I stopped to wonder today. I had no choice but to stop and wonder, as I was in a traffic jam, on the way to get the handbrake mended at the White Van Hospital. What made me wonder was this morning’s emails, two of which were orders from the USA that had come in overnight. I like that; the fact that when I’m sleeping, people are ordering my stuff from thousands of miles away. It’s lovely to flick the computer on, whilst I’m gazing at Jasper munching brekkies, and I’m sipping coffee, and up pop a few orders.
Years ago I used to make cosmetics and did mail order, but how different it was in those days. Initially customers had to post their order to us, with a cheque, or postal order enclosed with their order slip. Some time later, we started taking credit cards, but had a manual, swipe machine, so couldn’t take credit card orders over the phone. A while later, electronic credit card machines came in, but we had to phone through to the credit card company to get authorisation for mail order payments, and also for person to person orders over a certain sum (I think it was £50). It was a faff and time consuming and quite expensive too. I used to wonder if there would ever be a way of making mail order easier…
At about the same time, I started my legal studies and would receive lectures on cassettes from universities such as the London School of Economics. One of those lectures was just wonderful. It was an economics lecture, all about globalisation. I thought it would be as dull as dish water, but the lecturer made it magical. His view was that there was no such thing as ‘globalisation’ just ‘Americanisation’ and he cited ‘Coca Cola’ and ‘Walt Disney’ as evidence to support his theory. Two ‘global’ brands, famous the world over, both American and ultra influential. I remember laughing, because Walt Disney actually comes from a tiny village called ‘Norton Disney’, which is just up the road from me. Nevertheless, the lecturer knew his stuff, but I doubt very much he could see what ‘globalisation’ would really be like ten years on.
A year later, the lectures went from cassette to video, followed by DVD a year or two later. Then I went to Bar School and DVD was old hat, so I would log into the Uni system to watch the lectures on my computer. Progress in the last decade has been phenomenal!
I used to wonder how we got any orders for cosmetics by mail order, such was the faff for customers. But it was the same for all businesses and we did okay. In those days, an order for someone in Scotland was about as far flung and exotic as it got. The time scales were different too and customers would post their order second class and wait for their items, which would usually take about two weeks to get to them. I had to bank the cheques and wait for clearance before posting the orders off. There wasn’t any on-line banking in those days, just the weekly statements to tell me whether or not the cheques had cleared. It was slow…
And here we are, in 2013, with instant payments and global commerce for everyone. And that’s what made me wonder – just how utterly fabulous it all is. You don’t have to be a multi-national, to be global, if you get my drift – globalisation is now for everyone, not just the big companies like Walt Disney and Coca Cola.
Each time I pack an overseas order, I take a virtual trip on the computer and have a look around the customer’s town or city – my little, virtual sight seeing tour. Last week I went to Nantucket (mmm, I like it there), Charlotte (yup, quite liked it there too), Las Vegas (nice, but not my cup of tea) and a few other places that I’d heard of, but didn’t quite know exactly where they were.
Today I’ve been to Oregon and Oklahoma and tomorrow I shall be off to Alberta for a gawp around the city. I might even manage a quick dash to Athens if I get time.
So, here I am, in a sleepy Lincolnshire village, that no-one has ever heard off. The CEO of the company is a horse called Jasper and he wears only (well, nearly only) purple rugs, because historically, barrister’s horses’ wore purple rugs. The firm’s HQ is a wooden paint shack in the back garden and my dining room is now an office. It’s all completely crackers, but just fabulous. And you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world (although Nantucket did look very nice and Bill Gates would be my neighbour and he’d know how to sort out my computer, and the weather’s better there too).