- Trade Fairs
- [Friday 10th - Tuesday 20th January 2008]
It has been a fortnight that I didn't update my blog, mostly because I have been extremely busy with several work related appointments. The first one was in Milan for the MACEF fair, and the second one in Paris for Maison & Object.
They are both housewares related fairs, and they mark the start of the business year for companies such as the one where I am working at the moment (we are one of the main producers of crystal goods in the world).
Both the appointments have been quite busy, probably Milan was better than Paris, but all in all they have been quite good. It was a long time since I didn't go to a trade show, the last one was more than two years ago when I was still working up north for the fashion industry.
The best part has been the nights out with the colleagues, the group that we have is simply great, we get on very well with each other and it's a great atmosphere to work in. After so many bad experiences in the past jobs finally I landed something "good" under the internal relationship point of view.
So here I am again, back to Florence, in two weeks I will be leaving for Frankfurt for yet another show and then probably to Asia for the first business trip of 2009...
Let's see how things develop!
Unfortunately the long trip prevented me from updating the Tales from the Lost PDA, I will resume that soon of course.
- A weekend in southern Tuscany
- [Saturday 3rd - Sunday 4th January 2009]
Originally we were meant to go to Amsterdam for a short break after New Year's Eve, but the sheer cost of the trip scared me off and we decided to head to a part of Tuscany that we never saw.
I know it's a bit of a cliché, but there is so much beauty around Florence that sometimes it's better to stick around rather than travelling away spending heap loads of money. Chiara was not much convinced at first, as she wanted to go to the Netherlands, but eventually she was convinced.
We set off early on Saturday and we planned to stop in Montalcino (the place where Brunello di Montalcino is made, one of the most famous wines in the world) to have a quick look around a some lunch. The city is nice, but there are far too many wine tasting "touristic rip off" places. Still it was interesting to stop and sample some of the vintages there.
Next stop was San Quirico d'Orcia, a very nice little city where we wanted to go to a church but it was closed because the time was around lunch and I guess that also God needs a rest sometimes... (yes I am being sarcastic...)
After S.Quirico we headed off to Pienza, a very famous village because they produce one of the best sheep's milk cheese around the country. A bit like Montalcino the wine tasting bars were replaced by cheese selling shops, but the city is well worth a visit, the buildings are really interesting (a pope born in Pienza during the middle ages, made the church spend a lot of money on his birthplace) and the village is rather nice.
Unfortunately the sun decided that had enough for the day and set quite early, so Montepulciano (probably the most interesting of the ones that we visited) was done in the dark, but we liked it nonetheless. A special mention goes to the bar where we had a marvellous hot chocolate, a great balm for a day where a bitterly cold wind had been blowing all day...
We then set off to Piazza, where we had our bed and breakfast room in a very nice place, Locanda Toscanini. It was quite late and we didn't know where to go to eat. Fortunately a great restaurant "Le Nane" was open and we had a splendid meal too! Honestly I think that we were quite lucky because the look of the village didn't give us any hopes...
The morning after we went straight to the spa place that we booked and proceeded to spend more than 5 hours doing all sorts of spa related activities. Then, relaxed and rested we went back to Florence, but before going back home we opted for a place that I call the "Luxury Chinese restaurant", in Florence. To be honest the quality is pretty low as other Chinese places in Florence, but the menu is different and the restaurant is nicely furbished with those nice fake looking red lacquered Chinese furniture...
Oh well it was a very good break all in all and we enjoyed it a lot!
- Tales from a lost PDA - Sledgehammer
- [Wednesday 7th January 2009]
In this chapter of the story it seems that Mr.X is commenting about some discussion that he has had with his boss. It is evident that in the tales that I have reported so far there are experiences coming from different companies, the more I read into the files the more this comes out. I will try to summarize a sort of list of the main characters, so that it will make it easier for the reader to understand where to place the stories (and also for me to translate).
Maybe I will even ask John if it's possible to set up a special page, let's see how the translations are proceeding.
Mr.Slaver arrived at the company recently, around a couple of months ago, he has an extensive experience of fashion and at the beginning this was something that I quite liked because I thought that I didn't have to teach my boss (as it happened in the past) the pitfalls of the trade.
Unfortunately it seems that his experience was somewhat different from mine, and that led to the facts that I am about to tell.
But before entering in the depth of what was said I need to give a bit of background to the whole story.
This time we are talking about an issue with a huge client, Japanese, who in front of a big order decided to set quality standards before having the goods shipped.
Japanese clients are quite hard to deal with when talking about quality issues. The system in Japan is really "picky" (to say a nice word) and the consumer is almost ensured 100% perfect products, which means in return that down the distribution channels and the producing sector, all the bad pieces are absorbed. This results in a prece increase as every step of the chain has external controls, attrition, wastage, claims etc etc.
