The San Francisco start up mentality does not work in China

I had an email from another San Francisco Start up company last week. You can easily stereotype these start ups and this one is no different. The employees are all in their 20s and 30s judging by the youthful, telegenic photos on their website. I detected a hint of hubris in the email I received which is not a quality you want to have when you travel or do business in China. The person who contacted me wrote:

“What I am really looking for is someone who has the connections can ensure we get what we are after and that the samples we see are what we receive as well as that the costs quoted are all inclusive and there are no ‘blind sides.” As you can see San Francisco start ups don’t attach much importance to grammar. This city moves too fast these days apparently to care about such trivial things as good grammar.

My first reaction when I read this is do they really think sourcing or doing business in China is that easy? If it were then thousands of US businesses, big and small, would not have failed in China over the past 30 years. I advised this person that the best method of ensuring that they get what they pay for is to have someone on the ground in China overseeing production from start to finish. But even then, I explained, there is no guarantee that what the vendor puts in the container will be what you the buyer will pull out of the container a month later. The vendor may have used sub-standard raw materials in production, or the product may not react as predicted to a new environment, something that may become evident only after it has been put in the hands of the consumer. I have seen this happen many times.

In short there is no way to ensure with a China order that what you see is what you get. That is an American way of thinking that really does not apply when you source product halfway around the world in China. All you can do is to think about reducing risk, and adjust your attitude about doing business in another country accordingly.

Not surprisingly I never received a reply from this company. But that is OK. I will let someone else deal with them.



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