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Where Am I?

One of the hardest things about coming back from as active of a trip as the one I had to China is readjusting to where I am. This past Saturday, I awoke from a nap during a thunderstorm and proclaimed “This damn Hong Kong weather sucks!”. The last 3 days on the trip were in Hong Kong and it would be sunny one minute and pouring down rain the next.
The next night, Tammy woke me as she came to bed and told me about some problem with a light or something. I told her I’d fix it when I got home – she wondered exactly where I thought I was since I was laying in my own bed in my own home.
Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one with that psychosis. A few people I ran into last night from my group experienced the same thing. Insanity is definitely safer in numbers!
So now, I’m back in Atlanta. We visited the following cities:
Tokyo (flight was diverted there and we spent 1 night unplanned)
Beijing
Chongqing
Yangtze River Cruise: Shibaozhai, Wushan, Yichang
Shanghai
Hong Kong
I’m still working on getting pictures up! Hopefully this weekend.

The Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square

Our trip to China was wonderfully balanced between business and culture. Here is our group in Tiananmen Square with our backs to the Forbidden City. (Note: Still working on photoshopping the files to cut the file size down and get rid of the pesky distorition…)
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The size of the square is gigantic. It is said that 1 million Chinese could easily fit in the square. Other estimates say that you could have every event of the olympics going on in the square at the same time. I’m not so sure about that (I guess the marathon could run laps around it), but it is certainly enormous. Here is a picture from roughly the half-way point in front of Mao Tse-Dong’s memorial.
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Speaking of Mao – he’s embalmed and lying in state inside of this building. Word is that if you want to go in for a viewing, expect to stand in line for half of a day. Wow. Maybe on my 5th or 6th trip to Beijing, but there is just so many other things to see and do that 1/2 day ain’t happening! The queue line wraps all the way around the building and then wraps back and forth several times at the entrance. This picture of the line and building was taken around 9:30am and you see how many people are already there!
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Through With Best Buy

I went to Best Buy today to pick up a wireless card for my desktop computer. I’m pretty sure this is the last time I will ever walk into a Best Buy store. If you’re having issues with Best Buy and looking for some solidarity, check out BestBuySux.org.
The employees I ran into on the floor were generally helpful. One gentleman assisted me in determining the keyboard/mouse -> USB cable I needed (they were out of stock) and another actually offered me a shopping bag to put my crap in (I declined since I didn’t want to purchase more than I could carry on my own). That is where the helpfulness stopped. First, the cashier proceeds to tell me that I am eligible for some free magazines they are offering today. They’ve been offering these same magazines for several months (I was in back in March). I declined. But now I’m waiting to see if he sent my name in anyway as many people have complained over on the aforementioned bestbuysux.org website.
He then proceeded to add on a “Best Buy Rewards” card to my bill. What the hell is this? A rewards program that I have to pay for? No. Take that crap off my bill. He was shocked that I wouldn’t want the $5 reward certificate that I earned shopping that day. Let’s do the math – a $5 certificate in exchange for a $10 cash outlay in a store that I visit maybe twice a year? No, thanks. Why is Best Buy doing this? First the magazines and then the crazy rewards program? It’s bad enough they slow down the checkout process with those phoney-baloney extended warranties – don’t make matters worse by peddling magazines under the guise of being free but that are not free and then insulting me by making me pay to be a part of your rewards program.
So, to all the competitors of Best Buy – I am in the market for a new place to by my electronics, music, and dvds. I’m looking to upgrade our stereo system some time in the next 12 months, and I buy some hardware upgrades once or twice a year on average. If you’re looking for a low-maintenace customer who will spend $500-$1000 a year across 3 visits, I am your guy.

Back From China – Not a Moment Too Soon!

I arrived home from my 2 week stint in China last night. Our group traveled on Northwest Airlines and was aware when we departed on August 6th that there may be a strike by the mechanics union on August 20th. We were scheduled to return on August 19th and fortunately, everything worked out so we were home 5 hours before the mechanics walked out.
Over the next several weeks, I will be posting entries and pictures about my trip to China. It was part of a study abroad program at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business focusing on transition economies. This year was China, next year is Russia, and the year after South Africa. Then the program loops back around.
I have always been fascinated with the history and culture of Asia and China in particular. When this opportunity arose to study China as an emerging economy as part of my MBA curriculum, I jumped at it. There are many good stories in China and many emerging business opportunities as well. We made a total of 9 company visits in Beijing, Chongqing, Shaghai and Hong Kong. I have many pages of notes from these visits that I will assimilate and post. In between, we visited culturally significant places – the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Summer Palace, cruised the Yangtze, visited the Temple of the Jade Buddha and ascended Victoria’s Peak, among many other jaunts.
Back to today’s thought about being home. It’s interesting that the mechanics went on strike. In several of our meetings, I inquired about the presence and role of labor unions in China. In the cases where they existed, they were not active in the respect that unions in the United States are. They are there generally for two purposes – 1) To ensure that the regulations imposed by the state are being enacted, and 2) To maintain harmony between employees and management. Collective bargaining to the extent we see in the US does not yet take the same form in China. From talking to a few representatives, I got the same general response – employees realize that should they walk off the job, more people will suffer than just the company. Very true – and amazing. They don’t want their fellow employees in other positions to suffer, nor do they want the customers to suffer.
A few of us awaiting our flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta reflected on the Eastern Airlines pilot strike in the 80’s that put the company out of business. I don’t think Northwest will suffer a similar fate, but I wonder how much different things would be if they had a more Chinese attitude.

Your Personal Brand

I pointed you last week to David Lorenzo talking about personal branding. For those who did not take my advice then, you should listen to me now and believe me last week when I say check out these posts. He’s leading you through strategies and thoughts surrounding developing your personal brand. It’s just like the product marketing classes you took in college, only it’s not as boring and the product is YOU.

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