In China you need patience, patience and more patience

I have been exchanging emails this week with a San Francisco start up that wants to begin sourcing in China. Like all start ups here in the Bay Area these guys move fast. And they want me to move fast too. I gave them my timeline for a sourcing project which is generally 6-8 weeks and they said that was too long and that they were under pressure from their investor to get the ball rolling sooner. I have gone back to them this morning and told them I might be able to expedite the process by a week or two but after that I would really be pushing it. I explained to them that just getting samples to and from China can easily take 2-3 weeks. Their QTYs are also small, as this is their first order, and I told them that they would have a hard time pushing vendors unless they were really making it worthwhile for the vendor. NB. Dangling promises of bigger orders is not really an effective strategy when you are courting China vendors. The reason is that those small orders seldom turn into much larger orders and the vendors know it.

But this got me to thinking, what I have said so many times before, that it is important not to rush your orders when you do business in China. And this rule applies whether you are buying out of China or selling into China. Some big companies e.g. Best Buy, EBAY, Home Depot, Tesco et al have failed miserably in China because they rushed into China. Beginning in 2006 Home Depot opened 12 stores in China and six years later they were all closed. They might have done better in China had they opened just one or two stores and waited until those were doing well and the Home Depot brand was beginning to resonate with Chinese consumers. But when Home Depot left China no one noticed. Most people in China had never even heard of it.

As I like to say, when you do business in China you have to be patient, patient and more patient. And then when you think have exhausted your patience, you just have to be patient a little more.

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