Starting or expanding a business can be an exciting time as well as a stressful time.  There are lots of questions and decisions to be made before you open the doors or take that first product order.  Many people have great ideas but are unable to follow through to bring their idea to reality for a number of reasons. And for those wanting or needing to expand their business determining if the market is there or is there is enough capital to fund such an endeavor can cause sleepless nights.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a business advisor who could walk that business owner through the steps toward being a thriving business?  Someone who can be objective, a sounding board, can bring years of business experience to help the new business owner or help the expanding business become successful.  A business advisor who has good references and most of all comes at no cost.

One does not need to look far to find an organization that does just that, the Indiana Small Business Development Center. The southwest Indiana office, located in Evansville provides services to small business owners, assisting with business planning, marketing research and financial analysis.  They cover eight counties in southwest Indiana including Warrick County.

Staff members are experienced business advisors and are available to help develop a business model, help the business owner understand market trends and/or prepare financial projections to assist at the start or expansion of a business.

And this year ISBDC introduced a collection of online courses designed to teach business owners the “3M’s” – Money, Marketing and Management.  Through an online course the curriculum provides small business with real world tools and information.  Each course is via the internet which allows the busy business person the ability to progress at their own pace.  This program, along with meetings with a business advisor affords the best possibility of a successful new or expanding business.

I encourage those thinking about starting a business or expanding their business to schedule time to sit down with the staff and review your options.  It is great business advice to make sure you get your business or expansion off to a successful start.  Their office number is 812-425-7232.

By the time this article goes to print Election 2012 will be over.  For most people the can’t come soon enough.  This election has been one of the longest and most expensive elections in history with mudslinging on both sides. The TV, newspaper, internet ads, door hangers all promoting the virtues of that particular candidate. Election information overload yet many people won’t have exercised their right to vote.

It has been asked who the Warrick Chamber is supporting or why the Chamber has not come out with a list of candidates.  The Warrick County Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization and our by-laws clearly state that the Chamber does not support political candidates on any level.  The Warrick Chamber is an advocate for our business members and we work with office holders at all levels of government.

To the winners of each office, congratulations on your victory.  You now have a major task ahead, representing all your constituents no matter if they voted for you or not. Take time to listen to your constituents on issues of importance to them.  Find ways to work together with all elected office holders, not just those with the same letter.

To those individuals who did not see the joy of victory, thank you for stepping forward to offer your service.  It is a major undertaking to sign your name to an election ballot, to come up short can be very disheartening.

A 4:15am wakeup call with a second reminder call at 4:30.  Need to be at bus by 5:00am.  We are heading to the Shanghai airport for an early morning flight back to Beijing.  The 2 ½ hour plane ride I tried to get a bit of sleep time but not much.

At the Beijing airport we say goodbye to our tour guide, Brian who has become a friend.  You can tell he truly enjoys showing off his home to people.  He is certainly a goodwill ambassador for China and for Citilink , the tour company who hosted the Chamber directors for the past week. We learned about him, his wife and 7 year old daughter and we all offered to show him Indiana when he travels to the United States.

Finally on the plane and settling in for a long flight ahead.  It’s the middle of the night in Indiana but I’ve already been up almost 12 hours.   We arrive in New York just a couple of hours after we took off in Beijing so gained back those lost 12 hours but my body doesn’t understand that.  Smooth sailing through customs and baggage pick up.

Said goodbye to those in our group, all are heading off to our respective flights.  Debbie Barrett & I along with a number of others are staying overnight for flights out on Monday.  Our small travel group is already making plans to get together in the near future to compare notes.

Monday evening, 9:00pm, land in Evansville after our flight from New York to Evansville via Detroit.  It’s good to be home.  It has been an amazing 11 days. The sights, tastes, smells, new Chamber friends are memories that will last a lifetime.  It will take a while to adjust back to Indiana time but that’s a small price to pay for the experience.

Some have asked why anyone would want to go to China. It is truly on the other side of the world and a very different world from our southern Indiana life but having the opportunity to travel to a country, see how they live, experience their culture helps build a better understanding of a country that is growing and competing in a world market.  Would I go back? The answer is yes, just give me time to pack my bag.

