I had an odd thought develop on my way from Shanghai to Guangzhou; comparing sourcing in China to one of my favorite film directors, Alfred Hitchcock.
I was traveling to a factory that I have worked with for four years, to inspect a new item that had never been produced before. I have a very comfortable and easy relationship with this factory but, since I only know a handful of Mandarin, I usually take a staff member with me. But everyone at the office was busy so I took a Shanghai college student along to translate.
Alfred is 20 years old and a college junior, studying finance. If he were ever to go to the US, he would want to feel what it is like on the trading floor at the NYSE.
Anyway, Alfred and I got to talking on the plane about our schedules. He was missing two days of class to do this but he gets some class credit and has permission to run off with me to gain some practical experience. I worried about him taking time off but he assured me that the classes would go on without him and he was prepared to make up the time over the weekend.
Well when I started talking about my schedule and what would happen if it were interrupt, what the consequences would be, and the fact that Alfred shared the same first name with Hitchcock, I remembered a notorious (no film pun intended) quote Hitchcock made when asked about directing actors. He intimated that the real film making was in the pre and post production. The filming part was just actors hitting their marks and saying their lines.
Shanghai Alfred was hitting his marks and saying his lines in college for now, but I am confident he will make a real impact some day as he is a VERY bright guy.
But for those of us who wake up each day and have to invent our futures, we are more like Hitch, working in pre and post production. Especially as it pertains to our role of sourcing products and services in China. That is where all the work is. Pre production or finding the right fit in China for our clients. Post production would be the quality control aspects after the deal is made. And the deal itself, ... well that is hitting your mark and saying your lines.
I can't help but extend this idea to clients past, present, and future. The ones who found and will find great success in China are like Hitch. Working out the details in pre and post productions. The ones who were enthusiastic but fizzled out and failed in China, well... they were just actors.