Linda Bai, Finance Director, Ocean Optics Asia
In our series profiling the people of Ocean Optics, we introduce Linda Bai (Bai Huilin), the Finance Director for Ocean Optics Asia in Shanghai, China. Linda has an Accounting degree from Shanghai University and experience helping to establish Chinese operations for industrial sensing and photonics technology companies including Hesmor (Aachen, Germany) and Labsphere (Sutton, N.H., USA). Labsphere and Ocean Optics are both part of Halma plc, a global group of life-saving technology companies.
Q: Tell us a little about your background. How much experience do you have in finance?
LB: I’ve been working with multinational companies for over 15 years in the finance area, most of the time as part of technology companies. I’m extremely fond of business analysis and planning; this kind of work excites me. It’s been five years since I started to work in the Ocean Optics family, and it’s been a wonderful journey growing up with the company.
Q: What do you like most about working with Ocean Optics?
LB: What I like most is the teamwork, openness and multi-cultural nature of Ocean Optics. We’re very supportive of each other. It’s cheerful to work with the team to create consistent business growth in China. I really enjoy the moments of success.
Q: Why is the role of the finance manager important?
LB: Finance is the base of a company. No doubt, finance people should be involved in every aspect of business performance. Not only should staff have financial knowledge and understand procedures, but they also should go the extra mile to support business growth. They should know our products, markets, sales channels, industry segments and our applications. There is a learning curve at the beginning, but that knowledge eventually benefits the team and customers to better understand our business scope and control each process in a reasonable way.
Q: How else does the finance team contribute?
LB: Cash flow is our lifeblood, especially in China. We never sacrifice any payment condition to win customers or orders. A common joke around here is, never start a project if you cannot collect the money, even if the project could be building the next Great Wall of China.
Q: What else is important about doing business in China?
LB: People in China want more discounts and lower prices when doing business, that’s been the culture for years. Sometimes, the customers don’t appreciate the value of good service and after-sale support. They can’t discover these benefits until having a business relationship with Ocean Optics. But that’s how we educate our customers and the market in the first place.
Q: What have you learned about science and technology since coming to Ocean Optics? Any surprises?
LB: The spectroscopy technology of Ocean Optics is amazing to me. This technology can be used in many areas and applications, such as food analysis and drug detection. Plus, there’s exciting work in aviation and space applications. These kinds of efforts are what I believe will drive human civilization forward.
Q: If one of your colleagues from the U.S. or Europe were visiting Shanghai for business for the first time, what approach should they take?
LB: It is best to visit customers first. Knowing about the requirements of our customers and finding new opportunities are most important, which can bring more developments for Ocean Optics. Visiting customers is like planting a seed. By introducing our optical measurement and spectroscopy solutions worldwide, that seed will grow and soon the flowers will bloom. Everyone can benefit.