Steve Pistono, Managing Director of SE Advisors LLC.
China is the second-largest economy in the world today and produces a massive chunk of the world’s GDP. Tune in to this interview and learn how China became a big player in the global market with our guest Steve Pistono who has spent his last 20 years in China.
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China is the second-largest economy in the world today and produces a massive chunk of the world’s GDP. Tune in to this interview and learn how China became a big player in the global market with our guest Steve Pistono who has spent his last 20 years in China. Steve left America for China with only $700 in his pocket and a backpack with nothing with hope for an adventure. Little did he know that he would end up spending the majority of his working life in the country. Steve is now back in his home country handling the family business. He is the managing director of SE Advisors LLC. In the interview, he answers our questions about the rise of the Chinese economy over the last few decades while sharing his journey of living in China for 20 years. Steve explains how business in China has evolved over the last few decades, to the point now that the country is the powerhouse of production in the world. He then talks about the effects of the ongoing pandemic in China and how businesses cooperate with the lockdowns. China pivoted from being an export-led economy to an economy that has become such a large domestic market, in this interview Steve shares his first-hand experience of staying in the country for more than 20 years! Tune in!
1966 – 1984 Conventional upbringing in American Midwest in moderately prosperous entrepreneurial family
1984 – 1988 Small liberal arts college in Wisconsin: first exposure to international politics, emphasis on Japanese political modernization, post WW2, as focus; first study abroad in London
1989 – 1991 One way plane ticket to Taiwan with a backpack and $700 in search of adventure and an English teaching job; English teacher for several months, and then secured much better job as legal assistant at large Taiwanese international law firm; began to study Chinese; met my future wife
1991 – 1992 Returned to the US (Tennessee) to work in family business – culture shock, not a successful transition, isolating and difficult experience.
1992 -1994 Left family business to go to graduate school: MBA at Wharton (admitted against the odds…)
1994 – 1997 Worked in Coopers & Lybrand Philadelphia practice.
1997 – 1999 Transitioned to a C&L client with operations in Shanghai; worked as vice general manager of an incredibly dysfunctional US-Sino JV; great learning experience; JV ultimately abandoned by US parent company (not my fault).
1999 – 2008 Transitioned to southern China (Shenzhen) to start new business in electronic assembly for same US multinational as employed me in Shanghai; went from two employees to roughly 1,200 employees in five years; co-led a management buy-out of our division; co-led sale of the division to a US private equity firm. First big equity payout.
2008 – 2009 Transitioned to private equity in China at exactly the wrong time – financial crisis and after less than a year US firm decided to close China office. I decided to remain in China, but for the first time in my life effectively was without a job.
2009- 2011 Operated independent consulting business in HK/China: various projects for private equity, investment banks, industry – quite a stressful and challenging time.
2011 -2013 Transitioned to full time position with previous consulting client – managing director for Asia for large aerospace firm; responsible for greater China, Japan, India, Thailand, etc.; still based in Shenzhen.
2013 – 2019 Shifted from aerospace to small games/toy producer in southern China – move made primarily to allow less travel, more manageable family life. Grew business significantly, made multiple acquisitions, sold in 2019 to large French strategic acquirer. Second big equity payout.
2020 – now After two plus decades living in China/HK, transitioned back to US – then, the pandemic. In the process of re-defining my future. Have appreciated the self sufficiency that quarantine has promoted. Not clear yet what the coming years hold for me.