If you’ve done any business directly with Chinese manufacturing plants you know that you hear the word “YES” quite often. Unfortunately, yes doesn’t always mean yes. I have had countless reminders that in China, that word may not necessarily mean that they agreed with you or even understood what you are asking. It’s similar to when a person goes on vacation to France and only understands a little bit of French so they say “oui” to pretty much everything! The difference is that a simple conversational misunderstanding on vacation is no big deal but a misunderstanding in the world of overseas manufacturing can be financially disastrous. One of the major benefits to using a reputable and experienced sourcing and import company is that the chance for misunderstandings (and financial loss) is greatly diminished. However, if you are considering the option of trying to import yourself, here are some critical guidelines to evaluate.
1. Should you go direct – risk vs. reward?
How much import do you plan to do? Your time and your employees’ time are valuable and mistakes can be very time consuming and costly. Is it a prudent business decision to go it alone or would you be better off using an experienced import company? Sometimes I like to ask people why they don’t just cut their own hair to save money – technically they could but the answer as to why they don’t is obvious.
2. Internet – Friend or foe?
In our information rich world, the internet makes your initial search easier than ever. You can pretty much type any keyword and have a myriad of Asia-based companies offering you their products and services. Even though I encourage you to conduct research online, remember that this is only a first step. Too many buyers assume that the US way of conducting business is true everywhere else in the world and that is very much not true. Once you complete your initial search, you need to have a concrete plan to proceed or your initial euphoria could turn into a costly nightmare for you and your company.
3. Do you know your Asian business partner?
Who are you dealing with? How did you select them? Are you dealing with the manufacturing plant directly, or a Chinese agent or trading company? Do not assume that because somebody is answering your emails in English, they are a good partner for you. A lot of email responses are translated by a software program from Chinese to English and sent back to the US customer. Do some research; speak with them on the phone personally, ask for verifiable references, review some completed projects and DO NOT wire money before being 100% certain of who you are dealing with. Solid relationships are built over many years, not in a day, or with a phone call, fax or e-mail.
4. What are your QC procedures?
You must have complete understanding and control over the manufacturing process. What is shipped to you must match the sample you approved and the only way to guarantee that is by having someone that you trust at the plant conducting a field audit during production. Accurate translation of the language, printing expertise and correct conversion of technical terms are key elements for success.
5. Who handles shipping and customs clearing?
Does the manufacturing plant carry the proper export licenses to ship your product directly or do you have to go through a third party trader to clear Chinese customs? There can be a lot of “add on” and hidden costs so make sure that you have a complete understanding of all costs upfront so there are no expensive surprises.
In conclusion, be diligent in exploring all the facts before making a decision about whether to use an experienced sourcing and importing company or attempting it yourself. The real question is how much the product will actually cost you in the final analysis after all variables are assessed. When you work with an experienced and reputable US import and sourcing company you know that answer upfront.