China supply chain vs New startups.

As I write this I am returning from what has turned out to be my most challenging trip to China since I first started to go there over 10 years ago.

Delayed flights, adverse weather, jet lag. These things are the norms for any long distance flight, particularly when taking domestic flights in China like I had to this time. I was used to that though, they were things I had experience of. The challenge came in having to justify why I was there to factory owners who were sceptical of my visit.

On previous visits I had always been part of an established brand. Brands that had products that sold well, had big budgets and defined routes to market. The ground work had already been completed by people who had gone before me; representatives from purchasing, quality control, engineering and finance. Individuals who would have done the hard work establishing the supply chain so that my job as a designer was easy.

As North Product Design continues to grow and our reputation as a solution provider for design and manufacture increases, we are finding that our partner factory’s capabilities need to expand. Whilst this happens we are needing to source new factories to handle with the direction our customers need us to go.

On this occasion I was representing a number of different startups. Businesses that were full of potential and enthusiasm, but had no sales history. Great product ideas, but no record of releasing successful consumer products. When previously my presentations had been met with intrigue and applause, on multiple occasions I was greeted with scepticism and subjective criticism.

To overcome this I had to approach each meeting as if i was not just selling the client’s business, but also myself to initially showcase that I had the credentials to back up what I was saying. I have done a decent job of keeping my portfolio up to date with some of my best projects from the past 10 years and it contains a mixture of UK manufactured products and also many from China across multiple industries. It just goes to show how important it is to keep on top of your portfolio as you never know when you might need it.

When it came to discussing my clients’ products I was taken back by just how far the questioning went. I was asked to describe marketing strategies, sales channels, website content and even future product roadmaps. All questions that I knew the answers to, but was not expecting. It also didn’t seem to matter what size of factory I visited, whether large or small, the same line of questioning kept coming up.

Doing business in China, particularly as a foreigner representing a start up is tricky. NDA’s are essential, in order to give you a level of protection when discussing your ideas. It’s very important to understand the terms of business first too, before you discuss your product idea. You need to make sure that the company you are dealing with have the right credentials before you move on to further discussions with them. Make sure terms and conditions are talked about, liability and export licences are all in order before you put your intellectual property out on the table.

If you would to hear anymore about working with a Far Eastern supply chain then please get in touch through info@northproductdesign.co.uk

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