Evolution of Sourcing & Remote Work In China & Overseas with Rico Ngoma

Michael MicheliniBusiness, Ecommerce, Podcast0 Comments

Today’s episode is catching with our buddy, Rico and we are talking about sourcing evolution. It has been a year and we are getting an update on the developments of sourcing and working with the team in China. Let’s tune in.

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Intro Rico

    A regular guest on the show, also host of Made in China podcast.

  • When do you think “normal” travel is coming?

    Vaccine passports, masks during travel, etc.

  • Sourcing during PPE

    Some of the stories and how it has evolved.

  • Moving to Digital

    Some of the things Rico and his company have moved towards, digital courses.

  • What is next for the company

    Working on HR pool, good nugget.

  • How can listeners today adapt and adjust

    Future – finding partners in various specialities, not being able to do everything yourself.

People / Companies / Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Episode Length 41:16

Thank you Rico, for coming on again. It’s always great to get an update of your yearly growth and development. Cheers!

Download Options

Show Transcript


[00:00:00] Episode 355 of Global from Asia, the sourcing evolution, the evolution of sourcing remote, remote work, catching up with our buddy Rico. And it’s been like, kind of like a yearly update of the developments of, you know, sourcing and working with the team in China, from outside. Let’s tune in today, it’s globalfromasia.com/sourcing-evolution.

[00:00:24] Let’s do this. Welcome to the Global from Asia podcast, where the daunting process of running an international business is broken down, into straight-up actionable advice. And now your host, Michael Michelini. Hello everybody. Thank you so much for choosing to listen to, or watch me. It’s a dark background, you know. I’m like, I still prefer the audio, but a lot of people like the

[00:00:52] Video and it’s easier. And you can see me doing a little talk here. We also have, of course, today’s interview, also in video format. You can check that out at globalfromasia.com/TV, I believe. And of course, globalfromasia.com/podcast is our, our main place to get this. And today’s show is sourcing-evolution.

[00:01:15] It’s globalfromasia.com/sourcing-evolution. Rico hosts and made a ton of podcast, Source From Asia. He is doing, you know, he’s been going through a huge, huge transformation, you know, all of us have. And we met in person, you know, we did a podcast a couple years ago. Isn’t that crazy a year and a half ago.

[00:01:36] And then we also did a podcast last year in two years. Basically, for those that follow these shows, you’ve seen us progress. His moving out of China, learning how to have a team in China, without him being there. Then it kind of, had to actually get forced to happen because he was outside when the borders were closed. Barely made it back in myself.

[00:01:57] And we have this conversation of course, about normal travel, sourcing with the PPE stuff, how that went and moving to more and more online. You know how some also some nuggets about the HR processes he uses. And I got some tips on that. We have, we have a lot of fun and interesting conversations, some jokes and a little bit of a funny one, or really funny one. I’ll say right after. But basically my stuff stuck in Manila was moved to his place right after this show. We can talk about that in the blah, blah, blah session.

[00:02:31] Of course always show us the links and I believe there’s a little bit of a deal or a coupon for his program on our show notes at globalfromasia.com/sourcing-evolution. Let’s tune into the show. And of course thank you to our sponsor, mercury.com USA bank account without needing to fly to America, I’ve done.

[00:02:50] I’ve used them now for a couple of businesses we do here in the Global From Asia community. And I bring in partners that might not be American and it’s okay. Or you don’t have to have anybody that’s an American to do a US bank account for your US business. Travis Price, he’s been on our Cross Border Matchmaker.

[00:03:08] They’re our ongoing sponsor, really appreciate them. And honestly, the offer is amazing. There’s no application fee. It’s totally online. Virtual cards work for your Amazon seller central and other deals. So we also even give you extra cash bonus. If you use it enough, you and then also a little bit, it can go back to the show.

[00:03:26] So globalfromasia.com/mercury to learn more. I did a video tutorial and others. Thank you, mercury for supporting us. All right. Thank you everybody for choosing to listen to another Global from Asia podcast. I’m losing track with Rico. How many times we’ve, we’re both podcasters and, and, you know, the movers and shakers.

[00:03:46] So it’s multiple, multiple times I’ve had him. But it’s great as always to have Rico back on the show, CEO at Source Find Asia and podcast host of Made in China podcast. Thanks for, thanks for coming on. How are you? Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Yeah, I’m good. So just. You know, I mean, we’ve been, I’ve been in the Philippines now for, since February last year. So, and it’s just one of those things where I didn’t expect to be here this long.