It’s hard to believe this is our last day in China, the time has gone by so fast.

Our first event after breakfast was a panel discussion with Americans working in China.  This was a very informative session.  Their experience and insight into working with Chinese business was good information.  We have spent the past week learning about the culture and experiencing China and this helps understand their business culture.

Now we are on our bus and off to take a train ride, not an ordinary train but the famous Maglev Train.  It is can go up to 430km/h or about 265 mph.  We were on the “slow train” so it only got up to 300km/h or about 185 mph.  The technology is not new but this train is a pilot project to see if this can be used to move people from point A to point B is a fast effective manner.  The ride was smooth, hard to really feel we were going that fast but I’m sure those in Shanghai using it to get to and from work find it an effect mode of transportation.

Our final business tour stop was to see the making of silk rugs.  The workers there were doing such detailed work, I could just sit there and watch as they create the rug thread by thread but I’m sure the workers would prefer not to have someone looking over their shoulder.

For lunch we stopped for Mongolian Barbeque, not barbeque as we think of barbeque but more the cooking process.  We selected our raw meat, raw vegetables and seasonings then took them to back of room where the chefs was waiting with huge fire hot flat grills.  While we watched our food was cooked and then given back to each of us. If you didn’t like how it turned out you only had yourself to blame.  This meal appeared to be a good food option.

After lunch we boarded the bus for some sightseeing and pictures then off to the bazaar or market.  Our tour guide refers to it as Chinatown.  This is our last chance to pick up any souvenirs or gifts we may have forgot to get along the way as well as take in the sights and sounds of a busy China market.  With 22 in our group there is no chance to stay together so our guide gives us a reference point and a time then we is on our own for the next couple of hours.

Only one item on my must have list and found it fairly quickly so just went along with a couple of others from our group.  The local dealers expect you to negotiate a price and some in our group are better than others.   I fortunately, am pretty good at making a deal and enjoyed the back & forth with the dealers, I don’t know if they had a good time but I did.

Our final dinner was bittersweet, the food was good, recognized many of the items on the table and by now I have my “go to” items.  The presentation of the food is part of the dinner but for some in our group they still can’t get past something looking back at you.  My chopstick skills have improved greatly.  I have become friends with so many other Chamber directors throughout Indiana as well as Kentucky & Ohio.  Have compared notes and will take back a number of ideas regarding our jobs and Chambers.

One final event to attend and they saved the best for last as we attend the Shanghai Acrobatic Show ERA.  With front row seats we truly had the best seats in the house.  The precision of the acrobats along with music & light show was truly amazing.  No language barrier there, everyone enjoyed the show.

It’s back to the hotel to do final packing.

As several of our group sat eating breakfast this morning we tried to figure out what day of the week it actually is, Thursday or Friday?  Finally decided we are in Hangzhou so must be Thursday but at this point we really aren’t sure.  We are off for another day to travels with site stops along the way.  So bags packed and luggage down to the bus, suitcase is getting heavier by the day. We will be heading back to Shanghai later today.

First stop of the day, Lingyin Buddhist Temple for a tour. The temple contains a carved wooden Buddha, which is over 64 feet tall.  It is painted gold so really is impressive. One building contained over 500 Budda statues over 8 feet tall, each one different. The area has a large number of rock carvings of various Buddha.

From there we traveled to a Tea Plantation.  The tea bushes along the hills and mountains went on & on for miles.  Finally enter a small drive, smaller than I thought we could get a big bus but made it just fine.  Guess that is why I don’t drive a big bus.

Our group had the opportunity to sit down for a lesson in farming in China, tea specifically.  I like tea and thought I knew about tea but found out how much I don’t know about tea.  Was very interesting and sampled “just fresh” tea.  Green tea has become popular in the US in the last 10 years or so but in China for centuries.  They don’t add sugar and from his description of tea bags I may go back to loose tea for drinking.

