June 18, 2015
FLO Cycling - How to Find the Right Overseas Factory Fit and Make the Partnership LastHow to Find the Right Overseas Factory Fit and Make the Partnership Last." Feel free to check it out here or read the full article below.
How to Find the Right Overseas Factory Fit and Make the Partnership Last - by Chris Thornham
When it comes to doing business, I learned some lessons the hard way.
When my brother and I started our cycling company, the idea of importing our product from another country seemed daunting. We had a laundry list of questions and no confidence in our answers. We found solace in the familiar and comfortable – a factory with a fancy brochure, a slick trade show representative, and the assurance that our product was in line with the company’s expertise.
We bought the pitch, invested thousands of dollars, and waited for our products to ship. To our horror, when the wheels arrived, they weren’t even round, and the finish quality was, in short, terrible. Over the course of eight months, the vendor promised it would fix the problem. Then, it became clear one day that the vendor had no idea what it was doing.
My brother and I were scared of what we didn’t know, and as a result, we made a mistake. However, this experience was invaluable, as it taught us how to choose and keep the right overseas vendors.
Finding the Right Factory for You
Here are a few lessons I’ve culled from my experience:
- Gather advice from trusted referrals. You’re not going to call your biggest competitor and ask what factory it uses, but you’d be surprised what you can find through a little research. Compile a long list of potential factories that could make your products. Then, do some digging. Research online forums, industry publications, and local distributors. Compare and contrast multiple options. More than likely, you’ll get a feel for the right fit for your business.
- See it before you believe it. Once you’ve named potential vendors, contact them and visit as many factories as possible. Seeing where the magic happens up close will give you a good idea of which vendors are reputable. The flight to Asia may be more expensive than visiting a local trade show, but it could save you valuable time and dollars in the long run.
- Be wary of aloof vendors. On my first overseas trip, I met with many reputable factories. Most invited me to inspect every part of their facilities – showing me sample products, their assembly lines, and how they performed quality assurance checks. One factory, however, didn’t allow visitors past the front office. It’s no surprise that factory went out of business only a few years later.
- Start at the end. Americans love the story of the American dream, but that doesn’t mean other cultures think the same way. Most overseas vendors want to know where you’re headed before you get there. When meeting with potential factories, show them where you’ll be in two years and how you plan to get there. It might not be perfect, but they’ll get excited about the potential future.
- Have patience. When starting a new project, it’s common to go through a phase that seems to take forever. Rather than lash out in frustration, build more time into your product development schedule. Reputable factories are masters at producing high volumes of products that don’t fail. These time delays often mean they’re perfecting the manufacturing process and minimizing product failures. Patience during this phase will pay off when you ship products that surprise and delight your customers.
- Recognize the difference between samples and mass production.High-quality samples often get new businesses excited. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean you’re ready to start mass production. Producing a few quality parts is much different than producing hundreds of thousands of quality parts, so look for factories that want to ease into mass production.
- Avoid challenging contracts. Signing a contract in America can be much different than signing a contract in Asia. International laws are hard to uphold, and more often than not, it’s a waste of money to try to fight anything. This is yet another reason to do your homework before you choose a factory. Most reputable factories will keep their end of the bargain if you keep yours.
Four Tips for Working With Overseas Vendors
After going through this process, one factory stood out among the rest, and we formed a great partnership. Things got a lot easier, but we still had a lot to learn about the process. Here are a few pointers:
Your product is the lifeblood of your business. Without it, your business fails. Finding a reputable, dependable factory will minimize frustrations and help your new business flourish. Do your research, go with your gut, and trust the process.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please leave any comments or questions below.