the thank you cards are in the mail .
Saturday, March 29, 2008
the thank you cards are in the mail .
Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space
Friday, March 21, 2008
This post is a short excerpt from a letter drafted for the Management at Merrow.
After traveling for close to two full months i've learned a lot about our business.
On the train several days ago I met a lebanese businessman and his son. They were curious about Merrow and we talked easily about our challenges and theirs. After a time the fat one asked if we had considered partnering with a company in the textile business who needed distribution worldwide and brand credibility (we haven't).
He went on to clarify his point, that these are things that cost millions to develop and more valuably take years and years to do. Operating in a global environment is one of the most expensive and challenging elements of the modern business.
Most companies who are not global simply cannot afford to build or operate the sales structure that Merrow has.
He had correctly seized on two of Merrow's major assets. There are others. A list of six:
1. management (our team is talented & ambitious)
2. brand recognition (151 countries visited Merrow.com in the last year)
3. product design (high quality, diverse range)
4. customer base (our customer list reads like a whose who in textiles)
5. global distribution (trained distribution in every major market in the world)
6. history (170 years in business)
I could as easily list sixteen things that Merrow needs to work on. In fact I think we spend most of our time (as we should) focused on the areas needing improvement.
Which is why I took the time to write this. I encourage everyone to take a step back, enjoy the things we do well as a company.
Over the next two months we will explore on this blog some of the things that make Merrow unique. As much to echo what i've heard over the past two months as to introduce new ideas. Again, perspective is important and I think our customers, our company and our distributors will benefit in the process.
Monday, March 17, 2008
that is UHMEHRIH-CAN KAWFY
I don’t do this often but sitting next to a table of 7 americans ordering desert in a lovely little spot in florence at 10 odd PM is amusing and i pulled my laptop out.
Whereas the chinese tourist orders in a confused way, the uhmehrihcan orders as though the waiter is both retarded and deaf
I don't know.
Couple of suggestions:
1. sometimes ordering from a menu in a foreign language is difficult. If you don’t like a type of food, learn the word for this in the local language. Unfortunately if english isn’t spoken well at said restaurant, when you loudly and with much hand waving try telling the waiter that if he serves you nuts you’ll die, he may simply think you’re nuts and probably serve you pistachios.
2. Also, unless someone tells you otherwise, or your eating at the new cooking school for veterans of heavy artillery, the waiters don’t have a busted tympani, they speak EYETALYIN. You took the time to buy a ticket, pack and travel to a new place. Why insist that it is the olive garden?
A guilty footnote. I only speak english. And while a trained monkey would be more impressive speaking Italian than I, I’d like to think that the waiters don’t feel like circus animals themselves after I order. Then again I utilize a repertoire of six italian words like it was the OED (OID?). Maybe this is worse.
Who knows -- i’m actually looking around right now to see if anyone is writing a blog entry about the foolish american who is writing about americans.....
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The Italians, I maintain, are terrific people. Not the nicest, not the most outgoing.... but terrific.
I don’t like midwest nice. Never have. The Italians don’t suffer from the Indiana Accommodation Anxiety. IAA. Defined in degraded centers of learning as a relentless drive to please. This is not an Italian gene.
Now why bother with cheap psychology? Because I still can’t get online and I need to Explain this somehow.
I really think the Italians don’t care out of the generosity of their own culture. Italians have a lot more to do than check email. And if you’re here (which incidentally doesn’t really concern them either), then the internet isn’t what you should be looking at....
Or. And this is just as plausible. Ted Stevens was the consultant hired to develop their IT backbone:
It is much more entertaining to watch it set to music once you understand how absurd this is
Friday, March 14, 2008
My apologies then.
But I am not in a part of the world that believes in bandwidth. In fact in Como I walked 3 miles to find an internet access pt. (AND I had my laptop open for blocks at a clip trying to steal someone's wireless -- nada)
This blog has been long overdue a travelogue. Here she is:
I left Poland for Istanbul a week ago perhaps. At the airport I was picked up and we began immediately on a lightening tour of the major sites of the city. And it is a city which in large part feels like a chapter from my 6th grade social studies book. Everywhere I looked something recognizable. Between this and egypt combined with the frenetic pace of the tour (i’m here for business...not vacation) I try not to exaggerate when i say my head hurts.
It’s almost comic. How can you rush through the Hagia Sophia like your walking through your house after a maid has come to make sure it’s clean. Room A, check. Room B, check. Room C, hmm not quite sure, spend an extra ten seconds inspecting, ok check.....
I visited the santa sophia, the blue mosque, the byzantine cistern, the sultans palace, gallata tower, the old city, the fort (i forget embarrassingly what it was called), the hippodrome, roman aquaduct, various relics, and seveal more mosques. I inspected the ancient jewels and armour and cooking pots from the sultans. Their clothing is odd, the necks are maybe a size 13 (tiny) and the arms are two times the length of a persons (they looked just like they would have clothed john cleese in the monti python sketch when he has really long arms....)
