By Megan Pardee
When I first started at Sierra Pacific Crafts (SPC), I had little knowledge about what being an import coordinator meant. SPC is a co-op for independent craft stores across the U.S. My job centered around product from our international vendors. This included coordinating the seasonal buying trip every October and April, organizing the offering to members, consolidating the orders from members, and then working with the vendors to solve any minimum order quantity (MOQ) issues, availability issues, style changes, or shipment delays.
Because I was the import coordinator, my responsibilities were with our international vendors who were located primarily in China. At that time, I had very little understanding of Chinese business culture and would take a very direct route when solving an issue. On more than one occasion, I found that somehow the issue became even more complicated than it originally was. I had to learn as I went how to communicate with the vendors on an individual level. Some vendors I could take a more direct route with, while there were others I had to be much more indirect with. Looking back, I am very thankful for how patient the vendors were when working with this American who clearly did not know how things worked in China.
Although my office represented over 100 retail outlets across the country, all the stores were independent and therefore did not order the same items. Over the last several years, the MOQs in Chinese factories has grown substantially. This meant that I faced MOQ issues on an almost daily basis. This combined with the fact that we would often compete for production capacity against giants like Target, Lowes, Michaels, and JoAnns meant I had to get creative to find ways of avoiding or fixing these situations. I now have a new understanding of what it means to be a small fish in a big pond.
An obstacle I faced on an almost daily basis was time management. Trying to find a balance between taking care of the immediate issues while still staying proactive on future events was a daily challenge. What I discovered was that I had a different way of managing my time than my coworkers. There were pros and cons to all three methods, but at the end of the day, what I feel is important is that we accomplished what we needed to. Everyone works differently. Learn what works for you and recognize that it may not work for someone else. I think this is one of the biggest lessons to learn when working in groups.
Now that I am in the MIM program at PSU, I have been able to look at situations with a new outlook. I am excited to see how this will help me make better decisions and have a successful international career.