Organizational Culture & Values

Sourcing my Breakfast in China

Instead of talking strictly about sourcing products and services in China, lets talk breakfast. I usually make 4-5 sourcing trips to China each year that can last 2-4 weeks each, depending on the nature of that particular trip. Sometimes It is a quick 2-week trip visiting candidate factories, touring facilities and negotiating deals, other times we’re personally inspecting production and manufacturing facilities throughout China. But our home base is the Avela Shanghai office. And on every trip  I allow at least four solid days to work with the office staff on improving systems and procedures and brainstorming on what is around the corner. I have a created a small apartment out of 2 rooms at the office. The cost of the extra space is about equivalent to what the hotel stays would be over the course of a year. I like this so much more than a hotel as this space is mine and it feels like home.

Anyway, the Avela office building, unlike a hotel has no restaurants or room service, so I have to walk to get my breakfast. It is a mile each way to find my favorite breakfast street food:  food that the average Shanghai commuters eat after leaving the bus or subway on their way to work. I never cease to be amazed by how much walking the average workers do on their way to and from their jobs. I think on average people spend 3 to 4 hours just commuting each day. It is hard to move a city of 19 million people

So 22 floors down the elevator and I find myself immersed in the stunning Shanghai morning commute. I am walking toward the subway exit because that is where the vendors are. And people, bicycles, motorcycles, buses and cars are everywhere. I penetrate the crowd and let their energy whisk me along toward my breakfast street vendor rendezvous. Hundreds of smiles, strange looks and a mile later, I’m in line. Finally it is my turn as I watch my breakfast being created.

With breakfast in hand, I’m back among a packed sidewalk crowd, on my way back to the apartment. Having passed hundreds of fast walking people, I am at my desk and eating my favorite Shanghai breakfast while reading email. And I am thinking, this was great exercise. I should walk a mile each way for breakfast when I’m back in Houston. But it’s just not the same:  no masses of people to share energy with and no outstanding street food, made on the spot, to walk to. I guess that is what makes Shanghai so special.

Category: Organizational Culture & Values


About the Author: Gary Young

Gary Young, 10 year veteran of Vistage, is CEO of Avela Corporation, helping companies source products and services in China for over 9 years; with offices in Houston Texas and Shanghai China. Starting his company in 1984 as an advertising a…

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