Today’s screed is about offshore and nearshore sourcing, so take heed!
Five decades of business experience can give you a load of wisdom along with a fair amount of scar tissue and I have both. We learn by doing and doing is often characterized by a process of “error…. correct, error… correct”. Nowhere is this truer nor is there an area with more potential pitfalls than the process of trying to save money by direct, offshore sourcing of goods and services.
For Benchmark Displays, manufacturing many of our stock and custom acrylic displays and brochure holders in Mexico and China over the past 30 years has contributed in large measure to our success, while at the same time, teaching us some valuable lessons along the way. In today’s globalized world, every consumer knows that many of the products they purchase are manufactured elsewhere and imported into the U.S. Similarly, purchasing people use the Internet and can either search for, or are deluged with email solicitations from abroad that promise quality products at bargain basement prices. All is not gold that glitters!
Here are some of the challenges we have faced and surmounted in order to consistently deliver sparkling, custom POP plexi displays, as well as counter top and wall mounted promotional literature racks from China and Mexico:
1. Language Differences- Every Shenzhen factory that desires to export has an English speaking staff person to facilitate and communicate with foreign customers and prospects. Her name is really Liang, but you know her as “Heather”. She studied English online or in night school and is about 40-75% fluent for 50% of your online or Skype discussions. But, beyond that peril, you definitely don’t want to use an idiomatic language or English jargon in communicating a job spec or you will find yourself so far up the misunderstood language tree you won’t be able to see the ground. And, finally, don’t even think about using an online, free, translator program unless you are OK with everyone in Guangdong enjoying a good laugh at your expense. We have and use in-house native language speakers for our communication, making sure all hands are on board every time.
2. Cultural Differences-Mexico, Our experience has been that most of our dear employees are initially more interested in their friends, their family, all religious holidays and what’s up for the weekend than they understand the principles of hourly pay, product quality, productivity, career advancement, on-time delivery and dependability. We patiently trained and recycled countless employees and ultimately re-invented our management style to eventually get the model right. Now, for Benchmark, everything is perfect. For you, on your own, not so much!
3. Time Zone Differences- The right time for you is not necessarily the right time for Maria or Heather, or vice versa. Seems like an easy one to adapt to, that is if you don’t mind getting on the phone or e-mailing with China after 5 PM at your local cocktail hour, when they are stirring their first cup of tea at the office. Or, you can set the alarm and call at 5 AM if you thought of something important and don’t think it’s an imposition calling them just before lights out in the apartment, possibly to their dismay.
Out of blog space for today. More offshore drama to be continued soon…..