Don’t fall in love with your China supplier

What people are saying about Mulberry Fields
” A very interesting blog…”  – a company in France

I am watching a new Chinese TV drama now and there was a line in the story last night that caught my ear. 相爱容易,相处难。This is pronounced xiang ai rong yi, xiang chu nan. What it means is that it is easier to fall in love with someone than it is to get along with them. There is a lot of wisdom in this saying. The Chinese have not been around for 5000 years for nothing.

And nowhere is this saying more applicable than in one’s relationship with their vendor. Many small business owners with little experience sourcing in China tend to put their new China vendors on a pedestal when they get well-made product at a very good price. Things are hunky dory for the first couple of orders and the buyer thinks they have found a reliable China partner for many years to come. Then they start to notice a quality fade. And then the vendor emails them and tells them that their costs are going up. And then the buyer gets a bad container of product. Before you know it all the genuinely positive feeling the buyer felt for their supplier is gone, they swear off on them and start looking for another vendor. This is so often the scenario that has played out with people who come to me.

The lesson to be learned here is never to fall in love a supplier – no matter how nice their product is, no matter how nice their factory is, no matter how good their pricing is. Even when you are in a good relationship with a supplier you should be constantly aware that things may change, and change quickly.  This does not mean you should not make the constant effort to build and maintain your relationship with your vendor. You should, even if this means getting on a plane and travelling to China once or twice a year just so you can discuss price increases with him/her face to face. Some people just don’t want to do this and that is why they have problems. Some small companies do not have the budget for this and that is understandable ( though skype is always an option) In short, the more effort you put into your China supplier relationship the longer it will last.  The caveat:  do not expect it to last forever.

A final thought:  because it is so easy to fall out of love with your vendors, you need to be ready to find a new supplier if you have to. Line up other vendors and maintain contact with them even if it means just asking for a catalog occasionally or sending them Chinese New Years greetings.



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