The “Four B’s” of China sourcing

Every so often I am out taking a walk and I think about why China is such a difficult place to do business and what it really takes to succeed there. There are in fact a lot of things it takes to succeed in China, e.g. patience, intelligence, common sense, a well designed product, a good vendor, luck etc etc. But sometimes the list grows too long and for this reason I always try to reduce everything down to the lowest common denominator, the 3 or 4 things that one needs above all else to succeed in China. Accordingly, I came up with a little slogan that encapsulates what I think are the four essentials for success in China. I call these “The Four B’s for China success.” The “Four B’s” are as follows:

Be Calm
Be Clear
Be Polite
Be There.

Be Calm

China can be an exasperating place to do business and vendors can test your patience. But through it all you have to keep your composure. It is never a good idea to lose your cool with your vendor unless you have big order QTYs and are one of their top customers. You don’t want to give your vendor any occasion to see you as an “ugly” foreigner who just comes to China to dictate terms to your suppliers.

Be Clear

Know your product better than your vendor. Be very clear about what you want to order and when you want it. Project a very professional image to your vendor.

Be Polite

The Chinese are very proud of their culture. You need to be aware of this and pay your respects to China accordingly. Never make unfavorable comparisons of China with your own country. When you go to China, praise China. If your hosts serve you chicken feet for dinner, eat them ( if you drink mao tai first they are not so bad).

Be There

If you think you can run your business by sitting in your office in your own country and never travel to China, but have others do it for you, you are in for a surprise. The surprise comes in the form of a 40’ container of goods that you did not inspect yourself and that you cannot deliver to your customer. It is basic common sense: if you are building your business by sourcing in China, you need to go to China.

I have made the “Four B’s” rhyme so they are easy to remember. So the next time you are boarding a flight to China just find yourself muttering softly: “Be calm, be clear, be polite, be there….”


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