[00:04:11] Like, I mean, obviously I wanted to move here. But I was supposed to be going back and forth between here and there. So actually I’m going to ask on the recording for fun. I have, stuff’s still there in storage and then our one, I think he met Gauthier. He helped me move out of my apartment at BGC. He had his storage, but he moved.

[00:04:31] I don’t know if I want to reveal too much, but he’s in the U S and he’s not coming back. And I think his apartment’s moving and the stuff got moved to one of my team’s apartments. But it’s kind of actually, I might ask you to, I have like a big luggage, check luggage. You don’t have to answer me if you don’t want. But I’m trying to figure out where to put that. It’s somewhere right now.

[00:04:52] I could keep it. I just want it as like, you know, it’ll be fun to put this on the show. This is our life right now, man. And I got, I got a car in Thailand that my wife keeps. It’s her car, but renting out to other random people. And then luckily we have, you know, friends there and stuff and storage is like all of us, like.

[00:05:13] If you had told me when we sat down, I still think back to that, I know we did a podcast in between, but when we sat down for that, like afternoon of content with the videos together in Manila, you were just coming to Manila, you said, right. You were just moving. And I was there for, yeah. And I wasn’t even technically at that stage, I wasn’t technically moving.

[00:05:32] I was just kind of like a refugee between, between China and, you know, I was just like, okay, I’m going to be here for like a couple of weeks. And then, you know, when things will open up in China again, I’m going back. I know. Yeah. It just was one of those things. I was like, yeah, I’ll wait it out. And then, I had it in the back of my mind that maybe, who knows, like I remember I was in the gym that time period.

[00:05:54] And I was like, I just had one of those epiphany thoughts where I was like, what if this is, like I’m supposed to be moving here, but what if this is the moment that I moved? Like, I’ve moved here without knowing that I moved here. I was right. You know? Yeah, man. I was moving out and I didn’t know I was moving out and I took a carry-on luggage to Bohol, I think the day after our meeting.

[00:06:18] And then I never went back and yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s been crazy for all of us, so, and I think the craziest was it’s it’s like you said, it’s been a year and a half now, since that show. We did a podcast in between, in like a year ago. And we don’t know when I still know, actually that’s a good question.

[00:06:40] Maybe to open. When do you, do you have a forecast of travel again normal or what? Well, not a normal travels. That’s, that’s a question in terms of like, is travel ever going to be normal in the way that we think of normal? I don’t think so because it’s like, you, you know, there’s going to be a stage or a countries are just going to require people, everyone to have a vaccine and you know, the vaccine passports and all this stuff it’s already kind of happening.

[00:07:09] So that’s a little bit of a, I think there’s going to be an adjustment there. I wonder if, I wonder if the masks are always going to be a requirement when you travel and stuff like that. It’s just, it’s, it’s strange. I mean, I haven’t been on a plane since that time period. So I don’t even know what it’s like to go through an airport and go through immigration and you know, all that stuff.

[00:07:29] But, in terms of me, I was, I’ve been kind of waiting for the borders to open up here. You know, you always hear rumors that it’s going to be September or whatever, but you know, you never know. So, yeah, I mean, to answer your question is again, kind of waiting for the borders to open up. But at the same time, you know, I love the Philippines, but like this has been one, I think the Philippines has had the longest lockdown in the world and also kind of a strict at times, very strict lockdown.

[00:07:58] Yeah. I mean, so manysecurity guards have machine guns and stuff. Yeah. I mean, I’ve, I I’ve gotten used to that, like seeing the shotguns and stuff like that. Yeah. But yeah, it can be a little bit like, bad for your mental and physical health. I think. So it’s like one of those things I’m like, all right, at some stage something’s got to give. Either, you know, things open up again, or, you know, I have to think about going somewhere else until things get back to normal here.

[00:08:26] That is true. I mean, they are really strict there. I mean, even before COVID, I mean, I guess they have some reason. I mean, if the hospitals. I guess the reason is if the hospitals fill up, you know, it’ll be really traumatic and yeah. They were. Yeah, for sure. It was a lot to do with the overwhelming amount of people getting sick and then the hospitals being over run.

[00:08:50] And then also just. You know, I mean, the Philippines is still a developing country, so it’s like, they can’t really afford to have all these sick people in and have to take care of them. You know? So the, the easiest solution was to let’s try and control the amount of people getting sick by making sure that everybody stays at home, you know, which I guess has kind of worked, but at the same time has tanked like the economy.

