Justin Scotti, Nando's Australia NZ
You spent a few years with Mars in China, what led you to make that move?
The prospect of working in a high growth market was really exciting. Working in a category that was totally under developed meant a lot of autonomy and a great sense of possibility. Initially I thought that meant life was going to be easier. In reality, working in China is fundamentally quite challenging, particularly attracting and managing talent.
In what way?
You need established business success to attract and retain the best people. Even when you have that you'll lose talent simply because someone will pay them 50% more. Generally, if you develop and reward people in Australia you'll have a good chance of retaining them. In China they leave regardless because there are so many opportunities. I was looking for a financial controller for 12 months. In Australia I could be fussy and still get a great shortlist. In China you have to look for general capabilities and a belief that someone can grow into a job.
How did you find the experience as a family?
I lived in Beijing with my wife and my two boys who were 10 and 6 when we arrived. The relative proximity to home was important to us – to be in a similar time zone and somewhere safe and interesting with quality schools and hospitals. The most positive thing was that our core group of friends was from all over the world. It was like the making of a good joke - there was a Canadian, a Scot, a Norwegian and an Australian... We had kids from 11 countries at my son's sixth birthday party. It's a weird experience when you meet a kid who has an English father from Sheffield, a Korean mother, he looks Asian and he tells you (in a broad Southern accent) he's from Texas. You can’t help but think - wow, that's some kind of life this kid's living.
How is the FMCG market shaping up in China?
It's all about the brand because the retail strength doesn't yet exist in China. The consumer goods companies have a greater balance of power - like Australia had 30 years ago. On the downside that means less of the information you need to make decisions when you're operating a relatively new category in a high growth market. When you launch something new into a mature market like Australia you have much greater access to information to understand what is or is not working.
How would describe re-entry into working life in Australia?
I had a period of transition where I was looking for work. Like anyone who's in between jobs, I found it challenging at times. Companies were looking very narrowly at job scope and experience because the market is so flush with talent. That was quite confronting - that you might miss out on a job for what seems a really small reason. You need to hold your nerve and wait for an opportunity that genuinely excites you. In the end, it is being satisfied with where you land, not how long it takes that counts.
What did you make of the doom and gloom after being in a growth market?
In China there is so much optimism and possibility because everything is growing so fast. Australia is much more conservative. Looking for that next opportunity, I wanted to talk to people who saw possibility in the Australian market – I found I didn't talk to many. When someone starts a sentence with, "The reality is..," you know that there is a negative comment coming because they are just telling you 'why not.' That's one of the reasons I joined Nando's - they believe they can do great things. They have that optimism I was looking for.