A Success Story Paradigm for Global Sourcing
(Author’s Note: The following is a chapter excerpt from my upcoming book, “Travels With Mikey- Global Life of a Business Foodie,” which I am currently working on. The book will be a memoir of my experiences working, living and eating in more than 30 countries around the globe. I may serialize some chapters from time to time. Follow this blog and my LinkedIn page for more news!)
“Lovely” is the only way to describe my experience in Thailand; the people are lovely- always smiling and without an agenda; The country is lovely- can get a little hot but the tropical beauty is as good as anywhere; the food is lovely- always fresh, spicy or not, with clear and clean flavors; the golf is lovely- Thai people love them some golf.
The word “ka” depicts Thailand as well as anything else. Hello= Sawasdee Ka; Thank You= Kapkoon Ka. Ostensibly “Ka” means you, but it is in the affectionate sense- Ka, you are a person worthy of my friendship/love/respect. Combined with the hands together and the humble upward glancing eyes, if it doesn’t melt your heart, you don’t have one. (Technically, “ka” is said by a woman and “krab” or “krap” by a man- same point)
As a businessperson, you should always be aware of who you are dealing with. To be successful, you should be good at making character judgements just as effectively as technical ones. In Thailand, while you never can totally let your radar go down, you can totally feel comfortable with the honesty and sincerity of the people you are dealing with.
Why is that? My conclusion is that their devotion to Buddhism is behind it. They take the precepts of Buddha and their responsibilities as people very seriously. It guides their life and their actions. You can say that you are a Buddhist, or Christian, or whatever, but do you act in the way that your chosen belief system guides you? We all can agree- not always.
One characteristic I would strongly ascribe to the Thai people is tolerance. Which is at least one reason that Thailand is such a study in contrasts. In Bangkok, for example, you have lovely temples, palaces, and the beautiful Chao Priya River. But you also have Patpong, where you can buy illegal copies of just about anything; can see live sex acts being performed; women doing things with their vital organs that you didn’t imagine could be done; beautiful young ladies who believe it is honorable to have sex for money because it will feed their family; bars with every stripe of activities and workers who look like beautiful women- but aren’t.
The people are hardworking and are eager to please you- not only because you can bestow more business and money on them, but because they take pride in doing so. No extra effort is too much. The manager of the office whom I worked with was named Songdej. Great friend, great manager, always calm and smiling. When he did something above and beyond the call and I thanked him, he would always say just, “It’s my job.” I am sure that he sincerely believed that.
When I first started there making underwear for Joe Boxer, there were many choices of factories. The one I chose in the end was a storefront one named Nava Arporn. Why choose a storefront for an important product with a finicky and often-changing company? Because Songdej asserted that Chaisit was his friend and would work very hard to achieve every goal that I set. Chaisit was an unassuming little man, but obviously very smart and driven.
A very few years later, our business together had increased many fold, and so had my trust. But here’s the best part: because of the business we did together that I brought, Nava’s street had gone from a storefront on a deserted street to a little, thriving, happy community with shops, residences and lots of economic activity. Songdej clearly made the point by saying, “You see this? You built this?” I could not have been prouder, and I still am.
But here’s the best part, for me: The experience broadened the scope in my mind of what I was doing. Sourcing product is not an impersonal act of dollars for product. It is a living thing, upon which people, their families and children depend for sustenance or survival. We are giving orders to PEOPLE. In today’s world, where buyers heartlessly cancel orders that have already been made, that someone should take these people to the homes of the people affected by their callous and greedy actions. See how they live, eat and try to survive. Or maybe walk a mile in their shoes for a little while….
Oh, and...Good people, Good business- on both sides.