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Why you ALWAYS need inspections in China and Europe trip report

A little more than 2 weeks ago I came back from my Europe “vacation” which was not really a vacation but more work because I was constantly on some calls or working on other stuff.

It was quiet around me but I was not sleeping but rather working on many projects. Some of them I wanted to share today. Before that I also wanted to share some moments of my 7800 kilometer trip (4800 miles) in Europe before I start with today’s blog post which is about factory inspections in China. 

What else can you expect in this blog post? I’ll talk about inspections in China among other things. 

    1. I launched a new product (the best day & dry pack 2018) 🙂
    2. I ordered more products to ramp up my second brand Mandarin-Gear
  1. I launched a new case study on brand building and social media (all for free)

But more on that later. So without further ado, here are some impressions from my Europe trip:

Before I left to Europe I spoke to Thai Amazon sellers about Brand Building. Fun!

We left to Europe on 29th of July. Most people who know from my previous posts about my fear of flying. Also explained here. So I treated myself to lying flat again.

We landed in Vienna (Austria) pretty late that night and had a long breakfast the next morning with an amazing view

Perfect setting for a Sunday morning.

We then headed to my Mum’s place near Salzburg and would you know there was a village festival. Which was pretty empty for what it was ?

Stayed for a few days there and then headed for a hike in the Tyrolean mountains near my friends place. I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures with my newest product that I launched 2 weeks ago. 

Pretty proud of this item and I even use it myself (or ask my wife to stand in for photos) ?

We then made our way to Sweden and stopped in Hamburg in between to meet up with Gil from Privatelabeljourney.de and his lovely wife.

We finally arrived after a 16 hour drive to my private sanctuary. Had to chill for a few minutes to let it all sink in.

On the very next day we went looking for mushrooms in the forest.

There you go ?

Enjoying a sunset.

And we are off fishing!

I M ON A BOAT

Preparing for my speech in Innsbruck (Austria) 2 weeks from now.

In between goofing around and relaxing.

Or eating Swedish food.

Our first catch!

And more mushrooms!

…and mushrooms….

On the last few days we had friends from Thailand visiting

A few days later we were in Venice, Italy. Another 18 hour drive.

Venice

Venice

From there we headed to Budapest, Hungary (another 8 hour drive) for one of my best friends wedding.

Including a bachelor night. No details here ?

Meeting friends from Hong Kong in Budapest

The wedding was set in a beautiful castle outside of Budapest.

And there’s the freshly married couple

We went to lake Balaton (Europe’s largest fresh water lake) and Vienna for a few days after that.

Eventually bringing me to the last leg of my trip. I was speaking to becoming and existing Amazon sellers about niche selection and why innovation in product development matters.

Amazing crowd and excellent event!

And Vienna again on the last night before flying home.

So that was that, my 6 weeks in Europe. A lot more moments that I wanted to share but I don’t want to bore you and get into today’s topic:

why you ALWAYS need inspections in China.

So when I got home to Asia I had an inspection on my 7th re-order of the French Press case study product I did a year ago. 

I’ve always preached how important inspections are and I do them every time. Even with suppliers I work with for a long time.

It really doesn’t matter how well you know your supplier and how often they plead not to do inspections. You hear something along this line: “don’t worry my friend – always good quality, no need to inspect”. Have you heard that phrase? I’ve heard it a million times and I ALWAYS do inspections anyway.

So this was an inspection with my “famous” French Press and before I received the report the supplier told me many times that we don’t need an inspection… Even on the day before I received the report the supplier messaged me (because he was obviously in the factory during the inspection) that I should release the shipment, there are just a few scratches, nothing to worry about and I should go ahead and send him the payment….

Never trust your supplier. I am not talking about the sales representative of the factory. I am talking about the factory workers, the QA manager on duty and down the hierarchy. They might have a bad day or the factory manager decides to rush an order (remember many factories are being closed right now so I attribute these issues to that).

Have an inspection, evaluate the problems and release shipments if these are minor mistakes. I often release shipments even if the inspection is “fail” when there are minor issues. However in critical cases, demand re-work & re-inspections until its fixed. Otherwise the supplier doesn’t see his money. Another good point to never pay more than 30% downpayment.

To see what I mean when I say critical issues here are some images from the inspection:

Always view inspections from a customers point of view. Would you accept these type of issues? 