Lunch again with a wide selection of Chinese foods then off to a boat ride on the lake.  Lots of cruse boats taking people around the lake.  Some boats were very ornately decorated.  We found a KFC on our walk back to the bus.  Not the same menu as in the US but it is very popular there.  Almost everyone had to have a soft serve cone much to the amusement of the KFC workers who were trying to make 20+ cones as we tried to figure out exactly how much we needed to pay for the cones.  While many places in China take American dollars or credit cards, this particular KFC did not.  At this time the yuan exchange rate is 6.2 =1

A 3 hour bus ride Shanghai, interesting scenery along the way. Rice fields next to new construction.  Seems farm land is making way for new developments all over.  A couple of rest stops along the way. Looking for a diet coke but no luck, settled for the bottled water provided on the bus.

Finally arrived in Shanghai, the lights of the city are really something to see.  Lots of neon chase lights on buildings and some very tall building changed colors through the color spectrum.  Dinner was once again a wide selection of Chinese cuisine.  Some items we have seen and tasted before but the names are hard to remember and even harder to pronounce.   The restaurant we ate at had a large welcome sign for us.  Seems several places on our trip had a welcome sign waiting.  It was a nice touch.

Finally hotel, room key and heading to bed.

On the bus by 8:00am and off for a tour of the Lingering Gardens, a beautiful formal garden area in the city.  The early morning light provides for some good pictures which I’ll have to post soon after I get back home.  Found a Diet Coke in the gift shop, something of a rare find.  Even in Chinese you can tell a Diet Coke or as the English side of the can says Light Coke.  Ah, taste of home.  Bottled water, beer and regular coke have been the only offered beverages.

A tour of a Silk Factory provided a view of a local industry.  Very few young workers are seen, the same with a lot of the arts we have seen.  The young workers can get job elsewhere and are not as interested in the detail work required.

Our lunch was surprising as it was a buffet, something we have not seen in our trip so far.  And “western” food was available.  Many took advantage of the variety of food offerings.  Even the “western” food had a unique Chinese flavor to it but I must say the green beans or as they called them “cow peas” were good.

A stop at the National Embroidery Institute to view another local art craft.  Amazing the detail work done by the skilled craft women.

Afternoon bus ride to Hangzhou, about a two hour bus ride from Suzhou.  The highways we traveled on were major roadway, very similar to our interstates.  I know there are other roads not in such good shape but we are traveling from one major city to the next so one would expect a multilane road.

Arrived in time for dinner, seems we are eating our way through China although I’ve yet to find anyone who has said they were too full to eat more.  Sampling doesn’t fill one up.  So far think I’ve only had one of my “emergency” granola bars.

My suitcase is filling up.  Note to self, buy heavy items at the end of the trip if you have to carry your own bags across the country.

Up early and heading to Beijing Airport for our flight to Shanghai.  When we arrived in Beijing on Sunday it was dark so didn’t see just how large the airport actually is.  Most of the update and building was completed prior to the 2008 Olympics.  Boarded our flight, Air China, a Boeing 777 for our 2+ hour flight to the Shanghai airport where were welcomed with a large welcome banner and flowers, a nice way to be greeted as we get off the airplane. We boarded another bus and then traveled to the city of Suzhou about and hour and a half from Shanghai.  Suzhou is one of the fastest growing cities in China.  It is the electronic capital of China, the Silicon Valley of China.  As recent at 1992 it was mainly farmland and rice fields.  The city is a city planners dream or nightmare depending on how you look at it.  This is where a lot of young workers are drawn to.

The city is a mix of new high rise apartment buildings and historic areas.  Took time in the afternoon for a boat ride along the Grand Canal.  This provided an up close view of those living along the historic canal.  Took lots of pictures. Met more street vendors offering us “special deals”, I’m learning how to say “no” in Chinese.  We   Visited Tiger Hill with their seven story leaning pagoda.  They refer to it as the Venus of China with the leaning tower and canals.

We got to our hotel in time to change of our Welcome Dinner in Suzhou.  It was an elaborate set up with officials there to once again welcome us. I’m afraid we may have a pattern going.  We were welcomed in Beijing and left the next morning before daylight and now another welcome and will be leaving in the morning for Hangzhou. Again, lots of food, I wish I had time to get the name of each dish but then maybe better to just try it and not know what is actually in the dish.