[00:09:13] You know what I mean? Certainly there’s so many. Yeah. There’s one of the, I mean, one of the things I loved about this place was all the interesting like when people think about Southeast Asia, I don’t think they realize that, you know, you come to a place like Manila BGC, and you have, you know, a hipster scene.

[00:09:28] You have, you know, international cuisines, you have really called locally owned businesses that are like, uh, Asian, American, French fusion. You have interesting jazz bars and things like that. Just really unique stuff. Some of it, very reminiscent of north America, but a lot of it is very unique to here and it’s just a vibrant culture.

[00:09:50] So a lot of those restaurants, a lot of those, you know, nightclubs or jazz bars and things like that are gone. And, you know, I don’t know how long it’s going to take for those spaces to come back. You know, I know man. I mean, I know. I think, you know, Macaulay’s bar in Shenzhen, you know, that it’s like a chain at least had it’s like the Irish and some of them have Mexican  as well.

[00:10:15] I don’t know about Guangzhou, but I just, at least I heard all three of them in Shenzhen had been closed now, closed down. The one in Guangzhou, I’m not sure if it’s still open, but it was a staple. There was, there was one, there was two in Guangzhou, actually, but I haven’t, I haven’t heard anything about it.

[00:10:33] Yeah. So I know it’s. I mean, so like it’s back to normal travel for me. Just to answer on my side a little bit, I think probably end of the year, I’m hoping, but I felt like I said, probably even on our last podcast, so that was last year, I thought the end of last year, but yeah, we just don’t know. So I mean, I guess how is, how is it, you know, we checked in a year ago and then we also had that in-person catch up how, you know, how is business sourcing, you know, how has how’s that.

[00:11:07] How’s that when we spoke, I feel like when we spoke in June, that was like in the middle of all the PPE stuff. Right? Yeah. So, so yeah, that time period, it was like, that was madness, insanity, totally insane. Yeah, it was, it was interesting. I was talking to my business partner last night and, and, you know, we do a lot of work with some of the EC.

[00:11:31] People, right? Like EC students, if you will. And you know, he was talking to one of the guys and you know, there’s one dude who said something about like, oh, you know, last year when we were trying to contact Rico and his team, they weren’t responsive. And then I was, I was just thinking of, I was like, when was this?

[00:11:48] And he was like, during like April may or something. I was like, first of all, I don’t, I, I think any, any service-based business that was, any businessreally during the middle of COVID. I think you have to understand, like, you know, some people paused or whatever, but specifically with our industry, like.

[00:12:09] It was impossible for us to work on the usual stuff that we were doing while having to do all this PPE stuff. So I remember that time period, because we had to actually expand the team like, but like we had to double the size of the company in like a week. You know what I mean? It was insane. So like, yeah, I was just thinking about that when, when you mentioned it, but yes.

[00:12:32] That time period we had a, we had a good run with the people do stuff, obviously that died like almost overnight, and then try to transition back into regular business. But I think last year is a little bit slow. I think since we started this year, just before Chinese new year, things are begin to pick up again, kind of back to back to usual business and.

[00:12:52] Speaking of that, like, I mean, one of the things that I, I guess the good part about things slowing down last year, it allowed me to focus onsome of the other stuff that I’ve been thinking about doing, which was creating a manufacturing course. Great. So. We just decided like in November, December, it was like, let’s just pull the trigger.

[00:13:10] And I had an interesting conversation with this guy. I believe his name is Eric Yang. And before that I was thinking about, okay, if we launch a course, how would we launch it? We’ll probably do it through a webinar or something like that, which is what we used to, what we usually did. And he just gave me the idea of doing like a Digital Summit.

[00:13:30] Which would be basically a, a digital conference and obviously, you know, a lot about this stuff. But the idea was just like, okay, get a bunch of people in your network to kind of give a presentation that would be evergreen, that you don’t, it’s a one time thing, but you cannot deliver it. Like it’s live and it can go on and on for years, of course you can improve the presentations as you go and stuff like that.

[00:13:54] And then use that to promote the actual course. So, you know, it’s taken me, it’s been a labor of love in some aspects. But it’s, you know, we, we, November, December, January, I recorded 15 different presentations. Plus Q and A’s, which was about when I tallied it up, it was like a little bit over 20 hours of presentations and interviews in the space of like two months.

