Thursday, March 10, 2011

Development Breeds Opportunity

A Picture of Development:  Ugly at first but need to
take a few steps back to make forward strides.
(Folks it’s my great pleasure to introduce Mr. Shakiri Murrain.  Shakiri is an old friend of mine.  We both got our start in China with the same company.  Our first meeting was in 2007 and we maintained contact from then on.  Shakiri is well seasoned in international business and trade.  Starting in Nanjing, China, he built a strong China foundation (language, adapting, maneuvering in business) and carried on his language studies when he returned to the States from 2009 to 2010.  Thankfully in 2011, he’s joined the JLmade team and he makes us even stronger in manufacturing and servicing our brands in the promo and branded merchandise industries.  He is the “guest blogger” for this post.  Hoping he’ll write one once a week and even encouraging him to start his own blog. Without further ado...)

My background is in finance, so when I graduated from university in 2005 the normal expectation was to move to New York City and get a job on Wall Street.  So I did the equivalent in Atlanta, Georgia and became a financial planner.  Needless to say, within the next year and a half I would see first hand the lack of upside potential for Americans interested in advancing their careers and salaries as was possible in the late 90’s.  As a result, in November of 2006, I took a leap of faith and moved to the “Middle Kingdom” otherwise known as China.  

I must admit, upon arrival I was very skeptical about all the “China” buzz.  To me, it was yet another developing country where the people worked extremely hard but were basically the factory for the rest of the world.  I went directly into exporting basic goods & commodities to Spain.  Over the next year, I began to realize something I would describe as eerie at best.  The overseas orders began to get smaller in quantity, total amount & consistency.  Conversely, on the Chinese side, I began to see factories that did not want the small orders so they would pay little to no attention at all to frantic foreigners asking for quotes that they believed were supposed to be given yesterday (at times extremely unrealistic).  But the foreigner on the other end of the phone seldom realized that this quote/order was well below a standard amount for the factory to make a reasonable profit.  This was strange to me because just a year earlier when I arrived in China, the factories were hungry for any order and would work hard to make sure the customer was happy.  Now, unless the order was at least their (arbitrary) minimum order quantity, they would ask for the order to be sent elsewhere (further inland to a less developed factory in China, or Cambodia, Laos or even Vietnam). 

Where's the Organic Growth Coming From?
(shot from JLmade's office window)
So I endeavored to learn more.  What was happening to cause this global shift?  It seemed real in theory but heading towards the end of 2007 and into 2008 it resounded clearly in my mind that not only were the Chinese positioning themselves as the factory for the world, but they were learning from their experience and beginning to start their own brands and quenching some of their swiftly increasing internal demand.  I began seeing brands like Li Ning and Snow, that on a local level would compete with Nike and Budweiser.  Even though they were virtually unknown outside of China, there was enough existing demand within the economy to allow the brand to stabilize itself and in the process accelerate the wealth building process for the Chinese business community.  Now, you see these businesses/corporations popping up all over the place.  The idea of “If you build it, they will come…” is not necessarily so in China.  The idea is more “They are already here, so just build it….” Then I began to see Baidu (Chinese version of Google), Taobao (Chinese version of Ebay),  Youku (Chinese version of Youtube), and Sunning (Chinese electronic giant-rival of Best Buy).

This made me ask myself, in a developing country with so many unanswered questions and “problems” how are so many people prospering? And why does the opposite seem to be true in my own home country?  I had no idea what the answer to this question was, so I endeavored to research more and look closer at this global economic revolution.  Over the next few years, I talked to many people, studied business & economics through online and print media in China and I learned a lot.  But the main thing I learned was that with every solution, someone gets a little closer to economic success.  Whether it was water purification or creating Alibaba (a comprehensive online database of Chinese suppliers), by creating an answer to a “problem” the Chinese were simultaneously finding ways to bring themselves into the 21st century while enriching themselves by satisfying their own demand.  Organic growth. 

So I looked back at my home country, and other developed countries around the world, and I am still asking myself, where is the organic growth going to come from?

I am cautiously optimistic about the future of our developed countries.  Where are we headed? What is the power structure of the world going to look like in 20 years? 10 years? Was Thomas Friedman correct in his theory that the world truly is becoming flat?

I don’t know the answers, but my hunch is that if you see a problem, instead of complaining about it, create a solution, it may be your way to prosperity… 

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  1. I found the article, written by Shakiri, refreshing and uplifting. Look at where the creativity (or lack of) is headed in this country. Our young people must prepare themselves for the global world. This can only come from education and risk taking. I would like to see Shakiri on high school and college blogs to give the young people positive reading and encouragement.

    Georgia Powell-at&t

  2. Great to see you here, Georgia. Will definitely relay those comments over to Shakiri. Not so fast, though on Shakiri going over to other blogs...he needs to spend more time here :) Hope to see you again.

  3. I have worked with Shakiri and am glad to see him back in china although we do miss him in the states. I know his passion is in china and cannot wait to here the awesome stories. Best of luck to you shak!! Jason-state farm

  4. Thanks Jason, appreciate you stopping by the blog. Will definitely relay your news to Shak, it's great having him on the team and he and I are having a blast. Good to know you and hope to talk again soon.