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!)
I promise this is not just my “sour grapes” in reaction to not making it to South By Southwest this year. Ok maybe a little bit.
Listening to the PR engines wind up and prepare for takeoff as the annual South by Southwest festival gets underway, I started thinking about some of new applications that I have seen launch at the conference and have a fantastic first showing only to peter out in the weeks and years after the festival. A recent question and subsequent post by my good friend Mitch Wagner got me thinking about mobile payments and where we are going to see the tipping from small trials (like this one being planned for, where else, Austin) to full adoption by the general public.
These days there is a great deal of debate raging around the topic of manufacturing, with many former and aspiring manufacturing centers looking to attract factory investment from the worlds multinational corporations.
At this very moment I am in a hotel in Bangkok, which is seemingly the only place in town where one can escape the barrage of stakeholders extolling the advantages of opening a factory in Thailand. Their reasoning is not unfounded, and it does not take much looking around to see the fertile ground where upon the next global manufacturing powerhouse may arise.
In the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we witness our protagonist, Eddie Valiant, order a “scotch on the rocks” from a cartoon waiter and we laugh when the waiter returns with a glass that contains scotch and, literally, rocks.
This humorous aside illustrates a very important lesson about conducting business in foreign lands: The context of the conversation matters just as much as, if not more than, the subject matter.
That’s usually the first piece of advice that I give to would-be expatriates, and it is one that I, throughout my career, continue to keep in the forefront of my mind. I’ve become good at reciting PO box addresses as if they were my home address, at answering calls from my bank at 1AM because I’m unable to explain that yes I still have my same california number but it’s a skype number and I’m on the other side of the world, and at saying good morning to colleagues on a conference call when for you it’s late a night. Through it all, expats will find themselves bowing to the immovable force of a world built to think and act locally, despite the catchy slogans on posters at our corporate headquarters.
I’ve found that there is a clear distinction between the mindset of a manager and the mindset of another group that, for lack of a better term, I call the “doers”. The difference in mindset is most apparent when things go wrong. On the one hand, you have the doers. When problems arise, this group is the first to grab their laptops, soldering irons, and toolboxes, and jump right in to sort out the issues. The managers, on the other hand, must take a different approach. Read more
I still remember my first international fixture sourcing trip. Way back in 2005, I traveled with the founder of my previous employer (a fixture manufacturer) to China to explore our asian sourcing options. I remember it well because it left an impression on me that I will never forget. In a few weeks of being on the ground, and visiting suppliers, I left knowing that we had seen the future; this is where manufacturing was gravitating now, and it was only going to accelerate in the future. I also remember how “in over my head” I felt when trying to conduct business in a place where I knew almost nothing of the language, culture, or expectations. Read more