[00:14:21] And yeah, so we, we are it’s called, sfadigitalsummit.com. And so that’s the digital summit. It’s completely free to sign up for. You just have to submit your email. And Michael Michelini is one of the speakers. We did it. Yeah. Yeah. I’m, I’m a speaker. My, my business partner, Mike is a speaker. We had, you know, Meghla I’m sure was familiar to your audience.

[00:14:44] We had a lot of, we had a lot of interesting people talking about anything from How to build an Amazon business that you can sell, to the actual marketing of it, marketing for e-commerce, Facebook ads, developing your own products from scratch, like manufacturing. We had Andy Church talk about QC shipping logistics.

[00:15:03] I like basically, if you follow cause there’s three days of the summit. Basically, if you followed like day one is kind of building your audience, researching your product, kind of the creation of the business and the branding. And then day two is the actual sourcing and production and QC. And then day three is like shipping logistics, building the e-commerce side of it, building your, you know, your platforms and where to sell, how to sell.

[00:15:28] I think your presentation was on leveraging a community to, to, to market your services and goods. So, yeah, I mean, I’m, I’m pretty proud of what we put together because I think it’s really, really good stuff like, and it’s mutually beneficial to everybody because, you know, you’re getting this amazing content for free.

[00:15:47] And then for the speakers, you know, these are potentially clients, right? These are potentially leads for them in all these areas. So it’s almost like a one-stop shop, right? Like you go there, you, you find your Facebook guy, you find your sourcing person and you find your QC person. You find your logistics person.

[00:16:05] And you know what I mean? You can kind of leverage all those services. And in the course itself, we call the spie method, which is sourcing production, import and export. And that’s just me. It’s essentially all the standard operating procedures in our company that I’ve kind of just put together into step-by-step presentations.

[00:16:25] And I’m trying to keep them short. Some of the presentations are hard to keep short, but I wanted to keep them around like five to seven minutes. So that they’re kind of like consumable, like that. So, yeah. That’s the big thing that we’re working on right now, besides the usual sourcing side of the business.

[00:16:41] Yeah. I mean, it makes sense to move more on, have more online products, more online business, adapt to and we’re all, all of us are adjusting. We have to adjust, you know, to, to more online and we’re always doing it anyways, you know? Online marketers, digital nomads, travelers, but now we’re, we’re using their skills and we have to actually execute wherever we’re stuck.

[00:17:04] You’re stuck. I mean, I’m stuck here in Shenyang and, but yeah, and I mean, it just makes sense because I mean, it’s not just me who can’t go. I mean, I could go to China, but it’s not easy to go to China. And I know for a lot of people. You know, for example, if you wanted to take off two, three weeks from your, from your job or from, from, you know, your business to go to China and source, like you’re going to spend two, three weeks in quarantine.

[00:17:30] So by the time, and by the time you’re done with your quarantine, you have to go back. Right? So I think for a lot of the people that maybe want to do, want to source from China, but maybe don’t have the funds to go there or don’t have the time to go there. You know, doing this summit, taking the courses like a, it’s a good way of doing.

[00:17:49] That’s true. That’s true. And then, so like, you know, back, you know, we’ve, we’ve followed it, your story over the last, you know, I think every, at least once a year, we have you on the show at least for the last three or four years. And what was it like 2019, we were talking about moving to online team and then May of 2018 was when I was in Thailand.

[00:18:12] You were in China and then we met in Philippines in 2019. Did the in-person on 2020. Oh, at the very beginning of 2020. Yeah. I think 2019, early 2019, we were talking or not. Yeah. Early 2019 we were talking about my biggest struggle at that time. Because I was thinking of, I was traveling more and then I was trying to figure out how I could handle paying my staff and managing the business remotely in that aspect.

[00:18:43] And I think we, we talked. Well, one of the guys that was on your podcast who had, you know, a horror story with his employee kind of stealing. Yeah. Steve Marcy listened to. Yeah, I know. I ended up listening to his podcast and I was, I was intrigued. I think it’s, like I said at the time, I think it’s a little bit different because

[00:19:03] A lot of his business model was based around, you know, his contacts. Right. And like working, like billing the clients through the factories and stuff like that. Whereas a lot of our staff is, and also the other aspect that I remember was like, I don’t think he was controlling necessarily all of the money, the payment.

[00:19:23] So that was another aspect where I was like, with us, we like our clients mostly pay the factories directly and then we take separate consulting fees and then I still control the, you know, the payments and things like that. So I think as long as you’re controlling the money, you still have some, some, yeah.