In this case the client insisted that a product made with a certain type of natural fibres that are very delicate by nature (for example silk) had to be screened with the same system that is used for fibres that have a lot less defectiveness (wool for example). In more practical terms our product had a STANDARD defectiveness of around 16% (which is quite high, but that's how things are), and they were requesting something around 4%... It took me and my agents more than 3 months to negotiate a final position that was ok for our quality department and ok for the client, of course in the light of a very big order that would have probably helped the company a lot under all points of view (turnover, margin, penetration in the market).
All of these negotiation took place when Mr.Slaver was not in power, but the actual signing bit happened when he took office so I needed to fill him in, actually hoping that his understanding of the situation with Japanese clients would have earned me a nice "bravo" a his autograph on the agreement.
It was around 16.55 of a sunny May day when I received a phone call.
Mr.Slaver :"Pronto, it's me XXXX"
Mr.X : "Ciao XXXX how is New York? (he was on a business trip in the States)"
Mr.S : "Not too bad, listen, to keep it short over the phone, I have read the agreement with Bigjapanesecompany, it's completely shite!" said in a merry tone.
Mr.X : in a voice that you have only when one of your testicles falls to the ground "Sorry? I wrote it, it took me 3 months!"
Mr.S : "I though that your English was better, it's a long time to make a translation!"
Mr.X : "Sorry, I didn't mean to say that it took me 3 months to TRANSLATE IT, I actually wrote the paper and the agreement after dealing with them for 3 months. I thought that I explained you what was the starting position." in an hopeful voice.
Mr.S : "Well, it's completely unacceptable, the claim amount is too large, we do not make any margin!"
Mr.X : "Sorry XXXX, but did you read the calculations that I made to explain the agreement that we made? There are some margins, not a huge amount, but it's a very big order, the factory will."
Mr.S : "No need to read numbers, it's clear that this agreement is a loss for the company! Anwyays gotta go now we will talk when we come back about it".
With death in my heart, I hung up and started thinking at what I had to do. I was about to leave to Tokyo to finally ratify all the agreements and finally be able to ship all the goods (that in the meantime the company had to produce because they needed to get the machines running). A major setback like that one meant a huge problem for the company because the goods had been produced and a cancellation from the client would have meant a huge loss.
After a few heated email exchanges with Mr.Slaver he finally decided that maybe it was better to proceed as I negotiated and I left for Japan with my heart considerably lighter (but my soul was wounded at seeing that this new guy had already started in a bad way).
That was until AFTER the meeting with Bigjapaneseclient, after having signed the agreement and shaken hands, when I received a phone call, I was in Seoul during a lovely dinner with my Korean clients.
Mr.Shoes (my Japanese agent): "Moshi Moshi. X san?" with a shaken tone.
Mr.X : "Konbanwa Shoes san, how are you? How can I help you?" smelling that troubles where about to arrive.
Mr.Sh : "I received a phone call from Tanaka san (commercial director of Bigjapanesecompany), he said that the order is cancelled and that he doesn't want to have more business with us."
Mr.X : "WHAT!?!?" (10 Korean customers of the restaurant turning suddenly to look at me) "What happened?"
Mr.Sh : "Well, it seems that their quality representative in Italy blocked all the shipments because he received a visit from Mr.Slaver and basically he said that the quality agreement is not acceptable for our company!!!"
Mr.X : "This is a joke right?" in an hopeful voice
Mr.Sh : "Do I sound like joking to you? You need to do something, this means loosing our face (we signed the agreement together), the order and our name!"
Mr.X : "Ok give me a day and I'll see what happened."
The situation was completely out of order, but I needed to know what happened before confronting Mr.Slaver.
Mr.X : "Ciao Mrs.Moneypenny, how are you?"
Mrs. Mp : "Everything fine, I was expecting your call."
Mr.X : "Ok tell me what happened, but don't let the others hear the conversation" (as a matter of fact all my assistants where in the same room and there were some deep-throats)
Mr.Mp : "No worries about that, anyways to make a long thing short Mr.Slaver went to see Mr.Kato and what I know is that he told him that we were not accepting the agreement that you made. I do not know more than this. Of course I had to block all shipments and the logistic department has gone totally ballistic and almost killed me. So now he's asked me to invoice and send the goods anyways, but I haven't done it. YET"
Mr.X : "Ok, don't do anything and wait for me"
Mr.X : raging and fuming but trying to keep it calm calling Mr.Slaver "XXXX. Can you tell me why I got a phone call from Mr.Shoes telling me that the order is called off and that I can stop travelling to Japan in the future because no other client will ever trust me again?"