New hotel room to get used to, but only for one night.

The morning starting off with rain, not a good day to be doing a lot of outdoor activities.  Our guide promises the rain will end by noon.  Boarded the bus for a tour to various areas of Beijing. Our first stop of the day is the Beijing Pearl Market.  We had a very informative guide to explain the pearl industry in China.  We all took some time to look at the amazing beautiful creations from the pearls before getting back on the bus to continue our tour.  Oh, and yes I pick out my own Christmas present, I’ll act surprised when my husband gives them to me (or maybe heI’ll be surprised when I get them)

The next stop was the Summer Palace, rain almost stopped, only a few sprinkles.  The history of the Summer Palace is amazing, touring along the lakeshore was a bit brisk but the beauty well worth the breeze. The Long Corridor and painted ceiling which are being restored (repainted) are beautiful.

Next stop was the Hutong area of Beijing. I can best describe it as the historic area of Beijing and by historic, 300 to 700+ years old.  This is home for many families who have lived in the area for centuries.  A local family would be serving as host for lunch.  Now how does a large tour bus get through the narrow streets and alleys?  It doesn’t but rickshaws do, not the foot drawn ones but the more “modern” ones with drivers using peddle power.  We travel through the streets, a total of 12 rickshaws, what a parade.  We were able to see up close the lifestyle of many residents of Beijing.  It is a very primitive lifestyle and like with many the youth are leaving the area for the more modern areas of the city. Their culture is changing.

Lunch was wonderfully prepared by our gracious homeowner who welcomed all 22 of us into her home.  The other bus group went to another host family.   The food was much more local and what I’d call basic food, not the more elaborate dishes we have been served.  After getting back into our rickshaws for a return trip through the narrow streets and alleys we boarded the bus for our next stop.

Tian’amen Square which is the largest square in the world provided a view of modern China with the massive outdoor TV screens.  Security is tight to get into the large open space but we moved through quickly with our guide with us.  He has done this before.  As promised the rain stopped but the wind on the wide open space was strong and cold.  We continued walking at a very brisk pace toward the Forbidden City.  Where is a rickshaw when you need one?

The Palace or Forbidden City with a reported 9,999 rooms was home to 24 emperors.  We certainly didn’t have time to see even a fraction of the rooms but those we were able to tour were very beautiful.  This was a Monday and the place was full, can’t imagine how a weekend would be.  One member of our group clocked 5 miles on her pedometer, not bad for a short afternoon walk in the brisk air.

We arrived back at the hotel in time to change clothes before our official welcome dinner, hosted by the Beijing International Trade in Services Center.  Our official welcome to Beijing, we exchanged gifts with the officials. I had an opportunity to sit next to a very lovely lady and learned more about her, her family and the people of China.  Food again was a variety of dishes.  Lots of fish, vegetables, rice, chicken, duck.  Again tried to sample everything, I’m getting better with my chop sticks.

Still no blog access or Facebook.  Emailed home.  We have an early wakeup as we leave Beijing in the morning for Shanghai.

 

Didn’t need the wake up call, was awake most of the night.  By daylight the city looks different.  It is cloudy, not sure if its fog, smog or both, time will tell.  Breakfast in the hotel restaurant has a wide variety of food, some food items are familiar, others certainly don’t look like a breakfast food to me but then again my body is telling me it 7pm.  Breakfast eaten and at the bus by 8am to begin our day.

As we travel the city, our first stop is the Beijing Olympic Village area.  The famous “birds nest” stadium is as one sees in the pictures.  I remember the 2008 Olympic on TV, certainly didn’t think I would ever be looking directly at the stadium.  Time for a few pictures and then on the bus, next stop a Jade factory.

Short tour of the facility and watched artists as they cut jade into some amazing pieces. Jade has a long history in China.  We were provided time to check out the gift shop and, yes I found a couple of pieces to take home.

From there we traveled to visit some of the tombs from the Ming Dynasty, as I remember from our guide the Ming Dynasty was going on in China about the time Columbus was looking for a more direct way to China and bumped into America.  Beautiful grounds, didn’t see an actual tomb but the buildings that are there are beautiful.