[00:19:40] And also, I think another thing I said is like, for us, a lot of our clients work with us because they trust me. So if one of my employees approached them directly, I don’t think they would necessarily buy, like, they’re not going to get any benefits from it. It’s not like they’re going to get cheaper products or anything like that, you know?

[00:19:56] Yeah. I also think another differences. He was more a trading trading company where you’re more like a service provider, you know, like you just said, plus he focused in one specific, I think in speakers. Yeah. Yeah. So even a customer probably would want to bypass him because eventually they won’t because they probably want to get it direct.

[00:20:20] Or at least they’re not, they’re probably trying to get it at a, it’s all about a lot of, not all about, but a lot about price, right. Or, yeah, it’s a little bit of a different model and yours, your, your value. And so, yeah, yeah, yeah. With us, like sometimes clients come from working directly with suppliers to, to wanting to work

[00:20:42] With us and not handle that side of things. Right? Like, it’s like a, it’s one of those things. Like sometimes people work in reverse. I mean, it’s have we had, I don’t think we’ve had too many clients that left us because they wanted to get lower prices from the factory. Like it was more clients that we built a supply chain for over a space of one to two years, and then it kind of became.

[00:21:05] Sort of automated, right? Like it became a situation where it’s like, you have good suppliers, reliable suppliers, shipping, and production and stuff. You have the same partners every single time. And you know, when to do your QC, when to schedule your shipments, you know, it becomes a situation where they feel like they can maybe hire internally and manage it.

[00:21:25] And even then they still, those clients were still coming to us when, you know, there’s new products to source or maybe they need some additional help with something, you know? So, yeah. Great. Yeah. Okay. And yeah. So, so then your managers, your core team, your team, you said has grown and the, I remember the, you have a female, I hate to say a female, but your manager that you were colleagues.

[00:21:52] She kind of grew organically, internally, that’s all going fine and everything. Yeah. Yeah. She’s basically at the stage CEO without the title. Okay. You know, but you know, she’s, she’s good. Like, especially during this time period, that’s one of the interesting things has been. The PPE stuff. In any other situation, I would have been in China, right.

[00:22:14] Like, because I would have wanted to be there with these large orders and, you know, be there actually, maybe even physically in the factories, like overseeing stuff, I don’t know how feasible that would have been with the restrictions, but just being in China would have made a difference. And I couldn’t, and she handled everything pretty well.

[00:22:34] And we’ve had another, maybe one or two situations. You know, I would have gone to China to, to, to be there for those projects. And, you know, she figured like the most recent one, we are one of our oldest clients, you know, they’re a CrossFit company and they’ve gotten to a stage right now where you know, that we’re working with them for like five years. They’ve expanded their team or expanded their orders and the size of the orders to a stage where they need to have a full-time physical presence around in and around the factories.

[00:23:07] Okay. And then we’ve got like three or four different suppliers. So we’re building what we call like a quality management system for them. Essentially, what that means is like we have employees for them that go to the factories on a daily basis that inspect goods, but also deal with the negotiations and, and, you know, talk to the management team and all that stuff.

[00:23:27] And then we have, we create standard operating procedures for the team in China, around. Just daily work, operate, but also around the QC and shipments and things you have to build, essentially, you’re building their company in China, if you, if you will. Right. And then I’m having, you know, image in our CEO.

[00:23:51] Basically, she had to fly to, to Qingdao for two weeks and, you know, train the new employees and then she’s flying there every month for what, 3, 4, 5 days at a time to oversee. And you know, so it’s like one of those things where she went and the interesting thing about the QMS stuff, this is this, this is the second time we’ve done it on this scale.

[00:24:10] It’s like a, it’s like detective work, man. Like, cause when you go there, like you find out all this, all these issues, right? Because before the, you know, clients pay us a consulting fee, but the consulting fee was it’s limited to a certain scope of what we can do with our time. Right. So he was saying, okay, I want to expand because you know, there’s certain factors that he was managing, we have certain factors that we were managing and the stuff that we were managing was okay.

[00:24:37] And he was dealing with a lot of issues and, you know, he couldn’t sort of handle everything because the orders are getting bigger and they have more shipments, more documents, more, you know, more QC issues to kind of follow up with. And then when you go there and you start like investigating why there, these QC issues exist, you start to realize it, oh, this supplier that, you know, he’s been dealing with and they, they have two, three other suppliers that they’re sourcing from.

[00:25:04] And, and that’s why the, you know, the, the product qualities are consistent. You find out that, you know, maybe that the contact that he was talking to, it was an agent and that contact has changed factories two or three times. You know what I mean? It’s like those kinds of things that you only really understand if you’re physically there and then you just start to create some parameters around that.