The supplier just switched screws that were cheaper without my approval!

And there were many other issues. So what do you do in these kind of situations? First of all you need to have an agreement in place when you place the order. I usually have three terms that I include in my contract and 95% of suppliers will agree to that:

  1. Re-inspection and re-work at suppliers cost if the inspection has major and critical issues
  2. Replace returned units from customers higher than 6-8% (depends on product). This usually means those 6-8% are free units on my next order.
  3. Penalty fees for late delivery. Say 10 days after agreed delivery date 0.5% of total order value. 15 days – 0.75% and so on.

Most suppliers will agree to these terms. The point is you negotiate this when you place the order and before you transfer any money. These things happen can happen to all of us and you always need to have a safety net (inspection).

So what happened in my case? The supplier asked me if it would be ok to send pictures only without a re-inspection… no way. How would I know if he just takes photos of items that were in perfect condition anyway and not re-work?

So I asked them to acknowledge our agreement of paying for re-work and re-inspection in case of serious issues. And that’s what happened. The supplier has since re-worked everything and the re-inspection was a few days ago, this time with very minor issues and I released the shipment.

The moral of the story here is really to have a safety net and don’t let the supplier talk you into easy solutions (for him). Because your business will suffer in the end. Granted this was the first time the supplier screwed up but that just makes my point. You never know what is going on on the day of production and it might not even be your sales representative fault. HAVE INSPECTIONS they start from 100$. 

So what else happened? 

  1. I launched a new product that I developed over the last 6 months. If you’re into hiking and outdoors, feel free to check it out ?

2) I launched a new website a few weeks ago called eCommercebutlers to help people on brand building, social media and decided to do a new case study on brand building (all for free). 

I will be documenting my entire journey on growing and further building my brand with videos on where one of my brands (Mandarin-Gear) is right now and how I intend to launch all my products in the future via social media and email lists only. 

My goal is to show that it is inexpensive to build a brand but it can be done (while I admit it takes time). 

The entire case study is free to watch so please head over to below link and sign up for updates if you are interested in watching my progress:

https://www.ecommercebutlers.com/brand-building-case-study/

Ps.: We also have a FREE Product Launch Checklist for you when signing up to our newsletter. 

I’ll also have a group where I’ll share updates and where we can discuss strategies over here: 

https://web.facebook.com/groups/124707288184753/

I aim to release a new video every week to show my progress.

I’d be happy to have you join me on this journey ?

That’s it for today, long overdue and long blog post. Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed it, please share ?

All the best,

Manuel

js

What’s new on ImportDojo?

Hey guys,

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and this is due to a holiday I took in Europe. Currently I am sitting in Budapest, Hungary writing this up. It’ll be another week until I am back in Hong Kong but I thought I’d give you a brief update on what I was up to.

Ecommercebutlers

I’ve launched a new page a few weeks ago called eCommercebutlers.com

The goal of this site is to help people build brands online. We’ll be regularly posting free content to help you build your eCommerce brand.

I’ve also moved the Sourcing Operation of ImportDojo to this site. So if you need help sourcing from professionals please check it out. As many of you know I’ve had a sourcing operation for quite a while now in Hong Kong which helps people find manufactures in China as well as handle the whole order follow up with factories for many eCommerce sellers.

Junglescout Million Dollar Case Study

Last week I was in a webinar with Greg Mercer & Kym from Junglescout to help with their Million Dollar Case Study. Currently they are in a supplier outreach phase and asked me for help and giving directions when sourcing in China. It was a little over an hour and we had a great chat.  If you are curios how I choose suppliers and what background checks I do before placing an order you can check out the whole webinar here:

The Million Dollar Case Study: Europe – Session #4: Find A Manufacturer In China

 

This also made me think of a few things in terms of supplier communications so I wanted to write up a few more notes and this brings me to today’s blog post:

Why Chinese suppliers never (or only partly) answer questions I asked? 

I’d like to give you a bit of an overview why Chinese suppliers don’t or might not reply to questions. 

1) Unprofessional inquiry

Since I am also a supplier based in Hong Kong I get inquiries from overseas clients on my products sometimes. You wouldn’t believe the level of un-professionalism I get sometimes.

