In America, we are raised to think that we can do anything and become anyone we want to be. It’s a no-limits position that we embrace through the years, and for most of us, it was simply something very sweet that our mom or dad told us. We had hoped that we could be an astronaut, the President of the United States, or a simple chef if we desired so. I made choices that led me to many forks in the road in order to become who I am today. Much of the drive to lead stems from being told that I too could join the ranks of amazing people in the history of the world. I am competitive because of it, and constantly looking for the next rung in the ladder to make it. I am an alpha, but with empathy for others.
Many Americans don’t have the team mentality because most parents don’t kiss their kids into bed at 9pm and leave them with a “One day you can be on any team you want”. If you do then let me know in the comments. I could be parenting incorrectly. Immigrants from around the world think about the opportunities that await them before coming into our country. Call it what you want, but opportunity can mean many things to include running a business. There are others that have a different vision altogether for a long list of reasons that I will save for another post.
For me it was helping my mom make money at a young age, and buying penny candy after school just to resell it at a profit the next day in the lunch room. I was consistently searching for the hustle and I can list at least 20 different things I tried from 5-years old to 18. There are others in this world like me and many have not made their goals come true either…yet. Even at age 38, I am still trying and have accepted that it may not happen in my lifetime. We are not all lucky or skilled enough to reach our dreams. Even with doubt, I still continue the tradition by sharing my love of business with my children and tell them that they can be whoever they want to be.
Wait. What does this have to do with the topic? Everything. It’s the entire point of outsourcing, inversions, and how a global economy works. It starts at a young age for all of us. A portion grows up with lofty goals, and many countries raise their children to seek honor and to become a team player for the larger good. That last statement is the linchpin of this. Just before I drive straight in, there is something that I feel needs to be said.
Recognizing the Withouts
This wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t discuss the people around the world that sit in poverty, perhaps homeless, or just getting by. There are many that don’t have an opportunity to compete or even be a voice in the discussion. Class warfare exists in America and around the world. Writing this without acknowledging those that are part of the poor class would be a regret. I can only hope that one day I will create something that will help some people realize their dreams. Knowing that so many will live an die with no opportunities is saddening. I hope you as the reader will understand why I took a paragraph to say that this is a problem and I want to be a part of the solution to whatever degree that I can be.
This shows my hand a bit as well. After traveling the world and witnessing starvation, hopelessness, and souls that have given up on life, I want my success to be measure in the help of others. It’s no longer about the money, but the people that can buy food, have a roof that doesn’t leak and the healthcare to live longer.
Comprehending a Global Market & Building the Team
The buzz term “Global Market” started decades ago, but it was the internet that brought it to the fingertips of those who want to touch the world. Before the internet, you had to send letters & packages, fly to a factory, or live next to your store and sell only to your neighbors. The newspapers, signs on the wall in the local laundry mat, or handing out flyers was how the market existed not long ago. In fact, much of the local markets still exist in plenty of places, but the internet spreads it a little further each day. Globalizing a market has been done using giant cargo boats, 747’s delivering assets and tools like Skype have made the entire thing much easier to be involved in. This isn’t going away as far as I can see. Trading on this scale is good for many, but it certain does negatively affect companies, people, and cities. Detroit is one place that shows this, and companies like Apple too.
If this topic is new to you, I’d strongly encourage you to go to your local library and read some books on global markets. Don’t buy books online or download the eBook if possible. We need to continue using our libraries so they continue to exist. I don’t want to outsource knowledge in this area. If this isn’t your thing then take a college course or a free one on Coursera. As a potential business leader you should be ready for change so you can prepare for the effects that it will have in all corners of your work.
2006-Present Hurt Americans
Building the team can be a difficult choice when you have so many options regardless if your product is physical or virtual. In the past, hiring Americans was considered to be expensive for companies. Since the recession, that reality has changed drastically. Please keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule and this is not meant as an “all or none” conversation. India was the top place to outsource call centers and anything that can be done on a computer. They were cheap, like dirt cheap. Many Americans lost their paychecks to India. Companies continued to open call centers and work with factories overseas. Change has been enormous especially when you have automated robots competing for jobs that have a very simple process. This didn’t change overnight, but it was really obvious that it was coming. There was something that caught my attention along the way.
American media was reporting record lows in the unemployment numbers. What they weren’t saying though, is how many Americans that stopped looking for work were not counted in those reports. Programmers, writers, designers, and more saw a massive drop in their wages and positions almost overnight in 2008’ish. It was now cheaper in 2009-2014 (a rough estimate) to hire an American than a coder in India. What? Yes, it was because all of the cheap code and labor jobs sent to India built their economy and thus gave them a higher wage and standard of living. For the first time in years we could have brought these jobs back to America. The option could have been to either hire them as a contractor or as employees and manage Workman’s comp, taxes, and more. The latter is the only thing that stopped this from happening.
Instead, employers choose to go to the next lowest bidder. Jobs switched to China for goods, Vietnam & Romania for web development and many more countries with skills. We built our team virtually and simply dropped India as the go to in 2009. I have never hired a developer from India since 2009. I have found less success in hiring over the years using such platforms as UpWorks, oDesk, eLance, Freelancer and the other freelancer platforms. They went from a simple solution to basically a temp hiring firm. I didn’t want all the complexity that those sites built so I turned to Craigslist as my place to find people. I studied which countries had the skills I needed for each part of my team. This spectrum of choice was celebrated by many leaders and still didn’t help America or India along the way. It’s always about the money and not about pride, honor, or nationalistic sacrament. It’s also proper for me to note that this view comes from my own experiences and conversations that I have with others that hire like I do.
