Listen to this article
Introducing his company’s new president and chief executive on Wednesday, Yang Yuanqing, chairman of Lenovo, the world’s number three PC company, took pains to stress that he had found the candidate with the “perfect profile” for the job.
“His background and experience are an even better match for our company’s needs in the next phase of its development,” Mr Yang said. “We feel he will be well able to help this company with the integration of its teams and its cultures.”
Cynics will dismiss such praise as PR hyperbole, but the CV of new president William Amelio certainly hits a lot of bases needed by Lenovo as it tries to take on market leaders Dell and Hewlett-Packard even while digesting the global PC business it bought from IBM in May.
Not least, Mr Amelio’s US passport and the 18 years he spent with Big Blue before 1997 will no doubt comfort any former IBM staff taken aback by the Chinese company’s replacement of fellow division veteran Stephen Ward.
Mr Ward was a reassuring presence for former IBMers following the announcement of Lenovo’s $1.75bn acquisition of the PC unit a year ago, but some observers wondered if his retention would make it harder to shake up what had become an iconic but anaemic business.
Unlike Mr Ward, however, Mr Amelio boasts recent experience beyond IBM, with time at NCR, Honeywell and most recently as head of PC producer Dell for the Asia-Pacific region.
With Dell, Mr Amelio has worked both in emerging markets and with a business with very direct contact with consumers – areas that were relatively neglected by IBM and which Lenovo must better tap if it is to make the PC unit’s acquisition a success.
“The appointment will help Lenovo compete with Dell in the US consumer market, where they have to expand their presence,” says Joe Wu, analyst at BOC International in Shanghai.
Mr Amelio’s time in Asia should also help him handle the cross-cultural complications that come with what is an unprecendented melding of the management teams of a Chinese company and a US multinational.
The new president, currently based in Singapore, says his time in the region has made him more sensitive to how he communicates with others. “In the five years I have been in Asia, one thing I have learned...is to have a lot more patience,” he says. “I have to be someone who has a high sense of urgency and drive, but I have also learned how to temper that in the various cultures that I have dealt with in order to be more effective.”
The appointment should prevent friction among Lenovo’s top leaders by clarifying their roles. A CEO more focused on the details of operations and meeting board targets is likely to find it easier to work well with Mr Yang, a young and active chairman who was CEO of Lenovo until the PC unit acquisition.
Mr Ward said Mr Amelio’s experience in global operations made him better suited to overseeing the next phase of Lenovo’s growth. “He is stronger in supply chain than I am. My strengths are in strategy and in building this thing.”
To some observers Lenovo’s decision to hire Mr Amelio away from Dell suggested the Chinese company might be keen to master some of the direct-sales methods that have made its US rival the world’s top PC producer.
In China, however, Dell has so far found it harder to implement its business model than in more developed markets and Lenovo’s dominance of the market remains unchallenged.
“Dell’s model is a very strong model in this industry, but that does not mean that all companies should adopt the same model – and I don’t think that one model can reach all customers,” Mr Yang said. “Even without a president from Dell, Lenovo has always been studying Dell,” he said. “But such study will certainly not make us put aside our own advantages.”