China is the fourth largest country in the world in size and the largest country for population. It is also the second largest economy in the world – and growing.  This makes China a very interesting nation to do business with, but interacting is not always easy, especially for westerners.  Putting aside China’s potential as a market for our goods, we focus here on China as a competitive source, and how to be really effective in getting results.  My point is simple: the best way to be successful in sourcing from China is to work with your very own professional China sourcing team.

Think about it, what could be better than that?  What could be better than to have a team of people who know you, who know what they are doing, who speak the language, who are on site in the same time zone, who are culturally attuned to the suppliers you rely on, who understand your goals and objectives and whose mission it is to protect your interests and increase your profitability.

I can’t think of anything better.  And here are some of the reasons.

Expertise: A China sourcing team is a huge asset, whether you are focused on one product or you’re sourcing a broad number of products and industries. One Product:  Say you are an importer of one product, you know all about this product, how to make it better, what to watch for etc.  Your China sourcing team adds value to that capability: it not only deals with your existing suppliers and pushes for better performance, but it also keeps tabs on a number of other suppliers of this same product and on developing trends for this product.  Multiple Products:  All importers know you need product expertise to import really well.  But that can be difficult to do if your business models call for importing a broad range of different products.  Your China team can provide you with product and quality expertise across multiple SKUs in one sourcing program.  They can either tap into other people’s knowledge or bring that expert on board.  In both of these cases, a China sourcing team brings valuable sourcing expertise in the buying process as well as quality assurance that cannot be easily replaced by an agent or a trading company.

Cover more ground and is more reliable:  How much ground can you cover sitting back here in the USA? Your on-site China sourcing team can (a) cover more ground if they understand the mission and (b) do much more as a team than you could achieve with just one individual. Having a team, rather than just one person means that you have an un-interrupted presence, your sourcing does not stop if one person is sick, is out for the day or quits.

Adapting to the Language and Culture:  Have you ever played “telephone”?  This is when one child whispers a message in the ear of the next and so on until the final child announces the message to the whole group (usually a message that has changed a great deal from the original).  In the UK this is called “Chinese whispers”!  Maybe you can understand why such a name was used.  Especially if you have had experiences dealing with a factory through their English interpreter and ending up with various levels of confusion.  As the China’s sourcing environment keeps evolving and as your needs are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and complex, a good China sourcing team becomes much more important to stay on top of things.   You have heard the term “lost in translation” well that is not just language but also culture. A China sourcing team consisting of native speakers is much better equipped to handle such issues and to prevent misunderstandings.

What are your thoughts and experiences?  Can you think of more reasons? Do you have a China sourcing team? Do you agree with me that it is the best sourcing approach?  Whether you agree or not, I would be very interested to hear your opinion.

By Susan Timpe

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