The first step in building a team is research. Start digging into message boards, search for anything that gives you an idea of what salaries are like and the skills you seek. Currently, my team consists of a social media manager from the Philippines, an audio engineer in Romania, designer in Mexico, and a few others. This took several years and many losses to get to this team, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. They are amazing professionals that over-deliver and are all about the team concept. This is something that I never found in America and my goal is not to bad mouth my country, I just never found it. We are raised and taught in school to be a certain way.
I want to add in some thoughts about what to look for and how to go about developing your team if this is what you came to read about.
- Start small and often. I would hire someone for $100 or less to see their skills. I always add a bit more to the agreed amount of pay to build loyalty.
- Consistently challenge a freelancer so you can see the breath of their skill set.
- I read through the resume section, gigs, and I post my own jobs out there. I get resumes and grade them and add all of the information I collect into a spreadsheet and keep notes.
- Once I feel comfortable with a freelancer I will begin adding more and more tasks and hours.
- Finally, when I am certain that I have a loyal freelancer that is dependable I drop the others and make them the only person I send jobs to. I want to note here that having another as a Plan B is smart so if you can, repeat this effort twice.
- Keep notes, grades, build a friendly relation and overpay. These are what help me push what you see on this site. None of this was dumb luck.
Made In America
I could embed video after video that shows someone telling a customer base that they are proud to say their product was made in America. This mantra becomes less true each day as more things continually shift to another country’s cheap workforce. I saw this first hand when I started my company U.S. Challenge Coins in 2007. I wanted everything to be made in America, but quickly realized that it was impossible to do. Making non-currency coins after the EPA restricted smelting in the U.S. was almost impossible. When I started there was only three remaining companies making coins in-house, in the United States. Everyone was using factories in China. I had no choice and I want to make clear that I was not opposed to the EPA doing what they did to the industry, the environment is #1. I could claim “Made in America” , so I set the standard with my unique designs and became the only online company to only use hard enamel paint without increasing the price. This was basically baked color glass that wouldn’t scratch, peel or change colors over time and made an enormous difference. I made several decisions that changed some of the industry, but in the end it is necessary to seek production overseas and use the global market to your advantage.
My example reflects what many companies are either forced to do or have to do to remain viable. Like Apple, I told my customers that the coins are designed in America, stamped & painted in China, and then sent back to my home office via DHL. People understood it and accepted that it had to be that way. I did have on occasion a call or two that asked where they were made, I told them, and they yelled at me for being un-American and they were going to find another company. I wished them luck and explained what I knew and some hung up, and some changed their minds the next day. For the record, there were many companies that boasted about made in America and I knew they weren’t because they were using the same factories as I did, but charging 5 times the price. This seemed to be the norm until I started pointing it out on my blogs.
They did this because “Made in America” makes us feel proud to support a company that stays here and provides jobs. Question everything though. Most businesses use this phrase even if it’s not true. If you can make it in America then do it and be proud. Hell, call the producers of How It’s Made and have them do a 5-10 segment on your product for some exposure. Just know that saying “Made in America” makes a difference to many consumers, but it’s also akind to recycling aluminum cans because you feel like you contributed to a good cause. Use the three words if you can, but if you can’t then own it. This could be what sets you apart from the rest of the competition.
Sell It To Americans!
As I stated in the opening, globalization isn’t going to stop. This is the business world we live in even if you don’t see it. Living outside the U.S. and doing business on a regular basis gives me some insight. Just go online to Alibaba or Alibaba Express and you will see a lot of products for sale that are currently selling on eBay or in your local Job Lots! department store (if you have those). Here in South Korea we use Gmarket. They deliver to your front door, install furniture, deliver on the weekends and more. The electronic sellers tell me all the time that I need to buy Samsung or LG from Amazon and have it sent to me from the U.S. because it’s expensive here. I asked them how it’s possible that they manufacturer the electronics here, ship them to the U.S. and it’s still cheaper to ship it back here then to just go to the Samsung outlet where they make them. I was told this happens because the U.S. is an electronics dumping ground.
Koreans take pride in buying products made in South Korea, but even more so than Americans wanting to by “Made in America”. They want to pay more for it because it’s Korean. Obviously, this confused me because we are always looking for discounts, coupons, or even a slight haggle on the prices. They just look at Americans as a bunch of wallets and they save the nicer KIA’s, Hyundai, and LG 4K panel for Koreans. Seriously, there are some nice cars here. I will also note that I upgraded my PC monitor to a 40″ 4K panel for $250 delivered from Gmarket.
I wanted to end by saying that owning the fact that you have to take globalization into account if you have competition is a good thing. It doesn’t apply to every industry, but it does for many. Saying that you use a factory in Thailand or China is fine, but you have to own it. Apple went through Hell over Foxconn’s horrible working conditions and suicides. They were in a position to make improvements, but looked the other way for a long time. As we move into the future more people will certainly figure out that our goods and services come from all over. I wanted to write this because I believe in the global economy and how it can take a third-world country like South Korea was not long ago and make them into the 11th largest economy in the world is invigorating. I can tell you that I see it with my own eyes as I look out from our second floor balcony to the 15+ tower cranes that are building massive buildings in the 1-2 sq miles around us. I have never seen so much construction in my life until I came to South Korea.
Go and find your team, build your company and product, and sell it to Americans, Russians, the British, or whoever else. I personally think it’s right and it’s only going to become the expectation. As long as there is someone skilled that can do it for cheaper, companies will go to them. The chants and protests about bringing American jobs home are useless. Companies don’t have souls, and they will tell you that they will bring 5,000 jobs back if AT&T gets a tax break is a lie. They exist to make money and that is it. We all want a better life, employment, health care, the best education and whatever else makes our lives better, and I am optimistic that we will only get better.
If you are like me and build your company with professionals around the world please let me know how it helps or hurts you. Many may not agree with my thoughts in this, but it’s what I know.