What I really needed was some time out to recharge my very lacklustre batteries, so a few days off in the run up to Easter was a very welcome antidote to the trials of the last few weeks! Why is it that just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, a series of thunderbolts come along that turn everything upside down?
Anyway, enough of my complaining – I am usually pretty resilient, so no doubt we will make it through to the other side. In the meantime I have distracted myself with a little pilates, shopping and lunch with the girls, and an unexpected afternoon in the pub with old friends, followed by a mini road trip with my daughter, first to visit my brother and his family in Suffolk, and then on to stay with friends in Lincolnshire (during which I was subjected to my first, albeit minor, earthquake), all of which has been washed down with large quantities of Prosecco and red wine! I have also spent time improving my golf skills and in the process have discovered that whacking a hundred or so golf balls off the driving range is a great tension reliever – hopefully it will enable me to return to work tomorrow without verbally “whacking” any actual individuals!
Back to reality and we are well under way preparing for our next trip to the far east – some off to Hong Kong, but the majority of us this time concentrating on visiting suppliers and factories on the Indian sub continent. We are all firmly committed to maintaining the highest product quality standards and ethical practices, but we are also heavily focussed on developing new and interesting product, on ever shorter lead times, and at very competitive prices – it is always a challenge, even for the most experienced of us!
On this trip, however, we will have three “first timers” amongst our number – none of whom have been subjected to a visit of this nature before. You might think that this would make the whole procedure more complicated, and in many ways it does, but with good planning and the organisation of an effective itinerary, it should be manageable! Hopefully the experience of my many previous trips will minimise any mishaps, although there are, inevitably, always one or two unexpected events! Turning up in India with an invalid visa would be one not to be repeated; being involved in a minor car crash (always wear a seat belt!); turning up at a hotel to find that they do not have our booking; a slightly frightening unplanned visit to the dentist; the sometimes inevitable bad reaction to something you’ve eaten (always best to stick to the local cuisine!)……the list goes on! I always leave home in the mindset that however well you think you have planned it, it is best to be prepared for absolutely anything to happen!
I simply love to travel with these youngsters, first time or junior buyers, and on rare occasions, assistant buyers – they are the future of our business, and to see the impact that a trip of this nature has on their level of knowledge and capability. I love to watch their faces as they first set eyes on the cows wandering down the streets in India, or experience the raging and ridiculous traffic, the amazing food, the torturous heat (it will be up there around 35C!), but I also love to see how they develop a real understanding of the people we are dealing with, what makes them tick and the culture that they live and work in. For me, it is the development of these supplier relationships that are, not only one of the most enjoyable parts of the job, but also the key to becoming an effective and confident buyer.
I still manage to learn something new every time I head off on a buying trip, but for these guys it will be a truly inspirational experience – it fascinates me the way I can literally “see the penny drop” as their tour around a factory immediately makes everything clearer, the sudden understanding of seeing a production line in action, the reality of their decision making and the “critical path”; the actual vision of what 15,000 garments looks like and why phasing them back a few weeks might in fact be highly problematic! In the course of a 10 day trip, what they learn will enable them to be so much more effective in their current roles and set them up with the knowledge they really need to grow into successful careers.
I am, as always, really looking forward to it!