Thomas Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

The More Things Change, The More They Look the Same

I’ve been travelling to China for many years now, and I’m always amazed each time how much has changed in just a few months.  When I arrived this time, four apartment towers sprung up near our factory, each at least 20 stories tall (and growing…they are still building up).  When I first arrived years ago, there was no highway and the road was half dirt and half cement.  Today, there’s a four lane highway and the roads are beautifully paved with nice curbs and street markings.

Even just a few years ago, there were few stoplights and no one paid attention to them anyway (the saying goes that street markings and stoplights in China are “for reference only.”)  Today, there are fancy LED stoplights with timers that count down how many seconds until the light turns green (we should get those in the USA, it’s genius) and frankly the roads look nearly identical to ours as in China you also drive on the right side of the road.  I have to admit that the stoplights do seem to still be “for reference only” when the roads are not crowded, but they seem to be followed 90% of the time.

What really got me this time was that I noticed that there is now a second 24 hour McDonald’s that is within two blocks of my hotel.  I knew about the first 24 hour McDonald’s (and the nearby Starbucks), but I didn’t realize that there was a second one literally two blocks away.  On top of that, Wal-Mart is opening a location on the same block.

It is amazing as the world gets smaller.  I just hope that as stores and brands globalize that we will still have vibrant local and regional cultures.  Life would be boring if everything is the same!  If everyone drove the same car, ate in the same restaurant, wore the same clothes, listened to the same music, had the same artificial Christmas tree, it just wouldn’t be that interesting.

About the Author
Thomas is as an operator and investor in consumer brands and consumer Internet companies. Since founding ecommerce retailer Balsam Hill, Thomas has launched several other national brands under the Balsam Brands umbrella including pool retailer Backyard Ocean. Prior to founding Balsam Brands, Thomas ran a contract manufacturing company, worked in consumer products marketing, business development, and as a management consultant.