The key to being successful in China is managing your expectations

Today I was thinking back to a conversation I had with a client of mine a couple of years ago. She was frustrated with her vendor/agent and was beginning to feel that doing business in China was just an endless cycle of trying out new vendors. She wrote as follows:

“I wonder whether I will need to continuously be sourcing new factories and taking a risk every time I do a production run with a new factory.”

My advice to her at the time was that she needed to find new vendors and spend more time developing relationships with those vendors. Easier said than done because she is a mompreneur and with 3 kids and a red-hot business has no time to travel to China to work with her vendors. But her vendor knew this and she was at their mercy. This is of course not an effective way to do business.

Thinking more about this today and reflecting on some of the other projects I have worked on over the last two years, I have come to realize that doing business in China is pretty much what my client described, a seemingly endless cycle of production runs with new vendors. Even some of the successful companies I work with who have an office in China find themselves going through vendors like I go through a batch of freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies. The difference is that these companies usually have long-standing relationships with a couple of good vendors and this allows them to fulfill important orders at the same time they are looking for and trying out new vendors. It is essential they find new vendors because they need more production capacity as their business grows and they understand, very smartly, that at some point their existing partnerships may come to an end.

So being successful in China is a lot about managing your expectations. You cannot go into China thinking you are going to find one supplier who will deliver quality product to you at steady prices for years to come. The perfect spouse does not exist. The most you can hope for is to find a good vendor or two who will help you grow your business while you undertake a time-consuming, costly and often painstaking search for new vendors.

But in the end it is worth it because as I often say where else are you going to be able to make a high-end wood and brass picture frame for $ 1.50 ?

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