Here’s an email from a inquriy I received a couple months back:

“Hi,

Please quote your products.

thank you”

And thats it. There is no name, no introduction, no details to which products are to be quoted, no quantity no final market etc. 

I usually delete these emails right away simply because I feel the buyer isn’t serious enough to buy from me. If he is, he would put in more time to send me a professional introduction what he does, what he intends to buy from me, what certification he might need, the market he is selling to and other details. Just as I, no supplier will take you serious with this kind of inquiry. 

Here’s how an email could look like:

Hi …,

My name is ….. and I am the ….(Manager/President/Buyer etc.) of …. Limited/Inc.

We are a (fill in your company’s business, e.g., Importer/Buying Office/Whole seller/Online shop) and are operating in (fill in your

country). You can also check out our website under: www. …..

I am writing to you today to inquire about the product I saw on your website/catalogue/exhibition.

The model number is….

Could you please give me the following information: (You can fill in the details in the attached quotation format or send me your quotation in the first step.)

Unit price based on …. Pieces

Minimum Order Quantity

Available certification (CE, RoHS, FCC, GS, etc.)

Production lead time

Available colors

Payment terms

I would then evaluate and get back to you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks and best regards,

 In 95% of all cases you should get a more serious reply from a supplier. 

2) Unstructured inquiry

Some buyers don’t structure their initial inquiry well. Or they put important questions at the end of an email which can be easily overseen.

As an example looking at above email inquiry:

….Payment terms

I would then evaluate and get back to you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks and best regards,

Oh, also we need to know what is the colors you can provide? 

The last sentence can be easily missed. So make sure that your inquiry has either bullet points, numbered paragraphs or other forms of structure. 

If you want you can also make important points BOLD. 

3) Too much work from other customers – ask again and again until you receive answers. 

Sometimes suppliers are simply overworked. I’m sure you’ve seen it, they even reply emails and work on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Usually 1 sales representative had 20 or more customers that he he/she needs to handle at the same time. And just like in any business they prioritize bigger customers first. 

Keep in mind that “we” Amazon/eCommerce sellers are mostly small fish if we order 500 or 1,000 units. Most retailers or wholesalers order 5,000 units upwards. 

You can imagine who gets priority. So suppliers tend to pay less attention to us smaller buyers and generally oversee some parts of your questions. 

4) Low potential client

supplier doesnt really care if you place an order and will treat your business with little seriousness. 

5) Supplier simply isn’t interested in your business – walk away

Chinese are very afraid of loosing face. So instead of telling you that they aren’t interested in your business they treat you with very little priority. 

Sometimes they don’t need any additional business at all. Maybe because they have too many clients or as previously mentioned don’t see your potential as compared to the workload.

Imagine you are a supplier and you have several clients who place orders every month more than 50,000USD. Easy work, setup processes with the existing clients and not much work. Then you have a client who has x amount of modifications, high standards and very little purchase order quantity. 

One could argue that you could become such a client if the supplier puts more effort in your first orders and your orders will grow in time. However these days factories have a lot of pressure filling production. Rising raw material prices, labour costs and expensive machinery to automate manufacturing. So obvioulsy you’ll go for clients who are easy, place larger orders, make you more profits and can fill your production capacity. 

Generally there’s to say that many new Amazon sellers have the impression that the factories are waiting for their orders and welcome every client with open arms. That is not the case. 

In our business to stay ahead of the competition you need to be unique, set yourself apart from the competition and most likely you don’t want to risk too much capital with new products. 

That also means that on top of our high requirements towards factories we don’t give them “big” business in the beginning. 

Key to a great supplier realtionship is to communicate your needs in the beginning and weed out those suppliers who aren’t really interested in your business or only reply half of your questions.

Imagine how difficult it will be down the road if you are having problems before even placing an order. Move on to the next supplier. 

Having said all that, there are great suppliers out there and even if I sometimes don’t get all my questions answered I can generally say most suppliers are willing to cooperate on many levels and ARE interested in my business. 

Don’t try to squeeze out every cent in your negotiation because what is it worth if you get a cheap price but poor quality and a supplier who’ll dissapear if you have problems. 

Treat your suppliers with respect – I’ve had great success with my strategy when building relationships with my suppliers. Live and let live. 

That’s it for today. Let me know if you have any questions. Simply comment below 

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

ImportDojo

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