Real Life Lesson about Mind Sets

As a young man, in 1968, the trading company I worked for  “parachuted” me into Seoul, Korea. With over 100 years of trading experience and offices all over the Far East, it was time, they said, to “open up” in Seoul.   The instructions were simple – ‘John, you have about six months to pay for yourself and those you hire; do what you wish, but pick your opportunities very carefully.”
As it turned out, I did exactly that — extraordinarily well.

Two months after being dropped into Seoul I found myself in Amsterdam airport, absolutely awed by what I saw there:  An Airport Duty Free Store selling everything from booze to cigarettes to perfume to fashion merchandise.

Why awed? Because Amsterdam was the very first airport in the world which had anything even half-way close to what exists today. Instantly –  ice-cream cone to my forehead – I thought “How perfect for our company” — already deep in the booze distribution business”.

The short of it is that in the next four years we opened Airport Duty Free Stores in Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul and Guam.

The long of it was how difficult it was to convince the airport authorities to consider doing something besides load passengers, fuel the planes, and not lose too much luggage in the process. Much more difficult than you can imagine.

In the end we changed those mind-sets and made a ton of money for all the parties involved. Soon, others all around the world replicated the (no longer “novel”) concept.

The lesson?  The biggest and best opportunities are those that deal with improving products and services already in place. Ones that augment and supplement and improve that which is already at hand. And then add “extras”, especially ones where new technologies make it all possible.



About oregonhibbs

I'm passionate about improving access to education, worldwide, sailing, Duck football (I live in the shadow of the University of Oregon in Eugene) and connecting with people with ideas and work that "can change the world". With this in mind, I am the "Skipper" for Global Learn Day, which you can find out more about at

Posted on January 6, 2015, in Global Learn Day, Queen Mary. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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