There are so many factors to go into a successful sourcing experience.  A big one is communication.  For that I’ll give you a recent example of how communication can effect things.  For those of you who have been in China more than a few months doing business will soon connect the dots between my story and doing business in China-

In order to work in China (legally) one must obtain a Z working visa from the Chinese government.  For Americans, one must now return to America to a Chinese consulate to acquire said visa (though I’ve heard of special circumstances for those in Guangdong going to Hong Kong).  A close friend of mine, ‘Graham**’ was working/interning at a company based in Shenzhen on a business F visa (which according to China’s own embassy website in D.C. interning on a F visa is legal up to 6 months).  Needless to say, when he arrived at the company, both he and the company hoped to just simply change his work visa from his previous employer (a school) to his new employer (a company), but the school did everything they could to NOT help (which is to say they simply did nothing and let the visa expire) thus costing his new company expenses for him to go to Hong Kong (H.K.) and get the business visa.

So he gets his business visa and work/interning goes great.  As he’s a family man, he planned to fly home for Christmas, so his company had time to do the paperwork to get a brand new visa (believe me renewing an existing visa is much easier).  As October rolls into November my friend Graham continued to softly remind the staff charged with visas for foreigners to get the paperwork ready so that he could take it back with him to America to get the Z visa.

Needless to say, Graham left America without the single most important document a foreigner needs to get a work visa- the “Letter of Invitation” from the Chinese Government.  But the company Express mails it thus helping to minimize SOME of the headaches.  There was the instance of Graham having only just one day to get his letter to the Chinese consulate before Jan. 1 (the apparent deadline according to what the Shenzhen city government told the visa staff at his company).  Of course Graham was 2 days away from any consulate at that time, but nonetheless, after the new year, he was still able to get his visa, and did (in the same day!! Gotta love Los Angeles!!) 1 day before flying back to China.

Even more fun- Once you have gotten the Z visa and entered China, you then have 30 days to switch that visa to a working resident’s permit (note:30 days to complete NOT start the process).  Graham returned to China on a Friday afternoon thus losing 2 days to the weekend.  The other whopper? On Monday the visa staff as his company informed him, that he’d have to get a new health examination that his apparently had expired from last summer.  The latest from him was that he had expedited his health check results and gotten them today.  We’ll see how things go from here.

Really long story I know but again if you’ve been doing business in China a while, the above probably makes you chuckle, shake your head, or curse the system in place here.

To me though this is just another great example of why communication is essential to getting things done.  Had the visa staff started just a week earlier, Graham would have avoided all of the headaches back home by being able to take his visa to the L.A. consulate when he landed (as he originally planned).  The other huge issue is also before he left, he could have finished his health check then (as he didn’t he has lost all of this week essentially to wait for the health check results.  this can lead to potential fines if he overstays his 30 days w/o the new visa).

There are many crucial things involved with sourcing in China.  At least from the buyer’s side the one that seems easiest to me to control is communication.  While the visa staff should have started the application process sooner and informed him of his need for another health check, Graham should have double checked these things well in advance (he’s certainly been in China to know problems always happen).  A little bit of preemptive communication on Graham’s part and he’d have discovered these things himself.

Lesson-  Even if you think you’ve done a great job explaining you desires (specifications, quality terms, lead times, deadlines, color, etc.) it’s imperative that you double and triple check to make sure that your Chinese staff or the English speaking staff at your supplier understands what you want, and knows how to communicate that to the engineers.  And Once you’ve triple checked, CHECK AGAIN to see that they have a true understanding of what you want.  Unfortunately we can not control all aspects of production (unless you run your own plant here), but taking the extra time and effort to make sure your suppliers know what you want will save you problems in the end.  If nothing else you’ll know on your side of the arrangement that you did as much as you could to get things right.

**Name was changed per request

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