New Zealand’s stunning scenery and golf’s growing popularity in China has attracted Oscar Lee and his wife Susan Zheng to live down under. The couple have spotted the perfect opportunity to use their wealth of experience in management, sales and marketing to start a new life and exciting new NZ business.
Oscar Lee (whose Chinese name is Keqiang Li) and Susan Zheng (Hong Yan Zheng) understand that mixing business with pleasure can work. Both have extensive experience in the hospitality industry. Oscar has been managing businesses for more than 20 years with various hospitality and public relations companies in China. These include hotels, an Air Services company and as commerce manager for an internet company. His last role in China was for EON, a private joint venture PR enterprise that served Motorola, Schneider, Philips and Microsoft, hosting Microsoft founder Bill Gates when he visited China in 2010 and helping establish Microsoft Windows 7 there.
For more than a decade Susan was General Manager of HNA, a subsidiary company, from 2000. She was in charge of the company’s daily operations and its business strategies. She was also Chief Marketing Officer of subsidiary Golf Club of HNA, developing its marketing strategy and managing her sales team to promote membership of the club.
Golf was one of the reasons that attracted them to New Zealand for three weeks in April, 2011. Oscar had heard that New Zealand has more golf courses than any other country per head of population. “There are about 500 golf courses in the whole of China (population 1.33 billion). New Zealand has more than 400 (4.4 million),” he says. “Golf is becoming more popular all the time in China, but the opportunities to play are so limited. In winter in the north of China you can’t play golf because it’s so cold and snowing. In summer in the south you can’t play because it’s too hot.”
In contrast New Zealand, with its temperate climate (particularly in the top half of the North Island) and beautiful backdrops is a golfer’s paradise. The likes of Kauri Cliffs (Northland), Gulf Harbour (Auckland) and Wairakei (Taupo) are well known and regarded as world class amongst the Chinese golfing community. And it was the growing desire to play on those courses which encouraged the couple to contact Gilligan Sheppard partner Yi Ping, who was recommended by their immigration agents, to look at hosting keen golfers from China. Yi Ping was impressed with the scoping the couple had done during their first visit. “Their research was very intensive,” she says. “They have the contacts in China and the skills to conduct their business.
Oscar and Susan also have a good grasp of the New Zealand business environment. “Gilligan Sheppard has helped Oscar with his business forecasts and advice regarding business structure, compliance requirements, internal accounting systems and tax planning.” Oscar says Yi Ping’s experience and advice has been essential.
“Yi Ping is from China so she understands the challenges,” he says. “I think the reason she has been so successful in New Zealand is because of her getting to understand the Kiwi way of doing things, like learning the language.”
The couple’s business is called iJet and will launch soon. While reluctant to reveal too much detail, Yi Ping says the Lees’ background and the fact there appears to be no direct existing competition to what they’re aiming for gives her confidence they’ll succeed.