[00:25:25] You know, you, you started making sure that the factories that you’re working with, don’t outsource two to three different suppliers. Like they, if they have to work with the suppliers separately, they work with one and then you’re, you know, having the team there on a daily basis keeps them kind of on their toes and honest, or, yeah, it’s a, it’s an interesting process.

[00:25:43] It’s a lot of work, but it’s, it’s kind of fascinating. To make the long story short, that the point is like, she’s. Had to do that stuff by herself, but she’s had to not by herself, but like without me being there physically, obviously, you know, we talk every day and through zoom and slack and stuff like that, but she’s had to solve some quite big problems in real time by herself and she’s done it pretty effectively.

[00:26:08] That’s great to hear. I mean, that’s, that’s obviously a really huge, huge asset for sure. And. I’m sure she knows. And then I’m just trying to get some other updates. So that’s, that’s a huge one. And then it’s all remote is their office now did all working remotely or how’s that? We still, we still have a space just because we need to have somewhere to ship samples and ship out samples. But really, you know, most, I mean, we were remote

[00:26:37] Even before, like in 2019, my staff, when I was traveling a lot, you know, I allowed them to start working from home and just coming into the office like once or twice a week. So for the most part, I think they all work from, from home and then they, you know, The CEO image will go in like once a week to the office and stuff.

[00:26:57] But yeah, we just keep a small space just to ship and receive samples. And if we need to have like a meeting or something like that. And if, when I go back to China, I want to obviously have a space to work out of. Okay. That’s nice to know. And then what’s, what’s next? What’s the plan? What’s so what’s your vision?

[00:27:20] I think in terms of what’s next. I mean, it’s really just trying to,  I’m trying to push forward with the digital assets and the courses. I think, I think I want to help a lot of people get more educated about the process. There’s a lot of courses about how to sell. There’s a lot of courses about, you know, how to design a product to how to crowd fund.

[00:27:45] Like hundreds of thousands of courses, right? Like there’s a lot of information out there, but there isn’t that many courses about the actual manufacturing process that makes sense, you know, that are, that are extensive. And I just feel like there’s a huge underserved market because what tends to happen is we work with a lot of startups.

[00:28:01] We work with a lot of entrepreneurs and we’ve, we’ve created ancillary services where if you can’t afford to pay us project management right, You can order factory research report from us where we, you know, we research a bunch of suppliers, we put together a concise report and we give it to you and turn over the keys and say, here’s, here’s the factory.

[00:28:23] And, you know, we’ve explained your projects. You know, we’ve gone through all the details back and forth and all that stuff. That’s great. But then you’re still, you’re still giving somebody a factory who doesn’t have experience like the buyer doesn’t have it, the production process. So what tends to happen sometimes is even though the factory themselves is a good factory, the buyer just doesn’t know how to monitor the production, or they don’t know how to communicate certain things.

[00:28:53] And then, you know, they’ll come back to us and say, I’m having an issue with this. And when in reality, It’s just a communication issue or it’s just an aspect of, they didn’t know how to set up a contract or a, you know what I mean? Or they didn’t know how to schedule the QC or handle the shipping process.

[00:29:09] So, and those are things that, you know, if you pay us project management, we do all that stuff for you. But I just, I just started to think I was like, if people can’t necessarily afford project management, then how do I help educate them about the whole process and then make it affordable. Well, so I, that’s kind of the goal with that.

[00:29:30] And then of course, with the, with the sourcing side of the business, it’s always been, I think, I don’t know if I said this before on your show, but you know, when I first started, I was like, oh, you know, let’s build it as big as possible and not stuff. And when I got, there was like 2017, we moved into our second office.

[00:29:47] That was a bigger space, nicer building. Hired let’s think at that time we probably had like seven or eight full-time employees, like at hired like three or four full-time employees that summer I had three already. And then I hired three or four more. We moved into the big office and it was like, everything was going great.

[00:30:08] And then, and then one of our largest clients dropped, like not dropped, but they basically said we’re not going to renew the contract because they’re going in a different direction with their entire business. They weren’t going to be doing physical products in China anymore. And now I was like, okay. Geez. I had all this overhead.

[00:30:29] And on our revenue had like dropped by I think 30, 40%, 30%, I think at the time, because of that client was such a big, big revenue driver for us. And before that year, after year after year with that client, it was always expanding. It was always expansion, right. It was always like we went from doing one product to four to six to eight.

