Have you ever felt the urge to just jump on a plane last minute and fly off into the sunset with no real purpose, but it just felt right? Having a 2 decade old travel bug and a business that relies on international suppliers meant we ALWAYS had an excuse to jet off to a factory, a trade show or exhibition or simply to see a new product being made.
Hmm, well, if I fly to Guangzhou to meet Mr Wu, I can stop off in Hong Kong and visit the lemongrass shop and maybe fly back via Kuala Lumpur as I heard that there's a funky fragrance in the Shangri-La and I have to smell it!
Yes, this has been the tale of the tape for years now, since my gold iPhone days where the cost of sending a gold iPhone from the UK to Singapore was more than flight, so naturally, I would be the delivery boy of a phone, to Singapore via Thailand.
For context Wallace & Co sources goods from all over the world, glassware from Poland, wicks from Germany, reed sticks from Thailand, brass oil burners from India, wax from England, even screen printing machines from China, so there is always a reason to visit your suppliers.
I find it very personable in a world of digital communication to sit and have tea, wine or a local delicacy with suppliers, who ultimately are everything to your business. From the first meeting dealing with orders, securing credit and locking in prices is much smoother if you have had a real face to face conversation.
We love to travel all things international at Wallace & Co, maybe too much so it's easy to see how one can spend a lot of time on the road or in the air ‘doing business’ and it's this I love about a physical product business.
Suppliers hold the keys to your success, not only do they provide you with goods and services but they know the industry, can offer insights into the market, competition, trends and they have seen it all before so forging a strong connection with your suppliers is in my opinion a key cornerstone of the business.
Too often we disregard manners and common courtesy with far off factories and tend to think suppliers will do anything and everything to win business but the reality of it is very different. Most likely they have been in business for years, have seen and heard it all before from excitable and ambitious startups and are really interviewing YOU subtly so my advice is to treat them like gold, place huge value in those connections and respect the relationship like a friendship as it will be your suppliers that dictate a large part of your success.
Alas, air travel has died down, Covid 19 has well and truly put the dampeners on the bonhomie of air travel and the carbon footprint yard sticks are finding their way to the front of our sustainability reports so we must adjust the way we tackle international business.
Zoom! How brilliant (or sad) is this tool, I can check a box design on my laptop, I can have long form conversations on a screen, I can do the majority of tasks from the comfort of my office, all majorly convenient and takes the angles out of a busy schedule but it still lacks the human element of building relationships so my template for the future is to still go and make the effort to batch meeting your people in one effective trip, face to face, put real emphasis on building long lasting connections, don’t focus too much on the details of business, ask about family, take gifts, show interest, and its that will sustain long term, leave the itty bitty nitty gritty details to emails later on.
What’s that? A Ylang Ylang farmer in Mauritius wants to meet? On zoom or in Le Morne? Hard isn’t it…..
Founder & CEO