When I started my business career, the fax machine was still a big tool.
We probably used the fax machine as much as email. This was back in 2001 / early 2002.
In China, suppliers would still send documents and communication by the ol’ fax.
Remember that little slip that would come after the fax made a lot of beeping and buzzing sounds that said “sent OK”?
If you didn’t get the slip, the fax wasn’t sent properly. You had to do it again.
Even if you got the slip, there was still doubt. You had to follow up with the receiver and make sure they got the fax. The youth of today will never know the struggle.
The fax machine was sort of the kick off of my world into China sourcing.
Shortly after arrival in China and I was working for a company, the first client I handled opened 17 orders all at once.
It was a company out of those islands south of Spain.
The items were merchandise for their discotecas or clubs. Backpacks, scarves, cheap giveaways to high-end developed items.
17 purchase orders.
And 17 letters of credit, all with accompanying bank documents. Not the ease of dealing with simple wire transfers.
I had to explain particulars of the letter of credit to each vendor. This was 2001. The letters of credit were wordy. If memory serves me right, they were in Spanish.
I sat there and stared ahead blankly for the first hour or so. I didn’t know what a letter of credit was. I was still trying to figure out what the hell the fax machine was.
That was a lot for a youngster to handle who just came from the mountains of North Carolina. I’d dare say that would be a lot for anyone to handle who’s worked in China manufacturing for many years….
Once I branched out and started my own business, I was still relying on the trusty ol’ fax machine.
Using the fax machine was how I got our first order.
I used to send out cold faxes. You’ve heard of cold calls, cold emails, but these was cold faxes.
Receivers were curious. They would call or email back wondering who is sending cold faxes from China in Spanish.
Sometimes I’d call and see if the fax was received. This would leave to more conversation.
The first ordered I managed on my own came from a guy or company in Chile. He opened 2 purchase orders.
The first was for industrial can openers.
The second was for silicone bake molds.
You can imagine my excitement.
This would’ve been in the Spring of 2004, finally hustling and bustling and shucking and jiving and bringing in my own business.
All out of an apartment in Dongguan, China.
Our eventual largest account that I was able to hold on to for about 4 years was also first contacted via cold fax.
This client then was our first in the promotional product industry. Via that one cold fax, it lead me heavily focus in one industry for many, many years.
We didn’t have social media back then.
Most business had websites obviously and if you were mining for contacts, you’d send out emails, faxes or phone calls from the information on the website.
I felt a fax stood out. I was right.
Eventually the fax machine went the way of the dinosaur and email was at the top of the heap as far as electronic communication.
I wonder what life would’ve been like in 2001 to 2004 when I was really getting started if there would’ve been social media.
Isn’t it interesting how contacts and business come from the smallest start?
Of course not just business.
Think about life, relationships, children, faith.
Seemingly incidental beginnings bring great fruit from our labor.
There’s patience involved.
Tending the garden.
Are we still patient?
Do we still have that same positive outlook we started with?
If not, what’s stopping us from re-sowing our seed and correcting that outlook?
Regardless of how our 2018 ends, 2019 can be an empty slate. The world is smaller now than it was in 2001. We don’t have to send cold faxes into oblivion.
We can now contact people, particularly. More pointed.