ASIAN BUSINESS TRIP
^^**Is holding one's waiste a cultural thing?**^^
I recently had the opportunity to travel across Asia for my job and thought it pertinent to share a bit about my experience. Growing up in Saranac Lake, NY (6,000 people) I never believed I would have a chance to see Asia; let alone through a job which required me to sell figure blades. I'm grateful for the chance and tried my best to document the experience!
Japan: Incredible topography. It is more mountainous than I expected and I was mesmerised with how humble and kind the people are. When complementing a high-level coach on the talent she had developed within her skating school she quickly thanked me but instead gave credit to another rival camp who had developed their skaters in a similar manner.
The food is inconceivably delicious! They prefer much of their food raw, or slightly cooked and the shabu shabu meal was by far my favourite experience. I ate eel for the first time which tasted much better than I would have expected. When comparing American style cuisine to Japanese, we might be able to learn a thing or two about healthier culinary alternatives and methodology.
Itchy knee also means “one, two” and does not indicate your taxi driver has itchy knees.
Korea: Korea doesn’t feel as established as Japan. I stayed in Seoul and was transported around in a bus that our customer had converted into a mobile dressing room for skating events. He owned four large busses and one of which was converted into a mobile retail shop where he sells boots, blades, dresses, etc. Truly a remarkable business model! The food wasn’t as delicious as it was in Japan, but much nicer than Chinese food! More on that later… Our client confirmed that some older Korean men do in-fact eat dogs. They are bred similarly to cows and pigs—purely for human consumption. I also got to meet a 12 year-old girl who is training a quadruple salchow! She is the reigning South Korean champion and already has her own management/agent. While figure skating has seen many young “superstars” burn out over time, I’m hopeful Ms. You Young maintains the path she’s on and can continue to find joy in skating even with all the escalating pressure.
China: Every time I say it, I can’t help but think about Donald Trump and his unsullied pronunciation of the exploding country. I spent all of my time in and around Beijing, watching the Cup of China and interacting with clients who also flew in for the event. Like a buffoon, I ordered Chinese chicken feet for dinner one night, which I assumed was a cute way of referring to what I know as chicken tenders. No—we were actually served several fried chicken feet. The Chinese also have an infatuation with leaving the bone in on every meat dish. I’m not the world’s best chop-stick user, so I easily became frustrated with this. Eating pigeon is very common.
The most jarring experience in China is the prevalence of smog. I joked about it before I left but it’s actually quite horrifying. The pollution was so thick, it made it impossible to see beyond 100 yards and on one day, it was so abundant the government advised the people not to venture outside. Growing up in the Adirondacks, and living in England, we don’t have this problem. For this reason alone I would advise every one visit Beijing purely to witness this, or at the very least educate themselves on this sad reality.
Lastly, I would recommend not getting a haircut in China; especially when the barber cannot speak English. I’m not sure why I agreed to go forward with this; maybe so I could write about it later? I tried to mime the style I was after and thought we understood eachother…After he shaved off the side of my head he asked “it okay?” No, it was not okay—much shorter than I anticipated. I just smiled and said it was perfect; it'll grow back eventually!
Hong Kong: Hong Kong is littered with condominiums—single family detached houses don’t exist! It’s a huge financial port with access to all of Asia. Since the import taxes are lower than China, many Chinese business people import to Hong Kong instead. Most of the skating rinks in Hong Kong are inside shopping plazas, as this is becoming a popular trend in the Far East. Most families have one or two children and invest heavily in their activity of choice (piano lessons, skating, gymnastics, etc). The food here was better, though still heavily influenced by the Chinese. I finally traded my chop sticks for fingers after my host encouraged me to do so.
Taiwan: Taipei seemed the least developed of all the cities I witnessed in Asia. Lots of run-down buildings with rust-ridden siding. While there are certainly areas of great wealth, it feels as if much of the city is heavily focused on manufacturing. It’s not uncommon to find small textile shops amongst a skate shop, next to a restaurant and an apartment. In fact, directly opposed to the retail store of our Taiwanese importer was a stand-alone sock store with many varieties to choose from; socks only!
Skating is growing in Taiwan and I was fortunate enough to meet several coaches. It appears this is a profitable enterprise and I was able to make a few new friends along the way--you know it's official when you're friends on Facebook.
Social Media: Instagram/Twitter is not popular. Whatsapp, Wechat, Line and Snow. These are some of the main platforms young people are using.
I included a clip of Gary Vaynerchuk at the end of the vlog (below) because he’s a big inspiration for me. His unrelenting positivity, self-belief, determination and ambitious nature to legitimately care embody the type of leader I wish to become. In past vlogs, Gary himself has pondered why so many American and European businesses ignore the Far East markets. While the company I’m employed by has done business with many of these countries for over 30 years, in most cases, I was the first person from the company they had ever seen. My mentors have always stressed the importance of building relationships as a means to create further trust and understanding since the basis of any good business is someone with a problem and someone with a solution. Having a better relationship in-place with the clientele allows for improved communication and honesty when it comes to addressing their problems. So while I have left Asia and feel more secure in these relationships, the job has only just begun. Follow up and follow-through is where the real work begins. As Gary V says, the best marketing and sales strategy is to simply care.