SoCal Business

Earlier this week, I made a quick trip to Orange County, California to visit a an aerospace industry customer and supplier. I was asked to attend a joint meeting between a key customer and a our sub-tier special processor. I flew Southwest Airlines to Orange County via Las Vegas. I enjoy flying Southwest because I get to experience their award-winning culture and customer service. I like reading their in-flight magazine and observing the employees. They really are a benchmark company. I didn’t get a deal. I booked my ticket last Friday for a Monday flight and paid over $1,000 for the round trip, so they are no longer a “low-cost carrier.”

I wish I had more time to plan the trip, but sometimes you just have to jump on a plane and go. That is atypical for our small business and we try to avoid expenses like that. I can see how the whole travel industry is driven by corporate spending. I pulled out a Southwest drink coupon to give to the flight attendant and they rejected it. He said, “We stopped taking those in August.” Huh? There was no expiration date. I said I wasn’t going to pay $5.00 for a drink. The passenger next to me overheard the exchange and suggested that I just put it on my company expense report. His attitude was hilarious. I bet that he hits his own company hard when he travels. I explained that it was my family’s business and that frugality was our way. I guess it’s all about shifting dollars from one company’s pocket to another.

I preceded my supplier visit in Santa Ana with a customer visit in Chatsworth. I had to drive across Los Angeles during morning rush hour and it wasn’t pleasant experience. I was only 20 minutes late, but realized that I couldn’t live there, even for a week. It was just a normal day in L.A. with gridlock. A tractor-trailer truck passed me. The truck had another supplier’s name on it and it looked t be loaded with a bunch of extrusions bound for another shop like ours. We have had a particularly difficult time with this supplier, so I snapped a few photos of the truck speeding by. Maybe it will give me leverage in a future negotiation!

The customer visit went well and took most of the day. Just before sunset, I drove to the closest visible hill, parked at a playground, and changed from my shirt and tie into my running clothes. I donned my headlamp, a reflective vest, and went for a short run. I found a horse trail and followed it for 20 minutes. I returned to my car after sunset, satisfied with the run. I waited till after the evening rush hour to return to Anaheim, where I was staying. I’ve been using Hampton Inn’s during most of my business trips. I know the routine, can get oatmeal and fruit in the morning, and the Internet is free.

I met up with my key customer and gave him a ride to our supplier. He was visiting from Japan. This is an important project for Horst Engineering, so it was an important visit. It was a long way for us to travel, but we solidified our relationships and got a better understanding of the steps that our parts go through. I was impressed with the supplier’s technical abilities and the scale of their operation. It was evident that doing business in California is no easier than doing business in Connecticut. Manufacturing is tough wherever you are in the United States.

After returning our customer to his hotel, I spent the afternoon doing work from my computer. Late in the day, I found a gym with a pool and swam for 45 minutes. It was a nice gym and a nice outdoor pool. Dinner was at Au Lac, a high quality vegan restaurant. I returned to the hotel for my final night in Orange County. Thursday morning, I got up early and ran the Anaheim strip before settling down for another work session prior to my flight. I was planning to visit other suppliers, but the scheduling didn’t work out and the traffic was nightmarish following a wild night of Santa Ana winds. Fortunately John Wayne Airport is far enough inland that my flight wasn’t affected. It was a bumpy ride to my Denver connection, where it was snowing. The views of the Rocky Mountains on the approach were spectacular. I was home by midnight and back to work in East Hartford on Friday morning.

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