The new head of the Professional and Trade group at my company is an Englishman who worked for a time in our Asian office. As such, GLOBAL is a word that gets bantered around a lot.
What does it mean to be truly global? Darned if I know. What I do know is that I am at the tail end of a visit to a part of the world I had only dreamed about visiting before.
Last week, I was in Penang Malaysia for our Asian Books Sales meeting. 100 of us gathered in a lovely resort by the sea to talk about books and accounts and marketing and how it all fits together when the rep goes in to sell product.
It was amazing in so many ways.
First, the flight over. We flew Singapore Airlines direct from Newark to Singapore, and then changed planes to get to Penang. Singapore flight 21 is one of the few flights I have ever seen that has it’s own Wikipedia entry. You would think it was absolute torture, but it’s way easier than the 2 hour flight from NYC to Indianapolis in those tuna cans they call regional jets. You have a large cabin crew at your service. Want a drink or a snack? You got it. Having trouble reclining your fully flat business class bed? They’re on it. Literally. Everything you need is taken care of. No one to ask me to get them milk, change a diaper, or kick around a soccer ball. Not that I don’t desperately miss those activities, but every once in a while, Mom needs a break.
The sales meeting was a lot of hard work but also really fun. I made a toast talking about how the Asian meeting was the best of all the Wiley sales meetings. Not just faint praise. After all, where else would you see a 100 person futsal tournament, one that unfortunately ended in several injuries – people take this stuff seriously! The sessions were great and the dinners even better.
Penang itself was remarkable. Totally unlike anything I had ever seen. Gorgeous, but not in a overdone way. And the food. THE FOOD. Never knew there were books JUST about the food in one city other than Paris, but apparently there are for Penang. Ate things I never thought I would, and now I find myself missing them.
Singapore too is remarkable. Words fail to describe it, but it would be if you took Luxembourg and put it on the equator. All nice, clean and lovely, with a lot of wealth. Shopping and eating are the two main activities here. I walked around much of the center city during my weekend, and I can honestly say I didn’t see a piece of litter anyhow.
But perhaps the most important part of any trip, and truly what it means to understand a global business is to meet the people who run it. The Wiley Asia folks are so genuinely kind, funny and easy to get along with. They speak English better than I do (as if *that* was an accomplishment). They work so hard and are so passionate about the product. It makes me proud to work for a company that has people like this who make it tick.
I head home on Thursday, but certainly hope I can find my way back here someday. Hopefully more of my Asian colleagues can come see me in the US too. It changes how you work with someone once you have met them face to face, learned about their likes and dislikes, and heard them speak with pride about their families. It makes you better at what you do, for sure.