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Transcript: Bill Amelio, CEO of Lenovo

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Bill Amelio is a corporate pioneer. The man whose job it has been to manage the merger of an American icon with a mainland Chinese company. Amelio, formerly the head of Asia for PC giant Dell, joined Lenovo -- China's biggest PC maker -- last December. Not long after, the Chinese company had bought IBM's global PC operations. It was the first major acquisition by China of a U.S. operation. It instantly created the world's third-biggest PC vendor, behind Dell and Hewlett Packard. Andrew Stevens talked with Amelio in Hong Kong about the challenge of meshing two completely different companies. The second-degree karate black belt explained what it all comes down to: Trust, respect and compromise.

Amelio: And we said you have got to trust your compatriot across the world, and you have got to be willing to compromise and if you are able to do that on a regular basis and respect who each person is and respect their intentions, we will be able to get a lot done in this company. So that was sort of our first year to be able to do that.

Stevens: You make it sound quite easy. Obviously, there have been many fraught times in this process. One thing that I read just conducting a meeting, the American side of the operation tends to get their point across quite aggressively, [with] Chinese it is not culturally done in that manner. So how do you get that cultural connection?

Amelio: Probably, as you pointed out they are less apt to give their opinions unless they are asked. So it is important, as an example, one of the team-building things we do is to make sure that we go around the room. We are practicing all of us that at the end of the meeting or in the middle of the meeting we go around the room and get people's opinions so it forces discussion on the table. The other thing that we are doing is that we are setting a culture where straight talk becomes an important part of who we are. Meaning, don't leave the room without leaving your opinion on the table. And, we are grading people accordingly. One of the things that is important to get the right culture in the business is also how you run meetings.

Stevens: This is the first big acquisition by a mainland Chinese company of a major U.S. operation or icon. I think it is fair to say that the integration of this is being watched very closely right around the world. Are you feeling the pressure?

Amelio: No. What I will tell you is this. I think we are behaving more like a global company. Think about it for a minute. Our board is made up of five U.S. nationals and we have three from Hong Kong and four from the PRC (People's Republic of China) so it is truly a global board. The chairman is Chinese, the CEO is American and if you look at any individual country it is being run by the locals in that country. So it is an amazing collection of talented people but truly global in nature. We have global customers and global employees and a global board.

Stevens: How important do you think it has been for you and for any executive who is going to be in your position of operating an international firm in China or with the Chinese to have an Asian experience? You had five years in Singapore.

Amelio: You know if you had asked me that before I lived abroad I would have told you that I don't think it is that important, but after living abroad I definitely walked away with new skills that I didn't have before living in Asia. I work hard at listening a lot better. I tend to be somewhat impatient at times and it is much better to be patient and sometimes directness -- while I think as I told you that a value we have is straight talk -- sometimes you have to kind of let things seep in for a while.

You cannot immediately be confrontational. It is more important to say here is a behavior you may not like or here is a performance metric you may not like state it and then back off and let it absorb for a while and it is surprising then how the right answer comes later. Whereas, if you try and force the issue immediately sometimes you will get the opposite result.

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Bill Amelio: "Don't leave the room without leaving your opinion on the table."

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