It is not easy to achieve results in any business when you are starting from scratch. But Senior Professional Joo Byung-do has done exactly that since joining a new department handling electrolytic copper cathodes within Samsung C&T Trading & Investment Group’s Energy & Metal Division in 2012.
He is credited with cultivating new markets and recording outstanding achievements, so let’s find out how he has been able to become a trailblazer for the company’s Electrolytic Copper Cathode Group in Africa – and what advice he has for others.
Strong relationships based on trust
When Joo took up his position with Samsung C&T, he was like an explorer in uncharted territory. He chose to cultivate a new market in Africa rather than focus on Latin America, which was already doing brisk business in electrolytic copper cathodes.
In entering the unknown, and as a person in charge of building business partnerships, he realized the importance of developing “long-term personal trust.” This is especially true considering the difference between foreign and Korean trading companies.
“With most foreign trading companies, hands-on employees seldom change,” he explains. “As the staff of Korean companies rotate frequently, I would often be asked about this. I reassured them that I will be in this position for a long time!”
Joo’s philosophy was successful based on the outstanding growth he has achieved in terms of trade volume. But trailblazing a new market was just the start.
Turning potential into reality
The idea of realizing the potential of an opportunity is also meaningful to Joo. He considers the difference between doing business with a clear direction and finding success in the unknown.
“I think there is a significant distinction there,” Joo reflects. “One means executing an established plan, while the other is potentially more challenging but also more rewarding – it means realizing the potential of a situation even when there is no clear way forward.”
An illustration of this adventurous mindset is the way he approached a particular Chinese company in 2018. Joo sent them an email with the aim of creating a new partnership, though without any expectations because it was a big company. Out of this initial contact, he ended up being invited to the company’s headquarters. While he felt somewhat embarrassed to be thrust into the position of making a presentation in front of the CEO, executives, and other staff, Joo seized the moment and earned an annual contract – all from one email.
Flexibility to overcome whatever conditions there be
When you travel the world, visiting new countries and exploring untapped markets, challenges will inevitably arise. Joo has had to learn to be flexible and adjust to his surroundings as he spends about 130 days a year abroad, including frequent business trips to Africa.
He has been able to overcome the pressure of all this traveling by changing his mindset, spending more time trying to understand the culture of the place he is visiting.
Even so, cultural differences can affect expectations. Joo is used to the Korean way of keeping a set time according to a predetermined schedule. But doing business in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has also taught him the necessity of flexibility when making appointments. For example, when he was stuck on an expressway between Lubumbashi and Likasi, he was forced to simply “keep waiting.”
“I couldn’t do anything else,” Joo recalls. “I barely arrived at my meeting on time, but surprisingly my partner was totally understanding as he knew what the traffic could be like – he had simply expected me to be late and any tension I felt disappeared.”
Making friends while getting business done
For most business professionals, people skills are the most important qualification. But in this regard, Joo stresses that the simple management of human networks is not enough. Rather, he insists that it is necessary to “make friends with one’s counterparts.”
For instance, when faced with a difficult request to make of a partner, he recommends dealing with it as if it were a personal problem and without making unilateral demands.
“People like to help others and give them advice, so you can approach this kind of situation by asking for some advice about a particular situation,” Joo advises. “Then both sides can arrive at a mutual understanding in a natural way.”
With exemplary people skills like this, Joo is equipped to make many more friends in his line of work. And for Samsung C&T, that means meaningful and lasting partnerships, even in totally new markets.