In my last post (Relationships with Chinese suppliers: be clean!), I suggested that importers keep their distances with their Chinese suppliers. Do not let them think business can be conducted the “local” way, and they will take your standards and deadlines more seriously.
This is all fine for email/phone/in-person communications with the salespeople. But if you go into the factory, and if you are in contact with the managers and technicians there, think twice before starting the conversation. Make sure you don’t seem unreasonable or unpleasant in their eyes.
These people are not used to being face to face with foreigners. They can easily be shocked by your behavior, but you will probably not even notice it (even I, after several years living here, still have trouble decoding their body language).
Why is it important? The middle managers in the factory are the ones who make most critical decisions. They decide whether your order will be made on the good lines or the not-so-good lines. They are the ones who initiate the launch of a new production (earlier… or later).
Of course the top management tells them what is more or less urgent/sensitive, but they tend to have a lot of freedom when it comes down to the details. It is (very) good if they associate your person with your orders, and if one of your representatives shows up in the factory from time to time (and pays them beers).
However, if the factory people don’t like you, they will just look somewhere else. Without the proper attention from managers, don’t count on “the factory’s established procedures and systems” to save you. You are going nowhere.
I still remember when one of my clients came to visit one of their regular suppliers. The meeting was to take place the day after an inspection. We found some really, really bad quality issues (the new hires after the New Year had done a terrible job, and no one had caught it). And to make things worse, the client’s internal controller found problems on a small–and very urgent–air shipment that we had not inspected and that had just been delivered.
The meeting took place in the factory. The discussion focused only on the problems. First about the urgent delivery that could not be sold. Then we went to see the products we had checked (and rejected) the day before. The client’s representatives were very tough with the factory, and it lasted the whole morning.
What the “rude foreigners” did not understand is that their attitude was absolutely counter-productive. The salesperson did not know what to say, and was feeling completely lost. The three factory people hated this experience. Two years have passed, and I still feel the factory managers don’t like my client and don’t want to make efforts. It means lower quality, slow repairing, and more delays. Make sure you don’t repeat that experience!
Anybody has other tips on how to get the factory people’s support?