First encounter with street vendors or as our guide, Brian calls them “mosquitoes”.  They all take “dollars” and are willing to make you a deal.

Stopped for lunch.  It appears there is a theme with the tables.  All tables are large round, seating 8 – 12 people with large lazy susan in the middle.  Food is served family style so it make it easy to pass the food around for everyone to sample.  Some in our group were more adventuresome than others.  I think I at least sampled all the options.  Beverages are limited to bottled water, beer or regular Coke, all room temperature.

After lunch heading to the Great Wall.  It’s a cool day, what fog there was is gone but the smog is still visible.  Learning the history of China along with just general information about the people of China from our guide is most helpful.  I can’t imagine trying to get around to the sites without a knowledgeable guide and Brian is certainly a wealth of information.  He is attempting to teach us some Chinese words, I feel certain he will be telling is fellow workers how hard it is to get our group to pronounce and remember even simple words.

The Great Wall is truly a wonder of the world.  The Juyong Pass, one of the access points along the Great Wall It is an amazing structure to see up close. We had the option of climbing one of two directions, steep or steeper.  I along with most of the group chose the steep side.  .  From our starting point to the top there are about 950 steps with stopping points (lookout towers) along the way.    The sign indicates it strategically located and difficult to access.  I can attest to difficult to access.  The stairs in some points are almost vertical and uneven.  Some steps have a rise of just a few inches; others are 18 or more inches.  Handrails are in some places and none in others.  ADA accessible is not an option, or at least not this section of the wall.  From the various lookouts the view are beautiful.  Considering this section of the wall was constructed in the 1300’s to 1500’s it is an amazing structure.   At about step 750 the air quality, my allergies and limited time I decided the 3rd tower was a good point to begin my return trip back down the mountain.  There were people of all ages there, some I would have thought were years beyond taking a climb of this nature but maybe some thought that of our group too.  All in our group who went up made it back down safely.

Back on the bus and heading to a special prepared dinner for our group and networking opportunities.  Dinner was a true Peking Duck Dinner with all the trimmings, and I do mean all the trimming.  Several pieces and parts of the duck were prepared and yes I did sample a variety of dishes I didn’t think I’d every try.

Heading to hotel and looking forward to bed and sleep.

Landed at Beijing airport at about 6:30pm local time which is exactly 12 hour difference from NY time.  Since I moved my watch ahead one hour when I got to New York on Friday I don’t need to make any adjustment.  The flight was certainly long, 14 hours flying time.  The Boeing 747 was full except for just a few seats and one happened to be next to me so I was able to stretch out just a bit more for “sleeping” if one really sleeps on a plane.  Impressed with the flight crew ability to feed 400+ people, and the food wasn’t bad or airplane food.

After the Chinese officials checked our passports and visas we were met by our tour guide, “Brian”.  Luggage in hand we head to our bus for the ride from the airport to dinner. Our bus is the “red bus”, there are 22 in our group, all from Indiana, except one couple from Michigan.  The “green bus” is the rest of the group from Kentucky and Ohio.

Dinner was amazing.  My goal on this trip is to try everything at least once (hope I can stick to that goal).  Chinese food is nothing like the American Chinese we get in the states.  Although rice is rice and I like rice so all should be ok, I won’t starve, besides I do have my “emergency” stash of granola bars in my suitcase.

We were told when planning for the trip if we wanted a fork to bring one with us.  Surprised to see forks at all places at the table.  Several of us asked for chopsticks and were immediately each brought a set.  I decided, though I’m not very good with them this would be an opportunity to hone that skill.

It’s about 11:00pm and just getting to my room.  Room is really beautiful, lots of marble and glass and since I have a corner room I have floor to ceiling windows and can see the lights of the city in two directions.  Tried to post to my blog but could not get to the blog site.  Facebook and Twitter are also unavailable, some in our group said they can read their Facebook up but I can’t seem to access mine, will try again in the morning. Did get email message home to say I have arrived. Need to get some sleep, long day tomorrow starts early.

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