If you listen closely, you might hear that spark in Harry Woo’s voice. Perhaps it’s the upbeat lilt in his sentences or the way he carefully pauses for just a moment before sharing a train of thought.
Whatever it is, you shouldn’t ponder too hard because you might miss the gems of knowledge he drops about the future.
Those gems are windows into an ever-changing technological landscape of humans becoming increasingly connected.
The benefits of Harry’s crisp foresight are starkly evident in a star-studded career brimming with inspiring growth, profit and leadership.
And to reach the place that Harry sees, his penchant for strategies and phases has proved more than useful.
Harry Woo’s story with Panduit began in 2011, after being headhunted to become its Vice-President of Sales in Asia–Pacific.
After a mere three years and a swift move to Singapore, Harry was successfully sworn in as the new Managing Director and Senior Vice-President of Panduit Asia–Pacific.
Panduit opened its first set of doors in Japan and, since then, has clocked more than 40 years in the Asia–Pacific region.
The company is celebrated for it's high-quality electrical and network infrastructure for telecommunications, power and computing.
And behind each high-quality product is a set of hands working towards Panduit’s overarching goal – helping businesses maintain connectivity in this vivid technological age.
Panduit targets six main areas in its mission: data centres, enterprise, industrial automation network, industrial network, OEMs, industrial construction and IoT.
Panduit is headquartered in the US state of Illinois and now has more than 900 employees across Asia–Pacific. In the region, its reach has extended to include China, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia.
Igniting the initiative
Over the years, Harry has deeply observed Panduit’s operations and curiously noted the management issues stifling processes and productivity.
While it’s true that many companies drag their feet when adapting to new environments, Harry would not allow Panduit to do the same.
He pored over the company’s processes and developed the Move 123 initiative, a system that looks at a business strategy in an integrated manner with three phases of action.
Harry Woo’s tip on how to be a great leader
“As a leader, I prefer to be surrounded by people who are smarter than I am because they provide inspiration,” he says.
“And collectively, as a team we can achieve a lot more than just driving the business by an individual. To me, the team is more important than myself.”
“Everyone was going in different directions. One team would plan a strategy and another team would execute it,” explains Harry with a shake of his head.
“So, we all sat down in 2014 and decided we couldn’t do this anymore.”
“It was wasting a lot of resources, time and energy. We needed to have a mechanism that allowed us to think about our strategy before we executed it.
“We needed to change.”
And change they did.
The first phase was the ‘seven P approach’.
What is the product strategy? What is the pricing strategy? Who are the people? What is the place, promotion, process and production?
With these questions, Harry knows an employee can decide what must be done. The system lends a helping hand to transform strategies and ideas into a practical reality.
Through such a systematic method, there is no getting lost among multiple goals and voices from different teams.
Employees now raise their hands, collaborate and get involved, planning the execution of the company’s strategy to eventually become co-owners of it.
But Harry didn’t stop there. He continued streamlining Panduit Asia–Pacific with phase two: bringing the company closer to locals.
As local employees gained more experience in planning and execution, they built “a lot of good business acumen”.
Frankly, it’s quite plain to see that locals would understand their own country better.
They know what works, what doesn’t and can go home to their families after work. There are no cultural barriers, mistranslations or bewilderment at differences.
By hiring locals and sitting down with them from day one, relevant strategies are drawn up and deployed based on a personal connection to the market.
“They understand the market; what works and what doesn’t,” Harry says.
“With this, they can offer ideas to the US office and tell them, ‘You know what, this might work for our country’.”
“Local teams know what will work in their market, what will not work and why. Collectively, the whole team learns together, works together, and becomes more successful over time.”
“It’s called ‘zero distance to customer’ and, to us, it is very meaningful,” Harry says.
“Panduit Asia–Pacific has been growing continuously over the past eight years, meaning we have eight years of record sales. And in that period, there are many years where we hit record profits as well.”
The third phase of Harry’s plan was a stronger focus on the company’s partners.
Panduit Asia–Pacific currently has two manufacturing locations, three customer briefing centres, four warehouses and 18 sales and non-sales offices in the region.
Added to that are 369 distribution partners and 1,241 ONE Panduit Partners, a global network of partners the company personally trains and certifies to install its solutions and systems.
But despite the wide networks and large team, Harry doesn’t fool himself into thinking everything can be done within the company.
In the end, he nods to the classification of Panduit as a manufacturer – and a successful manufacturer needs partners.
“We love our fantastic partner network that has helped us see stunning results over the past eight years.”
