Well about 12 years ago, Avela Corporation (www.avela.com) was a “boutique advertising agency”. We had a small but loyal list of clients. Avela designed annual reports, brochures, corporate identities and radio and billboard advertising campaigns.
One day I set an appointment with a business consultant/coach to see what he might have to offer as the business was stagnant. The thing I remember the most was a loaded question he asked me. “How many years of experience does your business have?” I proudly answered “12 years! His response was: “Did you ever stop to think that maybe it was 1 year of experience, 12 times? I hated that! I really hated that! Was it true? How many more brochures or annual reports or billboards did I need to design? Was this really what I wanted to do with my life, my company? I realized then, that I was more interested in business than design.
A couple of years later I joined the executive leadership group Vistage, (http://www.vistage.com/) known as TEC back in 2001. (Never did hire that coach.) We were looking for ways to bolster our value proposition and get more clients. My then TEC/Vistage chair Bill Peery was planning a trade mission to China. He said “you should go!” My reply was, why would I want to go to China? I am not going to be selling design to the Chinese. Bill said “I don’t know, but you should go!” Well, I did go. That was back in September of 2001. My life changed forever.
I was blown away. I thought I beamed down to another planet. China was so new, so big, so busy, so exotic, so much positive energy. What a place, what a culture, what people, what food! And it seamed like they made everything. I had never felt like this before. I liked this feeling. It was intoxicating. And like a flash, I had a vision of converting Avela Corporation from advertising to sourcing products and services in China.
One of my main contention about advertising campaigns was that they represented change. I was a change agent for my clients. I learned a long time ago that in order enact change, you power change down from the top. So I always worked with CEO’s and key executives. I was privy to all the issues these key executives were having within their companies; with supply chains, materials, distributors, manufacturers and more. And I thought; ‘Boy, I could source products and services in China and solve existing client issues.’ ‘I could change my company’s direction 180 degrees in a week.’
Well it took months, a lot of guts, some might say vision, but I did just that. Our first job in China was for $240,000 and I never looked back. We have been successfully sourcing products and services in China since the spring of 2002. And the good news is, that the words of that consultant/coach no longer haunt me. I found what I was suppose to do. I am leaving for my 33rd trip to China in mid March and I am as excited about this trip as I was on my first.