One of the main products my company imports is a stainless steel boat accessory. We’ve been importing these products for years and I’ve visited our main factory for these parts several times in China.
A couple of years ago, rather serendipitously, I had the chance to rekindle a friendship with someone who happened to be working in a factory building very similar products to the ones we were importing from China. I was floored. I thought “There are factories in Vancouver like the one in Dongying, Shandong making nearly identical parts?”. This seems like an obvious fact but for some reason I never even considered that I could actually source our product locally.
The greater epiphany came when we started chatting about the process I’d go through if I wanted to have his factory make us a few items. I would give his sales manager a call and discuss our product. I’d issue a PO or sign some kind of contract and we’d pay in full 30 or 60 days after our products were completed. I’d drop off a couple of our products and they’d make a couple of samples for me to review. Once the samples were approved they’d go into full production once they completed the orders ahead of my company’s. Finally, we’d pick up the products and issue payment 30 days or so later.
Consider that to the process I was taking with our Chinese factory. I would exchange a couple of emails with them (whom I had placed several orders with before ever meeting or even talking with on the phone) and eventually place an order, often as informally as a description of the items in a mere email. We’d pay 30% down and 70% once the order was completed. I would invariably think our order was the only order they had (or at the very least, it was the most important) and be baffled when it took more than a couple of weeks to be completed. Finally, they would ship the products 5000 miles to our location and we’d hope for the best in terms of quality and deal with any issues after the fact.
It was an epiphany of sorts. Why was I applying such different standards, worst of all, looser standards, to our Chinese supplier opposed to what I would apply to a Canadian company?
Before working with a Chinese Supplier it’s worth asking yourself what your expectations would be if this same supplier was in your local country. Not all of your expectations can be equally applied to your Chinese Supplier, but many, if not most, can be.