Clickstop owns and operates several different brands, our biggest being US Cargo Control. The majority of our employees work under the USCC brand, doing a variety of work. From talking with customers and making sales, to picking and packing orders, we employ some incredibly talented people to make it happen. Two of those people are Leslie and Allen from the purchasing department.
Our purchasing department… well, they purchase! They are the ladies and gents behind the scenes sourcing products, filling our warehouse, and helping us find great quality items at good prices. The team works closely with all teams in the company and help keep us efficient and nimble.
Recently, two of the Purchasing employees made a trip to China to visit a few of our vendors. Leslie Lowdermilk, our senior buyer who has been here for over 6 years, and Allen DeHeck, our Customs Compliance Manager and Procurement Specialist, who has been here 8 years. (Whew! Someone is going to have to talk to Allen about shortening up that title!) Allen and Leslie were representing Clickstop while they were in China for 11 days, touring many factories and experiencing the culture.
So, we had to find out the details of this trip from Leslie and Allen. Check out what they had to say!
First of all, Why go to China? What was the purpose of this trip?
“For me, this trip had several purposes. We are wanting to improve the quality of our moving blankets. Our vendors have purchased new equipment and we wanted to see it in action. This investment by our vendors should allow us to see more consistency in product size and weight as well as better and tighter stitching patterns. We also wanted to broaden our rigging supply chain. As we invest more in this category, we need additional suppliers to get the best price and quality. Meeting new vendors and seeing their capabilities allow us more options to meet our customer’s demands. The final big initiative of this trip was to work with our tarp supplier to better understand material production as well as tarp fabrication. As we move deeper into this category, product and fabric knowledge will be key!” – Leslie
“We wanted to strengthen relationships with existing suppliers and meet with a couple of new ones. As a company we want to make sure we have quality partnerships from our suppliers, and an easy way to understand who someone really is and what kind of company they run, is to see it in person.” – Allen
So tell us why it is important for USCC to visit our vendors overseas?
“This is my third trip to China so we obviously value this as a company. We go to China to meet our vendors in person. This validates us as a customer to them and reassures us of their validity as well. We want to build strong relationships and meeting in person is the best way to do that. We also take every opportunity to meed our vendors in the US. In addition, we like to see how our products are made and the capabilities of our vendors that we might not be fully utilizing. What better way to learn this than to visit their factories!” -Leslie
“By sending individuals overseas, it is an investment Clickstop/USCC makes in our supply chain to show we are committed to buying a quality product and at a good price. Getting to see our suppliers in person helps to develop a relationship that just can’t be done through email. It’s a personal relationship that can be developed, but more so we give USCC a face and a personality, and hopefully a reason to want to do business with us.” – Allen
What was the biggest culture shock moment on the trip?
“There are many culture shocks when visiting China so I can’t name just one. They drive FAST, eat ODD things, and don’t have terrific septic systems so bathrooms and plumbing can be a challenge. But, the best part is that they are the most hospitable people you will ever meet and they try to make you as comfortable as they can. In fact, they will prepare your frog any way you like!” – Leslie
“I think the general language barrier that you experience everywhere was my biggest culture shock. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, but being the only American in another country is an interesting feeling.” – Allen
What was the most exciting part of the trip?
“The most exciting part of the trip for me always involves seeing the sights and experiencing the BIG cities. To put this in perspective, Shanghai has almost 25 million people and New York City has less than 8.5 million people. On this trip, we visited the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and Forbidden City. We also visited a jade factory and was able to spend an afternoon in Shanghai at the Underground Market (where I was able to keep Allen from getting arrested for buying Ray Bans).” – Leslie
“It is hard to say one thing I was most excited for. I was excited to just be immersed in a different culture and see places I wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to see as a regular tourist. It was neat to see all the different factories we work with and understand geographically where the companies are we are dealing with. The most exciting non-work thing definitely was climbing the Great Wall.” – Allen
What was the most challenging part?
“The most challenging part of the trip is the language as Chinese seems to be so different from any other language. An educated Chinese person will only know about 8000 characters. The Oxford English Dictionary has over 170,000 words (not that we know all of them!). But, you can see how things get lost in translation as a symbol may have many English equivalent words.” – Leslie
“The most challenging part was knowing this was my first visit to China and Leslie’s third… I wanted Leslie’s advice and guidance, but I did NOT want Leslie to feel like she had to take care of me. Leslie is a great travel partner and we had a blast. It was all in my head after we were there for a couple of days, and I kind of forgot about it!” – Allen
Did you get to see any of the sights?
“We had one Sunday off in Shanghai and our last day in China off in Bejing. Shanghai has SOOOOO many people in the city and is a breath of fresh (not so fresh) air because of it being a big international city, rather than another city in China. There is a wide variety of food and a more diverse group of people in Shanghai compared to other parts of the country we were in. Beijing was great. We saw the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.” – Allen
What code behavior or core value did you find the most valuable during this trip?
“I think this trip requires me to be courageous. It is intimidating to go to a communist country and leave freedom, your family, and your comfortable home to travel for long periods of time where language and culture are very different. If you know me well, you know I like routine. There is no such thing as routine in China. It definitely takes me out of my comfort zone. AND – they don’t have Peter Pan Peanut Butter which just adds to the complexity!” – Leslie
“I would say it was a mix of Be Adventurous! Embrace and Drive Change and Expect Greatness in Yourself and Inspire it in Others. When you are in a foreign country, there isn’t much choice but to be adventurous! At the same time you are in a foreign country with someone else and you have to have full confidence in that other person to be alert and help keep them firing on all cylinders. It is somewhat of a marathon taking this trip so if you don’t have a good understanding of why you are there or the ability to keep a good attitude through the trip – it’s going to be tough.” – Allen
Tell me about the opportunity to go to China and what it meant to be able to go on an important trip for the company.
“It is unbelievable to me that Clickstop gives us the opportunity to grow and learn in that hands-on environment. They trust us to represent our company well and do the work at hand to propel our company in to the future of growth and success.” – Leslie
“It was a great opportunity for me and I feel very grateful I got the chance to travel overseas and support Clickstop in the way Leslie and I did. The opportunity was also awesome because I got to know Leslie even better. We have worked together for years now, but there’s something about spending 11 days together in China that really makes you get to know someone even more! I feel like we both understood the importance of our job over there and were both very proud to represent the company the way we did.” – Allen