[00:30:52] And obviously with every single time we expect. Our financial, you know, agreements with them also expanded. So I’m in my mind, I’m thinking at the very minimum, we’re going to either keep it the same or we’re going to go up. Right. And then they canceled. So it was like, it was a big lesson for me because it was and then at the same time, there was an issue that I had with one of my employees where she, we, we had to let her go, but I wasn’t as educated about the

[00:31:19] Contracts process in China. Yeah. So I guess she said we were in breach of labor laws and whatever, and yeah. Yeah. She threatened to sue us. Yeah. So at the same time, you know, their revenue goes like this. I have crazy overhead and this employee is threatening to sue us. So it wasn’t, it was a pretty stressful time, Mike, anyways, like basically I settled with her and then we basically had to make budget cuts.

[00:31:48] So I had to let go of some other, some of the other staff and it just made me think about it. And then the next one, our contract was up. The office, we moved into a slightly smaller space in the same building. And then I just thought about it. I was like, well, I mean, I don’t necessarily, I don’t think the expansion thing was necessary because I had hired a bunch of project management people, which wasn’t necessarily driving revenue.

[00:32:13] Right. And I also realize that we can maximize, if we improve our systems, we can maximize the amount of output that each person can do, rather than just hiring more people to do the work. Right. So that’s sort of the, I kind of rejigged there. And then I said, okay, well, how do we, how do we systemize it a little bit more with our project management, where one person can handle X amount of projects or like 10 projects versus five or something like that.

[00:32:39] And then you kind of break it down and realize, I agree, we can improve here. We can improve there. We can systemize this. We can systemize that. And then the next thing. I started, I decided to take a page out of the, the companies I used to work for. I used to sell clothing back in Toronto, like  clothing store is RW and Co., Abercrombie and Fitch, stuff like that.

[00:33:01] And you know, the way they do it is when you’re working part time. Yeah, there’s a pool of people, right? Like, and you know, you you’re all like cramming to get ours. Right. And they would just like tell you every week or every two weeks, like this is the schedule for the next two weeks. And then you check the schedule and say, okay, cool.

[00:33:17] I got eight hours this week. I got 10 hours next week. So I was like, why don’t I just do that? Why don’t we create a pool of part-time employees? And then we’ll have a core of our full-time employees. And then, and then as, as needed, if we have projects that are larger or whatever, we increase hours and you know, if it’s slow, we decrease hours.

[00:33:36] So that’s, those are the two things that I changed. So I decided as well at that stage, I’d rather run a smaller boutique sourcing company that deals with less clients where we charge a premium, than have a, you know, a hundred projects where we’re, you know, charging less money. So he started to also increase the cost of our services and staff.

[00:33:57] So, yeah. So, and then that side of things, the goal is always to continue to attract premium clients, the kind of clients that we like to work with and keep the team, the core team tight and just keep improving and that’s it. Nice. Okay. So I guess we’re getting towards a wrap up. I think always like let’s add some tips for, for somebody listening, you know, 2021 and beyond, you know, trying to get, trying to get some products or selling, selling. You know, what, what are you noticing from, from, from like, you know, from your clients, new people, like what’s some trends of how people are adjusting.

[00:34:36] I mean, in terms of the trends, I think right now, the interesting thing is like, COVID you, you assume, because China’s been supposedly, you know, open for such a long time, you weren’t expecting things to kind of shut down again. But Guangzhou just went through, and Southern China as a whole, just went through another, another lockdown.

[00:34:57] And I think you always have to be aware that it’s a possibility. And what happens with that is like the productions themselves haven’t changed. It’s more about the shipping. The shipping lines get, like, I mean, just the fact that they start to control movements between cities. So you have, you know, backed up trucks that are trying to take goods from Dongguan to Shenzhen, which would usually be like, you know, a six hour drive or whatever it turns into like a two day affair because they have to stop somewhere and like all that stuff and they have to have their stuff inspected.

[00:35:29] The drivers have to prove that they’re, they’re not carrying COVID. So. Really just making sure that, and I mean, if you didn’t learn, learn this lesson last year, then I don’t know. I don’t know what else to tell you, but just making sure that you plan ahead, like making sure that you plan ahead with your productions.

[00:35:45] If you’re doing products on a regular basis, if you have consistent business in the same product, like try to make sure that you’re not in a situation where if things stop moving in China, you don’t have goods coming into the country or you don’t have a stock.So I would say that’s something to keep in mind as I just make sure that, you know, you’re, you’re comfortable in that space with regards to people that are launching new products.

