What is the best approach to take with your China vendors ?

I get emails every week from people who do business in China, some successfully and some not so successfully (but everyone seems to have a problem and that is why they are emailing me).  I could put the people who email me into two groups as follows:

1.)    The people who take a bang your fist on the table attitude into their China ventures. These people often enter China with a negative impression of China and they tend to want to dictate all terms in their relationship with their China supplier. They do a lot of yelling on the phone with their vendors. When something goes wrong with an order, especially if it is the vendor’s fault, then you do not want to be around them.  Yet people like this can be successful in China because there are occasions when you need to yell at your vendor to get something done. For example, if you are facing a cancellation date on an order and your vendor is dragging their heals for one reason or another, your only chance to get that order shipped is to express your anger to the vendor.  The downside with this approach though is that your vendor may come to seriously dislike you.  As long as your order QTYs are substantial this may not matter. But if  your order QTYs dwindle and your vendor dislikes you on on top of that then you will soon be looking for a new vendor.

As a general rule I like to advise people not to get angry with a vendor unless all other options have failed and unless the vendor is 100% to blame for the problem ( often they are not).  Anger at your vendor should be the last play in the play book.

2.)    The people who tend to approach China with a more level-headed attitude. They may also have pre-conceived notions about China but they do they do not give voice to these and, in fact, they are inclined to admire China’s progress and see more positive than negative. The are excited and optimistic about doing business in China.  The one downside to this attitude is that it sometimes borders on naïveté.  In fact, China is a very difficult place to do business ( that is its well-founded reputation) and you need to be aware of this at all times while your order is in process. You can never take anything at face value and never assume that your vendor is going to do anything that will give you the advantage. Be optimistic but skeptical ( if I can say that). Or as Ronald Regan once said of the Soviet Union: ”Trust but verify.”

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