what you do now?
I’ve been working in Korea since 2005 and am currently leading the HR Services business at Nowak & Partners, a boutique business advisory firm in Seoul. The business was founded on the concept of practically implement the good intentions of our ‘western’ clients in the Korean market. These companies benefit the practical execution of their business objectives, based on our grass-roots know-how and our years of domestic business experience. These business objectives can be anything from buying and integrating a Korean business into a multi-national company, to heling an SME to take their first steps in the Korean market. In terms of my own role, I’m specifically focused on the people aspect of business, i.e., finding the most suitably qualified (Korean) professionals for key management or technical functions, based on a targeted research and recruitment process.
As such, I’ve been specialized in providing executive search and recruitment services to ‘western’ companies that have business operations in Korea or who are entering this market. I’ve successfully placed Korean and expatriate professionals in middle and senior level positions, in a variety of functions including executive and general management roles, engineering and technical sales, B2B & B2C marketing & sales, finance, logistics and operational positions. Having gained considerable expertise in the consultation of clients about their strategic human resource requirements, I’ve had the opportunity to fine-tune a process of targeted search that yields a high success rate that is well above the industry norm. It certainly helps that I can do this in English and/or German, or in Korean with the help of my team, as recruiting Korean and expat professionals is both an art and a science, where a decent sense for relationship development, search and recruitment process management and overall market knowledge across a range of industries, is an asset.
Describe your life-style in Korea?
I’m a founding member of “The Kiwi Chamber” (the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Korea) and I’m its longest serving board member. In my current role as Vice Chairman, I have the opportunity to volunteer my time and effort to support the success of Kiwi business people in this market and to promote “Kiwiness” here. I’m also happily married to my Korean wife, a professor of music here in Seoul. The integration that I enjoy with my extended Korean family provides me with an exciting, interesting, frustrating (linguistically mostly) and fun network of dozens of new family members.
In addition to this, my hobby is tramping, or “hiking” as it’s called here, in the hills around Seoul. There’s an extensive network of national parks within easy reach, one of which, the Bukhansan, is 78 square kilometers in size. It makes for excellent day-trips with friends and colleagues, unavoidably followed by the typical Korean “post-hiking” drink of Makgeolli, or fermented rice/wheat cider.
Do you leverage your “Kiwiness” in your business?
Certainly! There’s nothing quite as helpful is being an underdog from a well-respected and “dream destination” country, spiced by with a somewhat over-inflated sense of how import the country is internationally. Koreans however, immediately associate the word “Kiwi” with a Zespri product, so describing myself as “a Kiwi” is typically met with astonishment.
On a personal level, what motivates you?
My family and my work motivate me enormously. I love the feeling of successfully achieving something, be it professionally delivering a challenging client engagement, or making my wife happy.
Where to from here?
Korea is a solid part of my immediate future. Business is good, as more and more international companies are succeeding here and I have a great relationship with my family-in-law, friends and colleagues. New Zealand is definitely part of my future, but perhaps not exclusively, as Europe and Asia are also significant parts of my life.
Lukas Beech is a member of the World Class New Zealand network, a global network of over 300 high achievers and industry leaders who share their influence and insight to help aspirational Kiwi businesses and individuals succeed. Members of the World Class New Zealand network are the most connected and influential Kiwis and friends of New Zealand, ready to help you with introductions and insights into key markets. To find out how to connect with a member of the World Class NZ network and help your business grow, click here.