[00:36:09] I think just me, I think it’s more important than ever to be educated about the process because you can’t just physically go to China. And I think it’s really important to really understand how sourcing and production works. But the second part is I think you really have to rely on partners more and more.

[00:36:26] Right. Thanks. I like that one. That is good. Yeah. I mean, I am, I’m having to rely on my team in China. Like literally my employees did more than I did more than I’ve ever done in solving and things are bad, but yeah, really relying on partners, finding good partners. So it’s super important because you can’t physically go to China.

[00:36:48] So, you know, Awesome buddy. Well, always good to catch up and getting some nuggets here. I mean, taking a couple of notes, we got a double header. So we’re going to also do a show on your podcast you know, as always. And I think we’ll jump into that one. And the last part, I think you dropped some links already, but you know, links or, or, or things you want to highlight for people to follow up or find more.

[00:37:11] Yeah, just the sfadigitalsummit.com. I think by the time this episode gets released in a couple of weeks, like we should be in full flow. So yeah, you just have this it’s again, the summit is free. You just need your email address. Great. It’s a, three-day a three-day affair, you know, 14, 15 different presentations and Q and A’s. Also great value.

[00:37:31] Okay, great. Alright, thanks Rico. As always. And we’ll have pricing hopefully in one year. Maybe we can do in person interview somewhere to go. I hope, man. I hope I have wait. Cheers. Cheers. Thank you, Rico. Always a pleasure. How many times has been on the show? At least five times or more? I mean, we’ve got 355 episodes and it’s, you know, it’s kind of becoming this like yearly update of his is I would say growth and development from, you know, building a team locally in Guangzhou.

[00:38:00] We had that a few years ago and then, like I said, he was starting to learn how to build a team running without him there and then traveling. And then of course the border. In March, 2020. So I wonder how you all are doing, we’ll try to link up the other show notes, shows in the, in these, in this episode.

[00:38:20] And I said at the beginning, we moved some stuff over to him. My stuff has, you know, Gauthier, he helped me move out of my apartment remotely from Manila cause I had to evacuate from Cebu to China directly. Luckily I did that before the border closed after that. My friend Gauthier, thank you. I’m pretty sure he listened to these shows.

[00:38:40] Thank you for that. And they went to Jan’s place cause he’s not in the Philippines anymore. And then Jan didn’t have so much space and other things. So we just sent it over to Rico. It’s always within this Manila area. But my big roller bag of stuff and backpack is now at Rico’s in BGC, not too far from where I was before.

[00:39:06] I’m wondering when I’ll ever see that stuff again, you know, only then will the world be back to normal when, when can we travel again? But you know, for me, I’ve, we’re fully online. We got forced to be online. I mean, we used to do these in-person events. That was actually kind of like the, I guess, bread and butter or one of the ways we would bring our community together.

[00:39:24] Of course, support the show, with support from sponsors, cross border summit. Not sure when that’s going to happen again, to be honest. We did a cross border matchmaker online in May and we’re planning another one and people really liked it. We have our members, online members call. Actually people are enjoying it.

[00:39:42] gfavip.com. We have a deep I’m giving some business opportunities there first, before it goes out to the podcast or to the public with some interesting deals. Honestly, I’m working on a new project right now. I think a meeting, excuse me, you mentioned it on, on the interview. So, but giving some opportunities first to our members trying to adapt and to keep it fair for those that support us that way.

[00:40:07] Of course, we always appreciate you all for listening and sharing the show and, and others. I got my, my son gave me this Bitcoin. It’s not a real Bitcoin of course, but it’s a metal coin, for those listening. And I found a bullet in China, like an empty bullet shell. So it’s just some weird stuff going on.

[00:40:27] Anyway, you can, if you’re on a video, you can take a look. I think I’m gonna wrap it up here. We’ll keep these every other week, got one already lined up. We got Marisol. She’s an amazing Filipina singer and artist talking about her journey to traveling around Asia. And it’s really fast conversation. We already did the interview.

[00:40:49] That’ll be up in a couple of weeks and till next time, see you later. Share this if you like this. That’s all. Appreciate it. Thank you. Have a great day. Bye bye. 

[00:41:00] To get more info about running an international business, please visit our website at www.globalfromasia.com. That’s www.globalfromasia.com. Also be sure to subscribe to our iTunes feed.

[00:41:12] Thanks for tuning in.

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