Mr.S : "Ah, good evening X, what are you talking about?"
Mr.X : "Listen, I am on the other side of the world, I do not want to play games, you know perfectly well what happened, I find it extremely wrong that you did not inform me of what you were going to do, it's very unprofessional and moreover is creating a huge damage to the company!"
Mr.S : "If you are referring to Mr.Kato, I went there (the external control centre) for other clients, then I saw him and I told him right what I thought of the agreement! Of course we have already signed it but sometimes you 'have to hit them with a Sledgehammer' " chuckle chuckle.
Mr.X : "Wait a second. You tell me that the General manager of a company that signed an agreement with a Japanese company, goes to an official of the Japanese company and tells him in his face that the agreement is crap and that we shouldn't honour it, and you expect that no consequences will happen?!? Sorry but I have another idea for that Sledgehammer of yours."
Mr.S : "Well you have to teach them a lesson every now and then, it's a great strategy, they will be more open to discussion next time, trust me!"
Mr.X : "Mark my words. THERE WILL NOT BE A NEXT TIME!!! I am really speechless to such a poor 'coupe de theatre'. If you are trying to let us close this is the best strategy that you could come up with! Listen, I am going to set this straight with the client, we'll proceed as we signed, then when I come back we need to talk!"
Mr.S : "Is that a threat?"
Mr.X : "No, but I need to think if it's the case that I resign or not!", and then I hung up.
The matter with the Japanese client was solved with many sorry and a lot of explanations, fortunately I managed to drive all the blame on Mr.Slaver and I actually ended up quite nicely in front of the clients.
I did not resign when I came back, but I managed to have a go at my new boss (making him an enemy for life) in front of all the other colleagues.
Eventually the system that I devised was later adopted by other clients as well.
No news about the 10 Korean restaurant customers were to be found.
If my faith in our directors was already pretty low, I am now sure that there is no end to how low you can go...
- New Year's Eve 2008
- [Wednesday 31st December 2008]
And so it was, the last day of the year arrived at last. Before I indulge in the usual "checkout" for the year that finished shopping at the supermarket of my life, I will enter the hard facts of what happened tonight!
Well, not much. Cooked a lot during the afternoon, our contribution to the dinner were two very English pies, a Shepherd's Pie and a Chicken and Mushroom pie of my invention. It took a lot to cook them but they came out pretty well.
The rest of the evening was spent making jokes and eating as usual, even if we tried to stay low with the quantities this year we managed not to finish quite a lot of things... Oh well...
Then after midnight we stayed in to play games (cards and Risk), I guess noone was in the mood to go out and do something else...
As for the checkout 2008 could have been a better year for me, mostly because I injured my right knee again and I will need surgery to fix it once more. Also from the work point of view the beginning was awful, and things got better only around September. Family is doing fine and love life is "stable" I guess, so all in all it could have been worse but from 2009 I look for some stability at least on the job part (that considering the times that we are facing would be a great achievement). We will see, as usual.
For sure I'd love to have a different New Year Eve next year. I cannot stop thinking that although I love these dinners, it is a setup that I have seen through and through over the last years, and maybe, together with the same people, we could organize something different...
For sure the feasts that we threw when we were younger are gone, with people bringing in kids, virtually no alcohol present at the dinner table, very little craziness joining us for the night. But in another way I guess that this is the way things are, after all we are all growing up...
Ok better keep that thought for 2009 checkouts, the new client has just arrived and needs to be served properly, I do not want the new year to start having a go at me!!
- Lox, Lorenzo... ME!!
- A little introduction about the author and the blog itself. Plus contacts and CVs... You never know!
- A Selection of the best pictures that I have taken all over the world during the years, all nicely indexed by year and geographical area. Jolly good!
- History of this Blog
- A collection of all the articles that I have wrote so far, divided by month/year.
I have had the bad idea of writing my e-mail address on the board before, so this time I'll try to prevent some spam to get to me by putting this little image.. Let's hope it does the trick!
A reminder to Myself
Left and right
Like day and night
That's what makes the world go round
In and out
Thin and stout
That's what makes the world go round
For every up there is a down
For every square there is a round
For every high there is a low
For every to there is a fro
To and fro
Stop and go
That's what makes the world go round
You must set your sights upon the heights
Don't be a mediocrity
Don't just wait and trust to fate
And say, that's how it's meant to be
It's up to you how far you go
If you don't try you'll never know
And so my lad as I've explained
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
You see my boy it's nature's way
Upon the weak the strong ones prey
The human life it's also true
The strong will try to conquer you
That is what you must expect
Unless you use your intellect
Brains and brawn, weak and strong
That's what makes the world go round