What did I think of Istanbul? It’s western, modern. I enjoyed great restaurants and time on the bosporus by boat. Anyone comfortable in the west would be fine in Istanbul, it’s easy and safe.
I was disappointed. Like spicy food one of the things I enjoy about travel is the challenge. From the eyes of a tourist istanbul melts like warm butter. In part this was because of my host, in part it’s because Istanbul wants to be like Paris or London or San Francisco, and it’s well on its way.
I am writing from Como Italy. How exotic. This is one of the most beautiful places on earth. And it has been perhaps the most troubling part of this trip. The adventure here was amusing-- but the stay here has been exasperating.
I need internet access and electricity. Without this I am hamstrung. Italy is a lot of things but it ain’t a technology town. Unfortunately I had to stay at a charming hotel in the city, replete with all of the modern advances from 1960. If I didn’t have so much to do, the remote control with a chord attaching it to the TV would have had me in stitches. Without outlets even charging my computer was frustrating.... and as I mentioned no internet.
Today I have no obligations in the morning -- and by all rights I should be outside at least seeing this city --it’s 21c degrees and dazzling with snow capped mountains a great lake picture-book blue skies and substantial Roman walls and ruins. But after a late dinner last night and no access to power in the room overnight to charge the 30lb of electronics I travel with, It is necessary to sit where I am now jammed in a corner hoarding an outlet I’ve found at another hotel lobby in town. Anyone so much as walks to close to this outlet is in for it....
Between hunting for electricity and lightening tours of matchless historic sights, i’ve been eating.
Compared to Asia the food is, well, maybe not as interesting to write about. In Turkey I had some fish of the most extraordinary quality in places that were fit for a king. In fact at one restaurant I went to the mens room and ran into secret service standing uncomfortably close to the facilities with little white earbuds dangling from the left ear conspicuously down back of their necks. Two of them. In a very small bathroom. Standing too close. I’ve never liked the idea of secret service and their prying eyes but this was ridiculous.
Apparently the Romanian President was dignifying the commode with his royal bottom. Perhaps if important enough you should feel comfortable with two gorillas standing quietly in the bathroom waiting for you. Personally I felt bad for the guy.
The food was consistently delicate and sort of boring.
The most interesting was pink flat fish about the size of a trash-can lid covered in pimples looking like it had suffered a devastating case of small pox.
And then I got to Italy. Wine is sublime, prosciutto comes in 8 different varieties and you can actually get a digestif. Why Americans insist that brandy or sambuca is a digestif is beyond me. The place is gorgeous. The people are gorgeous. This is a magnificent country.
They eat better, dress better and swear better in Italy. What can I say.
So back to my outlet and quest for internet access. My precious little outlet that the italians have forsaken for food, clothing and colorful language.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
This is a sliver of what i saw in turkey
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
i leave for milan today
couple of quick thoughts on istanbul
1. the flag is spectacular. was on the bosporus by boat the other night and over the hagia sophia there was a 1/4 moon -- within the frame of the camera there was also a monster sized, hilltop perched and brightly lit up deep red turkish flag (which is a crescent & start).
2. could attaturk possibly be offered in more curious poses? Every picture of the man ever taken regardless of circumstance (he was standing in line at the post office...) is posted throughout this city -- they adore this man -- the most sincere adoration as well. His bust is everywhere, his head is everywhere, and these strange pictures of his every public move are 2X3 and 4X5 (feet) framed and hanging
3. the history of the city will make your head explode. a lightening tour of a museum could cause serious medical issues
4. traffic is horrible
5. the city is more modern than i imagined. it's like a european san francisco in places (and in others like sprawling LA apartment blocks
6. there is stagflation
7. we can do a lot of business here
8. i'm sorry to have to leave
Saturday, March 8, 2008
One of the differences between travel & working and the alternative (which would be work) is the subtle time shift. The workday becomes something unrecognizable.
For instance there is no defacto day-off. If one wants a break one must force it.
And the hours of operation are always odd. Some days, as I did yesterday, the traveling starts at 6AM and ends at 5:30PM. In between are three hours where I wrote 30 odd email. At the end (the 5:30 side) I met with our Turkish distributor and spent the next 6 hours with them at the office and then eating.
Once back I tried to spend time on the phone with the office wrapping the day up around midnight.
In turkey Saturday is not a day off (in the Arabic world it is Sunday that people work taking friday off) so my workday will follow the pattern of behaviour here with the grand exception that afterwards I'm sure i'll spend the evening eating and drinking our good friends and business partners. If one doesn't consider this work they haven't done it....
Perhaps this isn't an appropriate place to illustrate the type of schedule is kept while traveling. But on the other hand I'm not sure what works on this blog and what doesn't.
What is important to note is that as a result of the effort the improvement of our relationships to the distributors in Europe is marked.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Or there isn't a problem at all i guess if you don't care about what it costs. I do, and consequently researched phones and local rates before this trip.
