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With corporate culture there is no ‘hurry up’

Shortly after our town hall meeting I left for two weeks to travel through Asia to meet with our vendors and understand the current landscape within our supply chain, which is riddled with challenges.

First there are labour shortages, as the next-generation Chinese does not want manufacturing jobs. Many factories lost over 30 per cent of their work force after Chinese New Year last year, forcing them to close. Many fear the same reduction will happen again this year. Then there is the rise in the Chinese domestic market, leading to less capacity for exports. Add on the rising cotton prices and a surging economy with a weak U.S. dollar and you are starting to see the challenges we face.

One thing is clear: We are in a fortunate position and look to be weathering the challenges well. We have managed to get into this position by not taking drastic steps and ensuring we understand the landscape from multiple perspectives. Our employees may not know all the details, but from the ground here in Asia I can see the advantages and the strategy we need to take to ensure our customers have a seamless experience.

The record-high cotton prices are certainly playing with the industry's patience and driving people to take drastic actions. Fortunately for us we don't depend heavily on cotton, but what is interesting to watch is the reaction of various suppliers. Some are hoarding cotton in the hopes of further price increases, while others recognize that this is a short-term problem - one or two years and then prices will stabilize. Further damage is being created by different reactions and overreaction, which can and will drive additional delays into the market.

In the end, cotton is a renewable resource and will eventually stabilize to meet the demand. It has in the past and it will in the future.

Why is this part of my blog on culture? Because it highlights the effect of overreaction. There is no doubt that we all lead with the hopes that we can drive change for the better, as quickly as possible, but reacting to short-term situations without looking at the underlying circumstances can lead to significant setbacks.

In addition, to our efforts to navigate our supply issues, I have had time with our merchandising team. These trips provide great opportunities to get to know each other and understand how we work best together. Unlike a regular work environment, we are together for every meal and, with the exception of time for e-mail, all day. You get to know your team really well on the road, and we are in the small settings with limited numbers that I spoke of last week. In the end these are excellent conditions to extend and experience our culture.

The trip has afforded me the time to reflect on our progress toward the betterment of our culture and my need to be patient. Often I am one to forgo a celebration and seldom enjoy our accomplishments - driving, instead, toward the next goal. In the moment, being patient and ensuring that we stay focused on our plan provides confidence for the team that we are on the right track and plan to stay the course. Then, and only then, does the real change actually begin.