Bizcult just did a post setting forth the basics of how to find an overseas product supplier, entitled, Ultimate Overseas Product Sourcing Guide [link no longer exists] This post nicely analyzes the pros and cons of finding suppliers through trade fairs, online, search engines, and trade associations. All good.
Where it falls down however, is on what it does not say. Nowhere does it mention the importance of visiting any overseas supplier before you sign on the dotted line.
A real world example is in order here.
I had lunch with a long-time client/friend yesterday, who had just returned from Asia looking for a supplier of ultra high end boxes for a luxury product. My client gave the following explanation as to how he had found the right company to make the boxes:
I started out focusing on Shenzhen because I have been there many times before and because it is close to Hong Kong, where I sometimes need to go on other business. Also, and maybe most importantly, I have a good friend there who is fluent in Mandarin and who I trust. Using the Internet, I quickly realized there were plenty of potential manufacturers in Shenzhen so my task would be to narrow them down. I picked those that looked good and started communicating with them by email. From that I got it down to about fifteen and then went to see them. Of these fifteen, I was able to determine instantly that about half were inadequate. These guys were either middlemen or their factory consisted of little more than people in a basement. I then got the list down to three and started negotiating. I ended up going with the one I thought would be the most reliable.
Now for my client’s money quote: “I cannot even imagine choosing a China supplier without checking them out first.”