Ties Coolen’s recipe: hand picking
It may be the way a simple request is handled by the Chinese manufacturer that wants your business. Or even a frank discussion during dinner. No matter what aspect proves to be decisive, selecting your Chinese business partner is hard work, says Ties Coolen, expert in sourcing and quality control in China. Coolen’s advice: “Trust your gut feeling.”
Ties Coolen, CEO of Coolen China and Quality Control (QC) China has been around the block a number of times. He is convinced about one crucial lesson from the thousands of hours he has spend in Chinese manufacturer’s board rooms and factory floors: ‘Alibaba’, ‘360 degrees’, ‘Global Source’ and ‘Made in China’ may be useful tools to create a longlist of possible future business partners in China, but “do not rely solely on the slick online company profile. The effort of personally handpicking the right party eventually pays off.”
Directly to the source
Supporting businesses in sourcing and importing Chinese products to the west resulted in essential learnings. First: “If you are really serious about having your product manufactured in China, try to go directly to the source and avoid agents. If necessary, leave technical matters, audits, quality control or shipping to experts.”
Second: do make a longlist of suppliers, preferably based on referrals or your latest trade show visit. “Start asking questions, see how your counterparts react. Share your thoughts about specs and intended order sizes. Some manufacturers may be too big, others too small. Shorten your list, based on their offerings, their price and how they treat your inquiries. Ask technical questions to the sales people you talk to. See how they communicate with the techies of their company. Ask for their business licence, to find out who you are really dealing with. Test them, check their problem solving skills!”
Listen, not talk
More advice: listen. “Make sure you are not the only one talking, giving away details about your business that you should have kept confidential. Chinese are great listeners and negotiators.” The shorter your list becomes, the harder it will get to find the ‘perfect fit’. Coolen: “Go see for yourself, fly to China! Watch, listen and observe. How well organised does the facility look? What is your impression of how efficient and quality conscious your order will be handled? Or at least have someone perform a factory audit”, Coolen adds.
“Don’t make up your mind before you have asked for samples, make sure your partner meets your pricing and delivery needs. Be sure to negotiate, to bargain hard for a better deal in price or conditions. At the end of the day, trust your gut feeling, listen to your instinct.” Once you have signed the deal, make arrangements for a pre-shipment inspection of the first batch of products before the container doors are closed.
One more thing. Once you have found your source in China, stay in touch with your partner. And do keep numbers two and three at close range. Number one may change its ways in a few months, raise its prices or simply prove to be disappointment. Coolen: “You may need to start all over again. Sourcing is hard work.”
Link interview Ties Coolen – KLM Flying Blue Club China: http://www.flyingblueclubchina.com/business/expert-opinion/sourcing-in-china-%E2%80%9Ctrust-your-gut-feeling%E2%80%9D