There was an interview in the China Daily recently with the President of the American Chamber of commerce in China, Ken Jarrett. Jarrett was discussing the need for American companies that sell into China to adapt their product to local tastes. In Jarrett’s words “My advice for forthcoming US companies is to be aware of what is different about consumers here. You can’t assume that the product you have in the US has the same attraction here, so you need to adjust it,” There is a lot of wisdom in this statement and it should be applicable to companies that source in China as well. In other words, when you source in China you have to respect Chinese business customs and you need to be careful not to make the same assumptions about behavior that you make in your own country. Here are five assumptions that I have seen US companies make in China that just lead to problems.
- My production will be every bit as good as my sample. Not so. A sample should simply be regarded as an example of the vendor’s capabilities and nothing more. If the vendor can do a sample to your liking that is big step forward. But there is a long way to go to ensure that your entire production looks like that sample.
- My vendor will implement my design changes. Although a vendor may tell you they will make the changes you suggest, they may not if these changes involve too much cost. It is very important to try to maintain a dialogue with your vendor about the cost of the project and reassure them if they see added costs.
- My vendor will inspect my order. Vendors put very little into inspections. They can sometimes be remarkably short-sighted in terms of making sure they deliver a good product to their customer. Often, they want to ship the product ASAP and get paid, not caring if a subsequent order will materialize or not. The burden is on the buyer to inspect their own product, whether they do that on their own or through a third party inspection firm in China.
- My order will ship according to the date on the PO. ALWAYS be prepared for the likelihood that your order will ship late.
- My vendor will do what they have promised. A promise in China sometimes means very little. When a vendor promises you something don’t believe it. Instead keep talking about it and make sure they do it.