Planes, trains and chaotic cab jour­neys

As we travel fur­ther afield in pur­suit of new mar­kets, Fiona Laing charts a fe­male ex­ec­u­tive’s ex­pe­ri­ence

The Herald Business - - Business Travel -

LI KE many Scot­tish com­pa­nies, Kin­loch An­der­son, the Ed­in­burgh-based High­land dress man­u­fac­turer, has looked overseas to grow its busi­ness. In fact, it was one of the pioneers, with its ex­port­ing achieve­ments recog­nised in 1979 with a Queen’s Award. It now ex­ports kilts, tar­tan and ac­ces­sories all over the world and has shops and li­cens­ing agree­ments for the Kin­loch An­der­son brand in Ja­pan, Tai­wan, South Korea, China and north Amer­ica.

With Kin­loch An­der­son’s first stores in China open­ing in Novem­ber 2012 in Suzhou and Guangzhou, and four more open­ing im­mi­nently in Xi’an, Chang­sha, Wuhan and Shen­zhen, mem­bers of the fam­i­ly­owned com­pany have made trips there. Amanda No­ble, Com­pany Sec­re­tary and Brand Devel­op­ment Ex­ec­u­tive, was one of them.

She trav­elled to Shang­hai last year with de­signer Kirsty Franey to make pre­sen­ta­tions on Kin­loch An­der­son’s his­tory, her­itage and sea­sonal trends to the menswear com­pany it has a li­cense agree­ment with.

“Our travel was easy. In Asia, the ho­tels are fan­tas­tic and the ser­vice is im­pec­ca­ble; they can’t do enough for you,” Amanda says.

Travel has al­ways been a big part of Amanda’s life. For Kin­loch An­der­son, she has been all over the world and she pre­vi­ously worked in cor­po­rate travel for Amer­i­can Ex­press.

Ex­pe­ri­ence has taught Amanda

not to ac­cept the of­fer of be­ing met by hosts at the air­port.

“They are not jet-lagged and they want to get straight into it,” she says. “When you get off a long flight, all you really want is to get to your ho­tel.”

On this trip, Amanda and Kirsty took the op­por­tu­nity of try­ing an apart­ment ho­tel.

Amanda says: “It was a good setup for two women. We had a twobed­room, fully-ser­viced apart­ment and we could go over ev­ery­thing in com­fort, with­out re­sort­ing to a ho­tel lobby.”

Work­ing for a fam­ily com­pany makes it dif­fi­cult for Amanda to judge whether be­ing a woman – or just not be­ing the boss – makes a dif­fer­ence in Asia. But she does ad­mit some cul­tural dif­fer­ences take time to ad­just to.

“The one thing that I think is com­pletely alien for most west­ern busi­ness vis­i­tors on ini­tial vis­its is


the moment of com­plete si­lence dur­ing meet­ings,” she says. “It takes a bit of get­ting used to be­fore you re­alise that’s just the way it is.”

This re­laxed ex­pe­ri­ence was in con­trast to Amanda’s first trip to Moscow in 2010. There, she spent a day with Rus­sian com­mer­cial agents which in­cluded a chaotic drive through pour­ing rain in a steamed up taxi, win­dows open and heat­ing on full blast, air­port­like se­cu­rity at the agents’ of­fice and re­sort­ing to Google Trans­late when com­mu­ni­ca­tion failed.

“For some­body who has trav­elled such a lot, it was ac­tu­ally quite an in­tim­i­dat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” re­calls Amanda.

The agents – two lively and friendly women – bring in or­ders for ladies wear (mainly the type of worsted wool skirts which were once the main­stay of Kin­loch An­der­son’s busi­ness) along with ac­ces­sories.

“It’s not a huge part of our mar­ket, but it’s been keep­ing our pro­duc­tion unit in Ed­in­burgh busy. It has been an un­ex­pected boost,” re­veals Amanda.

In Rus­sia, af­ter a day look­ing at sam­ples, they headed back to the ho­tel by un­der­ground.

“I hadn’t a clue where we were and was run­ning for a train jug­gling my suit­case of sam­ples and bags of their gifts which in­cluded small bot­tles of vodka.

“Be­cause I had trav­elled such a lot and was join­ing up with a trade mis­sion, I prob­a­bly hadn’t checked up on things as well as I should have done.”

A sec­ond visit to Moscow went more smoothly, yet she still senses an at­mos­phere.

“It is the one city where I felt I was hold­ing on to my bag tightly. I def­i­nitely felt an un­der­cur­rent of crime. I don’t feel that in Asia, I have al­ways felt quite safe.”

Ven­tur­ing abroad to ex­pand your busi­ness can be a chal­lenge but it pays to be pre­pared well in ad­vance

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