“We’ve had record sales and profits because we decided to not use more resources in Asia. Instead, we enhanced our overall productivity.”
“It delivers better value to our customers, and we are now faster in meeting our market needs.”
“Our partners are extremely important, and we really treasure their support. They are a true part of Panduit.”
The fire for progress
On the topic of his employees, Harry’s eyes always light up. He believes that engaging people is the most critical factor for success in businesses.
“Since 2014, our employee engagement continues to trend well above IBM’s industry benchmark,” he says proudly.
“IBM’s benchmark is a composite of thousands of employee responses, representing every score across similar organisations worldwide.”
“Thanks to focusing on our core values and building a strong culture of accountability, our engagement results are now approaching the top five per cent of all companies in the survey.”
“It’s a phenomenal achievement, a strong indication we’re cultivating our culture and growing it in the right direction.”
Over the past three to five years, employee engagement has continued to climb. Harry confesses he can’t help but be a little surprised to see its continuous rise and that it’s all thanks to two things.
First is the employees’ attitude when planning for the business. If they are involved from the beginning, they become part of the solution, which helps them feel valued and excited.
They are motivated because they feel like a part of a team that can collaboratively plan, execute and see tangible results.
Second, is the culture of accountability. And at Panduit, there has been extra care taken in fostering a healthy one.
This focus on accountability has been driven through not only the Asia–Pacific branch but the whole company as well.
“Employees are equipped with management tools to inculcate a workplace culture where every employee takes accountability to think and act in a manner necessary to achieve beneficial outcomes,” Harry says.
“This campaign has been running for a few years now and that, along with the way that we do our planning and execution, has really encouraged and motivated our employees.”
“The more motivated our employees are, the faster we grow as people and as a company.”
“The more motivated our employees are, the better they get, the faster we grow, and the more profit we make.”
China and Japan are driving the majority of Panduit Asia–Pacific’s growth, accounting for most of the company’s profits.
Harry says the company has been experiencing double-digit growth in China for many years, thanks to more data centres and industrial construction, such as power plants, power grids, rail networks and subways.
To Harry, China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) policy is set to deliver further benefits for Panduit Asia–Pacific.
The policy was initially designed to increase China’s economic ties with Europe, Africa and Oceania.
It refers to one trade route from land and one by sea to these respective regions and will involve more investment and trade relations, additional infrastructure facilities and networks, as well as enhanced social and cultural exchanges.
Harry believes several countries in the region will most likely benefit from the scheme, which in turn will strengthen the company’s growth.
“From joint development of solutions to best-in-class deployments to regional and global channel partnership, customers working with Panduit can achieve their business objectives and realise predictable and measurable results."
"Our consultative approach allows us to identify customer requirements and align appropriate channel partners to provide expertise and services that span the project lifecycle, from planning and design to delivery, deployment, maintenance, and operation.”
- APAC / Global: (1) Anixter, (2) Rexel (3) Sonepar
- China: (1) Ingram Micro China (2) Shanghai Haoxun Trade Development Co., Ltd.
- Japan: (1) SunTelephone Co., Ltd. (2) Inaba Denki Sangyo Co., Ltd.
- ROAP: (1) FPS-ENP/PT FPS (2) MM Electrical Merchandising (MMEM)
A bright future
The next challenge for Panduit is to sustain the business in the future, ensuring continued results.
“To continue to repeat our success, we can no longer rely on doing better and doing things right,” Harry says.
“We now need a better strategy. This is where it’ll be a challenge for our team.”
To do so, Harry plans to use the ‘blue ocean strategy’; a concept coined by W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne that is particularly useful when supply exceeds demand in a market.
The idea is for a company to create its own market space, which is a ‘blue ocean’, rather than getting into competition with similar businesses, a ‘red ocean’.
Today, Panduit no longer designs a product based on how it looks or functions.
With the technology convergence between hardware and software, cloud and web – and maybe later with AI – it’s no longer just about the functionality of a product.
It’s about how it interacts with and provides the right experience for the customer.
“The closer we are to the customer, the more we need to identify and provide viable solutions,” Harry continues.
“We need to create value for them and it’s where we need to think differently about our strategy. We don’t desire to stay the same. For us to achieve more, we have no choice but to think differently.”
Harry knows that the future is bright and full of technological possibilities.
But he has no cause to worry because with his clear foresight, keen sense and brilliant problem solving, growing will never be just a phase and he won’t ever be left behind.
In fact, you can be quite certain that Harry will always be at the forefront of Panduit and reaching into the future.
“For us to achieve more, we’ve got to think differently.”