My strategy: buy a SIM card in each country i visited. In this case egypt, poland, turkey and italy. I looked at the local rates etc. and set off to assimilate seamlessly into each locale by adopting a local number and benefiting cleverly from low costs.
The whole thing was/is a bad idea
Aside from my phone only working when i'm in the country with the SIM card (eg. not in any airport en route somewhere else), my number changing every 3 days, and the absurd prepay situation, THE ABSOLUTE WORST are the directions in Polish. Arghhh.... the hours i spent trying to figure out what Witamy Cie w swiecle SIMPLUS! DZIEKUJEMY ze dolaczyles do NAS. meant.
The mobile phone instructions are all in english, but the SIM card is all in polish. A friendly Pole wouldn't be able to make heads or tales of the phone and obviously I wasn't doing well with the polish.
To get voicemail i would push a 'messages' button. This was the last station for english all stops ahead were polish. I'd hear a menu, guess a number (though i was never sure if the announcement was offering a choice) listen to polish techno music and end up in another menu with a patient but cryptic sounding polish woman who may or may not be offering to play me voicemail messages. I'd offer a '3' and perhaps be rewarded with familiar sounding voice wondering why i wasn't returning my calls. More likely I wouldn't, so I apologize if you have called me and i've not called back.
How did end up here, without any distinctive advantage to my clever strategy?
I'm not sure. But please don't try calling me to discuss, my phone doesn't work in prague.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
a caveat for the literal, sleeping outside of the hotel, this is not advised. it is cold in warsaw in march.
but if you want a taxi, walk two blocks from the hotel at least, before ordering, or pay 2 times the price. If you want to eat walk 10 feet from the hotel and pay 50% less. walk 500 feet and pay 65% less. Should shopping or internet or laundry services require your attention run don’t walk from the hotel to save a nickel.
the hypocrites letter. how else am i going to do laundry. at 10:30 at night with 15degrees out side can I really walk the streets hunting for a taxi (in newyork sure, in warsaw it doesn't work). when breakfast is an 18 second elevator ride can I refuse. no of course not.
if the rule is always leave the hotel to eat (except for breakfast because hotel espresso is usually much better unless you’re lucky enough to be in italy...) then you Try to find other places to eat.
i don't write about hotels generally as it begs unwelcome judgement. tonight though i'm staying at the airport hotel okecie, and for the money i will happily recommend this place. it costs 1/3 less than the marriot and is just as nice.
A last thought. Ordering water with gas never gets old. Even at the hotel.
The splitting of handicapped and sex happens once inside after entering a small antechamber. Through this door is a second antechamber, small with sinks. Taking a hard 90 degree turn, invariably it's not straight on, through another door this time unmarked and you arrive at the desired place. Presumably you've chosen wisely and there aren't wildebeest or something else that surprises you there. Regardless of how hasty your retreat is prepare for the worst. Because when you decide to leave the chances are good, not great but good, that you will make a mistake on the way out and end up in the utility closet.
If asked 'how is the show' the standard reply would be 'shite, but we must be here and we had a good Presence this year don't you agree?' or 'it's good, good, the show is very good don't you agree?.'
In my opinion the show is neither. There are certainly some people buying things but it is an exhibitors show. Lot's of peacocks preening. And not enough oggling.
Was it worth the trip? Sure.
Despite this, the Poznan show may go the way of the dodo. I'm not sure how long a show like this can be justified for just the peacocks.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
This time it was a muck up with the transmission or something with the plane in egypt. So a delay. But the look on the woman's face in Prague when I asked that instead of waiting 24hrs. for the next flight to Berlin i take a plane to Warsaw (it’s the same distance).... i swear she took a long deep breath ‘did he really ask me THAT?’
A great bit of shuffling around to offices behind the Travel Adjustment Desk and I was sorted. But not before I was reduced to begging.
The kid rollerblading around the terminal with maintenance people chasing her has cheered me up.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
i’m at the airport, it’s monday morning 2AM -- i’ll be boarding a flight at 3AM to prague and then berlin. From Poland where I arrive tomorrow night i’ll post more.
Today was great for business. We met with 4 large egyptian and one syrian customer. Good business, good orders, and great fun.
...enjoy the pics of the pyramids. I'll spare everyone pictures of sewing machines and finishing plants ;)
It is the rule that whole factories close down overnight and reappear in more affordable places. And people in the industry are dulled to this, almost tired, tolerating decades of uncertainty.
Turks move to Egypt. Pakistan grows, India shrinks, Vietnam is booming, bangladesh not so much. Russia, lots of money. Estonia slow.
But the net is a ridiculously cosmopolitan group, our businesses depend on governments, economies, trends and culture. Talking with any of the manufactures is to speak of a myriad of countries and political situations. People have been--- everywhere.
We get on airplanes, land in strange cities and follow the business. It's really kind of wild, exciting, challenging.... and almost no one agrees with me.
Visiting Cairo is work -- it's 1AM. This is an exhausting day. But what a day it was...
Here are some pictures from the drive in, the show etc...