Last year I was invited to speak to a group of business students at a university outside of Shanghai. After a brief presentation about the work that I do in China, the class took turns asking me questions about business and entrepreneurship in general.
One of the students approached the microphone and asked “you’ve done a lot and accomplished a lot, what advice would you have for someone that also aspires to accomplish great things?”
Back when I was the General Manager for our Asia operations at Lynx Innovation (I’ve since returned to the USA and now spend only half of my time in China), I challenged our executive team to come up with a mission statement. I told them to talk amongst themselves for a week and come back with what they thought was a statement that reflected our values as a company. At our next meeting I asked them what they came up with, and they proudly proclaimed “Impossible is Nothing!” It was a proud moment for me, reinforcing our success in attracting a team that embodied the right cultural orientation. You’ve heard me say it before but truly nothing is more important than choosing employees that embody the culture of your organization; almost anything else can be taught.
It was this mission statement that lead to the slogan I’ve attached to our China business years later. When discussing China, especially with newcomers, I often explain that in China, anything is possible but nothing is easy.
A continuation and refinement of the ideas presented in last week’s spellbinding, food-based perspective on outsourced manufacturing. What I want to talk about today is the different perspectives that exist between fast-food and fine-dining restaurants and how these perspectives inform our techniques in managing a global manufacturing footprint. And hamburgers; I always seem to work those into my story.
I recently heard an example used to explain the complexities of outsourced manufacturing that has resonated members of our team that spend a great deal of their time in China.
We sometimes take for granted that our years of experience in this industry give us insight in the right and wrong ways to undertake so many of the tasks related to the manufacture of our products (or as we often say, we always know which end is up). Our outsourcing partners, on the other hand, lack the advantage of this contextual knowledge, and we pay the price in issues as small as upside-down stickers and as large as whole mis-manufactured runs of product.
Recently I’ve been sharing an article that I wrote for Quora some time ago, about the challenges of sourcing and manufacturing in China, especially for a start-up firm or those not buying items by the millions. The original question was, “Why are Chinese products of such low quality? If apple can make the iPhone in China, why do we still struggle?”
Ask almost any company founder or senior executive today about their greatest challenge and the odds are good that they will tell you that managing people is the task that occupies the most of their time, be it at the office or thinking about it over sleepless nights.
We’ve recently started repeating a new mantra in our meetings that will hopefully become cemented into our organizational culture and that is this:
In order to succeed, we need hire and develop adults.
The Chinese New Year holiday is almost upon us, which means that millions of Chinese migrant laborers will be heading home to see their families and companies manufacturing in China will be leaning on their suppliers to ship as much as possible before the Chinese New Year shutdown.
Our clients often have a lot of questions about how to best prepare for the Chinese New Year holidays. Admittedly for newcomers to China, working around the Chinese New Year holiday can be quite daunting. Although the actual holiday itself is merely three days long, the Chinese government moves adjacent weekend days into working days, creating a contiguous seven day holiday.
Living in Asia and spending most of my time on the mainland of China leaves me missing so many of things that we take for granted in other areas of the world. Western food is, of course, one of those things that is just hard to find outside of large cities. A few weeks ago, I found myself criss-crossing Shanghai with several colleagues, looking for a sample of a hard to find electronic component. After a few fruitless hours of searching the various markets, I suggested to everyone that we take a break for lunch; this request for a lunch break happened to occur while in close proximity to one of the better hamburger spots in Shanghai, Kabb Grill. (It’s no Hodad’s Hamburger, our favorite from back home in San Diego, but hey you take what you can get around here!)