Have you ever undertaken something, and afterwards thought ‘I really should have researched that a bit better.’? Or perhaps you knew you should research something better before undertaking it but just didn’t know how or perhaps didn’t fully understand the articles (this is me when it comes to any type of computer activity)?
I find, and maybe you do too, that many things in my life are seemingly automated. That is, I have never truly thought that there might be a better way to do them. Finding quality suppliers, for many companies and individuals, is just like this.
Many designers have a process set out that they follow from initial client contact to the final shake hands and departing smile with little deviation or adaptation of the process. And why not? It works, right?
Well, as I have constantly read and been told by many people smarter than myself, we need to keep tweaking and adapting to stay ahead of the game. And this means making sure you have the best supplier you can find. But when it comes to finding suppliers, how do you find the best one?
Let’s break this down into three parts: Establish requirements, how to find a foreign supplier, how to establish a relationship and ‘fit’ with your foreign supplier.
We do most of this unconsciously but for the sake of research, it helps to get it down on paper. Starting with the no-brainer, price. Lowest possible price without sacrificing any other variables, right? Secondly, quality. Highest possible quality without sacrificing anything else. To get these two to the highest level, unfortunately we do need to sacrifice or make allowances on some things (sorry if I misled you).
For projects, the thing most people are happy to give away is a little time. There is a lot to get done setting up a new restaurant or café, so people usually find they can give the furniture supplier a month or two to manufacture and get it on site.
Originality can also be sacrificed (the age of industrialization taught us this…mass-production is cheap!). If you are happy with the choices readily available and don’t need huge changes to products on offer, then price, quality and time will all benefit!
Finding Chinese Suppliers
Alright, so if we are now prioritising price, it makes perfect sense to start looking at our great Asian neighbor…China. And the beautiful part is, if you know what you are doing, you don’t need to sacrifice quality! In fact, there is a high chance that your Australian supplier is already sourcing from our giant, industrialised friend.
But the average Aussie isn’t too China-savvy, and that makes it tough. However, finding suppliers in China isn’t actually too difficult. A quick search on www.google.com.au for ‘bar furniture wholesale’ and straight away you can see some Chinese suppliers (Serenity Made, that’s us), including a link to the all famous Alibaba.
Many suppliers, but not all, have websites that you can simply find on Google. But, if you are looking for large quantities of suppliers to choose from, go straight to the big platforms like Alibaba and Made In China. These platforms also provide more secure ways to make payments and will do a small amount of diligence work for you, establishing if it is a real company or not.
However, platforms and websites still aren’t 100% reliable. You will often find yourself dealing with a trader claiming to be a factory (there is nothing wrong with a trader, we are traders and sometimes it is actually better, but it is at least good to know) and still run the risk of being cheated.
Ultimately, the best way to find a supplier is to find one online, then either make a trip yourself, or send someone on your behalf to check out your top five list (actually I lie, the best way to find a supplier is to speak the local dialect and get in deep into the culture developing networks and contacts that lead you to the best places…but internet is the next best thing). Next to this? Find an Aussie in China specializing in trade (I know, shameless self-promotion!).
Establish relationship and determine if the fit is right
Ok, you found a supplier. The price is right, the quality is great! But there are still a few things left to consider. The Chinese culture is not the same as ours, and the business world can be strange (some of my other blogs delve into this a little deeper).
So, at this stage, if you haven’t already, take a second look at the situation.
There will be a language issue. Unless you speak fluent Chinese or the workers at the factory speak fluent English (this is beyond unlikely), then your primary dealings will be with an office person who may not communicate your needs effectively. This may be fine, as long as the order is not too complex. Consider this language barrier when trying to work through the complexity of export/import though. Are they able to handle the entire process or do you need to become more heavily involved in things such as materials, due diligence, fumigation, shipping etc.
Alright, I don’t paint a great picture for finding a Chinese supplier. If anything, I’ve probably amplified your fears. But here is the truth. I am a supplier/trader in China (but I’m Australian), and I do everything I can to make my clients happy with their decision. We make it smooth, handle all the paperwork and details including quality control and the time management. The client gives us their requirements, makes the deposit and we get everything done. Then they see the final pics, make final payment to us and the shipping company and it’s on it’s way to Aus.
The point is, we aren’t the only suppliers pushing out this high quality stuff at ridiculously low prices, but you have to do your research. Or just email me!
Note about the author: Matthew Nagy is an Australian who grew up in Toowoomba then moved to the Sunshine Coast before finally making a move to China over seven years ago. Learning language, culture and business, he co-started the furniture export company Serenity Made with his wife, Serina Yang.