Relationship advice for offshore manufacturing


Relationship advice for offshore manufacturing

Long distance relationships are hard. You wonder what they are doing, lie awake at night sometimes wondering if they are interested in your needs and desires. Sometimes you wonder if they are even cheating. 

OK, before you start getting the wrong impression here, I am actually talking about your relationship with your offshore supplier. 

Once you start looking to manufacture offshore you are developing a long distance relationship with this supplier and in a similar way to your personal relationships, this needs to be fostered and nurtured in order to develop into a long term partnership.

Many companies tend to think offshore manufacturing is an easy fix to your financial woes, they pay minimal attention to developing the customer - supplier relationship. They never contact the supplier unless it is to place an order or lodge a complaint. I understand you are busy trying to run your company with all of the domestic pressures and doing this on a skeleton staff to keep your wages bill low, but consider the argument from the suppliers perspective for a minute. 

If you are the above offshore model, I can guarantee that your suppliers see you as a detached customer who never stops complaining, does not work with them to resolve the issue, just wants to blame and criticize, likely they cannot even put a face to your name. So the only reason they stick with you is because they have no better option. There is no mutual respect between your companies.

I'm sure you have dealt with this type of customer yourself in the past, you know the one where you are constantly telling yourself "Once business picks up, I'm going to kick this customer out the door!" Just because you are dealing with supplier from another country, don't fool yourself into believing the same sentiment does not exist if you mistreat them. Especially in an Asian culture where they place great value on how they are perceived amongst their peers and colleagues, if you are a disrespectful customer they will quickly learn to resent your business. If schedules are going to be pushed back due to new work, you become first on the list (you are going to complain about something anyway). 

I once worked in an office with paper thin walls so I could hear the neighbouring company on the phone to his Asian suppliers. There would be a screaming session down the phone almost daily. This was how he thought best to deal with his suppliers. In the years I worked there, the pattern never stopped nor did the frequency reduce. There was supplier problems obviously, but all of the screaming and blaming did not do anything to fix the problem. The supplier obviously grew to resent his business an developed a tolerance for his incessant screaming. 

So when you are in a customer -supplier relationship with an offshore vendor remember show a little respect, work together, don't just contact them to criticize. When things go well consider dropping them a complimentary email or call. I know the topic seems a bit touchy-feely but I guarantee you will start to see the rewards in the quality and reliability of your products and eventually you will sleep better at night knowing they value your business and will go the extra mile to make sure you don't decide to leave.


Brian Le Mon

Founder & CEO at Ethical Outsourcing

Despite what most believe and practice, outsourcing is not primarily about cost! It is about finding a service that can offer the most benefit to your business. This may be a service or skillset or it could be the opportunity to free up your time to focus on areas that generate more income for your business. Get in touch for a chat if you want to discuss how outsourcing (done correctly) can help with your business.