I left for Asia last Saturday. Why off to Asia? Because it's a very important part of the world for Trek. When my father started Trek 35 years ago, he thought there was a market for high end bikes in the US. Little did he know at that time that Trek would end up doing more business outside of the United States than in. The truth is, we sell Trek bikes in over eighty countries around the world.
So: Madison, Minneapolis, Seattle, Bejing. That was the plan. The plane left Madison 40 minutes late and we had to run to our gate in Minneapolis to make the plane to Seattle. As we arrived at the gate, the plane was still there, but the door was closed. I asked if they would open the door so I could make it to my meetings the next morning in Beijing? “NO.” was the answer. Really...... I am one of your best customers, and if I don’t make that plane, I won’t be able to make it to China and I will miss my meetings. “Sorry.” As we discussed this issue of global importance, the plane just sat there. There were 10 people who wanted to get on that plane, including a young couple with two young kids and a stroller. My final plea: “I own a bicycle shop (a rather large one) and let’s say that I have a customer who has purchased 20 bikes from me. Last week he purchased a brand new $5,000 bike. We close our doors at 6 pm. The customer shows up at 6:01 and the doors are closed. Should I open the door for that customer?” The door doesn’t open. Fifteen minutes later, it pulled away. Without us.
We sit in Minneapolis for three hours, then took a flight to LAX, sat in LAX for 6 hours, and boarded a plane at 1 am for a flight to Beijing. I arrive one hour before my meetings.
The first few days of the trip were spent in Beijing meeting with our Asian Managers. Yoshi Tamura, our Japanese manager, Joanna Lee the Manager of Trek China, and Jason Pye, the Manager of Trek Australia (team photo below). One of the smartest moves I have made was opening Trek Japan in 1991. That was at a time when all of the trade talk was that Japan was a closed market and you could not sell American products there. I flew to Japan and interviewed distributors and I could not find a good one. I figured, let’s just do it on our own. The response from a lot of people? “You can’t go direct in Japan.” “It's too tough.” Our most successful market in the last twenty years? You guessed it. Japan. And so, five years ago when people said that you can’t go direct in China, we went direct in China. Earlier this year, we purchased our Australian Distributor from the Cook family and have built upon a successful Asian foundation. And now I was spending a few days of listening to Asian business updates and focusing on my favorite question: How may I help?
That first night we had dinner in a restaurant near Tiananmen Square. I gave the toast: “26 years ago I started at Trek and it was a small company. That year we did less than $20 million in business. This year we will do over $800 million. I feel the same type of adventure and enthusiasm with this group as you build Trek Asia into a very important part of Trek. There will be challenges along the way for sure, but you will be amazed at what you will accomplish in the next 25 years. Do something GREAT!”
The trip back to Madison went smoothly. One of the great experiences in world travel is getting a beer in the Delta Lounge in Tokyo. You put an ice-cold mug on a machine. The machine tilts the mug back and pours the perfect beer. It's something you need to see at least once in life.